Soccer Insider Live: D.C. United vs. Real Madrid and All Things Soccer

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Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 6, 2009; 2:00 PM

Washington Post soccer writer Steven Goff will be online Thursday, August 6 at 2:00 p.m. ET to take your questions about all things soccer, preview Sunday's D.C. United-Real Madrid friendly match at FedEx Field and discuss the U.S. National Team's road in World Cup qualifying.

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

Discussion Archive

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Steven Goff: Hola. Welcome. Thanks for stopping by. Lots of great questions. Let's get started.

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Rockville, Md.: Steve, What are your thoughts on the DCU-Madrid game being played at Fedex and not RFK? Worth it?

Steven Goff: It's too bad RFK wasn't chosen as the venue, but DCU was confident it could sell more tickets than would've been available at RFK (46,000). Right now, they're around 63,000, so from that standpoint, it made perfect sense. FedEx also offers private boxes and other amenities, although after reading about the fan experiences at the McCartney concert there the other day, maybe RFK isn't so inferior.

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Woodbridge, Va.: Steven thanks for keeping us continually informed of DC United and soccer happenings, I find your blog/tweets a great daily resource for soccer info/updates.

Do you know how many tickets have been sold for the DCU v Real Madrid match this Sunday so far? Do you know how many people are expected in attendance for the game? Thanks, keep up the great work on your blog/tweets!

Steven Goff: 63K at last check. Ticket prices are too high for the upper deck ($55!). Otherwise, they might have sold out a 92,000-seat stadium in advance. I have encountered a lot of people who said they'll just watch on TV because they couldn't afford to bring their family. Caution: temps in the 90s -- drink lots of water.

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Phoenix, Md.: What do you think of Grant Wahl's new book, "The Beckham Experiment?"

washingtonpost.com: The Beckham Experiment: How the World's Most Famous Athlete Tried to Conquer America (Amazon.com)

Steven Goff: Fantastic book -- highly recommended. It takes you behind the scenes of the Beckham mess, the outside influences, the conflicts within team management and players, Beckham's lack of leadership, etc. Go buy the book.

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Baltimore: My wife and I love Ben Olsen (we named our son Ben after him) but I just don't see him being that effective lately.

Are his ankles affecting him more than they were earlier in the season? Does he have plans for more surgeries and trying again next season or is he considering retiring after this year?

Any idea if he's planning on coaching (does he have the requisite licenses or whatever)?

Steven Goff: Ben continues to work very hard and provide much-needed leadership and inspiration, but even he will admit that he's not the same player as a couple years ago. He certainly has the heart and soccer brain to continue playing, but he and the club will have to evaluate things after the season. Whether it's next year or in three years, he certainly has a future in coaching or a front office job.

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Rockville, Md.: When will we know who from Real will actually play on Sunday? I assume the whole first team won't be there, which is fine. Just don't want to drive up to FedEx for nothing.

Steven Goff: Everyone for Real will be there, but I can't imagine the superstars playing more than a half. I'm curious to see how playing time is limited/balanced Friday night for their game at Toronto.

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BaltoFan: Here's an All Things Soccer question: Can you provide an explanation of a goal scored "against the run of play"?

Steven Goff: Say Real Madrid is dominating possession, applying pressure, testing Josh Wicks, when out of nowhere, DCU counterattacks and scores. That's pretty much against the run of play.

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Rockville, Md.: Hi Steven,

When do Real Madrid arrive in the DC area?

Will they practice on Saturday? If so, where?

Steven Goff: Real arrives at Dulles early Saturday afternoon from Toronto. They're staying in downtown D.C. and will practice at FedEx Field that evening after 6 p.m. Unfortunately, because of security, logistics and staffing issues, the training session is closed to the general public. The game is Sunday afternoon and they're flying home Sunday night. So they'll only be in DC for 30 hours or so.

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Washington, D.C.: Many fans have expressed frustration with Luciano Emilio's play for D.C. United, in part because of his status as a designated player. If United moves on to someone else as DP after this year, who would be a good candidate?

