Ramblings of a Soccer Junky
Saturday, April 30, 2005
  Another MLS Investor?
Has it really only been 5 years since MLS contracted Florida? This season the league added Chivas and Salt Lake. So far this season, we know that Kansas City and San Jose are looking for new owners. San Antonio look to be getting a team one way or the other as does Toronto. It's possible either the Wiz or Clash (or both) could move to either city but local groups are working hard to keep them where they are. Though both teams have less than ideal stadium situations. Come to think of it, wasn't the KC-Arrowhead deal once considered to be the best in the league? (must be 4:20)

Anyway, now I read that Andrew Murstein is looking to invest in MLS. Now, I've read the article a few times now and besides the fact that he thinks it could be a good investment, I'm not 100% sure he's going to be able to pull it off as he is looking for someone with deeper pockets to make the initial investment.

So, he's looking to have a team in either New York or San Antonio. What are the possible options?

Only time will tell on this one. Still, the fact that cities seem to be interested in having a team and investors are interested in plonking down money is a good thing.

Whatever happened to Rochester and Seattle? Once upon a time, you would have got good odds that they'd have MLS teams by now.
  Interesting results in England this morning
Congratulations to Chelsea on winning the Premiership. No real surprise there. I think most people expected it.

Also, after locking up a promotion spot last week, yesterday Sunderland clinched the Championship title after beating West Ham at Upton Park 2-1.

Now, here's where things start to get interesting. Second in the Championship Wigan only managed a 1-1 draw away to Preston while third placed Ipswich walked all over Crewe on the road 5-1. Both teams are level on points going into the final weekend of the season. Wigan have the advantage with a much better Goal Difference and are at home to Reading next week while Ipswich travel to Brighton. Only one will go up automatically, the other has to deal with the playoffs and history proves it's usually not the best team in the regular season who goes up via the playoffs.

Then there's the bottom of the Premiership. The big relegation match was at St. Mary's where Southampton managed a 4-3 victory over Norwich. The win lifted the Saints out of the relegation zone for now. Crystal Palace managed a 0-0 draw away to Newcastle who seems to be self-destructing these days. West Brom sit in the middle of the relegation zone with a game in hand. But they'll probably get stuff on Monday night when they play that game at home to Arsenal. That'll leave two matches left to see which three of the four teams in trouble go back down to the Championship.
Friday, April 29, 2005
  More MLS Expansion?
With the new season only a month old and the two new MLS teams having only earned won win and only 5 points between them from 8 games, it's a little surprising that MLS Commissioner, Don Garber, is talking expansion already. However, with Chicago Fire's new stadium only a year from completion and over 54,000 showing up Wednesday night to see Mexico and Poland square off in a friendly at Solder Field thinks more additions are on the way.

This was in yesterday's Chicago Sun Times

The Fire will have its own stadium in Bridgeview next season, but with a seating capacity of about 20,000, it won't be big enough to host a game the magnitude of Wednesday's tussle.

''But Bridgeview will have a gritty, ethnic feel to it,'' Garber said. ''It'll be the type of stadium where we should be.''

While the Mexico national team likely won't play at Bridgeview, some Mexican clubs will. Club America may be the next Mexican club to put a team in MLS, and Garber believes it also could play in Bridgeview as a joint tenant with the Fire. In Los Angeles, two MLS teams, the Galaxy and Chivas USA, play in the same stadium.

''At some point, Club America will wind up in MLS, and Chicago would be the perfect place for them to have a team,'' Garber said.

What the article doesn't say is when Garber made those comments. After all, Chivas have yet to set any attendance records at the HDC. But if the Goats are doing it, I guess the Eagles (Club America's nickname) feel the need to join the party as well.

However, my thinking had been that if Club America were to start a MLS franchise, it would have been in San Antonio which currently is offering a sweet deal on the Alamodome. But according to today's San Antonio Express News, it's now looking like the Kansas City Wizards will be heading to South Texas and become the first franchise in league history to relocate.

