Los Angeles Soccer: Bobby Wood
Joe Corona has played for an in-the-works version of Mexico's Olympic team. Now he has the chance to do so for an American version.
The Club Tijuana midfielder, born in Los Angeles and raised in San Diego's South Bay, is one of 31 players on new U.S. under-23 national team coach Caleb Porter's first roster, for a camp that opens Monday in Duisburg, Germany. The U-23 team will take part in qualifying next March for the 2012 London Olympics.
Corona took part in a weeklong camp with Mexico's U-22 side in early September after a planned call-up to the U.S. national team was scuttled by Bob Bradley's dismissal as manager.
Jurgen Klinsmann, the new U.S. coach, said he hoped to get good young players with U.S. eligibility involved in the “youth” national teams program, and Corona's call-up certainly accomplishes this.
The roster also features Chivas USA rookie Zarek Valentin, who played for Porter on last year's NCAA championship team at the University of Akron, Galaxy academy star Jose Villareal (Inglewood/Leuzinger HS) and 1860 Munich forward Bobby Wood (Irvine), one of 20 European-based players on the roster.
Seven of the 20 Europeans are real Europeans -- born and raised in Europe but with American roots. Six of those seven are from Germany, which has contributed five players to the full U.S. national team pool.
Former U.S. national team star Claudio Reyna, U.S. Soccer's youth technical director, will run the camp in Duisburg. Porter's Akron side is preparing to defend its title in the NCAA tournament, which begins later this month.
RSC Anderlecht's aim is to remind everyone in Belgium who's boss. Rangers just wants more hardware.
The second-tier European powerhouses, both featuring Southern California talent, have quickly made their points, racing atop their leagues' standings -- and one of them is threatening to run away from the field.
Scottish giant Rangers, with Alta Loma's Carlos Bocanegra and Fontana's Maurice Edu, returned from the international break on a sour note -- a 1-1 home draw with St. Mirren -- but stand seven points ahead of Motherwell and 10 in front of archrival Celtic. More impressive: Gers has a plus-19 goal difference after just 11 games.
The Glasgow club, founded in 1872, has won 54 top-tier league titles -- that's a world record -- and is seeking its fourth straight championship. Hated crosstown/sectarian rival Celtic, which has won 42 Scottish league championships, is, as always, the real competition.
Rangers or Celtic have won every title since 1986.
Brussels-based Anderlecht, Belgium's foremost club, blew it last year, nosediving during the playoff phase after winning the regular-season title, and the Mauves must make amends.
With Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan taking on a more influential role in midfield this season, RSCA is off to a 7-1-2 start, good for a one-point lead on Club Brugge, and coming off a 5-0 rout of Standard Liege, last year's runner-up and the Jupiler League champion in 2009.
EUROPA REDUX: UEFA's Europa League returns to action Thursday. Group L leader Anderlecht (2-0-0) plays at Austria's Sturm Graz (1-1-0). Tottenham (1-0-1), without former UCLA star Brad Friedel -- he's Spurs' league goalkeeper -- is home against Russia's Rubin Kazan in first-place showdown.
All's well and all that after the 24-year-old midfielder, one of the U.S. national team's most influential players the last four years, landed at Chievo Verona.
It was a fortuitous opening: Bradley has been a Serie A fan since childhood, and the opportunity to play in Italy will certainly help in his development.
“I think what you have in Serie A right now is a good mix of the tactical teams and then some skillful players,” Bradley told Major League Soccer's website last week. “It makes for a good game and a competitive season. It's been good to get my feet wet. Not I just need to concentrate on continuing to improve.”
Bradley, a cerebral player who thinks the game much like his father, former U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley, has gone the distance the last three games at the right-midfield slot in the Flying Donkeys' 4-3-1-2 formation.
Chievo is 2-1-2 and in eighth place with most of the season to go, and winning a European slot next season -- finishing among the top five -- would be a huge success. Finishing in the upper half of the 20-team league would be admirable.
After hardly playing during the January-to-May loan to Aston Villa, Bradley's happy he can contribute.
Michael Bradley's torturous summer is apparently coming to an end. The embattled midfielder is reportedly close to signing with Italy's Chievo Verona.
Bradley, 24, who evolved into a midfield force for the U.S. national team under his father's command, has been a man almost without a team since the last European season ended in May. He saw virtually no playing time during a loan spell at Aston Villa, and when the English Premier League side declined its option, he went back to German straggler Borussia Mönchengladbach, which no longer wanted him.
