Soccer Insider

Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 11, 2009; 2:00 PM

Washington Post soccer writer Steven Goff was online Wednesday, Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. ET to take your questions about all things soccer and preview tonight's USA-Mexico game.

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 from Columbus, site of tonight's World Cup qualifier between the United States and Mexico.

Plenty of good material on the Soccer Insider today about the USA match, David Beckham and future World Cups. Check it out!

Let's get started.....


Reston, Va.: Is it just me or does it seem that this year more than others the United front office seemingly has no plan. We don't have a captain of our defense in the back. The player the whole team was supposed to built around leaves a week before training starts.

Steven Goff: The plan WAS to keep most of the players in place and add a few pieces this offseason. However, when Marcelo Gallardo made it clear he wanted to leave, DCU began seriously pursuing Christian Gomez to fill the playmaking role. The defensive situation has not been handled well. Roger was brought in to bolster the central spot and provide leadership and experience. He decided he didn't want to be here and went home. So now the club is looking elsewhere for backline help. The season doesn't start for another six weeks. They've got time, though not a lot.


Georgetown: How come United has abandoned having weekend games in the afternoon?

Not only were afternoon games fun, but these evening games are a challenge for those bringing children -- I know my brother in law won't be attending with my nephews.

I don't understand this. Why is United scheduling like this?

Steven Goff: DC has consistently drawn bigger crowds at night. Day games always seemed to conflict with local amateur and youth soccer schedules.


Mclean, Va.: How quickly do you think each of the rookies will have an impact? Also, any chance for Bobby Convey to come back over?

Steven Goff: Bobby Convey has signed with San Jose.

Rookies Chris Pontius and Rodney Wallace will see playing time for DCU. Wallace is a left back with speed and can be used on the left side of midfield. Pontius is a forward who also might line up on the flank. Goalie Milos Kocic appears to be in line as No. 2 on the depth chart, although his gaffe yesterday led to Columbus's only goal in an exhibition game.


The Burbs: Thanks for all you do, Goff! In my mind, you're the best soccer journalist in this country.

Steven Goff: Many thanks.

Just pushing buttons, pulling levers, and hoping it all works out every day.


Herndon, Va.: My take is that if the stadium ends up in Maryland, you will see a sizable drop in fan support. Just go to the metro after a game and see how many are heading towards Northern Virginia and how many are heading towards Maryland.

Steven Goff: Yeah, definitely a concern for DCU supporters in Virginia. However, over time, a stadium in PG County would draw greater number of fans from the Annapolis and Baltimore areas.


Washington, DC: When can we expect an MLS preview from you?

Steven Goff: A day or two before the season starts.


Portland, Ore.: Hi Steven,

Bob Bradley takes a lot of heat for coming off to some as a vacuous, cliche-spouting robot. As fans, we're only exposed to what we read in the paper or on blogs or what we see in video interviews. As a member of the press, how does Bradley come off to you, particularly with respect to any background or off-the-record comments he may make? Is there more there than meets the eye, or is what we see what we get?

Steven Goff: Bob is a very thoughtful, well-spoken guy. He oozes Princeton! He is not a sound-bite coach like Bruce Arena, but in a broader interview format, he has a lot of insightful stuff to offer. Assuming the USA advances to the World Cup, you will see more in-depth stories about him.


Washington, DC: Which is more fun for you to cover: Barra Brava or Mason Nation?

Steven Goff: Ha! Great question.

Some people have asked me if I would prefer to cover nothing but soccer 365 days a year. The answer is no. I welcome the 3-4 winter months when I can step away (sort of) from soccer and cover hoops, including George Mason. It's a refreshing break. That said, the soccer beat is year-round and requires constant pursuit of stories.


Arlington, Va.: Now that Roger is out of the picture, just what exactly is DC United going to do about central defense? With January over, what are the possible options?

Steven Goff: I imagine they are trying to arrange a loan for a Latin American defender. Otherwise, there are not a lot of options at the moment.


Rocko: Since England seems to have already been handed the 2018 WC, what are the odds the US gets 2022? Thanks for doing the chat.

Steven Goff: I think we can all agree that England is the favorite, but the process has just begun. If England does get the World Cup in 2018, European nations are no longer eligible for 2022 -- which, in my opinion, would thrust the USA and Australia to the top of the list.


Reston, Va.: Why did DC give Guerrero to Colorado?

Steven Goff: Why was DCU willing to give up Guerrero as part of the Gomez trade?

The club feels Fred will seamlessly slide into the left flank position (Guerrero's spot) after playing in various spots last season and re-develop the chemistry he built with Gomez two years ago.


DC: Why are there relatively few Mexicans playing in MLS? Given the technical skills of the average Mexican player I would expect to see more of them.

