The Austin Aztex held their first tryout Saturday, taking a look at about 20 players who were on last year's roster, plus a like number of invited college players. Sorry I didn't make it out to watch, but sight unseen, it looks like we'll have another strong team to follow up on last year's impressive inaugural campaign. Gone is teen phenom Kekuta Manneh, signed to the MLS, but returnees include fan favorites Chuy Cortes and Zack Pope, first-string central defenders Ross Kelly and Travis Golden, and top scorer Kris Tyrpak; while the list of newcomers includes a lot of local products, continuing what has been a team philosophy from the start. Further collegiate and open trials are March 9 and April 6; see www.austinaztex.com for more info, plus a nice interview with coach Paul Dalglish about players he hopes to have at each position.
Abby Wambach and Pia Sundhage have been named FIFA Women's World Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, respectively – a sweep for the U.S. national team. The men's awards went to Lionel Messi for an unprecedented fourth time, and to Spanish National Team coach Vicente del Bosque. Most remarkable, though, is the FIFA XI all-star team, on which all 11 positions are filled with players from Spain's La Liga – including five each from Barcelona and Real Madrid. No doubt there about who's the top league in the world.
With the winter break now ended in most all of Europe, and throwball mercifully out of the way for the most part, there's a ton of soccer on TV this weekend, including an intriguing ESPN2 doubleheader Saturday morning: Spurs at Queens Park Rangers at 6:30am, and at 9am, Stoke City hosting troubled Chelsea.