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Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 2, 2008; 1:00 PM

Washington Post soccer writer Steven Goff was online Wednesday, April 2 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 washingtonpost.com.

Discussion Archive

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Steven Goff: Greetings

Welcome to our first live online futbol chat of the MLS season

Ready?

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Washington, D.C.: Dear Steven,

Can you please shed some light on doping in soccer and MLS specifically? As a fan of cycling and track and field, I've seen my sports dragged through the mud, but one never hears about futbol players getting caught. There is certainly an advantage to being faster and stronger, and there is a lot of money at stake. Many players must be taking some kind of performance enhancement drugs. Does MLS even test? What's the policy? Does FIFA or CONCACAF? It feels like a "don't ask, don't tell policy".

Thank you

Steven Goff: MLS does test its players.

For details, read this statement from Bob Foose, head of the MLS players union, who testified before Congress a few years ago.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: How advanced is the United scouting department? Do they spend time watching video of opponent's form leading up to matches?

Steven Goff: United has an elaborate video system for recording matches involving future opponents and for tracking players worldwide. Like all pro sports teams, DCU's coaching staff and players review film in the days leading up to a match.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Mr. Goff,

This isn't really a question, but my soft spot for hulking center defenders leads me to submit it anyway.

A suggestion for the sports headline writers: if Gonzalo Peralta scores a goal this season, the headline in the paper the next day really needs to be "By the Hammer of Thor."

Steven Goff: Thanks for the suggestion.

It has been rejected.

;-)

Peralta is showing some fine qualities, indeed.

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Falls Church, Va.: Is Marcelo Gallardo going to be worth his DP money? (This may be obsolete if he scores a hat trick in Pachuca after I write this)

Steven Goff: A little too early to render a verdict on a new player -- four matches into a year that could include 50 games.

I'm eager to find out how much Gallardo is actually earning this season. Rest assured, the full MLS salary list will be available soon.

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Pentagon City, Va.: Any word on the expected attendance Saturday?

Steven Goff: At RFK?

The club is hoping for 20,000.

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Arlington, Va.: What's the latest on RFK hosting a USMNT qualifier later this year?

Steven Goff: I'm hearing RFK is the top candidate for the Sept. 10 WCQ against T&T or Bermuda. Home Depot Center appears to be the front-runner for the Cuba game in October. Not sure about the November qualifier vs. Guatemala.

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Arlington, Va.: A while back, you said in your blog that you would not be returning to China this summer, and that eight or nine of your colleagues would be covering the Olympics. Has it been determined which ones will be covering men's and women's football? Also, it is a given that the USA women will be one of the teams to beat. Which teams should be considered pre-tournament favorites on the men's side, and what chance does the USA squad have of getting a medal against such competition?

Steven Goff: No decisions have been made about The Post's coverage of Olympic soccer, but since the early-round matches are played in cities other than Beijing, I can't imagine our reporters would attend very many until the medal rounds.

On the women's side, the favorites are Germany, Brazil and the USA. On the men's side, it is always difficult to predict because of the age restrictions; it's an under-23 tournament with three overage players permitted per team. Argentina and Brazil will bring strong sides, and Nigeria usually does well.

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Rockville, Md.: How worried should DC United fans be right now? After losing the MLS opener to KC 2-0, the team seem to not be worried, pointing to their Champions League game vs. Pachua last night as the more important game. But then D.C. United goes ahead and loses that game by a 2-0 score as well, meaning they would have to win by at least the same score in the final leg of that match. For a team that has played 2 real games without scoring a goal, that seems to be a tall order. This leaves some fans concerned about the upcoming year.

Or is this just inevitable after the large turnover of the roster, and that by the end of the year, after playing together for a whole season, D.C. United will be primed to win the MLS Playoffs?

Which scenario seems more plausible right now?

Steven Goff: No doubt, United officials are troubled by the latest two results, but the home opener vs. Toronto Saturday and the return match against Pachuca will give us a better indication of where this club stands.

