Soccer Insider

Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 24, 2007; 1:00 PM

Washington Post soccer writer Steven Goff was online Wednesday, Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. ET to chat about D.C. United and other soccer topics.

The transcript follows.

Goff covers the D.C. United beat for The Washington Post and writes the Soccer Insider blog for

Discussion Archive


Steven Goff: Greetings

Welcome back to the soccer chat

I do hope you are enjoying the Soccer Insider. What's the Soccer Insider, you ask?? Just a (mostly) friendly soccer blog here at If you have not visited, please do so when this chat concludes.

On to the questions...


Washington, D.C.: Are the soccer stands removed from RFK for baseball gone for good, or should we expect to see them again at some point in the future?

Steven Goff: I assume you are referring to the north-side stands that no longer exist for soccer? If so...

From what I have been told, those stands no longer exist, at least at RFK. Perhaps they were sold or destroyed. If the team really needed that space to sell tickets, I could see some sort of arrangement to add them next year. But in a big stadium with plenty of available seats, I can't imagine it's a high priority for the sports commission or the club to replace them.


A warming planet.: Your chat is up against Eco Friendly Babies... How can you hope to compete?

Steven Goff: I'm doomed. We're all doomed.


Anonymous: As the regular season ends, I would like to congratulate the D.C. United coaching staff, players, and supporters. Win or lose, I think the team has already raised the standards of U.S. soccer.

Steven Goff: Thanks for your declaration.


Washington, D.C.: Goff,

I have been able to watch more college soccer this year because of Fox Soccer Channel. Do you think the American college soccer system is an advantage or a disadvantage to the development of our young players?

Steven Goff: For most players, college soccer is a great environment. For the very elite players, college could be viewed as a waste of time. What we have witnessed the last 10 years is an increasing number of young Americans bypassing college to head overseas or sign with MLS. Others have chosen to play in college for a year or two before turning pro. One of the big disadvantages of playing college ball is the short season (three months).


Washington, D.C.: Steven,

Have you ever seen soccer as beautiful as Arsenal played it yesterday? Simply out of this world.

Steven Goff: Breathtaking.

Of course, the opponent had something to do with that.

Nonetheless, quite a performance.


The Fred, Va.: Hey Steven,

Congrats on the continued success of the blog. A couple of quick hitters...

Now that Manchester United is on form (8 goals in the last two games), do you think they will be able to assert their will on the Premiership, or will someone be able to make this a race again this year given Liverpool and Chelsea's woes?

Can you explain how to watch Serie A? The cynicism and defensive mindedness of Italian soccer makes it really really hard for me to sit through an entire match (unless its the Milan derby).

Thanks for the great work. Skippy.

Steven Goff: Thanks for the kind words.

Man U is playing well, but how about Arsenal yesterday in the Champions League? Wow. Check my Soccer Insider blog for video highlights of that one.

I agree with you on Serie A -- I have a hard time watching it. Which is a shame, because the amount of skill on the field is almost incomparable.


Major Telecommunications/Auto Manufacturer/Banking Corporation: Will I be on the kits next year? What will they look like?

Steven Goff: Don't know who United will sign up to become its shirt sponsor, but from all indications, there will be a corporate logo on the club's jerseys at the start of next season. The sponsor doesn't really matter; the money involved does. For a team that does not control game-day revenue at its home stadium, a shirt sponsorship is a much-needed source of cash.


Washington, D.C.: What is the progress of Jay Nolly and Shawn Crowe? Would they be able to shine if, God forbid, anything happened to Perkins? There was so much hype about Nolly in preseason. I would certainly hope he does not fall into obscurity like Clint Baumstark after his moment of brilliance.

Steven Goff: Nolly did not perform well in his only league start this year, a 2-1 loss at RSL. Crowe had arthroscopic knee surgery late in the season and is training again. However, he is a long way from being ready for a real game, not to mention a playoff match.


20010: Goff,

Amazing work on the Soccer Insider. I hope that the head honchos at The Post realize what a great job you are doing and give you a raise many times over...

Question - Chances that Soehn and DCU play two holding mids (Carroll and Simms) with Gomez as a withdrawn forward tomorrow night? Might make sense due to the injuries to Emilio and Moreno and the away-home format. I know Soehn is more flexible than Nowak, but I don't think he likes to change the way he plays and sets up his team.

Also, I know you aren't a DCU supporter, but are there any teams you do support? (I'm thinking Europe or SA) Since you don't really cover those beats, I figured it wouldn't be a big conflict to reveal who you follow/support.


