Ramblings of a Soccer Junky
Thursday, June 30, 2005
  Earthquakes in Houston??
It seems the long rumored move by Club America of buying the San Jose Earthquakes from AEG and moving them to Houston may be about to happen. It looks like at first they'll call the AstroDome their home. Let's hope talks go better than the last city in Texas with an empty dome that tried to fill it with an MLS team.

Anyway, this sounds like it's pretty much a done deal. Quake fans will need to enjoy booing Landon now as it doesn't look like get the chance to do so next season.

It took 10 years, but it look like MLS will now have it's first relocated franchise. That's a much better record than the NASL. Of course, Kansas City could also be in another city by April as well. We'll see how this goes.
  But what if they start winning silverware?
Man U fans seem to be determined to ruin their club. Seriously, while in London yesterday, the Glazer Klan said all the right things to the FA and other's asking about their plans. They are business people and I can't see anyone intentionally wanting to ruin their property.

So, what will happen if Man U start winning trophies with the Glazers at the helm? What will these militant fans do then? I don't think the local police are too sympathetic towards the fans right now. Seriously, those death threats aren't too smart.

Well, the Glazers now have Bobby Charlton in their corner as well. I see the Glazers in the mix for a while. Hope those 300 upset fans enjoy their FC United matches.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
  The new BOB?
I don't know why, but I laugh every time my sister talks about going to the BOB (Bank One Ballpark) in Phoenix to see the D-Backs play. However, it look like Chicago Fire fans will soon be doing the same.

As I always say though, any money brought in to make the league better is a good thing. The more money received from sponsors (especially long-term deals like this) the less the league and the teams in the league have to depend on attendance for for revenue, the better.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
  DC invited to this years Copa Sudamerica
I'm honestly surprised no Press Release has come out about this yet. After all, MLS bosses keep telling us that they want the league and the teams in this league to become world class. However, hidden away from the English media it seems that DC United have been invited to play in the Copa Sudamerica which starts in Sept or Oct (not much info available for us "Gringos" to read).

I'm hoping they are able to accept this bid. Even though they've been a bit off this season, DC have been a decent team. Though I can see how it could conflict with possible playoff matches.

We'll see. Even with a poor performance, it's still a great experience for DC players....and heck, how can you go wrong if they get one of South America's top teams playing at RFK in a competitive match?

UPDATE: Go figure. As soon as I post they were invited but hadn't made a decision...they go and make a decision. Now I hafta hope they are on TV.
Monday, June 27, 2005
  Chivas are a mess
Boy, I wish I knew more of what happened on Saturday. Ryan Suarez gets substituted in the 30th minute of their match in Kansas City and blows up at the coach (The new Dutch guy...can't remember his name) as he leaves the pitch. Today he gets waived.

Personally, I think Suarez had more heart than most of the Galaxy defenders the last few years. Yeah, he could be awkward and late on challenges at times. But you always knew he gave 100% every match. Hope he lands somewhere good.

UPDATE: There's more info on the events Saturday night which lead to the dismissal in today's LA Times. I can see more changes like this. Not sure what Dutch guy is doing. Playing the "Boss Card" like this sure isn't going to win a lot of players over. Could things get worse for them?

So, here's the big question, will Chivas end up having the worst season in MLS history this year. Currently, they have 6 points from 16 games. It looks like they are on pace to get between 10 and 12 points this season. The MLS worst is either Tampa Bay in '01 who got a massive 14 points from 27 matches...or Metros who got 15 points from 32 matches in '99. On their current pace, Chivas will smash that record.
  I can't leave the Reds alone...sorry.
Am I the only one who finds this whole issue of Liverpool in the Champions League highly entertaining?

A few weeks ago, I posted that Liverpool should take TNS up on their offer to play a pre-qualification round with them. Of course, that idea was rejected by all the sport's governing bodies. But as fate would have it, guess who Liverpool drew in the first round? Ya gotta love the irony.

...and just to make things more amusing, TNS are now looking at playing their home leg at Goodison. Too bad it won't happen, but I can hear the Welsh cash registers ringing from here. They are gonna milk this matchup for every penny they can get. Good luck to them.

I guess everyone ends up a winner. Liverpool get to defend their Cup. TNS get their big payday. But I still wonder who got bumped to make room for the Scousers.
  Monday Morning Rant
I'm still trying to get my head around what happened in San Jose Saturday night. As someone who has followed the team for 10 years now and had season tickets to the Galaxy until this season, I need to register my disgust at what's going on right now.

Now, I've never been a big Steve Sampson fan--well, except during that nice Copa America run when he was only Interim National Team Coach. However, after a year with him at the Galaxy helm, he's proven that he's best as a coach at running a team into the ground.

It has been a year now (to the day, 6-27-04) since LA collected 3 points on the road...and that game winner was a bit dubious (Kiroviski's 'hit-and-hope' from the halfway line in Chicago). Steve Sampson has been given free reign on making wholesale player changes and the story is the same as it was when Sigi Schmid was shown the door...or is it?

