Steve Ralston

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San Jose Earthquakes fire head coach Mikael Stahre

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The worst team in Major League Soccer has made a coaching change.

Sitting bottom of the Western Conference with just 20 points through 28 matches, the San Jose Earthquakes parted ways with Mikael Stahre, who was just hired last November. Assistant coach Steve Ralston will serve as interim manager until the team makes a decision on who to hire permanently. Fellow assistant coach Alex de Crook was also relieved of his duties.

“I would like to thank Mikael and Alex for their hard work and professionalism this season,” said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli in an official release on the team website. “Mikael has qualities, both as a person and a coach, that will be missed by players, staff and the front office alike.”

With just six matches remaining in the MLS regular season, the Earthquakes own the worst record in the league by four points and sit a whopping 24 points back of the final playoff spot. They went nearly a full three months between wins, defeating Minnesota United on May 12 and failing to earn another victory until inexplicably beating 2nd place FC Dallas on the road on August 4.

“We felt we needed a change and decided that the six remaining games represent an opportunity for all of us to begin heading in a new direction and to evaluate our options actively with a single goal in mind: to strengthen our First Team for the upcoming season and beyond,” Fioranelli said.

The news comes on the heels of a 5-1 demolition at home at the hands of Sporting KC over the weekend. San Jose was down 3-0 at halftime, and put just five of its 17 shots on target.

The 43-year-old Swede becomes the third Quakes head coach fired in the last 15 months, following Chris Leitch and Dominic Kinnear, the latter of whom was fired last June 25. New interim boss Steve Ralston now finds himself with his first career head coaching job, although he is no stranger to MLS. The 44-year-old made 378 career MLS appearances before retiring in 2010, and at the time of his departure held the MLS records for assists, appearances, starts, and minutes played, although most of those have been since surpassed.

U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame ballot revealed, including Beckham

Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images
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CHICAGO (AP) David Beckham, the English midfielder who brought increased visibility to American soccer and won a pair of Major League Soccer titles while playing for the LA Galaxy from 2007-12, is among 12 first-time candidates on the 33-player ballot for the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Defender Steve Cherundolo, midfielder Pablo Mastroeni and forward Brian Ching, key parts of the U.S. national team, also are new candidates on the ballot announced Wednesday. Other first-timers include defenders Chris Albright, Danny Califf and Tina Frimpong Ellertson; goalkeepers Joe Cannon and Kevin Hartman, and midfielders Amado Guevara, Eddie Gaven and Leslie Osborne.

Defender Chris Armas and midfielder Jason Kreis, currently Orlando’s coach, are in their final year of eligibility. Former midfielder Ben Olsen, now D.C. United’s coach, is among the holdovers.

Other men on the ballot include goalkeeper Pat Onstad; defenders Gregg Berhalter, Frankie Hejduk and Tony Sanneh; midfielders Chris Klein, Eddie Lewis and Steve Ralston; and forwards Jeff Cunningham, Clint Mathis, Jaime Moreno, Ante Razov, Taylor Twellman and Josh Wolff.

Women on the ballot include goalkeeper Briana Scurry; defenders Kate Sobrero Markgraf and Heather Mitts; midfielder Aly Wagner; and forward Tiffeny Milbrett.

Voting will take place among men’s and women’s national team coaches, Major League Soccer and National Women’s Soccer league management, U.S. Soccer Federation leadership, Hall of Famers and media. Each voter can list up to 10 players, and a player must appear on at least 66.7 percent of ballots to earn election.

Among those on the builder ballot are former USSF President Bob Contiguglia; referee Esse Baharmast; coaches Gene Chyzowych, Eddie Firmani, Gordon Jago and Joe Machnik; and administrators Richard Groff, Tim Leiweke, Francisco Marcos and Kevin Payne.

The 15-player veteran ballot, voted on only by Hall of Famers, has George Best, Chico Borja, Mike Burns, John Doyle, Marco Etcheverry, Linda Hamilton, Mary Harvey, Chris Henderson, Dominic Kinnear, Shep Messing, Cindy Parlow, Tiffany Roberts, Mike Sorber, Tisha Venturini-Hoch and Roy Wegerle.

The hall’s building in Oneonta, New York, closed in 2010. A new facility in Frisco, Texas, is under construction and slated to open in 2018.

U.S. federation announces another strong National Soccer Hall of Fame nominee class

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Another tough round of voting is ahead as the final list of nominees was announced for the National Soccer Hall of Fame Class of 2014.

In its release today on the nominees, U.S. Soccer says voting will begin immediately in three categories: Player, Veteran Player and Builder. Voting continues through Feb. 7.

Hall of Fame voters – including coaches and officials from the pro game, U.S. Soccer coaches and officials, designated media members and Hall of Famers – can list up to 10 candidates on their ballot. For the Player category, athletes appearing on two-thirds (66.7 percent) of voter ballots are elected. Players not appearing on at least five percent of ballots will be subtracted from the ballot (pending availability for the Veterans ballot.)

It’s not easy to gain the needed percentage. Two years ago only four players were selected: Tony Meola, Claudio Reyna, Tony DiCicco and Desmond Armstrong. A year ago only two made the cut: Joe-Max Moore and Peter Vermes.

