Niko Kranjcar

Photo by Mike Stobe/New York Cosmos/Getty Images

Chatting with NASL commissioner Bill Peterson as league kicks off sixth season on Saturday

Leave a comment

The North American Soccer League begins its sixth season on Saturday with new teams, big-name imports and plenty of momentum.

The lone Division II league in the American Soccer Pyramid — USL Pro has applied for D-II status but is currently third — the NASL now boasts more than 55 players from 27 countries with appearances on the international stage, including Greece national team striker Georgios Samaras and Premier League veteran Niko Kranjcar of Croatia.

[ MORE: NASL announces San Francisco Deltas ]

With new teams starting play in Oklahoma City and Miami, and two more announced in Puerto Rico and San Francisco, PST caught up with NASL commissioner Bill Peterson to talk about what’s next in the league.

Rangers' Carlos Bocanegra challenges Celtic's Georgios Samaras during their Scottish Premier League 'Old Firm' derby soccer match
Samaras playing for Celtic in the Old Firm Derby. He will suit up for Rayo OKC this season in the NASL (Reuters)
You have three new teams starting play in 2016, and they’ve made some interesting roster moves. What’s your take on the new boys?
“What I’m most excited about is the approach on the field. Miami and Oklahoma City very quickly ramped up with their coaching and technical sides. They’ve gone after very high-caliber players. I believe that they are going to hit the ground and be pretty competitive. That’s a little bit different from what we saw with Ottawa and Jacksonville in their first years, I think because in general they were building their teams off the season they just watched instead of the changes that were made to existing teams rosters.

“Puerto Rico is not too far behind them. They’re on a little bit different calendar. They’ll have their own unique challenges in signing players and finding meaningful matches before they start. We expect them to be pretty competitive right out of the box.”

What’re the plans for expansion moving forward?
“The plan is to go to 20 teams and maintain the two seasons (The NASL plays Spring and Fall seasons with a break in between). It’ll look differently after we cross over 2016. We’re exploring some other things we may or may not be able to do it. With 20 we can keep the single table, get all the games in the weather window and keep an exciting competition.

“We’ll have announcements of at least one and maybe more teams over the next couple months. We just can’t talk about it because we’ve seen a million reasons for an ownership group to change their mind or to take longer than anyone expected. The real key is that everything is in place now. This is a much bigger league than a few years ago. There’s more at stake. We’re going to get to 20, and we’re going to continue to grow.”

A massive challenge for any nascent league is navigating the massiveness of our country and continent (The NASL has added San Francisco since PST spoke with Peterson). How does this affect your vision and business?
“It’s a very unique challenge and many times those who follow leagues in other parts of the world lose the fact that we’ve got some unique geographical challenges and they do keep you up at night. It takes longer to build a fan base when they can’t hop on us a bus and go see a team play a visiting site, or the media can’t afford to fly across the country to cover a team that’s playing a big match.

“Those are big obstacles and they aren’t going away. We have to continually overcome them, or at least reduce the impact on what we’re trying to do. In the early days it’s tougher than hopefully it will be later down the road. It’s hard enough to find the right ownership group in the right cities. It makes it even more difficult when you try to get a national footprint in a territory that’s so big.”

The New York Cosmos have beaten the Red Bulls in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup but last year was a tough year for the league in that important tournament. What’s your take on it?

New York Cosmos player Lucky Mkosana (R) greets teammate Spanish Raul Gonzalez (L) during a Cuba vs New York Cosmos friendly soccer match on June 2, 2015 at Pedro Marrero stadium in Havana. AFP PHOTO/YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
New York Cosmos player Lucky Mkosana (R) greets teammate Spanish Raul Gonzalez (YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
“It’s sort of organic how this comes about, but if you talk to our coaches and owners right now they’ll tell you that the Open Cup is a real priority for them. They understand the competition now, the history, they understand what it means to participate in that competition.

“Last year was a wake-up call. There was a little bit of mentality with some clubs that they maybe didn’t put the effort into it, rested some players and guess what? They lost. That was not a good feeling that day and all of them remember that. There have been discussions between ownerships and technical staff that it’s important to win Open Cup matches. You’ll see an all-out effort from our clubs this year because it’s just so fun to play. Those are cool opportunities for our players and our fans. It’s a great competition.”

It does seem like the league has grown in reputation fairly quickly. Obviously, the Cosmos help this, but why do you think its leapt in rep?
“We have an advantage in the fact that this is the NASL and it had this incredible history here in the late 60s and 70s. There are still people I meet every week whose father took them to an NASL match. Having those clubs come back has stirred up interest in those who were there the first time around. It’s disappointing that they’ve been left behind.