In the first 7 road games last season, LA managed 8 points. They were 2-3-2. This season, even counting the 'road' game at Chivas, LA is 1-5-1 with 4 points. Things are going backwards and LA as a road team is getting worse. Thank God Chivas are so awful or LA would have a massive 1 point on the road this season....won at expansion Salt Lake.

Saturday night in San Jose was a classic example of all that is wrong with the team right now. My biggest complaint about Sampson before the ill fated 1998 World Cup was his inability of selecting a first 11. He seems to tinker with the line-up. Even with all his players available, he doesn't seem to have confidence in his players and always chooses a line-up that he thinks will be best suited to the opposition rather than throwing his best line-up out and then reworking things as the game goes if things don't work well.

So, Peter Vagenis was injured right before the match and created the need to make a change. I can understand Sampson's desire to create some width and use the wings as much as possible, but was putting Donovan on the wing really the right choice? He was hardly there. I don't know if it was the ranting from the home fans, the San Jose players or what, but he wasn't a factor at all in the match. Wouldn't he have been a better choice to slot in behind the forwards in the middle? Of course, Sampson's desire to add width got stranger when he brought off Cobi. The logic just wasn't there. Bottom line, there was no one in the middle that could control things for LA.

On top of that, why is it that the only offence LA had was a ton of crosses into the box with no one on the receiving end? Then again, what’s the teams leading scorer doing out on the wing, no where near the goal? Fan reaction aside, this was an awful performance from Landon and not helped at all by Sampson’s decision.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, Steve Sampson doesn’t have what it takes to be a successful MLS Head Coach. Take a look at the performances from the players he’s brought in. Not one of his signings (Donovan doesn’t count in that group) has done anything this season. In fact, if you look at what a couple of his cast-offs did on Saturday (Alejandro Moreno and Sasha Victorine) you could see he downgraded rather than upgraded the squad. If a 0-0 draw at home to Columbus (a team LA have always had a problem against) could get Sigi Schmid fired, what’s it going to take to get Sampson Fired? Bottom line, the team is looking awful and if Doug Hamilton will live by his words...

“I want to win championships, that’s first and foremost. But we have always believed that you can do it in an entertaining style of play.”
…Sampson is failing in all categories.

On last thing, is it possible for the Galaxy backline to be any more disorganized that it was on Saturday? One of the biggest complaints we would hear about the Sigi Schmid led team was how defensive they were. Well, they didn’t give up many goals and they certainly didn’t score 2 games in a span of 3 minutes.

At least Galaxy fans can console themselves with one fact…at least the Galaxy still aren’t as bad as Chivas. Does anyone know what was up with that exchange between Ryan Suarez and the Goats new coach?

Sorry, don’t remember watching anything else over the weekend.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
  Empty your wallet here
Galaxy fans aren't too happy at the Galaxy decision to milk their fans for every drop with their ticketing for their friendly against Real Madrid. In order to buy a ticket for the big game (at twice the price of a regular ticket) they must also buy a ticket to either the July 4 game against New England (fireworks thrown in for good measure) or the July 16 game against Chivas.

How big a PR problem would this be if Beckham, Zidane, Raul et al pick up minor knocks just before the game and only the Real reserves play? After all, "Players are subject to change".

Of course, all that money could end up at the Hawthorns if WBA sue. Seems they aren't too happy that LA are now playing Real two days before their scheduled match at the HDC.

Great going Mr. Hamilton.
Friday, June 24, 2005
  Let's talk about MLS attendance
Is anyone else tired of hearing about the attendance numbers in MLS? Perhaps I'm in the minority here...but while ticket sales are important, it shouldn't be the only thing people look at.

Today's Kansas City Star has an article about the Wizards declining attendance numbers.

Today's sports market is more than just ticket sales though. It's about marketing and sponsorship. In many cases, sponsorship (and TV rights) brings in more money than ticket sales these days. However, I'd live with the argument that in order to bring in more money from sponsorship, you first need people viewing the product to make the investment of sponsors worthwhile.

I've been saying since '96 that MLS (both league and teams) need to spend more time marketing teams and bringing the fact that they represent the location where they play rather than their current MO of selling individuals.

Take my experience in LA. In '96 we got Jorge Campos, Cobi Jones, Mauricio Cienfuegos and Andrew Shue as the big names we'd see the sales department tout. So, looking back now 10 years later, Cien and Cobi worked out pretty well. Shue was well out of his depth and hardly saw the pitch and Campos was just a bust and ended up getting traded to Chicago for Kevin Hartman. Since then, LA has had Carlos Hermosillo (over the hill and useless), Luis Hernandez (forgot he had to work) and Hong Myung-bo (see Hermosillo) brought in to boost ticket sales. Not one of the big names worked when it came to selling tickets.

