Mayor Bloomberg heats up Bronx-Queens rivalry for Major League Soccer club, stadium

OFFICIALS on both sides of the Whitestone Bridge ramped up their inter-borough soccer rivalry Monday, one day after Mayor Bloomberg suggested that a new Major League Soccer franchise will get its kicks in the Bronx, not Queens. The mayor said in his weekly radio address Sunday that “Yankee Stadium will become the home of the New York City Football Club, the first soccer club in the five boroughs since the 1970s.” But then Hizzoner backpedaled faster than David Beckham. “The script for the mayor’s radio address overstated the possibility that the New York Football Club could play some games at Yankee Stadium while they search for a permanent home,” mayoral spokeswoman Julie Wood said. “No decision has been made on where they will play.” Still, Bloomberg’s comments reignited the interborough bluster between Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Queens Assemblyman Francisco Moya, who has been championing the idea of a new stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Meanwhile, Diaz is trying to snatch the squad from Queens’ clutches and bring it to the Boogie Down. He has an ongoing wager with Moya on the club’s final location. If the squad ends up in the Bronx, Diaz gets a plate of Ecuadorian empanadas from Moya. If Queens gets the newly created team, Moya will get some delicious Puerto Rican food. The Bronx has free kick right now. “Right now we’re in the process of putting together a meeting,” said John DeSio, a Diaz spokesman. “The initial reaction from MLS has been positive.” Moya isn’t intimidated by Diaz’s fancy footwork. “The Bronx is a baseball town. Queens is a soccer town,” said Moya (D-Jackson Heights). “I’m going to invite him to Queens to see the first game played after we build a stadium.” MLS officials had planned to build the 25,000-seat stadium on up to 13 acres in Continue Reading

After scoreless tie at new Meadowlands Stadium, Mexico has a ways to go

In the first soccer game at the New Meadowlands Stadium, a potential site for the 2022 World Cup, Mexico looked far from ready for next month's edition in South Africa. Of course, the Mexicans didn't have several key performers, including Giovanni Dos Santos and Carlos Vela, in their boring scoreless tie with Ecuador Friday night. Mexico coach Javier Aguirre appeared to be unhappy after the final whistle, but he explained why. "I satisfied with the result," he said. "We always want to win. We played in front of nearly 80,000. You lament they did not go away happy with a result. That's why I am unsatisfied." Mexico outshot Ecuador 12-8, but Aguirre expected more. "We had a lack of creative occasions to score goals," he said. "We were a little bit less aggressive than I would have wanted." Regardless, the match was historic for one big reason - the first soccer game at the new, state-for-the-art $1.6 billion stadium. It was called a sellout on Wednesday - a crowd of 77,507 was announced - although there were many empty seats in the suites. Ecuador coach Sixto Vizuete walked out of the new stadium quite content. "I leave here happy with a great result," said Vizuete, whose team did not qualify for South Africa. "It's not often that you beat or tie Mexico." Dos Santos, Vela and five other Mexican stars are still with their respective European clubs, finishing their seasons. The last time the Mexicans played at the Meadowlands, the result was much different - a rousing 5-0 demolition of the United States in the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup at Giants Stadium. That facility is history and if the Mexicans play like this next month, they will become history very quickly. Mexico has 34 days to get its act together for not only the World Cup but for the tournament's opener against host South Africa at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg on June 11. The Mexicans play Senegal in Chicago on Monday and Angola in Houston on Thursday before heading to Continue Reading

Host South Africa opens 2010 World Cup with 1-1 tie vs. Mexico at Soccer City Stadium in Soweto