The Cheat

Steven Goff: Raises? Raises? There are no raises in journalism these days, just increased health care costs. ;-)

Yes, Carroll and Simms paired together is a possible scenario.

I don't support any clubs here or abroad. I am fascinated, though, by the history of teams, such as Newcastle, Boca, Barcelona. However, I have never found a club to call my own and, as long as I am in this business, probably never will. Just one of the sacrifices of being a reporter.


Newport News, Va.: Goff, thanks for the Insider and these chats!

Of the two, who is more important to United's playoff chances and which one would you rather have on the pitch: Emilio and Moreno.

I hope they both can go, and your update last night makes it seem they might, but I'm scared.


Steven Goff: In my opinion, Emilio is more important because he is the only forward who scores consistently in the run of play. And without goals, DCU is going nowhere. That said, he is not going to create on his own; he needs service, and Moreno is a big part of that because of his ability to hold the ball and see the field. If one or neither is on the field, Gomez and Fred will have to take additional attacking initiative and be in position to score.


22201: Mr. Goff,

Please bring us up to date on MLS expansion plans. From what I can piece together from various reports, many of which found their way to your SI blog, we are looking at San Jose next year, Seattle the year after that, and Philadelphia in 2010. St. Louis is also a strong contender, but MLS doesn't seem to want to commit to more than 16 teams right now. Is what I've said mostly on the mark? Also, what are the chances that existing franchises (e.g., Chivas, Kansas City) might pull up stakes and move?

Steven Goff: Funny you should ask.

MLS distributed this memo to the media this week clarifying the league's expansion plans.

"The San Jose Earthquakes join MLS as the League's 14th team in 2008. The 15th and 16th expansion clubs may be announced by the end of 2007 or even as early as MLS Cup 2007, but MLS does not have a set deadline to make that announcement. Thus, it may early 2008 before both teams are announced. MLS is currently in discussion with potential expansion team owners and local governments in more than a dozen markets across North America. Major League Soccer's timeline for expansion allows us to take our time in evaluating potential expansion markets as we are not relying on expansion revenue to fund our ownership group. We expect to reach 16 markets by 2010, but we will only add teams when it makes strategic sense. We understand that the League must expand its footprint to increase its profile, but we are not in any rush."


Severn, Md.: Is it me, or does Ben Olsen seem to put in less effort when Jaime is not there? I know I have noticed this at least once before and last Saturday. Benny is the heart and soul of this team, and when he isn't into the game the team suffers. What do you attribute this occasional lack of effort to?

Steven Goff: Ben Olsen? Lack of effort? Huh?


Germantown, Md.: It's sad to see that MLS Cup will be broadcast to the nation and the world with a giant freaking hole behind the North End.

At any rate, what's the likelihood we see both Emilio and Jaime Moreno starting on Thursday? Coach Soehn can talk about "endeavour" all day when he references Kpene, Addlery and Dyachenko but their output in front of the goal is negligible at best.

Steven Goff: My guess is that Moreno will start tomorrow and Emilio will come off the bench. Moreno seems further along in his recovery, while Emilio will probably be a game-time decision. I'll provide updates on the Soccer Insider as news surfaces.


Lyon Park, Arlington, Va.: You just told another fan: "If the team really needed that space to sell tickets, I could see some sort of arrangement to add them next year." Next year aside, surely they anticipate a nearly sold-out Estadio RFK for MLS Cup. How can they not use that space, even if it involves the low-tech solution of temporary bleachers?

Steven Goff: Maybe things will change if United makes it to MLS Cup and ticket demand increases, but from I've been told, there are no plans AT THE MOMENT to construct seating in the north end. Sorry. Even with that space left empty, RFK will still hold 46,000 for the Cup.


Henchlow, DC: Steven - any indication on what is going to happen with Greg Vanney in the offseason? IIRC Dallas/Colorado are paying a big chunk of his salary this year. Do you think he would stay with a big paycut? Does Kasper/Soehn want him back? Keep up the good work!

Steven Goff: I am sure United would like Vanney to return, but probably not at his current salary (236K). Since few MLS players have guaranteed contracts, it's not uncommon for teams and players to negotiate new terms each winter.


Sponsor doesn't matter?: Au contraire, Mr. Goff. Some sponsors will matter, especially in terms of things like jersey sales...while I hope to get a new jersey with another star next season (knock on wood) if the sponsor is someone like, say, a cable company that shall remain nameless but rhymes with "Romcast" I confess I can't do it...I just couldn't look at myself in the mirror with that name splashed on my chest...