Steven Goff: MLS cannot afford the best Mexican players -- salaries are very high in the Mexican league while some of the country's elite players have gone to Europe, where the money is huge. It's simple economics. Mexican players have passed through MLS over the years, most notably of late Blanco with Chicago.


Montgomery Village, MD: What's your starting eleven lineup? I think a 3-5-2 formation suits us best.

Steven Goff: USA?

My prediction for tonight is Howard; Hejduk, Onyewu, Bocanegra, Pearce; Dempsey, Bradley, Kljestan, Beasley; Donovan, Ching.

DCU? At the moment...

Crayton; Namoff, McTavish, Janicki, Burch; Quaranta, Simms, Gomez, Fred; Moreno, Emilio.


Washington, D.C.: Steven-

Do you consider the decision by USA Soccer to play this match in chilly Ohio a piece of crafty strategy (considering most of our players are much more accustomed to the climate -- compared to the Mexican players) or a cop-out? Or is there another reason many of us are not privy to -- such as randomness or stadium availability? Thanks.

Steven Goff: As I wrote in today's paper, there are several reasons for Columbus to host: intimate setting, mostly USA fans, history of success ... and the weather. Except it's 20 degrees above normal and no snow on the ground. Wind and rain could make things messy. The Mexicans don't like the cold -- we saw their response in 2001 here -- and they certainly welcome the mild temps today.


Baltimore: Steve,

I know you've always said you were unbiased in the pressbox and remain a neutral observer, which I completely respect.

However, can you REALLY tell me when the U.S. scored the clincher against Mexico in the 2002 Cup in Korea, you weren't a little bit proud to be an American at that moment, even if you couldn't outwardly show it?

Steven Goff: I'm proud to be an American every day, whether a USA soccer team wins or loses. I was happy for the players and coaches involved, but beyond that, I can't allow myself to get caught up emotionally in sporting events I'm covering.


Vienna, Va.: Great work Goffer, keep it up!!

I'm sure you've gotten plenty of comments on this, but I want to throw mine out there. Everyone is poo-pooing this Gomez deal. While on the surface it may look bad, I don't think DCU got hosed anywhere near the level the masses seem to think they did. Obviously we won't know until the end of the year, but I think the potential is there for this to work out quite well. What do you think?

Steven Goff: Gomez is a proven commodity in this league -- his work rate, determination, scoring ability, playmaking skills. However, he is 34 years old. Does he have anything left? I think he does. DCU is praying he does.

Fred takes Guerrero's spot on the left, so I don't think that is a huge loss. As for the designated player slot, after spending $1.5 million of their own money on Gallardo last season and with Emilio in a DP role again this year, I don't think the investors were too keen on making another major acquisition this year anyway.


Washington, D.C.: Which player -- on either squad tonight -- are you most looking forward to seeing play?

Steven Goff: I'm hoping to see Jose Francisco Torres, the Mexican-American from Pachuca who committed to the USA, get into the game. With his personal and pro background, he brings another dimension to an already fascinating rivalry.


Austin, Tex.: Steve,

I was wondering if you could shed any light on Freddy Adu's troubles in Monaco. It seems really strange that he can't get a match for such an underperforming side. Do you at all get the sense that the manager will soon get the sack?


Steven Goff: I have not paid close attention to Monaco's situation this year, but Adu's lack of playing time is disappointing -- for him and for American soccer. Benfica still owns his contract, so it will be interesting to see whether he remains at Monaco or moves elsewhere this summer.


U Street: Considering that David Beckham is part-owner of the LA Galaxy, is there any chance he doesn't move permanently to Milan? I guessing the transfer fee is $9 million....

Steven Goff: The MLS commissioner told me today (see the Soccer Insider) that Friday is the deadline for a transfer deal to be reached. Beckham has a financial stake of some sort in the Galaxy/MLS, but I don't know if I would call him a part-owner. The transfer fee? Maybe 10 million? We'll see what happens over the next 48 hours.


Baltimore: Steve, do you think the possibility of bad weather will frustrate the Mexicans more since they are working in some new parts and have so much pressure on them?

Steven Goff: Perhaps, but bad weather will impact both sides. If the conditions are truly horrendous and the field is a mess, I fear a 0-0 tie.


Bedford Falls: Is there something about the DC United "system" that made Gallardo and Roger want to leave; or was it more a combination of worse weather, far-from-homeness, and lucrative offers from their former teams?

Steven Goff: Different cases.

Gallardo was attracting interest from River Plate, the club where he began his career. And after an injury-shortened season and, let's face it, an awkward transition to MLS, he wanted to return to the madness of Argentine soccer.

