A Multi-Tasking Trip

Brian Schmetzer's final games in charge of the USL Sounders not only take him far from home but his trip to Argentina is also far from a vacation.
Brian Schmetzer's final games in charge of the USL Sounders not only take him far from home but his trip to Argentina is also far from a vacation.

Schmetzer and his staff are already multi-tasking, and although these are four friendlies, the players seem focused on the tasks at hand.

"I'm pretty excited about it," says Schmetzer. "I'm looking forward to having a great time, not just in terms of the team but this is allowing me to see a country I might otherwise never get to."

After their exit from the USL playoffs last month, the Sounders took a week off. Once they resumed training there was an emphasis on using space.

The pitches tend to be larger in South America, allowing for more time on the ball. However, when possession is lost, there's more ground to cover on defense.

"The guys seem fairly motivated; they're not just goofing around," Schmetzer says. "Maybe there's not a lot to play for, but none of them want to go down there and get their butt kicked, not at all."

For most, it is the final series of auditions for spots on next season's MLS club. Sebastien Le Toux and Sanna Nyassi are already signed, and an undetermined number of teammates will be joining them.

Schmetzer is among those under consideration for the head coaching position with Sounders FC. Interviews are ongoing. Whether he gets the nod or not, Schmetzer is making life easier for whoever is chosen.

"We've been asked to accomplish a few things, and A-1 is to reward the guys who have done such a fantastic job for us over the years," he says. "Next, we want to see how things measure up, so that if or when the MLS team goes there in February, we have a better idea about the quality of opposition. Finally, we are also charged with touring with an agent and looking at some players."

Humans Trump Technology
Remember the microchip-embedded balls? Or the goal line cams?

The game's governing bodies have been giving technology a try in hopes of improving officiating. But maybe the answer lies in a human touch.

Two extra linesmen were deployed recently at a European U-19 qualifying tournament in Slovenia. Their mission: To alert referees to fouls or diving in the box.

No neon shirts and bright flags, mind you. Instead, the fourth and fifth officials reported via headset to the man in the middle. All very discreet.

UEFA president Michel Platini was impressed. Platini talked to all involved, including officials, coaches and players. All apparently gave the experiment passing marks.

UEFA plans to stage more trials later this year and then submit findings to FIFA. Assuming the findings are positive, the world body could then choose to experiment on a wider scale, such as at the Club World Cup in December.

Canada's Out, Impact In?
Sure, they were in the toughest regional qualifying group. But who would've figured that Canada would roll over so quickly.

For the third straight time, Canada exited the CONCACAF race at the semifinal stage. They have not won any of their five starts and play out the string with a meaningless (for them) match at Jamaica next month.

When they visited Qwest Field in May, Canada looked like contenders in a 3-2 loss to Brazil. They went unbeaten in their next three games before jumping the rails, losing and drawing their first two semifinal fixtures, both at home.

Dale Mitchell, the national team manager, is unlikely to survive. There is open dissension amongst the players, although their complaints extend to the top of the federation. In 17 semifinal qualifiers since 2000, Canada's only two wins came after being mathematically eliminated.

Meanwhile, a Canadian club with next to no expectations, the Montreal Impact, is one point away from advancing to the next stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.

The Impact hosts CD Olimpia of Honduras next Tuesday, Oct. 21. A draw sends the USL side to the quarterfinals in February. Puerto Rico, the USL runner-up leads Group D with two matches remaining. Houston, the lone American team still in contention for the quarterfinals, can take over the Group B lead when it hosts Pumas of Mexico next Wednesday.

Turn On, Tune In
Saturday, Oct. 18
6:45 (PT), Setanta, Liverpool v Wigan
Why Watch: Because the Chelsea game is too bloody early (4:45) and, without Torres and perhaps Babel, the Reds need to keep pace with the Blues

11 a.m. (PT), GolTV, Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid
Why Watch: Madrid derby features an Atletico still smarting from being drubbed 6-1 by Barca and a Real squad which is averaging 3 goals per match

12 p.m. (PT), Setanta, Lyon v Lille
Why Watch: Unbeaten in five, Lille face the six-time Ligue 1 defending champs

5:30 (PT), HDNet, Houston v L.A.
Why Watch: Nobody in MLS is eliminated–yet. Galaxy could be first and Dynamo could clinch West

5:30, FSC, Real Salt Lake v FC Dallas
Why Watch: Two teams separated by one point for West's third and perhaps last spot

Sunday, Oct. 19
7 a.m. (PT), Setanta, Hull City v West Ham
Why Watch: Believe it or not, this is the best matchup (3 v 6) in the EPL this weekend

4:30 p.m. (PT/Delayed), FSC, River plate v Boca Juniors
Why Watch: Watching the Buenos Aires derby will be the USL Sounders and perhaps a few personalities with ties to the game in the Northwest

Tuesday, Oct. 21
11:45, ESPN2, Manchester United v Celtic
Why Watch: Promises to have electric atmosphere for the all-Britain clash

Wednesday, Oct. 22
11:45 a.m. (PT), ESPN2, Atletico Madrid v Liverpool
Why Watch: A late appeal allows this match to be played in Madrid, allowing for a homecoming of sorts for the Merseyside Spaniards

7 p.m. (PT), FSC, Houston v Pumas
Why Watch: Top spot in Champions League Group B at stake

Take heart, all 14 clubs remain alive for postseason berths with two weekends remaining in the MLS regular season. Two surprises among the MLS expansion applicants for 2011: the exclusion of New York and the late addition of a FC Barcelona-backed club in Miami. The six other cities bidding are Atlanta, Montreal, Ottawa, Portland, St. Louis and Vancouver. Two will be chosen before the 2009 season begins…No reprieve for the Washington women. After losing three in a row (two in overtime) to nationally-ranked opposition, the Huskies are home to No. 2 Stanford on Friday at 7 and No. 13 Cal on Sunday…No. 14 Western Washington remains top of the table among local women's Div. II teams following a 1-1 tie at No. 7 Seattle Pacific…Puget Sound is up to No. 4 in women's Div. III and unscored upon in the last six…Kate Bennett of Bellevue has made the U.S. team for the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women's Championships, which begin later this month in New Zealand…Undefeated in their last six, the Pac-10-leading UW men visit UCLA on Friday and San Diego State on Sunday…Mark Nov. 1 on your calendar for a trip to Interbay. An SPU doubleheader will honor Neil Callahan, the late youth soccer leader. The Falcons play Cal State L.A. in both games, beginning with the men's match at 4:30. There will be a 50/50 raffle with proceeds going to the Seattle Youth Soccer Association's Neil Callahan Scholarship Fund…Finally, defending champion Spain meets host Brazil for the FIFA Futsal championship on Sunday in Rio. Brazil, behind the 15 goals of Falcao, is averaging 7.8 over six games. Since opening with a draw against Iran, Spain has allowed only four goals in its last seven outings.