“We try to keep it as pure as possible. The players and the game on the field is the first priority in everything we do. The fans are second, and everything we do, any decisions we make throughout this league, it has to have a positive effect on those two groups or we don’t do it because it’s a waste of time and money. Our clubs have done a great job of promoting themselves.”

NASL Fast Facts

niko-kranjcar-qpr-stoke-64064-1928575_613x460
@QPRFC
Teams in Spring 2016 season: Jacksonville Armada, Carolina Railhawks, FC Edmonton, Indy Eleven, Minnesota United FC, Ottawa Fury, New York Cosmos, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Rayo OKC, Miami FC

Coming in Fall 2016: Puerto Rico FC (owned by Carmelo Anthony)

Coming in 2017: San Francisco Deltas

Players you know:
Wilson Palacios and Dane Richards (Miami FC)
Samaras, Kosuke Kimura, Robbie Findley (Rayo OKC)
Juan Arango, Yasmani Duk, Kranjcar (NY Cosmos)
Jon Busch and Lovel Palmer (Indy Eleven)
Marcel de Jong and Julian de Guzman (Ottawa Fury)
Jeb Brovsky and Bernardo Anor (Minnesota United)
Darwin Espinal, Eric Avila and Freddy Adu (Tampa Bay)
Kleberson and Aurelio Saco Vertiz (Fort Lauderdale)
Nik Ledgerwood and Sainey Nyassi (FC Edmonton)

New York Cosmos add veteran Premier League midfielder Niko Kranjcar

Michael Steele/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Thought the loss of Raul and Marcos Senna would destroy the New York Cosmos? Think again.

[ MORE: Rayo OKC adds Greek attacker Georgios Samaras ]

After acquiring Venezuelan midfielder Juan Arango earlier this offseason, the Cosmos announced on Friday the signing of Premier League veteran Niko Kranjcar.

The Croatian playmaker played for Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmouth, before helping Queens Park Rangers move to the PL in 2014.

“I’ve enjoyed my time training with the Cosmos, working with these players and coaches has been a great experience,” Kranjcar said. He was included in the team’s preseason tour of California. “I think the style of play here suits me well, I and I’m excited to officially represent the club on the field this season.”

In his time with Croatia’s national team, Kranjcar recorded 81 caps and scored 16 goals for his native country. He was a staple for the Vatreni during the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, despite his team not advancing out of the group stage. Prior to his successful senior team stint, the Kranjcar featured for a number of Croatia’s youth sides.

While the move for Kranjcar may not be the most noteworthy, he is still a very talented player that will certainly fill a need immediately in the Cosmos midfielder. With the departure of Senna, New York’s newest foreign signing can slot in as an attacker midfielder or even as a winger.

MLS may have David Villa and Kaka, but the Cosmos continue to make NASL relevant with moves like this one.

Follow @MattReedFutbol 

Top 5 reasons we’ll all miss Harry Redknapp on transfer deadline day

1 Comment

Tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015, is transfer deadline day for the entirety of the English football pyramid, which includes the Premier League’s 20 clubs.

[ MORE: All of the latest transfer news ]

For the first time in six transfer deadline days, we will be forced to observe this pseudo national holiday without Henry James Redknapp — better known simply as “Harry” — being in charge of a football club. This is a sad day for anyone who has ever supported a Redknapp-managed club, because there were two days in a calendar year whereon you could let your deepest Redknapp loathings boil over free yourself of such vitriol and spite, and those were the final day of each year’s two transfer windows.

I’ll miss Harry tomorrow — I’m sure we all will — and here’s why:

5. Everybody else knew when they’d had enough (players), but not Harry

Harry’s favorite line on or around transfer deadline day was, and always will be, “I need more players.” It mattered not whether his transfer dealings had already run his current employers millions of dollars into the red, Harry needed that one last signing, because, and he just knew it, that was going to be the big one. If only his chairman would back him in the transfer market this one last time.

[ DONE DEALS: Recapping Man United (and others’) very busy Monday ]

4. Who’s going to sign Niko Kranjcar?

Yet another sacred transfer deadline day tradition to go unobserved if Harry doesn’t get a job in the next 18 hours. Harry signed Kranjcar as the manager of three different clubs — Portsmouth, Tottenham Hotspur and QPR. Don’t worry, Niko, your career may be quickly winding down at Dynamo Kyiv, but Harry will come for you one day.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday’s officially confirmed transfers ]

3. Who’s going to (try to) sign Jermain Defoe? And what about Peter Crouch?

Redknapp also signed Defoe while in charge of three different clubs — West Ham United, Portsmouth and Tottenham — before making every effort known to man to achieve his rare quadruple last January while at QPR. Don’t worry, though, Harry did achieve that elusive feat by signing Peter Crouch four different times — Portsmouth (twice), Southampton and Tottenham. Sadly, it looks as though Defoe will stay put at Sunderland in drama-free fashion on Tuesday, and that’s just not something Harry would have stood for.

