Los Angeles Soccer: Borussia Moenchengladbach
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.
A fine start for Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan, who scored in his season debut to help RSC Anderlecht bounce back from a stunning defeat in its Belgian Jupiler League opener.
Kljestan (Huntington Beach HS) converted a 26th-minute penalty kick to start Brussels-based Anderlecht toward a 3-1 victory Friday over Mechelen.
The former Chivas USA captain missed the July 29 league opener, a 2-1 loss to promoted Oud-Heverlee Leuven, instead playing in a friendly against minor-league Woluwe the following day.
Anderlecht, Belgium's most storied club, is under pressure to win the Jupiler League after a playoff-round collapse last spring cost the team an expected 31st national title.
BRADLEY GONE?: Bundesliga minnow Borussia Mönchengladbach stunned Bayern Munich in the German league's opener, and Michael Bradley was not involved. He won't be.
Bradley “wants to leave and doesn’t play a role here anymore,” Mönchengladbach manager Lucien Favre told Kicker magazine.
Bradley, whose family lives in Manhattan Beach, went to Aston Villa on loan last January, but the English club declined its option, and the 24-year-old U.S. national team midfielder returned to Germany. Bradley turned down a move to Spartak Moscow, and reported interest from clubs in Italy, France and Turkey has withered over Mönchengladbach's demands.
FC Krasnodar, which features Pasadena's Yura Movsisyan on its frontline, heads into the Russian Premier League's summer break sitting in ninth place, among 16 clubs, with a .500 record and hopes that it can make a move when the games resume in another month.
Movsisyan, who has three goals in 11 league appearances since arriving from Danish club Randers last winter, started his fourth and fifth successive games over the past week. Krasnodar (5-5-6) lost Wednesday to Terek Grozny -- the Chechens were victorious in their first game after Ruud Gullit's dismissal -- and tied Sunday with Anzhi Makhachkala.
BRADLEY'S RETURN: U.S. national team midfielder Michael Bradley, whose family is based in Manhattan Beach, is back with Borussia Moenchengladbach after new Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish decided to let his loan deal expire.
Bradley joined the English Premier League club on loan at the end of January but played in just three games in nearly four months while in Birmingham.
'Gladbach limped to 16th of 18 clubs in the Bundesliga last season, going 10-18-6, then won a promotion/relegation playoff to remain in the top tier.
"I've got a year left on my contract there, so we’ll see what happens," Bradley told media last week. "If something comes up that’s good for 'Gladbach and good for me, I’ll look at it. Otherwise, it's another year at 'Gladbach."
- AREA PLAYERS IN EUROPE
F YURA MOVSISYAN (Pasadena/Pasadena City College)
Club: FC Krasnodar (Russia, Russian Premier League)
Last week: Started, played 90 minutes, with a 28th-minute yellow card, as the ninth-place Bulls (5-5-6) were beaten, 2-0, Wednesday by Terek Grozny; started, played 88 minutes in a 2-2 draw Sunday vs. Anzhi Makhachkala
Season: 11 league games (6 starts) with 3 goals, 12 games (6 starts) with 3 goals in all competitions
Next: July 24 at 15th-place Spartak Nalchik (2-8-6)
Bobby Wood's climb from the youth teams at Germany's TSV 1860 Munich has reached the club's top side, and he's hoping to make his first-team debut this weekend.
The 19-year-old forward from Irvine, who was just out of eighth grade when he joined 1860 at 14, was called up last week after strong performances for the club's under-19 and under-23 teams, with seven goals in 18 appearances.
He didn't suit up for Friday's victory at VfL Osnabrueck but could play Saturday against MSV Duisburg. 1860 is 8-5-6 and sits eighth in the second-tier 2. Bundesliga.
“I usually play on the right or left side or as a forward,” the versatile Wood told the Yanks Abroad Web site last summer. “I like to get the ball into space and try to use my speed as an advantage. I also like to take players on and create chances.”
Wood, who attended Lakeside Middle School in Irvine and developed through the Irvine Strikers, one of the area's elite youth soccer clubs, also is among the top forwards for the U.S. under-20 team . He is expected to be in the Americans' starting lineup when CONCACAF qualifying for next summer's FIFA U-20 World Cup begins in April.
“Before I moved to Munich, I was never good enough for the national team,” Wood aaid. “I was never called up or I was not even known, but now it seems like the sacrifices are paying off. Ever since I have moved to Munich, I have developed so much as a player and person.”
Americans who have played for 1860 include Galaxy defender/assistant coach Gregg Berhalter, former U.S. forwards Josh Wolff and Taylor Twellman, and, until earlier this month, forward Kenny Cooper, who has joined the Portland Timbers.