Lemar Hunt has been looking to sell the Wizards for about a year now and if no local buying in Kansas City are interested, I guess a buyer in San Antonio is better than nothing. It isn't as if the team has really attracted much attention in the Midwest and moving to a city without many other professional teams may not be a bad thing (see Real Salt Lake). At least it's still a long way from the type of "musical cities" we saw NASL teams play before the league folded.

Then, the folks in Kansas City aren't giving up without a fight. I guess we'll get to follow this story all season.
  NFL Draft didn't stop derby viewers
According to the Orlando Sentinel soccer fans wanting to watch the Galaxy - Chivas game last Saturday didn't seem to give up when the NFL Draft kept going...and going...and zzzzz.
ESPN2 scored big, relatively anyway, with Major League Soccer's first intracitymatchup last weekend between the L.A. Galaxy and Chivas USA, drawing in a 0.4 rating, making it the channel's most-watched MLS game ever.
ESPN will probably spin this as people watching the end of the draft stayed and watching the game. But there can be no denying that MLS fans across the country bought into the hype the league had around the game and were excited to see the first intracity match-up in league history.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
  The Revs are on Fire
I guess I forgot to read this season's script. Isn't New England supposed to suck most of the season then turn things on towards the end of the season? Steve Nichol (and my boyhood hero Paul Mariner) have got the Revs playing well right now. I caught pieces of the game last night and to be honest Chicago didn't look very good and I have to admit, I've been disappointed by the Fire this season. Perhaps the players were looking forward to watching Poland vs Mexico in the night cap.

Either way, New England and Dallas seem to be the teams to beat right now.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
  RFK pitch ain't square
This has to be the ultimate home field advantage. Soccer pitches by rule should be square. However, it seems the pitch at RFK last weekend wasn't. DC GM Kevin Payne blamed the problem on RFK's new baseball configuration. Even the way the grass is now cut is a problem for linesmen. But it's not all once sided though. Pitchers don't like the new mound being built each time they come home.

How did the NASL survive so long with these problems? Do Rochester and other USL teams who share with baseball teams have these problems? I actually find it kinda funny.
  Toon Text Tragedy
Admit it, you watch Dream Team on Fox Soccer Channel. C'mon, you hafta love the goings on at Harchester United. Ok, I'll admit to watching the show (anyone know when it'll be back on the air?)

Anyway, who needs the Dragon's Lair when we have St. James Park? It was bad enough when Lee Bowyer and Keiron Dyer both on the same team got sent off for fighting during a match...but the latest incident just takes the cake. As an Ipswich fan, I have to laugh that it was a former Naaarwich player involved. But really, the Dream Team script writers couldn't come up with stuff this good. It's true, reality is stranger than fiction.
  CONCACAF gets tough....sorta
Actually very little here surprises me. First off, It's taken me a over a week to even notice the story. But as it's about the CONCACAF Champions Cup, it's hardly surprising. I'm actually shocked I found the story.

Costa Rican side, Saprissa, have been fined US$10,000 for the actions of their fans. This took place in the game against Mexican side, Monterrey, in the first leg of their series a few weeks ago.

The Salvadoran Ref disallowed a goal (which I thought was perfectly good) and the Saprissa fans objected to the call by throwing debris on the pitch. The TV camera's caught a coin hitting the Ref. He wasn't too happy and stopped the match for a while fearing security wasn't adequate.

Now, when you compare this with the fine imposed after the Milan derby....well, it shows the difference in income between teams from each league. The fact that CONCACAF actually imposed a fine on Saprissa is the most shocking bit. It's not like US players getting pelted by debris while playing World Cup Qualifiers in Costa Rica hasn't made the media in this country on more than one occasion...so the fact that this time action was taken is probably most shocking here.

Turns out, the match in question finished 2-2 and the return leg in Mexico ended 1-1. The Costa Ricans advanced on penalties. We'll see what happens in the final (Saprissa vs Mexican side, Pumas) when American Brian Hall will be in charge of the match in Costa Rica.