LA has won the Champions Cup, the Open Cup and the MLS Cup in the 9 years they've existed. Not won of those trophies were won with any of the 'big name' signings involved.
But let me get back to the article for a minute.
Obviously, the "Freddy Factor" has worn off. Last season, when teenage phenom Freddy Adu joined D.C. United as the league's highest-profile, -- and highest-paid -- rookie ever, attendance for United road games spiked at 23,686. Thus far this season, that average has dropped by nearly 10,000, to 13,954. D.C., which won the MLS Cup championship last November over the Wizards, has also dropped inhome attendance, from 17,232 to 16,400.
I realize MLS had to do everything they could to sign young Freddy...and they sure need some return on their investment. But to expect a 14 (now 16) year old to come in and set the league on fire was a joke. He's a damn good player for someone of his age...but as we've now seen, he's well out of his depth and needs time to develop. Hype doesn't product long-term commitment.
MLS was anticipating a much greater boost from the addition of CD Chivas USA as an expansion team, hoping it would draw in the legions of Hispanic soccer fans in this country. That hasn't happened, at least not yet. Chivas, which visits Kansas City on Saturday, has struggled on the field, as its 1-11-3 record suggests, and off, drawing just 12,288 at home and 13,670 away.

I've posted on here that Jorge Vargara had the right idea in the creation of Chivas. However, he forgot one important factor; they have to have some decent players. Sorry, but the has-beens they brought from Mexico fall into the Campos/Hermosillo/Bo category.

Of course, I'd argue that he'd have better results in the stands at this point if he'd have named the team Los Latino...but I guess that wouldn't have worked with his desire to market the team in Mexico more north of the border. (BTW, Chivas have been screwed by Sepp Bladder his his instance on Chivas players being in Germany right now rather than fighting for the Copa Libratadoras...but that's for another day)

Perhaps the greatest budding young star in U.S. soccer today is FC Dallas forward Eddie Johnson. He's been featured in Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine and has been highlighted nearly every time the U.S. men's national team plays. Yet, FC Dallas is averaging a league-low 9,093 for its games at The Cotton Bowl.
Of course, leaving their fan base and moving to Southlake didn't help any. Again, a single player (add Carlos Ruiz and Ronnie O'Brien to the mix as well) won't make a difference here.

This may also shed some light on the missing fans.
Generally, the league has a spike at the first of the season, then struggles a bit with schools still in and colder weather, said Dan Courtemanche, senior vice president of marketing and communications with MLS. The last four seasons, from this point, attendance has increased anywhere from 3 to 16 percent to the end point of the season. If that trend continues, then we should come back to where it once was.
That's right! We haven't had the 4th of July games yet. That always spikes attendance. Add in a couple of World Cup Qualifiers to the mix and the attendance numbers look pretty darn good.
But are they as good as they could be? There shouldn't be such massive spikes in attendance. Yeah, you'll get more people at any sporting event with fireworks (MLB has known this for years) but with the smaller stadiums being built, the only way teams in LA, Columbus, Dallas and Chicago will be able to benefit from better attendance with fireworks is if they bump prices for the single game as they won't have thousands of empty seats to fill.

So I'm back to the argument I've been making for almost 10 years. Work on the TEAM. Put the best possible 11 players on the pitch you can with the limited resources available. True fans of the sport will start to show up. Watching one or two quality players--especially if they are interviewing retirement homes--and a bunch of low-cost filler isn't going to excite loyal patrons. The people who watch the sport in this country aren't stupid and know an inferior product when they see it. Give us the best you can and people will show up without all the player hype.

After all, if Ipswich can finish 5th in the Premiership (yeah it was a fluke--but I'll take it) and beat Inter Milan in the home leg of the UEFA Cup only 4 years ago with a stadium that then held less than the HDC...there must be a way for MLS to get it's act together.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
  More info on the DC buyers
It looks like the group working with Kevin Payne to buy DC United are developers from nearby Richmond.

Sounds to me like buying the team is what will help them get the facility built and be able to create income. AEG's done the groundwork, they just wanna take over.

The fact that it's now in the media sounds to me like they are getting close to finalizing the deal.

$20 Million for an MLS franchise? Looks like those that invested in the league 10 years ago are getting some return on their investment now that AEG have figured out how to make some money from teams.

We'll see where this goes.
  The most important day of the Summer...in England
Today is the day soccer fans in England have been waiting for since May (or earlier if their team were at the top or the bottom of the table last season). The Fixture lists for the 05-06 seasons have been released.

For Ipswich Fans,--yes, I'm one--the season starts at home against Cardiff. Big games against the scum from Norfolk are on Sept 17 and Feb 4...though they are usually moved back to Sunday at the request of local cops. The season will end with what's expected to be an easy run against Luton, Stoke, Brighton, Watford, Derby and Plymouth. There's a surprising 9 day break before Christmas and the season ends in April. I guess this is so all the Internationals involved in the World Cup next summer will have time to prepare...can't see it effecting anyone on Town's squad though.

Here's the entire Championship Fixture List...Nah, I don't care what's going on in the Premiership.
  Sad news from San Jose
Former San Jose Clash/Quake President, Peter Bridgewater passed away Tuesday. He was involved with both the NASL and MLS teams and most recently had been involved in the grassroots effort to keep the Smur...errr Quakes in the Bay Area. Hopefully, he'll be honored before the match on Saturday.