Add in his father, Manhattan Beach-based Bob Bradley, being dismissed as U.S. coach -- and a reportedly heated argument with former U.S. star (now Fox Soccer analyst) Eric Wynalda during the Gold Cup that depicted him poorly -- and it's not been a great few months.
But a move to Verona, on the eve of the close to Europe's summer transfer window, could be a huge step forward for the big central midfielder, who signed a Major League Soccer contract at 16 and emerged during two seasons in Holland with Heerenveen before joining Gladbach in 2008.
Chievo Verona, which is hoping to begin its Serie A campaign on Sept. 11 -- the Italian league is in labor stoppage that wiped out last weekend's scheduled openers -- has had little real success in its 82 years (three European campaigns), is lightly supported (lower-tier Hellas Verona has better support in the region) and has no big names. With the competition available in Serie A, it's the perfect place for an American looking to develop.
Reports in Europe have Bradley, who was previously linked to American-owned AS Roma, agreeing to a two-year deal with a transfer fee of about $2.9 million.
EUROPA, EUROPA: Alta Loma's Carlos Bocanegra scored his first goal for Rangers FC, but it didn't make enough difference for the Scottish champions in a UEFA Europa League playoff against Slovenia's NK Maribor. The 1-1 second-leg draw doomed the Blues to a 3-2 aggregate loss. In short succession, they were eliminated from the top-tier Champions League and the secondary Europa, ending their European campaign just as it was starting. Not just disappointing, but bad for business.
Brad Friedel finally made his debut for Tottenham, and he wasted no time answering critics who questioned how the London club could spend money to bring in a 40-year-old goalkeeper.
And he did so in a one-sided loss.
Spurs fought gamely for an hour before falling in Monday's clash with defending English Premier League champion Manchester United at Old Trafford, and their 3-0 defeat would have been far worse if not for the able hands of Friedel, an offseason transfer from Aston Villa.
Friedel made 11 stops in an often electric encounter, and he couldn't be blamed for any of the Red Devils' goals, by Danny Welback in the 61st minute, Anderson in the 76th and Wayne Rooney in the 87th.
It was the former U.S. national-teamer's record 276th successive EPL appearance, a streak that dates to 2004 and includes games at Blackburn before his three-year stint at Aston Villa. That meant little to Friedel.
“I don't count the games. I'm just bitterly disappointed with the result,” the UCLA product told Tottenham's website. “I don't play for personal accolades. I really don't. I just want to play to help the team win -- and we didn't.”
Friedel, who has been in England since 1997, is one of the EPL's most complete goalkeepers, but his age -- he's just the third player over 40 ever to play for Spurs, who were founded in 1882 -- prompted criticism when Harry Redknapp signed him to a two-year contract at the start of June.
It appears Ally McCoist has a thing for America. Or at least our players.
The first-year Rangers FC manager already has one Yank in his lineup -- Fontana's Maurice Edu, a regular in midfield -- and now you can add Alta Loma's Carlos Bocanegra.
And their U.S. teammate Alejandro Bedoya.
The Blues, reigning Scottish champions, made a big splash Wednesday, acquiring Bocanegra -- the U.S. captain under former coach Bob Bradley -- on a $660,000 transfer from French club Saint-Etienne and finalizing an arrangement to bring in Bedoya five months early on a $495,000 transfer from Swedish side Örebro.
Former UCLA All-American Bocanegra, 32, is an experienced defender capable of playing at left back, his primary position in France, or in the middle, his preferred post. Rangers is hoping he can make his debut Thursday night in Slovenia against NK Maribor in a UEFA Europa Cup match.
Bedoya, 24, from New Jersey, is a rising figure within the U.S. national team after making the preliminary roster but not the final list for last year's World Cup.
EUROPA, EUROPA: Three clubs with local players have UEFA Europa Cup playoff-round openers Thursday -- the winners in the home-and-home series will advance to the group stage.
Ally McCoist finally notched his first victory as Rangers FC's manager, but it arrived four days late.
The reigning Scottish champions, with Fontana's Maurice Edu in midfield, bounced back from a startling draw in their Premier League opener to swat St. Johnstone, 2-0, on Saturday, the first triumph for the club's former star striker in three competitive games since taking over for retired Walter Smith.
He needed a win last Tuesday in the Blues' home leg of their qualifying series with Sweden's Malmö FC in the UEFA Champions League, the biggest of all club competitions -- bigger, yes, than even the Club World Cup that the victor qualifies for.
A 1-0 defeat, on Daniel Larsson's 18th-minute goal, has the Glasgow giant on the verge of elimination just as its campaign is starting. They'll require a victory -- by two goals or with two or more goals -- Wednesday in Sweden to move on to the playoff round, the final phase before group play.