Steven Goff: There are so many high-quality strikers around the world who would command a DP salary, it's impossible to pinpoint one player. Emilio has been up and down, probably not playing up to his salary of 750K. Nonetheless, he leads the team in goals and is among the league leaders.

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Old Town Alexandria, Va.: After last night's embarassing home loss to W Connection, can we now officially label N.Y. Red Bulls the worst MLS team ever?

Steven Goff: Barring a late rally in league play, an official proclamation will be made this fall.

What a fiasco.

MLS needs a strong presence in the nation's biggest city and most influential media market. Instead, it has a dysfunctional second-division club.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Steve,

Do you know if there will be any shuttle buses running from the Landover Metro stop (or whichever one is closest)to FedEx?

Steven Goff: I'm not sure. You should definitely call DC United at 202-587-5000 for transportation options.

Whether you're taking Metro or driving, PLAN TO LEAVE FOR THE STADIUM EARLY.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: There seems to be a lot of griping about DCU's 3-5-2 formation now. Do you think this is a result of Simms injury, and how much ground he covered? Before he got injured, there didn't seem to be near the anxiety regarding the system.

Now that he is injured, maybe Soehn should consider the 4-4-2 until Simms is healthy or we find someone else that can cover as much ground cleaning up messes in front of the back three?

Steven Goff: The players seem to like the 4-4-2, especially Dejan Jakovic. With so many games approaching and the demands intensifying, I'm curious to see if Soehn mixes things up and plays different formations.

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RFK vs. FedEx: Yeah, maybe they'll end up with 10,000 more people than if the game had been at RFK, but there is something to be said for being the hot ticket at a sold out stadium. That's why D.C. is considering a 20-25,000 stadium rather than a 30,000 stadium, even though they could occasionally fill the latter.

Steven Goff: DCU needs a big revenue-generating event. Whether the turnout is 70,000 or 90,000, this is it. Though RFK would've increased demand and provided superior atmosphere, it is just too small for DCU's Real purposes.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Two questions Steve:

First off Rodney Wallace and Chris Pontius got off to a great start this year but I feel lately their play has dropped off. Any thoughts on why?

Second, any real news on how things are looking for a new stadium for DCU anywhere in the area?

Steven Goff: It is not uncommon for rookies in MLS to hit the proverbial wall midway through the season. That seems to be happening with these two very talented players. Wallace's form has dropped a bit and Pontius hasn't been able to score. I imagine you'll see both players rebound soon.

As for the stadium prospects, talks continue with local jurisdictions, including the District. A couple locations in Montgomery County have been discussed as well as areas near Dulles Airport where Metro will eventually reach. As usual, don't hold your breath during this process.

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Crystal Ball: Scoreline predictions: DCU-Real Madrid, U.S.-Mexico, DCU-Seattle (U.S. Open Cup)?

Steven Goff: Real Madrid, 3-1

USA-MEX, 1-1

DCU, 2-1 in OT

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Lanham, Md.: At this point in the season who is you MVP on D.C. United?

Steven Goff: Great question. Emilio leads the team in goals, but hasn't been a consistent force. Quaranta has had a quality season. Gomez is influential but not dominating. Pontius was productive most of the year but dropped off. Jakovic is very good and Namoff has had a fine year, but it's hard to reward a defense that has allowed so many goals. Wicks has been a big surprise.

Tough call.....

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Alexandria, Va.: Based on recent events, how unpopular will I be if I wear my Real Madrid Beckham hero shirt on Sunday?

Steven Goff: That's old school! I love it.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Goff:

Why the lengthy delay signing Habarugira? Is there a chance his acquisition could fall through at this point?

Steven Goff: Foreign acquisitions take a long time. United is confident they'll sign him, but still no deal. Once a contract is signed, there's the matter of a work visa and travel back to the States.

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Greenville, S.C.: It's great to see all the European exhibitions draw so well in the USA and I hope SUM is making money. It shows that quality will sell in the USA. However, if the MLS teams can't beat Central American and Island teams on a consistent basis the MLS will never gain the respect of serious soccer fans.