Speaking of Saturday's game in San Jose, it looks like the Bay Area fans are still a bit bitter about offseason player movement.
  Why there should never have been a ton of hype over a 15-year old.
I knew this would eventually happen. Last year, all we heard about was Freddie Adu being the "next Pele". How often is that type of hype the "Kiss of Death"? So, young Freddie goes to Holland and plays with/against players several years older than he...and has a poor performance. There are quite a few media reports that single him out and his failure with spot kicks. Too bad the other 10 guys on the field in white jerseys didn't do well either.

I feel bad for the kid...but he's getting paid a heck of a lot more than I. He's paid to deal with it. Still, I knew last year it was a mistake to pump up his potential so much...and it's looking like I might have been right.

Still, he's got a ton of talent and I'm still confident that in a few years he'll be a great player...but that's still a few years away. Let's keep that in mind before we start touting what he will be. Let's remember what he is, a great young player that could one day be awesome.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
  MLS expansion in Minnesota???
It seems the new owner of the NFL Minnesota Vikings is owning an MLS team in the Twin-Cities. Not sure what to make of the article. It said he's met with MLS big-wigs. But I'm not sure I buy his commitment. After all, it doesn't seem like he's talked to many 'soccer experts' in the area. Sounds to me like MLS is being used as a pawn in another stadium deal.
  This is a joke right?
I just checked my email and found my weekly Galaxy sales spam. Sorry, but I had to laugh when I read this.

Galaxy Coaching Symposium Series
Finishing (Goal scoring)
Tuesday, June 28th 5-8PM

Sign-up and come out to The Home Depot Center for the first ever-coaching clinic on goal scoring on Tuesday, June 28th from 5 to 8pm. Work with Assistant Coach Afshin Ghotbi and Director of Coaching Programs, Ralph Perez in a three (3) hour clinic that will teach you drills and exercises that will improve your team's finishing and goal scoring chances. The clinic includes a Galaxy goal scoring handout, goal scoring breakdown DVD, field time with Galaxy coaching staff and a Q and A session. You will also receive a ticket to the July 4th Galaxy game against the New England Revolution!

Cost: $50 per person, includes Galaxy ticket to the July 4th game (regular $25 each). Sign up NOW

Sorry to laugh, but anyone who's watched the Galaxy play this season will see the humor. Hopefully, the entire Galaxy front-line will enroll.
  Introducing FC United (of Manchester)
It's hardly an exciting name but FC United will start play next season in the North West Counties League. They have a stadium (only a stone throw from where Newton Heath was formed and seem to have a fan base...well, disgruntled Man U fans.

While I had hoped AFC Wimbledon succeeded when Wimbledon moved to Milton Keynes. I'm hoping FC United die a quick death. We'll see what happens. My money is on the new Wimbledon club doing better in the long run. After all, the success of Man U the last few years has been due to the financial contributions (merchandise sales etc.) from fair-weather fans. FC United attendance will be interesting to follow.
  The Kids blew it
We saw the wheels start to come off the wagon on Saturday against Egypt...but that was pretty much a JV line-up. However, yesterday's game against Italy (who scraped into the Round of 16) showed where the weaknesses were...and that's primarily in the backline. Lack of defensive shape is what killed the US Kids. Though I have to wonder what young Freddie is doing taking penalties.

Oh well, so much for the run. In all, it wasn't a poor performance. Hopefully, they'll grow from the experience.
Monday, June 20, 2005
  Weekend Round-up
Normally on Monday I have my takes on the weekend’s football action. However, watching the US Grand Prix from Indy yesterday blotted out most memories I have from any matches I saw. What a joke that was...how any sports organization can allow something like that to happen in a market they are desperate to gain a foothold is beyond me.

But enough of my other addiction. Lemme see now. Mexico beat Brazil in Germany yesterday. Gotta hand it to our neighbors to the south. They did what they had to against a team they weren't supposed to beat. Yeah, they play ugly...but the scoreboard is all that matters.

LA lost in Dallas. The field level highlights on MLS Wrap didn't really give us much on the game. However, I guess we can't really be surprised...LA can only win at the HDC.

How did I miss that Ante Razov had moved to the Metros? Nice addition to the squad there. Too bad he will still be the most hated former Galaxy player in LA.

If there was any doubt that Chivas suck...just take a look at their performance against Colorado on Saturday. Yeah, Colorado are coming off a famous win...but I wasn't that impressed with them Wednesday. When will Chivas throw in the towel?

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The US Kids got past Egypt (just) and now play Italy in the next round at the Kids World Cup.

That's it for now. I'm off to write a letter of disgust to the FIA.
Friday, June 17, 2005
  TV rant
Is it any wonder MLS isn't catching on when two of the top teams are playing each other tomorrow and there's won't be any TV camera's there to capture the match?

Yeah, I know both Dallas and LA are coming off disappointing results. However, for the most part they've been two of the hottest teams in the league this season. Throw in the Carlos Ruiz angle (yeah, I know he's injured) and you've got what has to be the most interested match-up this weekend.

Okay, so contracts and that mean that the National TV schedule (ESPN and FSC) was set before the season started. But this deal the Galaxy (with Chivas) has with FSN in So Cal is supposed to be the best out there. You'd think someone who has any power would look at what was going on and figure out a way to get this match broadcast live in So Cal....and for those forking out the cash for the MLS Direct Kick PPV package. Not having this match available really--in my opinion--reduces the value of paying the extra bucks to get just about every MLS match.