Interestingly, Guatemalan side Municipal were also fined US$10,000 for problems in their match against Monterrey in the previous round. Why is Monterrey always at the center of trouble? Or are they the only team to complain?
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
  Maybe it's just me
In San Antonio, the Alamodome has been sitting empty with no regular tenant for since the Spurs decided it best to build their own, more suitable venue. The mayor of San Antonio saw an opportunity to use the dome for MLS and attract someone who will bring a use to the stadium and cut the cities losses. The Alamo Bowl is only one day...that hardly counts.

All I've seen in the media from the border town after the big announcement has been negative. Then I see this Opinion Piece by...well, I've no clue who he is and I doubt I'll ever hear of him again. However, the guy, like so many others, just doesn't get it. Like so many members of the sports media in this country, I'm convinced they have no clue about the sport and rather than just admit their ignorance, they ridicule the sport in the hopes that it goes away. I guess it'll be interesting to see if this changes any time soon....I'm not holding my breath.

Oh, and how dare he knock British candy? That really is below the belt...but it just goes to prove my point, if it's different and you aren't used to it, ridicule it.
  I'm bummed...
....and it's all my fault.

When I moved to the mountains, I decided to offset the cost of the move, I'd cut a few corners on my spending. One of the expenses which got the axe was my MLS Direct Kick (could they come up with a better name?) subscription. I figured I wouldn't miss much without it. Well, this weekend the big game is the top of the table clash in the West--LA vs Dallas. But we are getting KC vs DC on ESPN2 and New England vs Chivas on FSC. The big game is available in LA and in Dallas but if you don't live there, you need to spend the $80 for Direct Kick.

I guess I could go on a rant about how they (MLS or whomever makes the broadcast decisions) should do a better job chosing which matches should be on national broadcast, but how would they have known when the made the call who would be top of the table? One day I'll learn...hopefully.

At least we get the Chicago vs New England match tomorrow.
Monday, April 25, 2005
  ESPN = Every Soccer Phan's Nightmare
In the past, I've always given ABC/ESPN the benefit of doubt when programing got messed up. However, Saturday night, ESPN really messed things up. Thankfully, I was home and didn't Tivo the broadcast.

Now, when Pope John Paul passed away and ABC decided it best to move the season opener (Chivas vs DC) to ESPN, they did a good job and I didn't miss the match. They simply put a message on ABC saying to switch to ESPN. They couldn't help the situation and honestly, I'm sure there was more of a demand for coverage of the Pope's passing than Eddie Pope (oh wait, he's not with DC this season)

However, Saturday night I understand it would be more difficult to bump the NFL Draft. If I'm not mistaken, didn't it start on ESPN then move to ESPN2? Either way, it ran long. ...And boy was the hour I watched boring!

So, what does ESPN do? They give us score updates as if they are going to switch to the game in progress. Nice of them huh? But then they show the entire game tape delayed! Well, that ruined the first half.

The worldwide leader in sports? How can a sports channel call itself that when they give away the score before the broadcast a game?

I understand the need MLS has to work with the network, but hopefully ESPN will start thinking ahead and stop creating messes like Saturday night. Let's face it; will anyone remember who the 101st pick in the 2005 NFL Draft was? I'm betting more people will remember that Cobi Jones scored the first goal in the first LA Derby match. It's too bad everyone knew before they got to see it.

It's not the first problem with programing running over and messing up an MLS broadcast....and I doubt it's the last time we'll see this from ESPN.
  Painting the Town Gold
Boy, I was ready to rip Steve Sampson a new one after that disappointing second-half Saturday night. True, in the first half, LA's original team tore the New Boys apart, but after the third goal, the Galaxy took their foot off the gas and let Chivas back in the game. Heck, it's not like just a few hours before I'd had to put up with Ipswich pulling another choke job after going a goal up at Elland Road against Leeds. I wasn't in the mood to see LA let a three-goal lead slip away like that.

Now, I've never really been a big fan of Sampson's--with the possible exception of the run the US team had in the Copa America a few years back--but he might start winning me over with comments like the one he made after Saturday's match.

"I felt we did a poor job of managing the result," Galaxy coach Steve Sampson said. "I know we want to entertain our fans, but I think in the second half we have to do a much better job managing the fact that we were a man up.