Steven Goff: To be honest, I don't think I would ever wear any jersey with a corporate sponsor's logo plastered on it. That's why Barcelona's UNICEF shirt was so cool.


D.C.: If you have to predict, do you see both Adu and Altidore starting for the U.S. in 2010?

Steven Goff: Way too early to say. Altidore is on his way and hopefully we will see him in a U.S. uniform in the coming months. Adu is making progress and will get a good look early next year (Euro schedule permitting). The priority for him, though, is the Olympics next summer.


Reston, Va.: Goff:

Great work on the blog. The Post doesn't know about the treasure right under its nose. Keep it up.

Following the current theme, have you ever met Ives Galarcep, and do you read his blog? Is there a friendly rivalry? How about Luis Arroyave with Red Card?

Steven Goff: Thanks for your kind words.

Ives and I are buds. Like the Soccer Insider, his Soccer By Ives blog is a must-read every day.

I don't have time to read many other blogs on a regular basis. But for something unique, check out Adam Spangler's


Today's Eli Saslow Article: Steve,

Eli's article on the injury plagued Whitman High painted a pretty depressing picture about the state of high school aged women's soccer. Reminds me of the Redskins.

Steven Goff: Yes, it's a great read. Take a look.


Reston, Va.: Do you see Soehn playing some negative soccer, given Emilio's probable absence? Will Carroll see minutes?

Great work, as always. Best blog in the business.

Steven Goff: United won't admit it, but given their injury problems and general trouble against Chicago in the playoffs, they would be happy to come away with a tie tomorrow. In this case, a tie is good. Without Emilio's menacing qualities, United will probably have a difficult time scoring goals -- regardless of their tactics.


Club soccer: Broader question about soccer development in the U.S. I was looking at club soccer options for my 10 year old (separate from normal town soccer) and it's a year-round commitment, two mandatory practices a week with lots of travel tournaments on the weekend. $2,000 "tuition" for the team plus the travel costs. If you have conflicts with other sports you have to go to the soccer practice/game. I've insisted to this point that my son play other sports to see what he likes, but I already see that other kids focusing on soccer have better skills. It seems crazy and expensive to have him commit to one club sport at this point and deemphasize other sports he is good at but is there another way to go if he wants to play any one sport beyond high school? What are the implications for US Soccer in that many young American athletes who enjoy soccer as one of their sports face this same dilemma?

Steven Goff: Great point. Unfortunately, to truly make it in this sport you have to commit at a very early age. Such a decision consumes time and money. (I guess you could make the same statement for aspiring basketball, baseball and football players -- check out HBO's Real Sports this week on the growing phenomenon of families sending their 11- and 12-year-old QB prodigies to private tutors.)


Sponsor does matter: Mr. Goff,

How much revenue the sponsor would bring to for the club?

Steven Goff: Good question. The Galaxy is receiving a reported $6 million per year from Herbalife. However, the Beckham factor drove that price.


San Francisco: What would it take for MLS to change its method of determining its champion? I don't think any other league in the world has a post-season playoff.

Also, on the topic of playoffs, why doesn't MLS protect its top seeds? DC and Chivas have earned the right to take a week off to recuperate and prepare. Otherwise, what is the point of the regular season? To weed the bad from the mediocre?

Steven Goff: Good point(s).

First off, this is America and champions are determined by a playoff system. End of story. (Mexico has one, too, don't they?)

The problem I have with the regular season is that the conference champions are not richly rewarded. Since a first-round home-and-home series does not provide true home-field advantage, the only prize is getting to host the one-game conference final (if the team advances that far). United has had a spectacular season, but the way the league is structured, the Supporters' Shield just does not carry the same weight as winning MLS Cup.


Van Neezy, D.C.: To those who constantly complain that they cannot watch Serie A because it is "too defensive" or "too boring", I would offer two responses. First, find a Fiorentina game or a Roma game. Both of these sides play excellent, open, free flowing football that is a joy to watch. Palermo and Napoli are headed in this direction as well. Second, there is a higher per-game goals average in Italy than either Spain or England, which are both considered to be superior and "more interesting" leagues by American fans. Italy does trail Germany in goals per game.

One DCU question: What tactical strategy do you see Soehn going with for the away leg? Will he field a defensive-oriented lineup or push for away goals?

Steven Goff: Thanks for the Italian insight.

Away goals do not count for anything extra in the MLS playoffs, so don't be surprised if United plays cautiously in a tie game.