Oh well, I guess I'll check the score on Sunday. At least I have the opportunity to wake up early tomorrow and watch the US Kids take on Egypt and move on to the next round of the Kids World Cup.

I guess it's a good thing FSC has the DC-New England match on. That should be interesting...but it's still not the top-of-the-table clash we'll be missing in Dallas.
  I can't get my head around this one
How can someone with the kind of money Arsenal's Robin van Persie makes get get arrested for rape in a country where prostitution is legal?
  Manc fans make me laugh
Seriously, if they put half the effort into supporting the club that they are putting into stopping Glazer's takeover, they'd be a lot stronger than they currently are.

Tony Lloyd, the Labour MP for Manchester Central, said:

"Last night I heard an interesting legal opinion that this matter could be looked at as a public interest issue. I have been advised that there is nothing to stop the competition authorities looking at the question of public interest and reporting their views as to whether this bid matches the public interest test. I have asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alan Johnson, to refer it to the authorities."

C'mon people. You complain that Glazer's business plan is too heavily leveraged...yet you constantly add to his legal bills by bringing up stuff like this just to stop the takeover bit. What a great way to help your club. Man City fans must be loving this.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
  Chivas doing well in one area
Even though they've been crap on the field....and their attendance numbers at the HDC reflect this. As a fan of the league, it's good to see Chivas do well in one area.

Chivas USA sets MLS record in team sponsorship.

It looks like they've done a great job of giving sponsors a good platform to promote their product. Hopefully the rest of the league are taking note.
  Sportsmanship in Argentina
I guess a country who's footballing hero describes his most famous goal as being scored "by the hand of God" would have a different way of looking at things. Boca Juniors coach, Jorge Benitez resigned yesterday after the events which ended Wednesday's Copa Libratadores match early.

Benitez spat at one of the Chivas players now has quit because of the loogie.

"I lost control," he (Benitez) told Radio Mitre. "When I saw the pictures, I realised I made a mistake."
Um....yeah. When is spitting at someone NOT a mistake...especally in a packed stadium full of cameras? I guess he went to the Luis Hernandez school of making friends.
  1-0...to the Referee
Last night was my first visit to Invesco Field…and boy was the match a stinker thanks to one of MLS’s biggest problems, poor officiating.

Now before any Rapids fans get on me, LA did not deserve to come away from Invesco with anything. However, referee Ricardo Valenzuela had more influence on the outcome of the match than any of the 22 (or 21…or 20) players on the pitch. Poor and inconsistent officiating ruined the match.

Not to take anything away from the Rapids they did what they had to under difficult circumstances.

Cunningham seems to have been taking flopping lessons from Carlos Ruiz. C’mon now if there was any contact, there’s no way Cobi Jones could bring down Big Jeff. It was a great gift from the ref and the primary reason for the title above. Up until that point, everything had been going the other way and I’m pretty sure it was Colorado’s first time that deep in LA’s half.

Hang on a second. Cobi Jones was in his own penalty area defending a fast break? Cobi Jones? Cobi “friggin” Jones? Cobi “5 feet nothing, 120 lbs when soaking wet with hair extensions in” Jones? C’mon Mr. Sampson. Please explain to me what’s going on here. It wasn’t the only time last night he was the last midfielder trying to stop a fast brake from Colorado. Now, I realize you are attempting to bring a Dutch “Total Footballish” style to the team…or at least it looks like that’s what you are doing. I was as big a fan of Dutch football in the late 70's as anyone. But I just can’t get my head around how you can think that allowing one of the greatest (though aging) forward thinking American players of the last 15 years to be playing in a defensive role so often. Geez, at Galaxy fans thought Sigi brought some strange tactics to the team. Perhaps Doug Hamilton can provide Galaxy fans with an explanation. After all, he’s the person who gave Sampson his current job.

Sorry, back to the game.

Ok, so the biggest point of contention regarding last nights match (besides the Galaxy's performance) was the way Valenzuela was dishing cards like he was a blackjack dealing in Vegas.

First off, even though the Soccer Mom crowd around me in sec 103 were completely blind even after the replay, and decided to take their frustration out on the person closest to them in a Galaxy shirt (me) there was contact made my Pablo. Was it embellished by Nagamura? Sure. Was it a foul? Probably. Was it worthy of a card? I didn’t think so. Should Mastoeni been sent off? No way.

After that, Colorado sat back and started to soak up pressure from LA. Of course, LA’s inability last night to string more than two or three passes together helped the home side.

Now, at half-time, I told my wife that I’m sure there will be another red card I the second-half to make up for the poor call on Mastoreni. It never accorded to me that it would be another Rapids player.

As if the first Red was bad enough, the second was embarrassing. The incident took place right in front of me. At the time I thought Melamed had slipped or lost his balance or something. I guess a foul might have been the right call. But for Valenzuela to show him Red? That was just wrong. While the Soccer Dads (Mom’s were covering the little one’s ears) started to hurl justified abuse at Valenzuela, I just sat there shaking my head. It was a poor call and at that point, I wasn’t sure what I wanted more: 1) 3 points for LA or 2) to leave the stadium with dignity in an LA jersey without my team being gifted a game.