"I think the guys got caught up in trying to entertain people in the stands. ... Our boys are disappointed, quite frankly. They're disappointed with the way we played in the second half."
So, perhaps it's time to give Sampson a chance. Just like elsewhere in the world, beating your local rival helps coaches/managers keep their jobs.

Rongren, on the other hand, is on the hot seat. I can't see Jorge Vargara being happy with the way his Northern Team has started the season.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
  Mackams go up
With two matches left in the season, Sunderland can not finish worse than 2nd. That leaves Wigan in second and Ipswich 2 points behind them in 3rd fighting for the final automatic promotion spot. Two matches left, can my boys catch Wigan? The playoffs are great to watch if your not a fan of the teams involved. But if your team is, it's about as nervous as it gets.
  Timber comic
As a kid I read comics but never really got into them. However, I have to admit I enjoyed this.

'There's No Pity in the Rose City'

Portland fans are creating a great culture around their team and it's great to see them growing.
Friday, April 22, 2005
  Planning the weekend
Most Friday's I have to take a look at the SoccerTV site to see what games I wanna see and which I hafta see (the wife is the won who decides exactly what I get to see).

So, here's a run down of the weekend what I might be watching:

I guess that leaves Sunday for doing work around the house

Thursday, April 21, 2005
  My Tivo will be on overload
It looks like Setanta will launch a home channel. I'm not sure how my wife is going to react to me spending another $12 for more footie....or if I'm going to find enough time in the week to watch everything that is now available. Maybe Ipswich will get promoted and I won't need this new channel to get the handful of Ipswich games that are currently available.
  It's only a game?
Ok, so the movie of Game of their Lives finally comes out (limited release) this week. Why am I not excited enough to drive an hour up to Denver to see it? I'm sure I'll catch it eventually. If I do find the energy, look for my review on here if and when I do. This movie has been coming for several years now. Yeah, it's soccer and we all know soccer doesn't sell here...but why, even with Anchutz' money, has it been so difficult to find distribution? Is the movie that bad, or did no one want to take the risk? I'll wait for the reviews.
  New Soccer Hall of Fame members
I can't say I was surprised to read that the three players elected to the Soccer Hall of Fame were Marcelo Balboa, John "Captain for Life" Harkes and Tab Ramos. The rest of the list were players who didn't make near the impact that the three elected. The only player I think possibly should get more attention for the HOF is Bruce Murray...but his career was reaching it's 'sell by date' when Paul Caliguri hit that show in '89 to send the US to Italia '90. Congrats to the three who made it.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
  Nasty Headache
According to today's L.A. Daily News Chivas defender, Ryan Suarez, isn't doing too well. Hopefully, things clear up quickly and he's able to play again soon. As someone who has followed the Galaxy since '96, I hate to see this happen to one of the few players who shows up every game and puts at least 100% into his effort.

Get well soon Ryan. Oh yeah, and congrats on the baby I hear you and are wife are expecting any minute.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
  Just a few random thoughts today

That's it for now.

Saturday, April 16, 2005
  Friday Night Lights
Ok, so it wasn't the best match ever, but it's wasn't the worst either. Thank you to whoever decided that Prime Time on Friday's would be a good slot for MLS matches. Of course, someone with a little foresight might have noticed the potential for DC to be playing in Mexico City 48 hours earlier. But that aside, I hafta admit it was great to come home from the office last night and be able to start my weekend with a game. Of course, I wonder if the A-League broadcasts the last couple of years were the inspiration. Who cares? Thanks.
Friday, April 15, 2005
  The only constant 'round here is change
I'm not one to say, "I told you so"...well, maybe I am. But in this instance, I'm just glad I was right...well, sorta.

Back in '96 when MLS started, the big sales pitch from those in charge was that there are so many immigrants from other countries here that a professional league was needed. I guess they believed fans would just flock to stadiums with any version of the sport put on the pitch in front of them.

The money men must have been thrilled with the almost 70,000 that showed up at the Rose Bowl on opening day. However, those types of numbers have been the exception as the league has struggled to gain a foothold in this country while events like the Champions League Tour has often sold out the largest stadiums.