Washington, D.C.: Blanco has proven to be a much bigger asset to MLS than Beckam. Won't he be tempted to ask for better compensation next year?

Steven Goff: Blanco is earning $2.7 million this season, considerably less than Beckham but much more than every other player (?) in the league. Despite his contributions on and off the field, I don't think Chicago is prepared to increase his pay substantially.


Rocko: I am scared of this Chicago match-up. Maybe if Emilio can't go, Kpene ends up scoring 4??

Steven Goff: At this point, Kpene is hoping for just one goal. He's got some skills, but has yet to find the back of the net.


I-270, Exit 1: It's 1:00. Has Gulati fired anyone else yet?

Steven Goff: LOL!

Ryan is gone. Hackworth is gone (sort of).

Bradley is safe for the time being, Nowak will guide the Olympic team and Rongen has done well with the U-20s.


WDC: If Hope Solo was so wrong why was the coach fired? I still say she did not call out her teammate as everyone claims she has. Granted she put Scurry in an uncomfortable position, but that clouds the situation from the real issue. The real issue was poor coaching.

Steven Goff: The Solo outburst and the Ryan firing are separate issues. Ryan was fired because the team did not meet expectations over the course of the only important tournament for which he had to prepare the team: the World Cup. His goalkeeping misstep did not help his case, nor did the final margin of the loss to Brazil, but Gulati judged him on his overall work -- which was simply not good enough for a program that has prided itself on championships and graceful play.

Having said that, Solo was wrong to publicly trash her coach and make statements that some believe were directed at a teammate. It was childish.


For what its worth...: Copy and paste: "First off, this is America and champions are determined by a playoff system. End of story."

Send to BCS committee. Please.

Steven Goff: Ha!

Good point...


Bowie, Md.: There's something about the coach hiring process in American soccer that bothers me. Normally it wouldn't, but it seems to be prevalent in the MLS, USL, and national scene.

Why aren't college coaches (like Cirovski, UMD; Gelnovatch, UVA; Freitag, Indiana; etc) given more and better looks at head coaching jobs on the professional level? Talent reigns king in soccer, but a team's "system" is pretty important and a handful of these coaches run really good systems.

What's keeping them from the big gigs in the US?

Steven Goff: Believe it or not, many college coaches are perfectly happy where they are. They have long-term job security, no media and fan pressure...and they make a killing on summer soccer camps. Jump to MLS and your future is a lot less certain. On the other side of it, MLS front offices prefer head coaches who have experience as an MLS assistant, played at a high level or worked overseas.

For a college coach to get an MLS gig, most would have to give up a comfortable job to become an assistant in MLS and then hope things work out for a head position in the future. Just not worth it for many guys.


Vancouver, Wash.: Not a single question on Ryan - clearly the biggest news of the week for soccer in the U.S.

Your thoughts please.

Steven Goff: No surprise.

All of those victories before the World Cup didn't mean much. In the only event that truly mattered, his team sputtered from beginning to end (well, not including the third-place game) and was humiliated in the semifinals. Throw in the goalkeeping fiasco and his strained relationship with the No. 1 goalkeeper, the USSF had no choice but to make a change.


Bethesda, Md.: My first question has to deal with the format of the MLS playoffs. Why is the first round home-and-away? It makes more sense to have the semifinal and final as a home-and-away series. Secondly, have you heard the rumors that Arsenal are in pursuit of Brad Guzan? Third, now that Philly has agreed to a stadium deal, are they next in line to obtain an expansion team over Seattle and St. Louis. Fourth, in your opinion what does DC United need to do to win the series over Chicago. Thank you very much.

Steven Goff: Too many questions!

I will answer the playoff inquiry. The first round was structured so every team that qualifies for the playoffs gets to host a game -- and the opportunity to sell tickets and make some money. Beyond that, the higher remaining seed is rewarded by hosting a one-game conference final. And like the Champions League, the final is one game at a neutral site.


Raleigh, N.C.: Sunil has fired Bruce, Greg, and Hackworth. Does he have a different mentality from previous regimes, or am I trying to find patterns where there is only coincidence?

Steven Goff: Every situation is different.

In his mind, the men's team was getting stale and needed a change.

In his mind, Ryan failed in the only important competition of his tenure (along with other reasons that we have already discussed here).

In his mind (I'm guessing), Hackworth was not developing enough high-quality young players at the residency program in Bradenton.

No pattern.


Steven Goff: Time to wrap it up.

Thanks for your questions. Sorry I couldn't get to all of them.

We'll do it again in two weeks.

Meantime, read the Soccer Insider every day



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