As the match progressed, the home fans (at least on the other side of the stadium) got into the match. Now, I’ve seen plenty of games from Denver the last 10 years. Even though being there in person made the stadium seem even emptier than it looks on TV, it was good to see a bit of atmosphere being created at Invesco. Of course, the Soccer Mom crowd around me just sat on their hands waiting for the final whistle.

Colorado put on a bunker worthy of anything Kansas City could create. Their nine men managed to keep an anemic Galaxy attack (and they were throwing everyone except Hartman forward) from leveling the score. Honestly, after the 80th minute, I didn’t think it would happen. Sure, there were a couple of questionable offside calls but from the angle I was at, I can’t really comment one way or the other.

At the end of the day, I guess it was a fair result. Colorado did what they had to in order to leave with the points. LA sure didn’t. LA’s poor road record the last few years continues and my 100% road record (every game I’ve see LA play away from So Cal they’ve lost) is maintained. Any Rapids fans wanna fund my future attendance at Galaxy games in Denver? (Well, it was worth a try)

Hopefully, Sampson can sort things out by Saturday when the team heads to Dallas. But I don’t have much confidence in him as a coach so I’m not getting my hopes up.
  Here come the Big Boys
The LA Times is reporting that Chelsea, AC Milan and Real Madrid will be in the US next month playing MLS teams.

Real will play a couple of games in LA at the HDC. One of them will be against LA Galaxy, the second opponent hasn't been named yet. Chelsea will be in DC playing DC United and AC Milan will play the Fire in Chicago. Milan and Chelsea will play against each other as well.

AEG/MLS/SUM--or at least one of those intertwined organizations bought the rights and contacts to the Champions World tour last month which has brought top European teams to the US the last couple of summers. Now this event has a new twist.

Also, last summer AEG owned LA Galaxy had been working to bring Real Madrid to LA for a friendly. Looks like it took another year to organize.

I'm sure we'll be hearing more about this in the next few weeks.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
  Not content to be the cRapids
So the Galaxy are in Denver tonight. It'll be my first chance to see a decent MLS match in person this season. Sorry Rapids fans, your team hasn't counted as 'decent' so far this season. Even Fernando Clavijo agrees with me.

"Right now, we're playing for our jobs," Clavijo said. "It's not about winning and losing anymore. It is about making the mistakes every game that are costing us the games, and being responsible for what we do."

Clavijo said some players will be dropped from the first team in response to the Crew loss and they can improve or become surplus.

We'll see how they do tonight. Look for me among the tens of fans at Invesco tonight. I'll be the one in the Galaxy colors.
  Smurf..errrr Quake Quotes
Is it me, or have the Quakes got more media coverage (at least in the San Jose Mercury News) after the rumors of the possibility of the team moving first came to light?

I have to laugh at how Ann Killion is now the voice of the fans these days.

OK, OK, we get it. Everything in the AEG universe -- the MetroStars, the Los Angeles Galaxy, dead Egyptians -- has priority over the Earthquakes. The Earthquakes, despite winning two Major League Soccer championships in the past four years, are the team AEG loves to hate.
She sure sounds bitter. What she didn't mention was that if anyone showed up for games at Spartan Stadium, maybe Anchutz would be more important than the dead Egyptians.

Of course, the man in the middle, Alexi Lalas is much more diplomatic with his comments about his employer.

I said this before, I work for AEG. With all respect to the A, the E is what we are all about. We will have a team that will entertain collectively and individually. We need players, we need coaches and we need a front office staff that understands their responsibility to entertain, promote and sacrifice for this team on and off the field. I want players with ability first and foremost, I want players with personality and I want players with character. Its what everybody here demands, its what our fans demand, and its what our fans deserve and ultimately it is what is going to enable us to win championships.
But then again, the Metros are one of the teams AEG loves.

Good luck Alexi.
  Kids World Cup
I caught most of the U-20 US-Germany game last night. It reminded me of the game the men played in Korea in 2002. The US dominated the match and should have scored...but the German defense was well organized and kept the US from scoring.

Still, for a 0-0 draw, I found the match highly entertaining and now with the US all but through to the next round, I can't wait to see how far they go.

Sigi seems to have landed on his feet. He's got the boys looking like they can go all the way. Take note Mr Hamilton, he's one of the best coaches in the country and you threw him away in favor of Sampson.
  Copa Libertadores revisited
I've said for a while that it would be great if the MLS Champions could play in the Copa Libertadores. However, after what happened last night, perhaps we should wait for COMNEBOL to sort things out a bit.

It's bad enough that they scheduled Copa Libertadores games at times when players have double commitments (I guess MLS isn't the only place where this is a problem after all). But after last nights events, something needs to be done to better organize things.

At the end of the day, it's the players and the fans that get screwed while those calling the shots are laughing all the way to the bank--damn, I sound like some bleeding-heart Liberal there.