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Pittsburgh, PA: Any idea if/when Fox Soccer Channel or Goal TV will begin showing games in HD format?

Steven Goff: Not that I know of.

You can see soccer in HD on ESPN2's coverage of MLS, HDNet, and, I'm guessing, ESPN's coverage of the European Championship this summer.

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Fairfax, Va.: is Fred poised for a breakout year?

Steven Goff: Skillful player, needs to sharpen his passing. Last year, as the season progressed, we saw him evolve into a dangerous attacker. I am still not convinced the wing is where he belongs.

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1601 K Street: Steven,

Thanks as always for doing these and for your dedicated efforts to the sport we all love (and sometimes get too passionate for).

Away from the on-the-field matters -- what's your feel for how CBA negotiations are going for MLS and its players? Both sides have to know what is at stake and both deserve to have a decent outcome (perhaps a 60/40 edge to the players). Will we see a healthy cap increase? Will we see development contracts become a "living wage"?

Steven Goff: It's not going to be pretty.

Salaries, free agency, pensions, roster sizes will all be discussed.

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Alexandria, VA: Any word on the likely state of concessions stands at RFK this year, now that the Nats have departed? Are we going to see the same variety and number of vendors as last year, or did some of the concessions folks leave when the Nats bolted?

Steven Goff: I honestly don't know about the food situation, but in general, with the Nats gone, RFK is only going to get worse. I can't imagine the sports commission wants to spend another dime on our old friend.

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Harrisburg, Pa: If you could prioritize and/or speculate as to the importance of the various trophies the club would like to have this year.. fire away!

thanks

Steven Goff:1. MLS Cup

2. Champions' Cup

3. Supporters' Shield

4. SuperLiga

5. U.S. Open Cup

I left out the new Champions League because, although it begins this year, it will not conclude until 2009.

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Brooklyn United Fan: Mike Wise said if Alex Ovechkin of the Caps wins the MVP, he would be "the first Washington star in 25 years to win the most valuable player award in a major American team sport."

Still no love for Emilio, Gomez, United and soccer?

Steven Goff: Thirteen years, and MLS/DCU are still ignored by some in the media. I'm a big Wise fan, but he should've mentioned Etcheverry, Gomez and Emilio.

These days, is the NHL any more "major" than MLS? They have a greater history and more teams, but ...

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Washington, DC: Underwhelmed by Niell. Am I writing him off too soon? I just don't see how he can deal with a physical league like MLS.

Steven Goff: My cats are bigger than Niell.

He spends a lot of time on the turf, doesn't he?

Again, it's awfully early to render a verdict, but so far, not so good.

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Potomac Falls, VA: Steven,

Do you think United is still missing any kind of depth at the Forward position? Emelio is a terrific forward, but Jaime (too old) and Franko (not physical enough) don't seem to provide the kind of goalscoring DC will need this year, especially since Gomez is gone.

Steven Goff: United's plan was to have three seasoned forwards available. Moreno's injury has disrupted things and Niell hasn't shown much. Perhaps Quaranta will emerge. The club is also trying to acquire a young Brazilian forward named Cezar, who has been in training camp for several weeks on trial.

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Fairfax County, Va.: Goff, thanks for the great work. Can you describe the challenges (if any?) in walking the line between making observations/criticisms of players/coaches. Although they are professionals and are obviously vastly skilled, you are also a professional and observe things in a much different way. Do the players or coaches you write about ever say to you: "what do you know, you've never played at this level" or "you've never been in on top level meetings," etc. Thanks man.

Steven Goff: Soccer is the most subjective of all sports to cover because, in most situations, you cannot use statistics to support your case. How do we know how well Clyde Simms played? He doesn't have a batting average, a field goal percentage, a plus-minus rating or a lap speed. We can describe actions in the game, but often we are left to evaluate and analyze on our own (like a theater review).

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Buckingham, Va.: Will Comcast be showing a replay of the Toronto game on Sunday or Monday, as they did this last week?