I have been watching D.C. United from the beginning and the team has never been better than the team that beat Vasco de Gama in Miami. I think the fans understand that the MLS has to have slow, steady growth but quality has not improved. (Case in point: MLS teams losing in the CONCACAF Champions League) Heck, MLS teams even have a tough time getting their youth players signed by the MLS.

I am truly worried about the MLS quality. I hope they increase the cap next year. Does the MLS honestly think that the product on the field is improving?

Steven Goff: Very good point about MLS's inability to advance in international competition -- the credibility of the league takes a hit with every early exit in events such as the CONCACAF Champions League.

With MLS, you essentially get what you pay for. With the salary cap so low, the quality of play is going to remain modest at best. That's not to say it is not competitive and doesn't offer some gripping matches, but until salaries go up, the league will struggle to compete in the international market for star players and have a hard time retaining young Americans.

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Maryland: Goff,

You recently told us that Montgomery County has come up with two possible locations for a stadium. Was the Soccerplex one of them? I am not an expert but it seems like there is room for expansion on the stadium field or space for a whole new stadium. Thoughts?

washingtonpost.com: Soccer Insider: A Few Minutes With Will Chang (Washington Post, July 25)

Steven Goff: The SoccerPlex is a beautiful facility...for youth soccer and small events such as Freedom games and United non-league matches. The subway is many miles away and the park sits next to neighborhood developments. I can't imagine a 20,000-seat stadium would ever be approved there.

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Manassas, Va.: Is DCU going to have any more trialists in, or is Habarugira it?

Steven Goff: The team is in negotiations with David Habarugira, a young defender from the Anderlecht system. As far as I know, he's the only player on the radar at the moment. DCU has one available roster slot. Player contracts were guaranteed as of July 1, so if the club decided to create roster space, the departed player's salary would remain on their books. Trades are always possible. The MLS roster deadline is Sept. 15.

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Washington, D.C.: So Real Madrid is doing an open practice and at least one in store appearance in Toronto along with the match and we get nothing in D.C.? What gives?

Steven Goff: Real will be in DC a very short time before returning to Spain. That said, I don't fully understand the issues with the closed practice.

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: I'm curious if you know why Dallas passed on Szetela... Do they think they have a shot at Beasley or Pearce or someone of that caliber coming to MLS?

Why didn't they at least bluff to DC that they were interested in Danny and swap allocation orders for a draft pick, and then still have the next slot? Seems like a poor management decision to me.

Steven Goff: Not sure. Clearly, Dallas thought it was best to pass on Szetela, avoid possible complicated negotiations concerning a trade for his rights (what if no one made them an offer?), and wait for the next allocation-level player to sign with the league. Pearce and Beasley are possibilities.

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Curious Foodie: You often mention local restaurants on the blog when coveringg away games - how about reviews of the stadium food? Does one stadium have significantly better food for the press than others?

Steven Goff: In the press box, Houston offers the best food and New England is second. DCU has suffered a major decline this year -- not worth the $5 charge.

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Arlington, Va.: If you're planning to take metro to the game Sunday, leave yourself lots of time: "Metro is advising Orange and Red line riders to allow an additional 30 minutes for travel this weekend. Workers will make tunnel repairs from Medical Center to Friendship Heights, forcing trains to share one track between the stations from 10 p.m. Friday until midnight Sunday. Trains will also share a track from Vienna/Fairfax-GMU to West Falls Church-VT/UVA from 8 p.m. Friday through midnight Sunday so crossties that support the track can be replaced. "

Steven Goff: Thanks for sharing.....

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Just a thought, Maine: Here's an idea:

Relegate N.Y. Red Bulls to PDL.

Take best players from top two USL-1 sides, add 10 expansion-draft MLS picks, place team in Charlotte, call them "Carolina Battery."

MLS thereby kills two birds with one stone -- improves quality of play, and covers the Southeast. Problem solved!

