Klinsmann takes over U.S. soccer team

Tonight is friendly game of soccer, but it’s not any friendly, and maybe it won’t be very friendly … that is at least what the 82,000 in sold-out FedEx Field just outside Washington DC are hoping.

Barcelona against Manchester United. The world’s two soccer clubs meet again after the final of the Champions League in May, when Barcelona was clearly the superior team. Maybe Manchester is thirsting for revenge, and perhaps there is a chance now when Lionel Messi — “The Boy Genius” — still has the summer off after a busy international match schedule.

The sold-out FedEx Field underscores the huge business interests of both clubs here in the United States, where they have millions of fans which they want to retain and build upon, as soccer continues to grow in interest and importance even though American football, baseball, basketball, and ice hockey all are still more popular.

The big soccer news here is otherwise that former German star player and coach, Juergen Klinsmann, has been put in charge of the U.S. national soccer team. He is taking over from Bob Bradley, who was fired last week after two big disappointments: the U.S. loss to Ghana in last year’s World Cup and this year’s loss in the Gold Cup final against Mexico by 2-4, after leading 2-0.

America’s soccer federation has tried several times before to land the now 47-year-old Klinsmann, who lives in Southern California and is married to an American. George Vecsey gives a good insight in today’s New York Times as to what challenges Klinsmann will be facing in his new job.



The joy of a hot bike trip in Washington, DC

Memorial Day in Washington, DC.

Hot and humid. Concert and a parade, and many who flocked to the Arlington cemetery across the Potomac River, including president Obama, who made a speech and laid a wreath.

Many simply gathered in their gardens with family and friends, and the barbecue smoke hung in the air, everywhere. Others had left town and gone out to the beach resorts in Delaware, Maryland, or Virginia.  The city was really quite empty and the heat made it feel even emptier.

I took a bike ride while waiting for the barbecue in the afternoon, on Sligo Creek Trail along the Sligo Creek in Silver Spring, Maryland, just north of the border with Washington, DC. It was late morning, before the heat reached 95 degrees. Normally, I would never even have thought about exercising outdoors if it were not so that the bike path mostly ran in the shade of big trees and with water from Sligo Creek constantly running refreshingly along the route.

There were not many riders out on the almost 10 mile long trail, perhaps because of the heat. So there was plenty of room even though bikers must share the trail with joggers and families with strollers. It was quiet and peaceful and just one more of the many joys one can find in the green parks of the U.S. capital.

New York Times on “Boy Genius” — best in the world

We all know that the international version of football, which Americans call soccer, is steadily gaining popularity in America, not least women’s soccer, where the U.S. has been one of the top teams for many years — I still recall the wonderful experience from the World Cup finals in Los Angeles in 1999 with 100,000 spectators all around me in the Rose Bowl, watching the U.S. defeated China after penalty kicks.

But it seems that it is only then, every four years with the World Cup, that America  wakes up and realizes that something big is happening, something that the rest of the world follows intently and passionately.  Major League Soccer (MLS) has pretty good crowds at the games, but true passion is limited to a rather narrow audience, often to be found among the large immigrant communities from Latin America, Europe or Africa.

The current playoffs in basketball (NBA) and ice hockey (NHL) as well as the first months of the baseball season completely dominate the sports coverage.

Huge tournaments, like the European Champions League, is attracting very little interest. The final is played on Saturday at Wembley Stadium in London between Barcelona of Spain and Manchester United of England, and hundreds of millions of people, maybe one billion or even more, will watch the game, all over the world.

Therefore, today’s New York Times should be noted. Better late than never for an American audience to read about this great athleete! The paper’s sports section contains three pages on the “Boy Genius” – Lionel Messi — from Barcelona and Argentina. If you are a follower of soccer, or if you just want to catch up and get ready for Saturday’s game, you should read this article about this fantastic little soccer player – best in the world.  Enjoy!