From what I can gather, Roger simply decided with his family that he didn't want to live in the States. I'm curious to see where he ends up. The buzz around DCU, however, was that, in his brief time with the club, Roger was not very impressive.


Woodbridge, Va.: Is United looking/expecting anybody to take a big step forward this season?

Steven Goff: Everybody!

I think they'd like to see stability from Crayton, more scoring prowess from Fred, consistent goal scoring from Emilio, contributions from the rookies and a healthy summer for Ben Olsen.


Ashburn VA: Will any of the European-based Mexican players be available tonight?

Steven Goff: Yes, of course. Most notably Rafael Marquez, the Barcelona defender.


Frederick: If the team did have a quick hook for Tom Soehn, who would be candidates to step in?

Steven Goff: Good question.

It's awfully difficult to pry an assistant from an MLS team in midseason. Foreign coaches are looking for jobs in the summer. I can't imagine DCU would have any interest in a college coach.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Steven, Two things

First, do you feel that Mexican National team is going through a down period? It seems like there is not enough talent to replace the likes of Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Jared Borgetti and you still see players like Pavel Pardo and Oswaldo Sanchez starting. Albeit, they are young but players like Giovanny Dos Santos, Guillermo Ochoa, Nery Castillo and Andres Guardado really haven't stepped up to the level they were in 2007. What are your thoughts on this?

Also, do you think Bob Bradley should begin to consider Marcus Tracy and Mike Grella for national team spots? I am unbelievably sick of seeing Brian Ching (who was by far the worst selection in the 2006 World Cup team) playing instead of way better players like Jozy Altidore and Kenny Cooper and until he decides to come back to the U.S. or go to a better league in Europe, I can't see Charlie Davies being the answer.

Steven Goff: Yes, Mexico is in a period of transition as Eriksson incorporates young players.

As for the US team, whoa!

Marcus Tracy and Mike Grella have no professional or international experience. Even under the best circumstances, you won't see them with the senior national team for quite some time.

Some day, Jozy Altidore will be better than Brian Ching. Right now, he is not. Kenny Cooper is a very good MLS forward but behind Ching on the depth chart at target forward.


Fairfax, Va.: Steven,

Do you think the 2010 World Cup will definitely be in South Africa? There are recurring stories of dates slipping and FIFA getting cold feet followed by assertions from Sepp Blatter that the event is definitely on for South Africa. Have you gotten any indication that the FIFA executives are covering their bets and speaking with USSF officials or others about alternative late-choice venues?

And how about the US chances for hosting in 2018/2022?

Thanks for all your good work covering DC United and the beautiful game!

Steven Goff: Barring a catastrophic event, South Africa will host in 2010.

On the blog today, I had reaction from USSF Prez Sunil Gulati about the possibility of the USA being a backup in case Brazil is not ready for 2014.

As for 2018 and 2022, I'm guessing England and then either the United States or Australia.


Arlington, Va.: How many of the 10 U.S. qualifiers (and hopefully not 12 are needed) do you plan on being at this year?

Your work is much appreciated.

And will you be on Gold Cup and/or Confederations Cup duty this summer?

Steven Goff: I cancelled my El Salvador trip in late March because, for among many reasons, it conflicts with D.C. United's home opener.

I'll be in Nashville a few days later, Costa Rica in early June, probably Mexico in August and all the other important home matches.


Baltimore, Md.: Hi Steven,

We have booked air tickets to El Salvador to watch the U.S. men play away on March 28. What can you tell us about the atmosphere at stadium and how much American visitors will be hassled? Thanks!

Steven Goff: Cuscatlan is a big place (by Central American standards) and gets quite rowdy when the Americans visit. The seating area along the far sideline opposite the benches is nicknamed "Vietnam." What else do you need to know?! My trick for road qualifiers: Always carry with you something from the host country, such as a scarf or hat. The sight of such an item seems to defuse tense situations.


Arlington, VA: At the present time how many goalkeepers does D.C. United own the rights to? Four? Five? More? Why?

Steven Goff: Crayton is under contract until the summer. At some point, he and the club will decide whether to extend the deal. Wells is about to retire. Kocic is in negotiations with the club. Thorpe is trying to earn a developmental contract. A young keeper was also acquired in the Gomez trade.


Gaithersburg, MD: What are DCU's chances of landing a top marquee player during the summer transfer market?

Steven Goff: Depends how things go the first few months. A poor start would likely prompt a coaching change and perhaps the addition of new players this summer.


Wheaton, MD: How long before Marco Etcheverry is appointed DCU head coach? Whatever happened to his academy?

Steven Goff: Marco is coaching in Ecuador, I believe.

His academy went bust.


Steven Goff: Time to wrap it up.

Enjoy tonight's match!

And keeping reading the Soccer Insider.



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