ANOTHER GOAL: Matt Taylor's sizzling form for Germany's Rot Weiss Ahlen returned intact from winter break. The former UCLA and Chivas USA forward scored his eighth goal in 12 league appearances in the third-tier side's 3-2 loss Saturday to TuS Koblenz.
Bradley, 23, who has had a solid campaign for Bundesliga stragglers Borussia Moenchengladbach, has 18 months remaining on his contract in Germany. Gladbach turned down offers for the central midfielder after his strong performance at the World Cup in South Africa.
Bradley, the son of U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley, has been targeted to replace captain Lee Cattermole, who has drawn interest from Liverpool and has been slowed by a back injury. Paraguayan midfielder Victor Caceres, a World Cup veteran who plays for Libertad in Paraguay, also is a possibility for that role.
Sunderland is sixth in the English Premier League, one place out of a UEFA Europa Cup berth, with an 8-5-10 record.
Fontana's Maurice Edu finally returned to the field after two months on the sidelines with a knee injury, coming on as second half substitute in Rangers FC's 3-0 romp Monday over Kilmarnock in the Scottish Cup.
Edu (Etiwanda HS) entered in the 67th minute for Jamie Ness with the Glasgow giant holding a 2-0 edge.
His left knee was hurt Nov. 10 from a lunging tackle by Hibernian's John Rankin, and he missed seven matches while recuperating. Manager Walter Smith and assistant coach Ally McCoist had predicted returns last month, but Edu wasn't able to return to full training last week.
After the game, Edu tweeted: “Good win today n good to be back on the pitch! Missed the game too much when I was injured! N again, thank u for your continued support!”
Rangers advanced to the fifth round of Scotland's top cup competition. The draw will be held Tuesday.
FADING AWAY: Brad Friedel's Aston Villa is in trouble, and so is manager Gerard Houllier. The Villans (5-10-6) slipped into the relegation zone for the first time in seven years, falling to 16th with a 1-0 midweek loss to Sunderland. They are just one point ahead of last-place West Ham United.
Rangers FC twice has said Maurice Edu is on the verge of returning to action from a knee injury suffered in November, even listing target games for his comeback. The second date passed Sunday, and still no Edu.
When will he be ready to play? No clue. Turns out the midfielder from Fontana hasn't returned yet to full training. “He's doing his workouts in the gym,” a club spokesman told Major League Soccer last week.
Edu was hurt during a 3-0 loss to Hibernian on Nov. 10 and has missed seven games. Another five matches have been pushed back by poor weather.
Rangers lost, 2-0, in Sunday'sshowdown with archrival Celtic FC and finds itself four points behind the Bhoys-- but with two games in hand.
FEILHABER ON THE MOVE?: Benny Feilhaber'sDanish team doesn't return to action until late March, but he could be on the field well before then. The U.S. national-teamer's agent says he is considering three offers.
“There's a few different things on the table,” Lyle Yorks, the agent, told Major League Soccer's Web site last week. “There's a European club, a team in Mexico and one in South America.”
Mexican media have reported that Cruz Azul is interested in the 25-year-old midfielder from Irvine, and the SouthAmerican team is understood to be from Brazil, where the former UCLA standout was born. Yorkshas said there has been contact with clubs in Denmark, Netherlands and Spain.
Rangers FC finally got a game in, after four postponements because of horrid winter weather, but something was missing from the Scottish champions' 4-1 Boxing Day romp at Motherwell.Maurice Edu.
The central midfielder from Fontana, out since sustaining a knee injury Nov. 10, had been pegged by manager Walter Smith to make his return in the traditional post-Christmas match. He wasn't deemed fit enough to make the bench.
Rangers assistant coach Ally McCoist, the former Blues striker, told The Herald Scotland that Edu ought to be ready for the Jan. 2 showdown with Old Firm rival Celtic.
Rangers (13-1-2), which leads Celtic (12-2-3) by two points atop the Scottish Premier League standings, first has a date Wednesday at St. Johnstone.
- Stories/No. 8: UCLA's fabulous freshmen
It was an odd (and some might say off) year for college soccer in the Southland:
- UCLA's women didn't come close to an eighth straight trip to the NCAA College Cup final four (USC's disappointed, too)
- UC Santa Barbara's men never got a chance to try to win a championship at home (deserving Akron celebrated on the Gauchos' field)
- UC Irvine's stirring fall finished just short (what a run by the Anteaters' women) and with a stunning snub (how did their men, top 10 all year, not get an NCAA Tournament bid?)
- Let's not even mention the lower divisions, Azusa Pacific's women (NAIA semifinalists) aside.
The best team in these parts, and that wasn't clear until season's end, was UCLA's men, who needed nearly half the season to figure things out, then came up just shy of the program's 13th final-four appearance.
