Oliver Weiss, Hokies in Men’s Soccer Final Four

December 14, 2007

6 years ago to the day, Oliver Weiss was the top assistant coach of the UNC men’s soccer team that squared off against Stanford in the national semifinals.  That team included yours truly as low man on the totem pole, a walk-on who found the field only twice during the season.

I’ll never forget that night.  It was brutally cold in Columbus, Ohio at Crew Stadium.  The 30+ mph winds didn’t help the mood, and neither did the fact that Stanford was absolutely brilliant for about 65 minutes.  They scored a 1st half goal and had us on our heels (no pun intended!) the whole time.  When they scored a 2nd midway through half #2, I distinctly remember looking at a teammate and saying, “well, it’s been a great year.  Final Four is not bad.”

And then there was a bit of hope.  David Testo hit a scremer from 35 yds out and we were suddenly only a goal behind.  Little more than a minute later we had won a free kick in the Stanford end – the cross led to a header, which deflected violently off the crossbar, only to be finished superbly by the skillful Matt Crawford.

We had gone from 2-0 down and dead in the water to all level in the matter of minutes.

It would take much longer to finally settle things.  In the 4th OT, Mike Gell got behind the Stanford defense off a punt from our GK, and was able to poke the winning goal home.

A truly golden goal.  Utter euphoria.  And an understanding among everyone wearing Carolina blue that we had just experienced something that would stay with us for a lifetime.

Sunday’s final lacked the drama but was no less exciting – a convincing 2-0 win over Indiana made us National Champions.  I remember running around the field wearing my championship hat and shirt, covered in confetti, throughly amazed at what had happened.

It was not long after that day that Oliver Weiss left to become the head coach at Virginia Tech.  He told us all then that VaTech was a “sleeping giant” –  a school that was waiting to become a powerhouse.

None of us doubted that Oli could make it happen.  I’m not sure anyone thought it would happen this quickly.  Weiss will lead his team against Wake Forest today in the national semifinal – 6 years to the day after the magical night in Columbus.  Welcome home Oliver – I hope you’re able to recapture the spirit of 2001.


Women’s World Cup: US-England Goal Celebrations

September 24, 2007

A bunch of us got together to root for the US Women’s National Team (and good friend Cat Whitehill) in their Women’s World Cup game vs. England. In this epic battle of freedom against tyranny, the US came out again on top.

Below is a video which shows two goal celebrations – one after Shannon Boxx hit a screamer past the English keeper to make it 2-0; and the final goal, which saw Cat deliver a deep ball that skidded over the goalie’s head and which Kristine Lilly tapped in. It was really shocking goalkeeping on the third, which led to the epic quote, “you may be pretty, but you’re not good.”

See our viewing party celebration here

Cat Whitehill: On the Studio 90 Hot Seat

September 20, 2007

Good friend Cat Whitehill took some time from Women’s World Cup games in China to talk with ussoccer.com’s Neil Buethe in a segment called Studio 90. Cat shows some interviewing skills in trading barbs with Neil and in shamelessly plugging herself for a post-career move to a job in college football broadcasting. Especially entertaining is seeing Cat take the “Back 4 Quiz”.

See it all here.

The US plays England in the World Cup quarterfinals Saturday morning at 8AM – ESPN2.

US Women’s Soccer Advances

September 18, 2007

The Greatest Team You’ve Never Heard of…aka the US Women’s National Soccer Team, has survived the so-called Group of Death and advanced to the quarterfinals this morning in a soggy match against Nigeria.

UNC-alum Lori Chalupny got the goal in the 1st minute. Cat Whitehill led a solid US defense (as usual) to a clean sheet.

Match story here

The GTYNHO, hasn’t been all that great yet, but is still unbeaten. And from now on it’s up to one simple truth: Survive and Advance.

Bracing for Beckham

January 11, 2007

EDIT: 11:18 AM – It’s officially official. Apparently MLS just issued press release confirming Beckham to MLS.