These really are tough choices. On this ballot there are guys who were first to important MLS scoring mileposts (Jason Kreis), guys that surely would have caught up with them but for career-ending injuries (Taylor Twellman) guys who accomplished so much despite unfortunate injuries (John O’Brien), plenty of women’s players who won multiple World Cups or Olympic golds (Kristine Lilly and Brianna Scurry just to name a couple), guys who scored huge World Cup goals (Clint Mathis, Brian McBride — pictured above), huge MLS international stars (Marco Etcheverry) … and the list goes on.

In fact, here’s the entire list:

2014 National Soccer Hall of Fame Player Ballot

  • Chris Armas
  • Raul Diaz Arce
  • Marco Etcheverry
  • Lorrie Fair
  • Robin Fraser
  • Chris Henderson
  • Zoran Karic
  • Chris Klein
  • Jason Kreis
  • Eddie Lewis
  • Kristine Lilly
  • Kristin Luckenbill
  • Shannon MacMillan
  • Kate Sobrero Markgraf
  • Clint Mathis
  • Brian McBride
  • Jaime Moreno
  • Victor Nogueira
  • John O’Brien
  • Ben Olsen
  • Cindy Parlow Cone
  • Steve Ralston
  • Ante Razov
  • Tiffany Roberts
  • Tony Sanneh
  • Briana Scurry
  • Taylor Twellman

#Dosacero: The history of United States-Mexico in Columbus (with video)

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – How maddening, how frustrating, how very infuriating it must be for proud Mexican soccer fans to know they have been hashtagged thus:  #Dosacero.

It’s the score (2-0, that is) that keeps recurring in big U.S.-Mexico matches.

Before it was a Twitter hashtag, “Dos a cero” was a rallying cry and a verbal stick in the eyes of Mexican supporters, who ruled the region in soccer until about 12 years ago. That’s when the United States began gaining control of the rivalry, crushing Mexican spirits time and again on U.S. soil and once notoriously in Asia, in a Round-of-16 elimination match at World Cup 2002.

So much of the U.S. dominance on home soil happened in Columbus, site of tonight’s big-stakes World Cup qualifier. Here is the history of “Dos a cero” at Crew Stadium:

2001: The original  “La Guerra Fria”

Cold weather? In Ohio, in February? Who knew?

Clearly, it was a strategic venue selection by U.S. Soccer officials, and how perfectly it all worked out. So many of the U.S. men played in Europe , or had previously. By contrast most from El Tri had always played in Mexico, where temperatures in the 20s are mostly just a scary tale.

So it was bitterly cold as Josh Wolff and Earnie Stewart scored for the United States in the match that started all this. Wolff had his paw prints all over this one, scoring the first goal with a big assist from a Jorge Campos blunder, and then created the insurance strike with some crafty dribbling along the end line. Ironically, Wolff was on the field because Brian McBride had gone off early, injured, unable to see through a badly swollen eye.

That was the important opener in final round qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. There, the United States’ improbable quarterfinal dash helped elevate the game’s domestic standing.

Highlights of that one are here:

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdUGy–8-Pc&w=420&h=315]

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Sept. 3, 2005: The United States qualifies!

Just like tonight, the United States went into the warm September afternoon with opportunity in hand to make it official, to book their spot for Germany 2006. Just like tonight, the opportunity came fortuitously against Mexico.

So the scenes were full of red, white and blue pride and joy at the final whistle. Landon Donovan, having been substituted late that day against Ricardo Lavolpe’s Tri Colors, raced around the field with an American flag draped around his shoulders. Kasey Keller and others joined the celebratory laps, taking it all in along with the boisterous Crew Stadium crowd.

Among those celebrating: U.S. center back Oguchi Onyewu, who had first frustrated Mexican scoring star Jared Borgetti and then stared down the man in a famous picture-book moment. (One that helped to make Onyewu a U.S. fan favorite for years to come.) Also celebrating was Steve Ralston, a fairly unlikely figure to nail the game-winner, the goal that officially sent the United States to Germany.

Oh, the game ended 2-0. Of course it did.

Feb. 11, 2009: “La Guerra Fria Two”  

Torrential rain before kickoff and fierce winds added to the weather-related misery as U.S. fans and players shook off any elements of discomfort, warmed by the knowledge that it all worked to the psychological advantage of Bob Bradley’s team. So chants of “Dos a cero!” rang through the crowd as Tim Howard made huge, early saves. Later, Michael Bradley was Johnny on the Sport to hammer in a rebound off a corner kick.

Bradley supplied the second goal, as well, a big shot from 25 yards.

The match was also memorable for Rafa Marquez’s further vilification among U.S. fans. Marquez was shown a straight red for his ridiculous, studs-up challenge on Howard in the 65th minute.

Highlights of that one:

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6_qFGiiTGg&w=560&h=315]

Happy Birthday to Steve Ralston … and wondering if anyone will catch his MLS assist mark?

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Steve Ralston, who helped create more MLS goals than anyone in the league’s 19-year history, turns 39 today.

He is a trusted assistant on Dominic Kinnear’s staff in Houston. But until just a few years ago, Ralston was a tidy possession and crossing specialist who meant a lot to the strong New England Revolution teams of the last decade.

He chalked up 135 assists over 14 MLS seasons, far and away the league’s all-time top total. I was once close to convinced that Landon Donovan would catch Ralston if he remained in MLS for the duration. Now? Maybe not nearly as much.

And if it’s not Donovan, Houston’s Brad Davis is the only man within stiffing distance. But he’s 31, and would probably need to retain the current pace (about 12 a year) over three more seasons (through 2016) to get there.

Here’s the MLS all-time list:

source: