The World's Game In The Heart of the Sun Belt

Atlanta International Soccerfest’s day to shine

They’ve got plenty of photos from Saturday’s Atlanta International Soccerfest over on their Facebook page. It truly was a celebration of the world’s game right here in the Atlanta area, and centered around the thrilling U.S.-England World Cup match.

June 13, 2010   No Comments

Clark a World Cup starter for U.S. vs. England

The lineup sheets are coming out, and Atlanta soccer standout Ricardo Clark has been named to start against England Saturday in the World Cup opening match for the United States.

The rest of Bob Bradley’s starters: GK — Tim Howard; D — Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra; M — Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey; F — Jozy Altidore, Robbie Findley.

Findley, a late addition to the American squad, was a surprise to make it to South Africa, and certainly a surprise for this match too. His speed is his greatest asset, as Bradley seeks to replace the same qualities to feature with Altidore after the loss of Charlie Davies.

And the England XI selected by manager Fabio Capello: GK — Robert Green; D — Glen Johnson, John Terry, Ledley King, Ashley Cole; M — Aaron Lennon, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, James Milner; F — Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey.

Clark will be busy as a holding midfielder contending with England’s Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, along with the speedy winger Aaron Lennon.

A couple of live chats that are ongoing during the match if you’re interested: From an American perspective; and from England.

The pregame show is on now in the U.S. on ABC; with kickoff around 2:30 p.m.

Former Atlanta Thrashers announcer J.P. Dellacamera, who’s called plenty of international soccer and World Cup matches, is interviewed by my ex-AJC colleague John Manasso at foxsportsouth.com.

Dellacamera is calling the U.S.-England match today for ESPN Radio.

Update: The final from Rustenberg is 1-1, with Clark playing all 90 minutes. He got turned easily on Gerrard for the England goal, but that was set up by a bad pass by Michael Bradley.

American defense showed some cracks, and Tim Howard deservedly was named man of the match in the nets, but the U.S. nets a very valuable point against a top-notch foe.

June 12, 2010   No Comments

Relax, Atlanta, and enjoy the World Cup

Atlanta has been famously (or perhaps infamously) been dubbed the “City Too Busy Too Hate.” The sentiment of that moniker, exemplified in no grander way than during the 1996 Summer Olympics, has stuck with us like an albatross ever since.

Now that leaders of Atlanta soccer community are working feverishly to bring the World Cup here in either 2018 and 2022, that famous boosterism is back, and is flexing its muscles as Africa’s first World Cup is set to begin on Friday.

In recent weeks and months, as Atlanta was included in the U.S. Soccer Federation’s formal World Cup bid, there have been plenty of pronouncements about the city’s viability as a venue, the purported economic impact of having a World Cup presence here, and what this might say about the strength soccer in Atlanta.

I’ve written plenty of those words myself, and probably will write many more before FIFA selects the host nations for the ‘18 and ‘22 World Cups.

But for the next month, while the present World Cup unfolds, I’m going to try and relax and not indulge in all of these speculations and machinations so breathlessly.

I would encourage Atlanta soccer fans to do the same.

I’m not trying to downplay the importance of making a good impression during this World Cup, and in the months leading up to FIFA’s decisions. But I think it’s just as vital for soccer-loving Atlantans not to engage in the all-too-serious posturing that happens with every “big” thing Atlanta undertakes.

We like to talk a lot about our ambitions and talk up our city to strangers incessantly. We possess an extreme propensity for striving, of trying to convince others of our worthiness. We’re so worried about what others think of us that we can’t enjoy what we’ve got at our disposal.

While I’m glad there are efforts to stage another international friendly at the Georgia Dome later this summer, and that a prominent sports owner in Atlanta has expressed interest in having a Major League Soccer team, Atlanta soccer aficionadoes know they’ve got a special community as it is.

They’ve been part of a vibrant and active soccer community even though Atlanta has struggled with the professional game, and as a hot spot for spectator soccer.

For the second summer in a row, there is no men’s professional soccer team in Atlanta, and  for many summers before that, there’s been little to cheer. The Atlanta Beat is struggling to gain traction, both in the standings and with local fans, in its second life as a franchise.

When I think of the strength of the Atlanta soccer community, I think of the everyday hubbub that takes place in the youth associations and school teams, the ethnic leagues and the watering holes that unite fans like no other force.

Those pubs will be overflowing with World Cup fans, and — horror upon all horrors — some of them will be just a little too trendy for the rest of us. Or so we’re led to believe.

True soccer fans, especially in Atlanta, know they’ve never been trendy, probably because they’ve been dumped on for so long here in gridiron country. Talk show hosts, sportswriters and fans of other sports have made it part of their civic duty as good American mostly Southern males to explain themselves — loudly and viscerally — against what they are not.

True soccer fans, especially in Atlanta, don’t care who else is watching the World Cup games in their vicinity. They’re usually oblivious to them. As I recall from four years ago, the fans who nearly caused me to pass out during the England-Portugal match were not “hipsters,” but rather U.K. expats who live and breathe Ingerland, Ingerland.

When Wayne Rooney crunched a prone Ricardo Carvalho in a very tender place, they were so whipped into a frenzy that I barely was able to find my way out of an overheated, overcrowded pub. The parking lot was blocked, too, so I had to wait out the final whistle before I could flee.

“Trendy” fans might have added to the throngs, but they didn’t produce what amounted to a scene that made me feel, in 15-plus years of Atlanta soccer pub-hopping, a bit uncomfortable for the first time.

For the equally ill-tempered Holland-Portugal match that followed, I watched with fair-weather fans at a more low-key venue.

I can’t imagine what the hot pubs like that are going to be like on Saturday when England plays the U.S.

Luckily, there are plenty of choices to see games that way.

And there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the spectacle of that match and the rest of the World Cup that reflects the diversified Atlanta soccer community diehards know well. I can’t think of a better example than the Atlanta International Soccer Fest at Silverbacks Park, where many of the nations competing in South Africa will play for local bragging rights.

That’s one of the smartest ideas I’ve seen to build community around such an event, and it’s a testament to the tournament’s organizers and Atlanta’s international community.

The same goes for the Cabbagetown Soccerfest all day Saturday. And Soccer in the Streets is having a nice event as well, one among many it will have during the World Cup.

Of course there will be plenty of places and venues to sign the petition in favor of the U.S. World Cup bid — more than 25,000 Atlantans have done that already.

But above all, just relax and enjoy what’s bound to be a terrific World Cup. No matter who you are.

June 10, 2010   1 Comment

AtlantaSoccerNews.Net is ‘Talkin’ Fútbol’ during the World Cup!

AtlantaSoccerNews.Net creator and managing editor Wendy Parker (that’s me) will appear on Comcast Sports Southeast during the World Cup to discuss soccer’s biggest event and the impact of the sport here in Atlanta, the Southeast and the United States.

The preview segment will air at 6 and 10 p.m. ET Wednesday (that’s tonight) on CSS’ signature “Sports Nite” program with host Bob Neal. Starting next week, the segments will air every Friday, also at 6 and 10 p.m., through the end of the World Cup.

Many of you in Atlanta know Neal as a veteran announcer who’s called many college and pro sports, but he’s also a big soccer aficionado. He was the play-by-play man for the second edition of the North American Soccer League’s Atlanta Chiefs when they were owned by Ted Turner. Neal also called games from the 1990 World Cup in Italy for TNT, when he was paired with former Atlanta Falcons placekicker Mick Luckhurst.

Our first program focuses heavily on the U.S. opener on Saturday against England, the health of American defender (and former Clemson standout) Oguchi Onyewu, the importance of Landon Donovan and discussion about the World Cup favorites.

So stay tuned all through the World Cup and let your soccer-loving friends know where to watch too!

And please visit AtlantaSoccerNews.Net often for the latest coverage of the world’s game in the heart of the Sun Belt.

June 9, 2010   No Comments

Where does Clark fit in U.S. World Cup plans?

Atlanta soccer star Ricardo Clark played all 90 minutes for the U.S. Saturday in its 3-1 win over Australia. Soccer America’s Ridge Mahoney tried to make the case for the former AFC Lightning and St. Pius X standout’s inclusion in Bob Bradley’s starting lineup against England, though it’s a mixed assessment:

“Aside from being knocked ass over teakettle in that first-half tackle, Clark did nothing spectacular. To the tasks assigned to him, however, he did most of them well.”

Mahoney figures that Clark Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu and Jose Torres all will get a look during group play. If, and how, that will play out remains a mystery, with five days before the Americans’ World Cup debut.

June 8, 2010   No Comments

Atlanta soccer weekend wrap, June 5-6

• Five new starters — all formerly with the St. Louis Athletica — graced the Atlanta Beat’s starting lineup Sunday, but a 0-0 draw with Chicago keeps the Beat winless in Women’s Professional Soccer.

New goalkeeper Hope Solo did preserve Atlanta’s second point of the season with a tremendous diving save in the 87th minute.

The Beat is off next week, then plays host to the Red Stars on June 19.

Atlanta FC fell to Rocket City United 2-1 on Saturday in an NPSL Southeast Division regular season contest. The next home game is July 3 against the Birmingham Pumas.

• The Atlanta Blackhawks of the Professional Development League were off last week, but play host to New Orleans Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Alpharetta High School.

• The Atlanta Silverbacks of the W-League also were idle, and are at home at Silverbacks Park Saturday to face the Tampa Bay Hellenic in a 7:30 p.m. start.

• Gwinnett Soccer Association teams won six titles at the Georgia State Cup tournament, earning four on the girls’ side and two boys’ titles. The Concorde Fire Elite boys teams won the 13, 14 and 15 age groups, while AFC Lightning Club claimed one title each for girls and boys.

June 7, 2010   No Comments

A new start for the new-look Atlanta Beat

After a busy week of scooping up players from the defunct St. Louis Athletica, the Atlanta Beat takes to the field Sunday looking for its first win in Women’s Professional Soccer against the Chicago Red Stars.

Kickoff is 6 p.m. Sunday ET at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill., and the game will be shown live on Fox Soccer Channel.

Atlanta (0-5-1, 1 point) has added four Athletica players,  including goalkeeper Hope Solo and forward Eniola Aluko, whose four goals are tops in the WPS thus far.

Chicago has undergone a major change early in the season as well, with Omid Namazi making his head coaching debut after Emma Hayes was fired. The Red Stars are 2-4-1 with 7 points.

Atlanta soccer fans will have to wait until June 19 to see the Beat at the Kennesaw State soccer complex when Chicago visits.

June 6, 2010   No Comments

Clark features in final U.S. World Cup tuneup

The current pride of Atlanta soccer, midfielder Ricardo Clark, did get 90+ minutes for the U.S. World Cup team Saturday in the Americans’ 3-1 friendly win over Australia.

But Clark, the AFC Lightning and St. Pius X product, came out with just a few seconds remaining in stoppage time, holding what appeared to be a tight hamstring. Clark has been injured in recent weeks and has played only sparingly since joining Eintracht Frankfurt.

In his instant analysis of the match, Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, who was on the scene in Roodeport, South Africa, asks this:

“Was Ricardo Clark’s 90 minutes today a sign that he’ll start ahead of Maurice Edu or José Torres against England? (Probably, though Clark had his rough spots against Australia.)”

Edson Buddle’s two goals were a pleasant surprise, given his unlikely inclusion before the Charlie Davies injury, while Herculez Gomez added the final goal late on a terrific ball in the box from Landon Donovan.

The set-piece defending by the Americans was disturbing, and not just because it led to the Aussies’ only goal.

What a week it’s going to be to speculate on what lineup U.S. coach Bob Bradley will put on the field in Rustenberg against England seven days from now.

June 5, 2010   No Comments

Daser won’t return as Georgia State soccer coach

Georgia State University has announced that Kerem Daser, the Panthers’ men’s head soccer coach for the last 10 years, is leaving to pursue unspecified “other coaching opportunities.”

He was 67-99-11 in his tenure at Georgia State, and the Panthers were 4-11-1 last season.

June 4, 2010   No Comments

Atlanta Soccer Challenge ticket discount ending

The early-bird discount for tickets to the Atlanta International Soccer Challenge ends on Sunday, June 6.

Through midnight Sunday, individual tickets to the July 28 match at the Georgia Dome between Club América and Manchester may be purchased for $25.

Starting on Monday, tickets will be priced between $40 and $115 each.

Discounted tickets can be ordered online via Ticketmaster, while Georgia Soccer is handling group ticket requests.

The AISC match will be the third soccer friendly to be staged at the Dome, following last summer’s matches pitting the Mexican national team against Mexico, and Club América vs. AC Milan.

Each of those matches drew more than 50,000 spectators, boosting Atlanta’s efforts to be included in the U.S. Soccer Federation’s bid for either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

This summer’s event is designed to boost Atlanta’s spectator soccer profile further. Atlanta is one of 18 American cities included in the U.S. bid.

FIFA will determine host nations for both World Cups in December.

June 4, 2010   No Comments