Steven Goff: www.comcastsportsnet.com

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Washington, D.C.: Have you seen Eddie Johnson play for Fulham yet? It is downright embarrasing that he was the most expensive MLS transfer. He spends more time on the turf than on his feet. I know the speed of the game is faster and it takes time to adjust, but he just does not seem to have any passion for the game.

Steven Goff: I'd give him the rest of the season before passing judgement. That said, I don't know if the English league is the right place for him.

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Van Ness, D.C.: Thanks for the chat and the blog. Do you have any sense of when Soehn will give Carvallo an opportunity in goal? I know that the DCU line has been that the two of them are there to push each other, but I'm curious and would like to see Carvallo get a chance.

Steven Goff: Good question.

With so many matches early in the season, I would not be surprised if Carvallo starts Saturday against Toronto and Soehn comes back with Wells on Wednesday against Pachuca.

We'll see...

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Washington, DC: As a huge fan of the EPL, this year I am determined to follow MLS and go to United games. My question is for the opener this Saturday... first, are tickets still available? I looked on the website but every time I clicked on tickets and it said you could only buy a package of 4, is that true? Is that for the entire season or just the opener?

Finally, (I know this is long, sorry) what are the best sections to get tickets for? I hear the DC fans are great, but short of joining one of the supporters clubs (perhaps in the future), where can I sit and get into the game with the rest of the crowd? Thanks!

Steven Goff: Plenty of tickets available through the team's website or ticketmaster.com. You can buy at the stadium before the match as well.

The most passionate supporters (Barra Brava, Screaming Eagles) are situated on the far sideline, sections 132 through 138 approximately. Sections 230 through 234 will also do the trick.

A seating chart is available at the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission's Web site as well as at dcunited.com

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Ohio: MLS sides are now 0-17-0 in Champions Cup matches in Mexico since 2002. What's it going to take for a breakthrough?

Steven Goff: Better teams, better players...

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Washington, D.C.: What sort of coverage is The Post going to have regarding Euro 2008? Are you or someone else going from your paper? Is ESPN showing all the games?

Steven Goff: I'm sure we will run a story from the wire services every day of the tournament. I believe ESPN's network of stations will show most, if not all, of the matches, but you'd have to check with them for details.

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Republic of Mancunia: Goffer-

Glad you're back!

Who do you see winding up in the Champions' League Final this year? With Ronaldo and Rooney hitting their stride, it's hard to see anyone stopping Man United.

Steven Goff: Man U all the way

Ronaldo's play is breathtaking

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San Francisco: I just have to say Viva Ronaldo! He's nothing short of spectacular ... he's close to breaking Law's record, and will win the World Footballer of the Year.

Steven Goff: Well stated

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Bethesda MD: Goff,

Thanks so much for your blog. Are you planning to attend the USA-Argentina friendly, and do you think Arg will bring its big name players to it?

Steven Goff: Hoping to attend USA-Argentina, if I can get to NJ after United's match the previous night in Chicago.

Argentina is expected to bring a very strong squad.

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Washington DC: Was it fair to say that Emilio slowed down United's attack last night. It seemed like anytime he had his back to goal he would take to long to give the ball to someone else or would just flat out give it away. Also Moreno would have made a difference in this game, What do you think?

Steven Goff: Emilio's decision-making was show and Moreno's ability to hold the ball would have helped, but quite honestly, Pachuca is a superior club. That's not to say United has no chance next week, but ...

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Union, NJ: Steven....How does Alexi Lalas keep his job? How does he get any job running a soccer team at all? He drove the Red Bulls into disarray and after Saturday's Galaxy effort, is there any question he is incompetent when it comes to player evaluation?

Steven Goff: It's remarkable he's still employed.

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NapoleonDynamite: Do you know anything on the Pachuca player (think his name was Torres) who hit the crossbar last night? FSC said he was from Texas. Is he on the USMNT or U-23 radar? Are there any other American players in Mexico's top league? I've always wondered if the usual biases keep them out.

What's the countdown on the Lalas deathwatch in LA? He has to go soon...