My theory has been that while they attempted to appeal to the masses here by "Americanizing" the sport with the counting down clock, shootout tiebreaker and other tweaks to the game, they managed to lose the majority of those fans who follow leagues in other countries. In short, MLS just made things more complicated than they had to be.

So, I was surprised to read some resent comments from Don Garber.

"At some point, with more stadiums and more control of our playing environment, it's conceivable we'd align with the international soccer calendar. I don't see any reason why soccer fans won't go to games in the winter any more or less than [American] football fans go to games in the winter. So it's not a matter of if, but when."

Ok, so maybe he's attempting to do more than is really needed here. Personally, I like having MLS in the summer and Euro leagues in the winter...but that's me. In order to be in line with the international calendar, all that's really needed to is take weekends off when there are international matches and take a break during the World Cup every four years. But who am I to argue?

Thing is, Garber is also talking about a single table and win bonus' for players. That's further steps in the right direction. With the addition of reserve teams this year, things are looking up. Over the years, I've come to hate the fact that the Galaxy will trade players who've had little to no playing time in LA only to become stars at a team that did allow them on the pitch. Now that these players will get a few games (beyond friendlies and early round Open Cup games) perhaps we'll see even more talent get the chance to shine.

So, the league is heading in the right direction...slowly, but I'll take it. It's good to be right...eventually. Perhaps some of those fans that were turned off will start to recognize the league as something more in line with the rest of the world.

Speaking of attendance, will Real Salt Lake have a better attended home opener than Chivas?
Thursday, April 14, 2005
  DC: Mauled in Mexico
Ouch, that had to have hurt. DC looked like a bunch of armatures last night against Pumas. The DC backline didn't have any shape most of the second half and it showed. Pumas midfield dominated the middle of the park and on the rare occasion DC did mount an attack, they look like AYSO kids unsure of how to use their team mates. Yet another sign that MLS still has a fair bit to go to reach the level of the top Mexican teams.

One thing though. It does seem to me like the Mexican Clubs are now taking the Champions Cup more seriously. Well, more seriously than they did a few years ago when DC and LA managed to hoist the trophy. It may take some time, but more competition like this will only help the sport in this region. Let's see if Sapressa can pull the upset tonight that eluded DC.

One last thing, who was the Einstein who scheduled DC to play in Columbus on Friday night just two days after their trip to Mexico City? I know MLS schedules are made prior to knowing weather or not DC had made it to the Semi's of the Champions Cup, but the schedule makes knew there was the possiblity it could happen. Guess we still have a long way to go after all.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
  The second coming??
For Galaxy fans, the arrival of Landon Donovan coupled with the departure of Carlos Ruiz was tough. After all, Ruiz was a fan favorite at the HDC and Donovan...well, fans in LA didn't exactly see him as the great savior of soccer in this country that the media painted him. Of course, his goals against LA, particularly in the playoffs, didn't help that.

The fact that he's a quitter and goes running home to mom once the going gets tough (as soon by this latest move of his) makes things even more difficult for LA fans who've put up with prima donnas like Luis Hernandez the last last few years.

Even after his two goal performance on Saturday, I'm still not sold....but I'm sure I'll soften my opinion of him as long as he continues to produce.

We'll see what happens as time goes by on this one. Of course, one thing working in Donovan's favor is he'll have plenty of time to win the Galaxy fans over. Rumor has it he's on a 10-year contract.

  Uncle Phil may not be really be the saint of footie in the US after all
I've thought in the past that Phil Anchutz may not be the great savior of the sport in this country that many make him out to be. Perhaps the shin on his halo is starting to wear off.

Sometimes you need a dose of reality to see the real world. I've never been a huge fan of the way Galaxy GM Doug Hamilton takes season ticket holders for granted. The focus of the Galaxy Front Office has always seemed to be on corporate clients rather than on the individuals who invest their own hard earned money (at least $500/person/year...and that's not counting the over priced concessions) to attend games there. Now, corporate sponsors pay a ton more and bring in a ton more. That's a given. But my thought has always been that the corporate sponsors will get more for their money if/when the stadium is full of loyal fans who will support those sponsors. But AEG/MLS knows best and Doug Hamilton keeps winning Executive of the Year awards at the close of MLS seasons.