WORTH NOTING: Irvine's Matt Taylor enjoyed a most fruitful return to Rot Weiss Ahlen, the third-division German club for which he starred last season. The former Chivas USA striker netted a hat trick -- goals in the 30th, 71st and 83rd minutes -- as second-tier SC Paderborn 07 destroyed the Red-Whites, 10-0, in a German Cup opener. ... Pasadena's Yura Movsisyan missed a first-half penalty kick, and Krasnodar settled for a 1-1 draw with Russian Premier League leader CSKA Moscow.
Pasadena's Yura Movsisyan was back on the field for Armenia's national team Saturday, but he couldn't provide the influence he'd hoped to. The Highlanders' Euro 2012 hopes took a blow in a 3-1 loss to Russia in St. Petersburg.Roman Pavlyuchenko's hat trick followed Marcos Pizzelli's opener for Armenia (2-2-2), which dropped from striking to five points behind Group B's big three in qualifying for next year's European Championship.
Movsisyan, who played at Pasadena High School and Pasadena City College before heading to Major League Soccer as a first-round draft pick, made his seventh international appearance since committing to Armenia's national team last summer. The striker was one of two Highlanders based in Russia, where he plays for Krasnodar.
Russia, Ireland and Slovakia (all 4-1-1) have a significant advantage with four games to play, and fourth-place Armenia have away games left with the Slovaks (on Sept. 6) and Ireland (in an Oct. 11 group finale).
The group winner qualifies for Euro 2012, which will be played in Poland and Ukraine. One of nine group runners-up qualifies and the others are drawn into home-and-home playoffs for four more berths.
- AREA PLAYERS IN EUROPE: 2010-11
D CARLOS BOCANEGRA (Alta Loma/UCLA)
Club: Saint-Etienne (France, Ligue 1)
Season: 34 league games (34 starts) with 2 goals, 36 games (36 starts) with 2 goals in all competitions
Club finish: 12-13-13 (10th place)
Snap judgment: U.S. national team captain quietly puts together a solid season, missing only five league matches (through injury) and going the full 90 in all but two others
Former UCLA star Brad Friedel notched his sixth shutout of the season as Aston Villa toppled visiting Newcastle United over the weekend to provide a little insurance in its bid to avoid relegation from the English Premier League.
Friedel made three saves in the 1-0 victory, gaining just his second clean sheet since October as the Birmingham-based Villans -- Prince William's favorite team -- improved to 9-13-10, good for 14th place, five points above the drop zone.
The 18th-, 19th- and 20th-place teams at season's end will be reassigned to the second-tier Championship next season.
Aston Villa, founded in 1874 and owned since August 2006 by Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner, has spent more than a century in England's top league, more than every other club except Everton.
Friedel, 39, has had a solid season and is in negotiations to renew his contract. Things haven't gone so well away from the field, with the goalkeeper forced to file for bankruptcy in Britain and owing more than $9 million from his failed Premier Soccer Academy in Lorain, Ohio, near his hometown outside Cleveland.
UCLA freshman Kelyn Rowe scored both goals to send the U.S. into the all-important quarterfinals at CONCACAF's under-20 championship with a 2-0 victory over Panama.
Rowe scored in the 13th and 18th minutes, his second and third goals of the tournament, to give the U.S. (2-0-0) the Group B title and a final-eight matchup Wednesday with host Guatemala. The quarterfinal victors qualify for the July 29-Aug. 20 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia.
UCLA junior Eder Arreola (Chino Hills/Chino Hills HS) played key roles in the sequences leading to both goals, but he departed in the 84th minute after injuring his right hamstring, and the U.S., which had already used all three of its substitutions, played with 10 men the rest of the way.
Irvine's Bobby Wood, a forward for 1860 Munich, and Chivas USA defender Zarek Valentin also were in the U.S. lineup, and Oxnard's Moises Orozco (Oxnard HS), from Mexico's UANL Tigres, was a second-half substitute.
The U.S.-Guatemala winner will face Costa Rica or Cuba in Friday's semifinals; the other quarterfinal matches pit Mexico against Canada and Honduras against Panama.
U.S. WOMEN: The women's national team suffered a rare loss Saturday, falling, 2-1, to England in a World Cup prep at Leyton Orient's Brisbane Road stadium in London. It was the Yanks' first defeat in a friendly since 2004.
Megan Rapinoe scored the U.S. goal, on an assist from Redondo Beach's Shannon Boxx. Jess Clark and Rachel Yankey sent England to a 2-0 lead by the 26th minute.