JOHANNESBURG - A new day - a new era for that matter - dawned on South Africa and the entire African continent Friday. The first World Cup in Africa kicked off amid pageantry, a celebration of its culture and a South African tie. Mexican defender Rafael Marquez's 79th-minute goal spoiled the South African party as the hosts left Soccer City Stadium with a 1-1 draw in the opening match. Midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala's spectacular goal in the 55th minute lifted South Africa to the lead in front of 84,490 enthusiastic and noisy fans. South African Katlego Mphela almost became a national hero, but his left-footed shot bounded off the left post and out of bounds in the 89th minute. Mexico, which dominated a scoreless first half, and South Africa realized they had squandered an opportunity to walk away with three points. Instead, they have one point apiece in Group A, as do France and Uruguay, which played to a 0-0 draw. "Both teams are going away with a bittersweet taste and now we are forced to beat France in our next game," Marquez said. "I'm upset," Mexico coach Javier Aguirre said. "I made it known to the players that I wanted to win. But this is just beginning, We have two more games (in preliminary-round play)." The tie continued a trend: No host team has lost its opening game in all 19 World Cups. "We could easily have won the game," said South African coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, whose team extended its unbeaten streak to 13 games. "All in all at the end, a draw is a fair result. We are still in the competition. This group is very tough." The opening ceremonies celebrated the culture of Africa and the host country with music and dance that evoked the history of the continent. But even while South Africa was celebrating itself, the world and the beautiful game, tragedy marred the event. Former president Nelson Mandela, the driving force behind the country's end to its apartheid policies, was unable to attend the Continue Reading

World Cup 2010: Spain and the Netherlands battling for chance to hoist soccer’s Holy Grail

JOHANNESBURG - Sometime around 10:30 or 11 p.m. local time Sunday at Soccer City Stadium, Spain captain Iker Casillas or the Netherlands' Giovanni van Bronckhorst will take this 11-pound hunk of 18K gold, hold it above his head to the cheers of the crowd and then parade the trophy with his teammates around the stadium. The FIFA World Cup trophy, the most sought after trophies in all of sport, the Holy Grail of soccer, has enjoyed a well-traveled and sometimes fascinating existence - both of them. The first, the Jules Rimet trophy, was retired after the 1970 World Cup by Brazil as the South Americans became the first country to win the title three times. Since then the World Cup trophy has become every country's object of desire. The Jules Rimet trophy was made for the 1930 World Cup in Uruguay. FIFA commissioned French sculptor Abel Lafleur to create a trophy. He built a statuette 30 centimeters high and weighing four kilograms (almost nine pounds) as a winged goddess of victory with her arms raised supported an octagonal cup. The trophy was made out of solid gold, and at the time cost 50,000 French francs, the equivalent of $35,000 today. Uruguay became the first country to win the trophy. It was paraded around stadiums in South America and Europe nine times until Brazil made it its permanent home in 1970. FIFA eventually renamed the trophy the Rimet trophy after the Frenchman who made the most significant contribution to the founding of the World Cup. But just surviving to 1970 was a miracle in itself. During World War II, FIFA vice president Ottorino Barassi of Italy hid the trophy in a shoe box under his bed to safeguard it against the raids of the Germans who were retreating from his country. Some 20 years later came one of the trophy's darkest moments. On March 20, 1966, several months before the next World Cup in England, the trophy was stolen while on display at a stamp exhibition in the Central Hall of Westminister in England. Authorities, Continue Reading

Soccer fans stampede outside South African stadium before Nigeria-North Korea World Cup warmup

Only days before the kickoff of the first World Cup in Africa, a soccer stampede at a warm-up match Sunday in South Africa left 15 people injured, including one policeman who was seriously hurt. Thousands of fans stampeded the gates of Makhulong Stadium prior to a game between Nigeria and North Korea in the Johannesburg suburb of Tembisa. One of the greatest fears by outsiders were the organizational issues surrounding the tournament, including high crime, roving blackouts and brownouts, congested traffic and stadiums not reaching capacity due to the high cost of traveling to South Africa. The hosts kick off the World Cup against Mexico at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg on Friday. Sunday's melee stemmed from free tickets being handed out to fans outside the 12,000-seat stadium, according to police spokesman Lt. Col. Eugene Opperman. Many of the fans wore Nigeria shirts. "What then occurred was large groups of people gathered outside the gates wanting to come in and wanting to get free tickets," Opperman told The Associated Press. "Unfortunately in the process, the gates were opened and there was a stampede." Since this was not an official World Cup game, the Nigerians were responsible for security, not the local organizing committee, according to police spokesman Col. Hangwani Mulaudzi. FIFA, soccer's world governing body, distanced itself from the incident, saying it had nothing to do with the tickets. "FIFA and the OC (organizing committee) would like to reiterate that this friendly match has no relation whatsoever with the operational organization of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, for which we remain fully confident," FIFA said in a statement. "Contrary to some media reports, FIFA had nothing to do with the ticketing of this game."However, one police officer, who did not want to give his name because he was not allowed to talk officially to the media, blamed FIFA for the problems."FIFA made the tickets free and now look," he Continue Reading