[ JPW’S PL Playback: It’s time to change the rules of the transfer window ]

2. Who’s going to do the annual manager-hanging-out-the-car-window television interview?

Rephrased another way, that could have read, “What manager could possibly love the limelight of a TV camera on his deadline-day drive to and from the office the way that Harry did?” Answer: none. Harry may not have invented the car-window TV interview — he very well might have, actually — but he certainly perfected it. The reporter wasn’t interviewing Harry; Harry was holding court, and that window, an opulent portal unto the rest of the universe, was his courtroom.

Sidenote: Remember that time Brek Shea did a TV interview through his car window? If only he had made it at Stoke City, that would have been looked back upon as the day American soccer officially “arrived.”

source:
Brek Shea, transfer deadline day — January 31, 2013

[ MORE: 10 deals to keep an eye on as deadline day comes and goes ]

1. Because nobody — and I mean NOBODY — could wheel ’em and deal ’em the way that Harry could

Harry was born for this biannual celebration, the same way Lionel Messi was created to become the best soccer player in the world. Tactics and strategy and actual games be damned, league titles Champions League qualification Europa League qualification mid-table finishes relegation battles are won and lost not on the field, not during the transfer window as a whole, but during those final hours when a real “wheeler-dealer” did the business.

Some player, somewhere in the world, unhappy with his current club situation and available as a real steal, will go unsold tomorrow, and it could have all been avoided if someone had just hired Harry. In Harry’s day, transfer deadline day was so much smaller than the game of football or an individual club. He was transfer deadline day.

QPR is cleaning house: Barton, Ferdinand, Zamora all out at Loftus Road

4 Comments

After finishing dead last in the Premier League and being relegated to the Championship, Queens Park Rangers will be cutting down its roster next season.

[ RELATED: Premier League Playback ]

Manager Chris Ramsey acknowledged that there would be quite a bit of turnaround for the club, with many players being out of contract at the end of this season and with the club needing to be smart financially without the cash flow from playing in the Premier League.

Today, the club announced that only Clint Hill and Alejandro Faurlin would be offered new deals at Loftus Road.

That means that Rio Ferdinand, Bobby Zamora, Richard Dunne, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Brian Murphy and club captain Joey Barton will not be wearing the blue and white hoops of Queens Park Rangers next season.

QPR will also lose Niko Kranjcar, Eduardo Vargas and Mauro Zarate, who were all on loan at Loftus Road.

[ RELATED: Nine FIFA officials arrested in Switzerland during dawn raids ]

The Hoops spent big money on their quest to earn Premier League glory, but the club flopped, losing 24 of 38 matches and finishing last in the league. Defense was the biggest issue, as Queens Park Rangers conceded a whopping 73 goals on the season.

Losing so many key players will surely hurt QPR, even though they will be playing in the second division. It’s almost certain the club will also lose top scorer Charlie Austin, who will surely receive a nice pay day from a bigger club after scoring 18 goals in his first season in the Premier League.

Premier League Preview: Queens Park Rangers vs. Stoke City

Leave a comment
  • Stoke swept season series last season
  • QPR won both matches the previous season
  • R’s hold 17W-6D-10L all-time advantage

The Premier League weekend begins with two teams desperately seeking a win, as Stoke City rolls into Loftus Road to try and add to the woes of Harry Redknapp and Queens Park Rangers (Watch coverage at 7:45am ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

Stoke is coming off a loss, but its last road match was a win at the Etihad Stadium against a Manchester City team that’s very difficult to top at home.

And QPR needs a win badly after getting trounced 4-0 by Manchester United. Redknapp has plenty of weapons at his disposal, but his team looks suspect. Just a point about the drop these early days, the seemingly indestructible Redknapp could use some good results.

WATCH LIVE AT 7:45AM ET ON NBCSN AND ONLINE VIA LIVE EXTRA

What they’re saying

Niko Kranjcar on facing Stoke City“They are an established Premier League team, I think we can say that. They have been in this division for a number of years and never really looked likely to be relegated. But we don’t really care about that, we care about our own performance, we care about what we have to do in order to win this game.”

Potters manager Mark Hughes promising road form: “We have done well on the road though by picking up four points from two very difficult games, so we can use that to our advantage and hopefully build upon that. We have a lot of weapons in our squad who can win games against any opposition, as was proven at the Etihad Stadium.”

Prediction

Both teams are struggling to find themselves as units, and it feels like the sort of game that will either be high-scoring or no-scoring. We’ll choose the former and a fun 3-3 draw.