Don’t look now, but MLS is about to be invaded by the one and only David Beckham.

Rumors have been surfacing for a few weeks now on soccer blogs and message boards. Becks is out of favor with his current club, Real Madrid, and the rumor mill had him looking at clubs in England, Italy, and…the United States.

Copious new sources are now reporting this as a done deal (ESPN, Good Morning America, BBC, blogs) with Beckham expected to officially be announced as a member of the LA Galaxy as early as tomorrow. There’s intense arguments on both sides about whether or not this is a good move for MLS. Whatever your opinion, one thing’s for certain – this is HUGE news.

The obvious cons to Beckham’s signing – he’s 31 years old, past his prime, will cost a fortune (somewhere close to $35MM is the estimate) and this seemingly doesn’t jive with MLS’s modus operandi up to this point. The biggest naysayers point to the dysfunctional NASL, which was a supernova league and then crashed and burned in incredibly swift fashion. Will MLS simply turn into a wasteland of overpaid, past-their-prime former mega-stars? That’s the worry.

But count me in as a supporter of the move. Beckham’s not the Beckham of 1998-99, but he will come in as one of the top 3 players in MLS. Period. He’s not 35, he’s 31. He’s expensive, but you can bet that there will be an absolute boatload of LA Galaxy jerseys sold now that never would have been before. He’s one of the 5 most recognizeable athletes on the planet, right up there with Tiger, Jordan, LeBron. MLS instantaneously becomes relevant to people all over the globe. He will drive attendance, if for no other reason than because he’s incredibly famous. I don’t think MLS will abandon their model. The league has made great strides in the last 10 years, but the fact of the matter is that something will have to happen – some tipping point – before MLS has any chance of competing with hockey, NASCAR, etc as one of the “fringe major” sports in the US.

I’m trying to come up with some sort of analogy and everytime I think of one, it breaks down. The reason – Beckham is so much more than a soccer player. He’s undoubtedly an icon. And in today’s crowded pro sports environment, icons are everything. Beckham is a brand unto himself, and MLS has to feel good about associating itself with one of the most famous brands in sports.

The coolest part of this for me – I know a number of players in MLS from my year on the UNC team. Guys like Logan Pause, Matt Crawford, Chris Leitch, David Stokes, and Eddie Robinson. These guys are going to play on the same pitch as one of the most famous athletes of our generation. That is awesome.

Can’t wait to see the media storm that arises because of this. Beware – even if Beckham comes in and plays amazing, it won’t be enough for a lot of people. But in the long run, I think this is an awesome investment for MLS.

UNC Women’s Soccer: Champions Again

December 19, 2006

Earlier this month at SAS Soccer Park in Cary, the greatest dynasty in the history of college sports added another championship trophy to its impressive resume, as the University of North Carolina women’s soccer team won it’s 18th NCAA title in 25 years.  The architect of the dynasty, the one-of-a-kind Anson Dorrance, did a radio interview with local radio station 850 the Buzz recently, and a mp3 version is available here on their blog.

This year’s title run, which featured 27 consecutive wins to finish the season, was perhaps one of the most unlikely out of Dorrance’s many championships.  The team started the season with a loss, then never saw the wrong side of a scoreline for the rest of the season.  Much has been made of Roy Williams’ nascent starting lineup, and the UNC women’s lineup was littered with freshmen contributors – 6 of the 11 starters in the title game were first year players.  Combined with the leadership of gold-medal-winner Heather O’Reilly, this year’s team completed a run for the ages.

Eighteen out of twenty-five.  An absolutely stunning record for sure.   Take a moment and let it sink in.   18 out of 25.  It’s just silly, but amazingly true.

Goal of the Year

December 11, 2006

I’m calling it now. This is an absolutely stunning strike from Chelsea’s Michael Essien. Make sure you watch it all the way to the end to see the “behind the shot” angle.  Beautiful.