Steven Goff: Ha! I'm sure the MLS investors at Red Bull world headquarters will have a problem with that.

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Rockville, Md.: Steve-

As of right now, what percentage would you give D.C. to staying in the district for their stadium prospects?

Steven Goff: 20 percent

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Stone Ridge, Va.: Not that I'm concerned about Sunday, but did everyone come out of the Firpo match safe and (reasonably) sound physically?

Steven Goff: I think so.

The team traveled home Wednesday and had the day off today.

We'll get an injury update Friday.

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Mt. Pleasant, Washington, D.C.: It seems like this year's DC United has trouble playing 90 minutes -- either they slack off at the beginning of the game and have to make an amazing comeback to tie, or they play well at the start and give up goals at the end. The team keeps admitting this and saying they need to fix it, but do they have a theory about cause? Is it fitness? Mental concentration? Defensive weakness? And how do we fix it -- could more skillful coaching overcome it, or do we need different players?

Steven Goff: It is a mystery. Two-thirds of the way through the season, I still have no sense where this team is headed. Just a strange team. At times, they look like championship contenders. At others, they look so ordinary. Sometimes, those two characteristics surface in the same match!

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Grand Rapids, Mich.: Any word on the U.S. Men's National Team game against Iran in November? I assume it's not happening with the political situation, but any idea where those talks stand?

Steven Goff: Haven't heard anything lately. It seemed to be a longshot from the very start.

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Washington, D.C: Will Real Madrid hold an autograph session?

Steven Goff: No. The club mentioned its DC hotel choice (Sofitel) on its website, so I suppose you can camp out there. However, with the players in town for such a short period, I can't imagine they will stray from the hotel except to board a bus for practice and the game.

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Fort Benning, Ga.: Steven, many thanks for your blog!

What is your initial impression of Danny Szetela? He was pretty happy to get out of Columbus/MLS a few years ago ... Do you think he's prepared to commit to D.C. United or just auditioning for another move to Europe?

Steven Goff: He's committed. He wants to be here. DCU was his first choice in MLS. His issue at the moment is fitness after a month-long layoff between Italian training/games and his arrival here -- once he's in peak shape, his playing time will increase, especially with the congested schedule.

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Evanston, Ill.: Will Kyle Beckerman and Stuart Holden make the World Cup team? Will Bob Bradley do the right thing and not put his son on the squad?

Steven Goff: Do the right thing and not put his son on the squad? Seriously? Haven't we gotten beyond the father-son issue yet? Bradley is a quality player for the USA squad, a guy who has scored goals internationally and starts in the Bundesliga at age 22.

Holden's stock went way up this summer and Beckerman is certainly in the mix. It will be interesting to see if one or both makes the roster for next week's qualifier against Mexico.

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Arlington, Va.: I was initially against having this game at FedEx. But now that they have proven they could sell the tickets (not sure to whom exactly) I say more power to them. I will be watching on TV. If we are sucking dollars out of Eurosnob pockets that is still money the club needs to survive. I am almost happy it is their money and not mine that the team is getting for this thing. I also thought the tickets cost too much, but clearly somebody out there was willing to buy them.

Any idea how much money DCU is set to make after paying Real Madrid, Danny Snyder, etc?

Steven Goff: Thanks for your thoughts -- good points.

The club doesn't discuss finances, but with those ticket prices and a crowd of 70,000-plus, DCU is sure to make a nice profit.

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Rockville, Md.: Any insight on how WPS is doing financially? Will the league be around next year?

Steven Goff: WPS did okay with attendance in its first year -- not great. I imagine most of the investors are committed for the long term, but it's certainly not a great time for upstart businesses in sports or otherwise.

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Landon Donovan: How many goals will I score against Mexico?

Steven Goff: As many as your heart desires, LD

;-)

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Steven Goff: Cheers, everyone. Sorry I could only answer a fraction of the questions.

Enjoy the DCU-Real Madrid match.

Keep reading the Insider.

SG

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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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