Where does Friday’s snowy, remarkable U.S. win rank among most memorable qualifiers ever?

1 Comment

Before we move on from Friday’s amazing scenes outside Denver, turning everyone’s attention to what’s ahead in Tuesday’s friendly against Mexico as the U.S. march to Brazil 2014 continues, let’s spend just a few more minutes considering the unforgettable, snowy scenes at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Specifically, where does the United States’ 1-0 win over Costa Rica that played out so remarkably in a blizzard outside Denver rank among the most memorable U.S. World Cup qualifiers?

For the drama of the moment, but mostly for the novelty and for the aesthetic of the awesome pictures coming out of DSG Park, this was undoubtedly among the most unforgettable U.S. World Cup qualifiers ever.

The Top Five in my mind:

5. U.S. – Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain, 1989: The soccer historians will tell you this one mattered more than any others in the big picture. Paul Caligiuri scored the afternoon’s only goal in a 1-0 win (perhaps the most famous goal in U.S. national team history) that secured passage to World Cup 1990 in Italy. Without the goal, the United States’ role as hosts five years later may have been subject to even more worldwide mock and scorn than it was. That appearance (made possible that win in Port of Spain, helped validate the growing U.S. place in global soccer.

4. U.S. – Costa Rica in Portland, 1997: U.S. midfielder Tab Ramos scored the only goal in a monumental U.S. achievement over Costa Rica, a 1-0 victory that Steve Sampson’s team needed desperately to keep the drive alive for France ’98. But it wasn’t just the result that mattered, it was the absolutely brilliant, stirring atmosphere in downtown Portland. American soccer grew up a little bit that day, and wonderfully so.

3. U.S. – El Salvador in New England, 2001: An odd one, because so few people actually saw it. The United States had lost three qualifiers in a row, and chances of passage into World Cup 2002 in Asia were nearly on the skids. Bruce Arena’s team clawed out the needed result (2-1 over Jamaica), but that’s not what makes this one so memorable, again, in an odd way. All networks preempted programming as the Afghan War began that day when U.S. aircraft began attacks.

2. U.S. – Costa Rica in Denver, 2013: The yellow ball was out (better seen against the fluffy white background that framed the pictures and made this match such a unique spectacle. And a lovely one – for anyone watching this surreal scene unfold from the comfy warmth of their living room, at least. The cascading drama around the U.S. side made Friday’s contest meaningful, never mind the meteorological mayhem.

1. U.S. – Mexico in Columbus, 2001: Truly, in a place where “meaningful” meets “memorable” in terms of U.S. qualifier moments, this will continue to be the gold standard for years and years to come. The original La Guerra Fria was as significant in that it began a period of U.S. dominance in the border series with Mexico – and because it was so darned infuriating to the opponents, a match set in bitterly cold Columbus expressly to create maximum discomfort for the Mexicans.

(MORE: Some of the beautifully snowy scenes from DSG Park)

Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

Photo by Visual China/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars are over — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

Photo by Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy/Qatar 2022 via Getty Images
Leave a comment

An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

Photo credit: Liverpool FC / Twiter: @LFC
Leave a comment

It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.