PX: 3 questions ahead of Tuesday’s FC Cincinnati stadium debate

It's been really quiet lately on the FC Cincinnati stadium front.But the public debate will heat back up on Tuesday night. Soccer fans are expected to show up en masse for a 7 p.m. public meeting at the Hamilton County Board of Elections in Norwood to implore commissioners to spend taxpayer money on a new stadium. The commissioners will discuss the county's dozen or so "big box" projects, but no decisions will be made. Everything from needs (Western Hills Viaduct) and wants (soccer stadium) will be on the table. Of course, FC Cincinnati leaders and supporters say a $200 million stadium is a necessity for the club to receive an admission ticket to Major League Soccer. RELATED: Here's where FC Cincinnati is looking to build new stadiumMLS is set to decide on its two expansion franchises before Christmas, and the league requires prospective new clubs to have a soccer-specific stadium – or at least a plan in place for one.On that front, it's nearing crunch time for FC Cincinnati. Here are three questions to ponder ahead of Tuesday's meeting: 1. Why isn’t a plan in place yet?Simply put, FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding is exhausting every option in order to get the stadium built in Cincinnati and nothing has come together yet.Originally, Berding had hoped to have a plan wrapped up and ready to present to MLS by Labor Day. But he told our soccer beat guy Patrick Brennan this week it could take until November to have a plan in place, still in time to meet the MLS' mid-December deadline.This timetable indicates the club needs to wait until after the city election before finishing an Ohio-side stadium plan. Taxpayers remain bitter about footing the bill for Paul Brown Stadium, and it'd be political suicide for mayoral and council candidates to say they're on board with spending public money on a stadium before Nov. 7.The fact Berding is pushing the deadline also could indicate he remains confident in Newport as a Continue Reading

PX: Northern Kentucky soccer stadium could help region get over us vs. them

"Regionalism" is a chamber of commerce buzzword, an eye-rolling, pie-in-the-sky idea that Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky come together, sing Kumbaya and get things done for the greater good of Greater Cincinnati.Disparate political interests and big-business egos make it almost impossible to fully achieve "regionalism."But could a soccer stadium on the south bank of the Ohio River actually help Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky get over our petty, us-vs.-them rivalry?No, seriously. It'd be unprecedented for Cincinnati's Carl Lindner III and his mostly Ohio-based ownership group to take their uber-popular soccer franchise across the river and build a $200 million stadium in Northern Kentucky. Businesses on the Ohio side of the river just don't make those kinds of investments over there.After years of Cincinnati generally thumbing its nose at Northern Kentucky like it's a third-world country, it would show that some of the Queen City's most powerful people are willing to check their egos and deliver a big victory to Northern Kentucky – and in turn, to the region.It would motivate thousands of Ohioans to invest their time and cash in Northern Kentucky, something its residents certainly have done in Cincinnati. And the proposed Newport site isn't that long of a walk for fans saying it's too far away from The Banks' watering holes. (Politics Extra walked it. See below).Simply, a NKY stadium could help shrink the Ohio River from an ocean to a creek."We're all Greater Cincinnati," Northern Kentucky Chamber boss Brent Cooper told Politics Extra. "Leaders on both sides of the river are now engaged at a level I’ve never seen before. Little baby steps along the way have gotten us to a place where we’re ready to take some giant leaps."STAKES RAISED: A cutting-edge, soccer-specific stadium perched at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking rivers in Newport could be that giant leap. Newport offers the only shovel-ready plot of Continue Reading