Boxx (South Torrance HS) was joined in the starting lineup by Lake Forest's Amy Rodriguez (Santa Margarita Catholic HS/USC) and Hermosa Beach's Abby Wambach, who made her first start since last year after returning from a heel injury. Diamond Bar's Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar HS) and former UCLA star Lauren Cheney, both pivotal in the Americans' second-half dominance, came off the bench.
Chino Hills' Karen Bardsley (Ayala HS/Cal State Fullerton) was in the nets for England.
Irvine's Bobby Wood scored the first goal and UCLA's Kelyn Rowe added a goal and an assist to lead the U.S. past Suriname, 4-0, in its opener at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Guatemala City.
Wood, who plays for 1860 Munich in Germany, scored in the 19th minute as the Americans romped to a 3-0 halftime advantage. Rowe set up Conor Doyle's 37th-minute goal and tallied in the 81st. Joe Gyau also scored for the U.S., which outshot Suriname, 27-2, and took 11 corner kicks while conceding none.
Wood and Rowe were joined in the starting lineup by Chivas USA defender Zarek Valentin and former UCLA midfielder Amobi Okugo, who plays for the Philadelphia Union. Oxnard's Moises Orozco (Oxnard HS), who is in UANL Tigres' system, replaced Okugo at halftime.
The U.S. will close Group B action Saturday against Panama. Quarterfinal winners will advance to the July 29-Aug. 20 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia.
Chivas USA's top draft pick, three current or former UCLA stars and rising prospects from Irvine and Oxnard are part of U.S. under-20 national team coach Thomas Rongen's roster for the region's qualifiers for this summer's FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Rookie Zarek Valentin, Chivas' top pick (at No. 4 overall) in January's draft and an projected backline starter, is one of seven Major League Soccer players headed to Guatemala for the March 28-April 10 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, which will send 12 nations to the July 29-Aug. 20 World Cup in Colombia.
The team gathers Sunday in Dallas, so Valentin will depart after Chivas' opener Saturday night at Home Depot Center against Sporting Club Kansas City and likely will be unavailable for three games: March 26 at home against MLS champ Colorado, April 2 at Toronto FC and April 9 at home vs. Columbus.
UCLA's contingent: All-American Kelyn Rowe, a freshman midfielder, and junior forward Eder Arreola (Chino Hills/Chino Hills HS), plus former Bruins standout Amobi Okugo, a Philadelphia Union midfielder.
Also chosen: Oxnard's Moises Orozco (Oxnard HS), a playmaking midfielder in UANL Tigres' system in Mexico, and Irvine's Bobby Wood, a forward promoted to German second-division club 1860 Munich's top team this winter.
Fontana's Maurice Edu has emerged as a force in central midfield this season for Scottish giant Rangers FC, taking on more responsibility in attack and contributing mightily to the club's bid to win four trophies.
The Blues are out of one competition, ousted from the Scottish Cup by "Old Firm" archrival Celtic, but two championships are within grasp -- and a showdown Thursday at home against Dutch power PSV Eindhoven could send them to the last eight of the UEFA Europa League.
They can win the Scottish League Cup title Sunday, when they take on Celtic for the fifth time since New Year's, and are in command in the Scottish Premier League despite sitting two points behind Celtic in the standings.
And Edu (Etiwanda HS), whose stoppage-time goal three weeks ago sent Rangers past Sporting Lisbon and into the round of 16 in Europe's No. 2 club competition, is basking in his opportunity to play an important role for a storied European club against top competition.
"It's great getting the chance to play against the best teams in the world and test yourself against them," Edu, a U.S. national team midfielder who played in last summer's World Cup, told Major League Soccer's Web site this week. "You dream of playing in these competitions, so I'm just glad it's become a reality for me."
Injuries, mostly, limited Edu to 19 league starts in his first year and a half with Rangers, but he's made 27 starts -- and scored five goals -- in all competitions since the season kicked off last August. The goal against Sporting Lisbon was the biggest, by far, guaranteeing the SPL a second automatic berth in the lucrative UEFA Champions League.
"At the beginning of the season, the manager [Walter Smith] challenged me to get a few more goals ...," Edu said. "He's encouraged me to get forward and make late runs to support the strikers. I've been fortunate to grab a few goals. I like it because I've always seen myself as a box to box-type player. Hopefully, I can add to my tally before the end of the season."
He'll get his chance against PSV, which Rangers held to a scoreless draw in the first leg last week in Eindhoven. That gives the Blues the advantage heading into their home leg, but a tie with goals would send PSV through.