Congrats to Chivas Mexico on advancing to the Semis. At least they are doing better than their boys in the US.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
  Wiz may stay put
I blogged quite a bit about the sale of the Wizards a few weeks ago. It now looks like Andrew Murstein may have some competition in his bid to buy Kansas City.

It seems a local group is being put together to keep the team in town. San Jose may or may not--depending on how you read yesterday's news--be staying in the Bay Area. Looks to me there may be more investors than available teams right now. AEG and Hunt could end up owning fewer teams at this rate...oh yeah; I forgot that AEG is selling DC United as well.

All positive news if you ask me.
  If Australia can move to Asia.....
...and Israel can be in Europe...why can't the US be in South America...sorta?

Nick Green in the Daily Breeze bring up a topic which as been discussed to death on the BigSoccer Boards to death the last few years. Why not merger CONCACAF and CONMEBOL? His argument is that playing tougher competition will make US Soccer better. He even has quotes from Steve Sampson...

"We would grow much faster as a soccer playing nation if we competed with the likes of the South American countries," he said. "With all due respect to the Central American countries they just don't have the infrastructure nor the finances to look to the long term and build for the long term. That makes it difficult for them to play at a high level for a consistent period of time. So the U.S. would benefit certainly from playing South American and even Asian and European teams more often."

...and Landon Donovan...
"We're accustomed to the style Central American and Caribbean teams play andyou learn to be good at that style," he said. "But that doesn't translate into playing well against other teams around the world. ... Certainly we struggleagainst European teams just because of the style of play."

...to back this up.

I'm not sure I entirely agree that this is a good thing. Granted, playing Brazil or Argentina wouldn't be a bad thing...but it would be taking a huge risk on qualifying for the finals. South American teams won't be the push-over we see in the likes of Panama or Trinidad. Of course, all this will probably be moot anyway. FIFA organizations are more interested in money and politics than what is the best for the game...hang on, is the US improving good for the game? I dunno where I'm going with this. Let's just say, I don't see it happening. The closest the US will come will be getting invited to the Copa America and probably declining the bid as it's played during the MLS season
Monday, June 13, 2005
  First it was the Home Depot Center.....
...now we have Pizza Hut Park. I guess it could have been a worse name. what am I saying? If some corporation is willing to through enough money behind the project to make it work, it's a good thing.

So, what will fans nickname the place?

I'm guessing you'll be able to get a decent slice at games.
  Man U fans still pony up
According to the (London) Times only 320 Manchester United season ticket holders didn't renew their tickets for next season. Losing only 320 after having a record year for season ticket sales is pretty darn good...Especially when you look at how well the team did on the pitch.

So much for all the boycotts and fans protesting the purchase of the club by Glazer by burning their renewal forms. The demand for tickets seems to still be there.

I'm betting at the end of the day, ticket sales will be as good as ever and the prices will still go up...and Glazer will be laughing all the way to the bank.
  The end for San Jose?
According to Metro Fansite, MetroEmpire, Alexi Lalas will be taking the helm at the Meadowlands shortly. The article provides lots of speculation but I'm betting the key part of the article is that the team from the city by the bay are going to be history in the not too distant future.

UPDATE: Looks like Soccernet (ESPN) has picked up on this as well. At least it adds legitimacy to the rumor.

Another UPDATE: Wow, now we have come comments from the man. And in true Lalas fashion, he delivers a good one.
"We have a lot of work to do," Lalas said. "We need to strive to become the first superclub to emerge from MLS. The race is on for that distinction, but I'll be damed if I'll let the poseurs in L.A. beat us to the punch."
It wasn't that long ago that he was one of those "poseurs in L.A." I guess a couple of years in San Jose can make you forget your glory years. Of course, I'll take those comments from Lalas more seriously once the Metros actually win something.
  My boring weekend
Well, this weekend wasn’t the best for watching footie in this country. Ok, so I caught bits of the Holland vs Japan U-20 game on Friday night. It was a good way to start the weekend. It was a wide-open end-to-end game that finished 2-1 to the home team.

Saturday morning I got to see the US kids take on the Argie youth as well. Great game and the American youngsters won. It was good to see Adu, Spector, Barrett and Gaven playing at this level. Adu didn't have a great game but I love watching him take on defenders at full speed. The guy who really caught my eye was Marvell Wynne. I thought he looked solid and I'm sure we'll be seeing him with an MLS team soon.

Too bad that was the highlight of my viewing this weekend. My month-old son and I settled down to watch Columbus vs Colorado...but wisely, he fell asleep as soon as it started...only a month old and he already knows boring footie when he sees it....ok, maybe it was a coincidence. I ended up doing chores while the match was on.

The LA-Real game was a bit better...but not much. At least LA can create chances. Too bad LA has to rely on Donovan to do everything. Is it me...or is Kirovski a striker than can't shoot? I maybe wrong, but I'm pretty sure the only goals he's scored this season have come from direct free kicks. It would be nice if he could hit a moving ball and get it on target once in a while.

With half the MLS matches being played on Sunday this week, why did FSC bother to produce an MLS Wrap? Wouldn't it have been more worthwhile to do it Sunday evening this week?