UCLA coach Jorge Salcedo has one of the most talented collection of young players in the nation.
And this year's youngsters might be the Bruins' best. Included were an All-American midfielder (Kellyn Rowe), a forward who turned down pro offers to come to UCLA (Fontana's Victor Chavez) and another forward coveted by top programs everywhere (Newport Beach's Reed Williams). Two top defenders (Dove Canyon's Joe Sofia and Laguna Niguel's Patrick Matchett) sneaked in under the radar. And maybe the best of the lot (goalkeeper Earl Edwards) saw no action, sitting behind a top veteran (junior Brian Rowe).
Seven freshmen played considerably and the class accounted for most of the goals (23 of 40, with Chavez's 10 tops on the team) and assists (27 of 52, with Rowe's 10 tops on the team).
UCLA went 16-5-1, absorbing a big loss early (5-1 to Indiana) and another defeat in front of the biggest crowd ever to watch a soccer game at a university field (2-0 to UC Santa Barbara in front of 15,896), then taking off on a 14-2 spree into the NCAA quarterfinals. They held two two-goal leads before succumbing, 5-4, to No. 1 Louisville in the snow.
Rangers FC has finally set a solid target for Maurice Edu's return: Boxing Day.
The midfielder from Fontana, out since sustaining a knee injury Nov. 10, could be back on the field when the Scottish Premier League leader takes on Motherwell next Sunday in the traditional day-after-Christmas match.
Rangers is slated to play Tuesday at Dundee United, but three of its past four league matches have been postponed because of harsh weather. Saturday's clash with St. Mirren at Ibrox was called off when pipes burst during a post-snow and ice thaw.
“[Last] weekend would have been too soon for Maurice,” Rangers manager Walter Smith told the club's Web site. “But I would think he would start to get a run-out in training this weekend, and we'll see where we go from there.
“I don't think he'll be ready for the Dundee United match … but [next] weekend at Motherwell looks like a real possibility.”
Edu (Etiwanda HS) has missed only five games since he was hurt in a 3-0 loss to Hibernian, the Blues' only league defeat this season. He was out for Rangers' final two group-stage matches in the UEFA Champions League but can look forward to UEFA Europa League action in February.
Poor weather has impacted every club in Scotland. Rangers (12-1-2) maintains a three-point lead in the SPL over archrival Celtic FC (11-2-2), and the Glasgow powerhouses have two games in hand over their nearest rivals.
EUROPA, EUROPA: Belgian champion RSC Anderlecht, with Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan (Huntington Beach SH) now a regular contributor in midfield, booked its passage to the second-tier UEFA Europa League's round of 16 with a simple 2-0 triumph over Croatia's Hajduk Split in a Group G finale, getting the required aid from group winner Zenit St. Petersburg -- a 3-0 winner at AEK Athens -- to push ahead of the Greeks and into second place.
Their reward: a Low Countries showdown with Ajax Amsterdam, a former European powerhouse unable to compete with the big-country giants since the Bosman ruling brought a form of free agency to European soccer in 1995. The draw was held Friday in Nyon, Switzerland.
RSC Anderlecht is in a must-win situation Thursday, and its going to need a little help, too.
The Belgian champion will advance to the UEFA Europa League's round of 32 with a win Thursday over visiting Hajduk Split and a victory by Zenit St. Petersburg over AEK Athens.
Anderlecht, with former Chivas USA captain Sacha Kljestan (Huntington Beach/Huntington Beach HS) in midfield, is 1-3-1 in Group G of Europe's No. 2 club competition and sits three points behind AEK (2-2-1) in the battle for second place. RSCA holds the tiebreaker with the Greeks and will advance if they finish even on points.
The Mauves might seem to be in an advantageous position. Zenit (5-0-0) has won all but one of its group matches by two goals, and the Russian group leader romped to a three-goal lead in the other victory, a 3-2 decision over Hajduk Split in Croatia.
All AEK needs is a draw to advance, but if they lose, Anderlecht is ready to take advantage.
Scottish champion Rangers FC, with midfielder Maurice Edu (Fontana/Etiwanda HS) expected back shortly from a knee injury, dropped into the round of 32 after finishing third in its group in the top-tier UEFA Champions League.
A draw Friday in Nyon, Switzerland, will set up eight four-team brackets for round-of-32 matches Feb. 17 and 24 and round-of-16 games March 10 and 17. The survivors will be drawn March 18 into an eight-team bracket. The final is May 18 in Dublin, Ireland.
Fontana's Maurice Edu didn't make the trek to Turkey for Rangers FC's UEFA Champions League finale Tuesday, but he's expected back soon -- possibly this weekend.
The former Etiwanda High School standout has been sidelined since going down with a knee injury in a Scottish Premier League match Nov. 10 against Hibernian, and the club's Web site reported that he "isn't far away from returning to the fray."