Red Bulls’ new stadium hits toxic delay

The opening of Red Bull Park has been pushed back two months to September of next year and could be moved to 2009, Bulls managing director Marc de Grandpre said yesterday. The 25,000-seat soccer-specific stadium in Harrison, N.J., had a July 2008 target date, but slow clean-up of industrial waste has delayed construction."Based on the current time line, until we're 100% that it can't open in '08, it could happen," de Grandpre said of a 2009 opening. "Anything could pop up this winter if it's a terrible winter. There are too many variables that we can't control. But according to what we have been informed with, a late third quarter opening is possible."De Grandpre said crews had encountered industrial waste and multiple foundations. Construction is supposed to begin next week or the first week of June, said Nick Sakiewicz, president of the Anschutz Entertainment Group NY/NJ.Sakiewicz, the former MetroStars' president and GM, said three layers of foundation had to be removed from the factory site. Railroad tracks were found 46 feet below the surface."It's a challenging site," he said. "We're past the tough part."De Grandpre will make the final determination on when the Bulls begin playing."If we know it's going to be safe for our fans and it's going to be the right experience and it's going to be complete from top to bottom from electrical switches to landscaping, we'll be there because our fans deserve to be there the moment it's open," he said.ATTENDANCE BLUES: The Bulls (4-1-2), who have the league's third-best record, are second-to-last in attendance. They're averaging 9,867 after four home matches, ahead of only Kansas City (8,335). "We're disappointed at the turnout," de Grandpre said. "Historically, the first few months are never great months ... so we planned accordingly. We're going to (push) for the second half of the season."TOP HONORS: Bulls forward Juan Pablo Angel (goal, two assists in the 4-0 win over Columbus) was named MLS Player of the Week. Continue Reading

NYCFC coach Jason Kreis gets out of his comfort zone to bring attractive, winning soccer style to Big Apple

A product of Omaha and the son of an Iowa farmer isn’t always a natural fit for New York City, so the obvious question was asked of Jason Kreis: Why did he leave behind an MLS powerhouse in Salt Lake City to worry about traffic jams, his next parking spot and a roster with zero players? The short answer, beyond the pay, is that Kreis carries regret. And when ambition finally caught up with his preferred style of soccer, the 42-year-old Kreis took a risk to coach New York City FC. “In the end, my wife and I looked at ourselves and understood we made a lot of decisions in life, our soccer and professional lives together, where we’ve chosen the safe route,” Kreis says. “Going back to my soccer career, I still have some disappointments. Maybe we should have taken a risk at some point and just gone after it. So I think when this opportunity came about, that’s literally what it was — are you going to choose the safe route and stay here where everything is safe? Are you going to continue to do things that you’ve been doing for a long time? Or, are you going to take this grand opportunity that could be really special, and take some risk?” RELATED: NYCFC READY TO KICK OFF INAUGURAL MLS SEASON Taking risks, as it turns out, is risky. Things don’t always go according to plan. During his six seasons coaching Real Salt Lake, Kreis established a starless system, using a small payroll to launch a perennial contender. With NYCFC, the big European signings were inevitable, and so were the complications: Frank Lampard, the marquee man of the franchise’s rollout, delayed his arrival until midseason so he could keep coming off the bench in the English Premier League. The building of a new soccer-specific stadium has also been problematic (Construction in New York City! Surprise!), and it’s naïve to believe there won’t be issues with the landlord while playing at Yankee Stadium during the Continue Reading

From Pele on down, plenty of soccer immortals have played at Yankee Stadium

Babe Ruth, the Pope and Pelé could very well be the answer to the time-honored question: Who would be your dream dinner guests? That company would certainly make for an interesting night, especially when the conversation inevitably turns to their experiences playing at Yankee Stadium, which is something all three have in common. The House That Ruth Built became home to Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter has also hosted papal visits, college football, the NFL Giants, boxing, concerts and, yes, even the great Pelé. The Brazilian legend first played on the hallowed ground in the 1960s with his club team Santos and later played an entire season in the Bronx with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League in 1976 before the Cosmos settled at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford. On Sunday, soccer returns to the Bronx with the Major League Soccer expansion franchise New York City FC making its home debut against the New England Revolution. The club and the league hope to find a permanent home in the five boroughs and build a soccer-specific stadium. But for the foreseeable future, NYCFC will share the spring, summer and fall with the NYY. The configuration of the field is already a source of debate and anxiety, mostly from the Yankees’ point of view. “It’s going to suck, but you have to deal with it,” says Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira. “It’s going to tear up the infield, but there’s nothing we can do about it, so we’ll deal with it.” Unlike during the Cosmos’ one season at the Stadium, NYCFC will cover a majority of the baseball dirt infield with sod, which will then be removed when the Yankees play. RELATED: VETERAN SOCCER STAR DAVID VILLA STRIKES OUT ON NEW ADVENTURE WITH NYCFC Last July, NYCFC’s parent club Manchester City faced fellow English Premier League power Liverpool at Yankee Stadium in an exhibition match and the temporary grass Continue Reading