In Chicago, Peter Wilt has built arguably the strongest, most loyal fan base in the league. But that's not good enough for the AEG powers. They have announced that he's being replaced by someone who has run what many believe has been the most disappointing franchise in MLS.

Metrostars have done nothing as far as attendance in their 9 years of existence....and their trophy cabinet contains nothing but dust. Up till now, Wilt has been the only GM in Chicago history. The team won its first MLS Cup in their expansion season and has added to that trophy since then. They are one of the best attended teams in the league and their fans travel in better numbers than any other MLS team. So why are they bringing in someone who has run a half-assed team? The reason given is that with the new stadium being built for the Fire, they need someone to light a "fire in the belly from a sales perspective in the organization."

So, the priority is bringing in as much income as possible. Never mind the nearly 100 Chicago fans that showed up hours after the announcement at a pub in Chicago to meet with Peter Wilt and voice their concern about the move. How many MLS teams would get that many fans to turn up for anything on such short notice? Certainly not the faithful in the Big Apple.

I really think AEG are missing out on long-term gains by focusing on the short-term needs here. But AEG call the shots and as long as they own about half the league, I'm sure they'll continue to make more moves like this at the expense of the loyal fans.

More opinion about the move can be found here.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
  That's more like it
Granted, there were a lot of Pumas fans at RFK last night, but hats off to the DC faithful for the turn out last night. Over 21k on a Wednesday night for a non-MLS game? That's gotta be a record. Entertaining match as well. This is what the Champions Cup should be. I only got to catch pieces of the match, but I managed to catch both goals. I guess the only disappointments last night were 1) the result...DC will have their work cut out in Mexico City and 2) that pitch. Will it last the entire season without causing someone an injury?
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
  There is no "I" in "Team"
I came across a quote from Galaxy great Mauricio Cienfeugos today on the Matchnight.com Network which I think sums up my problem with the Galaxy right now.

They (The Galaxy) have good players, but they need to play like a team. Real Madrid have the best players but don't play like a team.

In my opinion, this has been the problem with the Galaxy since '96 and the reason why there are so few MLS Cups won by the organization. Just look at the deal which brought Luis Hernandez to the Rose Bowl a few years ago. Players like Clint Mathis and Joe Franchino were moved in order to allow some prima dona to come in and not do anything. Now, Galaxy coach, Steve Sampson has totally rebuilt the squad and was forced to part with players like Carlos Ruiz and Danny Califf in order to get Landon Donovan. I'm not saying that Donovan will flop like Hernandez, but it's the way in which these moves are made which bothers me.

Soccer is a team sport. No one individual can change the outcome of a game. It's the combined efforts of all 11 players on the pitch which makes or breaks a team. Yet MLS (and AEG in particular) continue to market the team as individuals. We saw this marketing philosophy at its worst last season with the way the league push a 14 year-old phenom on the media as the sports savior in this country. Sure, crowds turned out in good numbers when Freddie Adu was in town, but has this curiosity translated into season ticket sales? A look at attendance around the league last Saturday shows the answer.

Soccer is a sport played by teams, not individuals. The sooner those with a say in the running of the sport in the country realize that, the sooner we'll see better results both on and off the pitch.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
  I'm back. Didja miss me?

Yes, it’s been a while since I last posted on here. My life has taken a few unexpected turns which has led me to move halfway cross the country and away from LA. But if you’re reading this, I doubt you care about me so I’ll just promise now that the new MLS season has started to be more vigilant with my posts.

So, here are a few recent observations of mine:

Well, I may have disappeared for a while but the footie world hasn’t slowed down. I’ll be posting at least once/week from now on….honest.

An American who fell in love with soccer while living in Europe.

Location: Hoosierville, IN, United States
August 2004 / September 2004 / October 2004 / April 2005 / May 2005 / June 2005 / July 2005 / August 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 /

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