He won't play Tuesday in Rangers' meaningless clash with Bursaspor in Bursa, Turkey, but he might return for Saturday's league game at Inverness Caledonian Thistle -- if it goes off.
Tuesday's game counts for nothing: The Blues (1-2-2) have clinched third place in the four-team Group C -- and will drop into the second-tier UEFA Europa League's round of 32 -- and Bursaspor (0-5-0) is last. Edu, the Web site said, is building fitness and recovering from tonsillitis.
Edu has missed only three games, and he can thank the harsh weather that has hit Scotland the past month. Rangers hasn't played since it was eliminated from the Champions League by Manchester United on Nov. 24. Its last two Scottish Premier League matches were postponed because of icy conditions that left fields unplayable.ANDERLECHT, TOO?: Belgian champion Anderlecht, with Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan, also is hoping to be in the Europa League's knockout stage, which begins play in February. The Zebras are third in Group G of the Europa League with a 1-3-1 mark following last week's 3-1 loss to Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia and must finish in the top two.
RSC Anderlecht grabbed the top spot in Belgium's Jupiler League on Saturday, and now the Brussels-based club aims for something bigger -- and in uncompromising conditions.
The Zebras are in Russia, for Wednesday's UEFA Europa League clash with Zenit St. Petersburg, and a victory will all but assure them a spot in next year's knockout phase.
Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan (Huntington Beach HS) was back in the starting lineup for Anderlecht's 4-1 victory over last-place Royal Charleroi, and he's in the 20-man traveling party for Wednesday's game, which will be played in temperatures hovering just above zero.
"It will be a tough match, in exceptional weather conditions that we are not used to," Anderlecht general manager Herman Van Holsbeeck said, according to British website SportingLife.com. "In normal circumstances, Zenit has a very strong team, and that has been seen in this Europa League campaign, when they have not dropped a single point in their games so far. It's also a team which has the qualities that you need to play in the Champions League."
Zenit (4-0-0), which on Sunday completed its title run in Russia's Premier League, already has clinched one of Group G's two slots in the round of 32. Anderlecht (1-2-1), Greece's AEK Athens (1-2-1) and Croatia's Hajduk Split (1-3-0) are battling for the last. The Belgians own the tiebreaker with AEK and can claim a knockout-phase berth with an upset over Zenit.
Still nothing official from Rangers FC on midfielder Maurice Edu, who went down with a knee injury Nov. 10 and hasn't been seen since.
Initial word was the knock was “minor,” but he's undergone two scans and missed three games -- including this week's UEFA Champions League loss to Manchester United -- and it's uncertain when he'll be back.
Don't expect him for Sunday's Scottish Premier League clash at Dundee United, and we'll see about next week's game against Hearts.
“Sucks being injured,” Edu tweeted earlier this week.
Edu (Fontana/Etiwanda HS) missed last weekend's 3-2 win over Kilmarnock -- Kenny Miller scored a hat trick, giving him 18 goals this season -- as Rangers (12-1-1) maintained a three-point lead on Celtic atop the SPL standings, and he was merely a spectator as Wayne Rooney's late penalty kick lifted Man United to a 1-0 triumph Wednesday.
Manhattan Beach's Michael Bradley scored one goal and played a key role in another as Borussia Moenchengladbach's nightmare season in Germany's Bundesliga brightened a little with a 4-0 romp Saturday at FC Cologne, the club's first victory of any kind since Aug. 29.
Bradley, the son of U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley, scored in the 70th minute -- a long-range blast and ricocheted off Cologne's Youssef Mohamad and into the net -- and started the counterattack that led to Igor de Camargo's strike 12 minutes later. Raul Marcelo Bobadilla added two goals for Gladbach (2-6-4), which escaped the cellar with the win, changing places with Cologne (2-8-2).
Irvine's Benny Feilhaber (Northwood HS/UCLA) also scored over the weekend, converting a 90th-minute penalty kick to lift AGF Aarhus (12-0-3), the top team in Denmark's second-tier 1.Division, to a 1-0 triumph over visiting Viborg FF. Feilhaber has seven goals in all competitions for the Dettvie.
BOCANEGRA BACK: Carlos Bocanegra (Alta Loma HS/UCLA) returned to Saint-Etienne's lineup after missing four matches because of a neck injury, but his presence couldn't save Les Verts from elimination in France's Coupe de la Ligue.
Bocanegra went the distance at left back in a 2-0 defeat to Auxerre, both goals on penalty kicks, in the cup quarterfinals. Saint-Etienne, which has slipped from third to 10th place since Bocanegra suffered a sprained neck in an Oct. 17 Ligue 1 loss at Nice, has just one victory in its past seven games, all competitions.