Steven Goff: Torres is from Longview, Texas, and has Mexican family roots. I don't know whether he wants to play for the U.S. team or has been approached.

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Sterling, Va.: Any update on the injuries (Moreno, Olsen).

Great job with the blog and updates via The Post!

Steven Goff: I thought Moreno would play last night and did see him warming up on the sideline, but alas, he did not enter. I'm guessing he'll play Saturday. Olsen remains sidelined.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: There's talk out there of doubts about Gallardo's ability to do what we need. I see a extremely talented player who just needs to get a better feel for what's available to him. What's your take?

Steven Goff: Give him time. The season just started. It takes a while to build an understanding between a playmaker and his forwards.

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Dude: I am a huge soccer fan, but find myself in a quandry ... I don't want MLS to become popular. I love the relatively cheap seats, you can decide 1 hour before the game to go and get good tickets at the gate, relatively few crazy fans ... just sit back and enjoy the match! Comments?

Steven Goff: But don't you want to see better teams, better players, in a new stadium with 27,000 fans?

MLS needs to grow.

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Falls Church, Va.: With rumors of Montreal in '09 and Queens (NYC) in '10, do you think MLS is expanding too fast? Or do you think they will spend more $$$ to get good players so the talent level does not fall off?

Steven Goff: Garber said on the record just last week that MLS is going to take its time with further expansion, so I'd be surprised if they decide to rush in two more clubs so soon after adding San Jose, Seattle and Philly.

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Stafford, Va.: I don't know how the chat got this far without asking a stadium question, so here goes. Any insight as to the progression of stadium talks and/or a "deadline" where DCU will stop talking to DC decide to pursue the MD options?

Steven Goff: Nothing new to report.

DCU wants Poplar Point, but is exploring options in PG County just in case they can't reach a deal with the city.

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Harrisburg, PA: Steven, along the lines of international play the USMNT did a job on Poland (not sure if Poland was having a bad day or not) but what do you think our chances are against England? Do you see any scenario where we beat them in Wembley? (that would be sweeter than all the triumphs against Mexico). Keep up the good work.

Steven Goff: The U.S. performances in Europe have been encouraging and, with a full lineup, there's no reason to believe they can't stay with England for 90 minutes. A victory or tie would be outstanding, but at the end of the day, it's still just a friendly. (Sorry, but I just don't get very excited about the results of friendlies; I'm more concerned with individual play, chemistry, style, etc.)

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New York, NY: I saw that there were rumors of Henry heading to Seattle's team next year. Any truth to that? Wouldn't there be a huge transfer fee or is his contract expiring? Thanks!

Steven Goff: According to who?

Don't believe everything you read on the silly Internet machine.

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Bethesda, Md.: We're currently holding an unused DP slot. Are you hearing any talk about what positions, individual players and when DCU is looking at using the slot? Is there any room left under the salary cap to add someone this season?

Steven Goff: From what I can tell, United is saving its second DP slot for a rainy day (i.e. a subpar record by midseason, an offer from overseas for a current player). The salary cap -- how much is available, how much of a specific player's earnings count against it -- is a mystery, so don't bother trying to calculate it for United or any other team. My assumption, though, is that if DCU wanted to add a second DP, they would have to dump some significant salaries.

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Washington, DC: It seems to me in the last two United games there was a real lack of leadership on the field with Olson and Moreno out. Is there anyone on the team that you could see taking more of a leadership role? You could really feel the loss of the two veterans.

Steven Goff: Good point.

Playing without your two most experienced players (in MLS, anyway) is a challenge. But I don't know if leadership was an issue last night. The result had more to do with Pachuca playing at home, Pachuca being a superior club and Pachuca finding ways to win the match in the second half.

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Woodbridge, Va.: Any word on Olsen's status?

Steven Goff: I will know more when the club returns to training at RFK tomorrow.

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Steven Goff: Time's up. Thanks for all your questions. Sorry I couldn't get to all of them. We'll do it again in two weeks. Meantime, check the Soccer Insider several times a day. Thanks. Cheers!

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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