Sacha Kljestan has been in and out of RSC Anderlecht's lineup since joining the club from Chivas USA last summer, and things are going south again.
He's featuring less and less as the reigning Belgian champion hits the pivotal part of the schedule, and if that's just part of being a young pro in a competitive European environment, it doesn't make it any easier.
“It's tough to deal with," Kljestan, who has started just one off Les Mauves' eight games since the Jan. 23 return from winter break, told Major League Soccer's Web site last week. “I played 4½ years and I think I started every game but one in MLS. It takes some adjustment, but I think I have a good mentality. I fight for my place every week, and whether I'm in the lineup or not, I support my teammates. I think my coaches and teammates recognize that.”
Kljestan (Huntington Beach/Huntington Beach HS) supported his teammates from the bench in both legs of the UEFA Europa League round-of-32 loss to Ajax Amsterdam, and he didn't feature in Friday's showdown with Genk, which is tied on points with Anderlecht (both are 18-3-7) but ahead on goal difference atop the Belgian Jupiler League standings.
The club is winless in its last four games and outscored, 8-1, in that span -- after a two-month stretch with nine successive shutouts. Kljestan, of course, started during part of that streak, then sat for three games, then returned as a late substitute in two more. He's played just 54 minutes in Anderlecht's last nine games, getting 45 in his lone start, a 2-0 debacle at Westerlo two weeks ago.
Kljestan sees the bigger picture. He's experiencing Europe -- he and his fiancee, model Jamie Lee Darley, have enjoyed trips to London and Paris -- and working on his game, with hopes of going to a bigger club and playing a big role with the U.S. national team.
“We have a healthy competition in training for selection every week. I think it's making me a better player -- but obviously, I want to be on the field to help my team the most,” he told the MLS Web site. "Every day in training, I have to test myself a little more, and I think I've become a better 90-minute player in all aspects.
“In MLS, I played as more of an attacking midfielder. Here I've played as more of a defensive midfielder, so that part of my game has improved. At the end of the year, I'll be able to say that my game has become more well-rounded.”
OLD FIRM LOSS: Fontana's Maurice Edu and Rangers FC is out of the Scottish Cup following a 1-0 loss Celtic in last week's fifth-round replay, the Blues' second defeat to their Old Firm rival in 11 days.
Could the past week have gone any better for Rangers FC?
The Scottish champs bounced back from the previous weekend's debacle against Old Firm rival Celtic to claim a spot in the UEFA Europa League's last 16 -- in most dramatic fashion, and through our local hero, and doing a good deed for Scotland all the while -- then took command, in a way, in the Scottish Premier League when its hated nemesis was unexpectedly beaten.
Fontana's Maurice Edu was the hero in Lisbon, scoring in stoppage Thursday to give Rangers a 2-2 draw with Sporting. That made for 3-3 aggregate, and the away-goals tiebreaker favored the Blues, 2-1.
The victory provided Scotland a second automatic spot for the 2012-13 season in the Champions League, pushing the SPL above Switzerland's league to 15th in the UEFA table used to dole out European berths. That does one of two things: Ensures Rangers a Champions League berth even if it doesn't win the league title next season, or gives despised Celtic that berth.
Maybe that spurred Celtic's gift Sunday. As Rangers dispatched St. Johnstone, 4-0, the first-place Bhoys -- unbeaten in their last 17 -- were dismissed, 2-0, at fifth-place Motherwell, reducing the gap to their Old Firm nemesis from eight to five points. Because Rangers has two games in hand, it controls its fate. Of course, the final-stage showdown, probably in May, likely will decide the champion.
The Glasgow-based clubs meet twice before that, Wednesday in a Scottish Cup fifth-round replay and March 20 in the League Cup final.
ETC.: Former Galaxy forward Edson Buddle came off the bench to score the final goal in FC Ingolstadt's 4-1 rout at Karlsruhe, his second goal in six appearances since arriving in January. … Alta Loma's Carlos Bocanegra tested Nice goalkeeper David Ospina, Saint-Etienne's only shot on goal in a 2-0 defeat, its third in a row. Les Verts (9-8-8), once a prime player in the race, now sits nine points out of a European spot. The gap to the relegation zone is only slightly larger, at 10. … Michael Bradley watched Aston Villa's 4-1 romp over Blackburn from the bench, and Brad Friedel lost his shutout on a deflected shot with nine minutes to go. … Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan and Belgian champ RSC Anderlecht have a top-of-table clash Friday against Genk. Both are 18-3-6; Genk is No. 1 on goal difference.