Looks like Chivas managed to steal a point at home. It's amusing that both goals in that match against San Jose were scored by LA Rejects. What's the record for worst record in an MLS season? Chivas have to be on pace to hit that one.

Thank God for the Youth Championship matches...otherwise, the weekend would have been worse.
Friday, June 10, 2005
  I hate it when this happens
I'd been thinking of posting a blog on how we've seen a split develop between MLS teams so far this season. New England, Dallas and LA are clearly the class of the league right now. Chivas, Salt Lake and possibly Colorado are in the bottom group. The remaining teams are somewhere in the middle

Anyway, I would have posted a whole blog on this, but Scott Tann has already done it...and done a much better job than I would have.
  Over there.....
So, the FIFA U-20 World Championship starts today. Tomorrow, the US kids take on Argentina in their first match. FIFA.com has a nice piece on the build-up Sigi Schmid has had with the team. I'll be tuning into FSC tomorrow morning to check out the match.
  Rules changed for the Reds
Ok, so UEFA show how spineless they are and Liverpool will play in the first qualifying round of the Champions League next season. Sorry, but I still don't agree with this.

The key point of the deal are:

I guess I shouldn't be sad that Chelsea, Arsenal and Man U will get less money because of Liverpool inclusion...it's not like the need the cash. I wonder if that last point will ever come into play again? My question is, does anyone know who got left out now that Liverpool are in?

Anyway, this is the end of it. Good luck to them. Should be interesting to see how they perform in some small former Soviet Republic in the middle of the summer. Will we hear complaints about the lack of summer break or too many early fixtures now?

I'm sure I'll hear it from my Scouse mates now. :)

UPDATE: I only posted this an hour ago and already I found Scousers are moaning about the decision.

"Having to play these qualifying rounds is an insult to the name of Liverpool Football Club. "We should have told them to stick it, gone into the Uefa Cup, and gone for the Premier League title instead."

Perhaps if you'd have gone after the Premier League title and managed to finish above Everton, you wouldn't be in this situation.

Aside from not letting us in at all, could Uefa have given us anything less?

Yeah, they could have told you to enjoy a good run in the UEFA Cup.

"It could be a minus rather than a bonus. You could see Liverpool finishing half-way down the league next season just because of the extra physical pressure on the players."

Yep, only a couple spots lower than you finished this season.

Of course, now we have another twist as well. It seems to Premier League is now insisting that Man City get Liverpool's UEFA Cup spot.

When will it end? This is just getting silly now. Of course, none of this would have happened if UEFA or the English FA would have just stuck to the rules in the first place and said only the top four finishers in the league get spots.

Don't get me wrong, I was happy to watch Liverpool's run in the Champions League this season. The final was a classic. However, all this silliness about defending their title should have been moot from the start. Now the rules are changed going forward and let's hope teams will just have larger squads and we don't have this sort of thing again.

Thursday, June 09, 2005
  AEG sells another one
It looks like DC United will have new ownership in the not too distant future. I guess this means AEG will be down to owning 4 teams with San Jose probably having a new owner (and a new city) some time soon.

Ok, so Payne's people are going to put up $20 million for one of the most successful teams in the league. My memory is a little fuzzy but Vargara paid $10 million last summer for Chivas (more to put the team in LA) and wasn't the fee for a team back in '96 only $5 million to get going? Looks to me like MLS teams are a good investment...at least in terms of resale.

I'm betting AEG stay involved in the DC stadium project if they can ever get it off the ground. AEG do a great job of entertainment facility development and management...it's just been my experience that they haven't always done a great job of putting a team package together (read through my entire blog for numerous examples)

In all, this is a good thing.

On a similar note, it looks like a team in San Antonio any time soon is now dead and buried. Toronto, Houston, Seattle, St. Louis, Rochester, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia are now the primary focus for future MLS expansion. When was St. Louis added to the mix?
  Sleep Deprived World Cup Qualifier
As if having a newborn at home keeping you up at all hours isn’t bad enough, but someone (US Soccer, SUM, ESPN…one or all of them) decided to delay the broadcast of last nights Panama vs. USA game until 11PM (Mountain). Yeah, you folks on the East Coast have more to complain about…but I’m going to complain anyway. After all, maybe it’s just me but that basebore game sure didn’t look to exciting. Did it really pull more viewers? I guess I should just be thankful it didn’t go extra innings or something.

Anyway, there was a match. I hafta admit that when I wasn’t falling asleep, I actually enjoyed it. The first half was probably the best played 45 minutes I’ve seen from the USofA in a while. But most importantly, there were three quality goals which took the boisterous crowd out of the game by half time. The team moved the ball around well—the passing which led to the second goal was pure class—and didn’t let the antics of the Panamanian players get to them. Maybe it’s just me, but when that one guy went rolling around after a slight nudge in the first couple minutes...and the ref called the foul, I had a feeling things wouldn’t be good. Honestly, the ref did a poor job of calling the game for the most part. In my sleep depraved state, I really felt he made a lot of calls that were more dive than contact. But the US players got away from a potentially dangerous CONCACAF road match with 3 points and only 3 cards. I’ll take the points.

Was anyone else watching the match bothered by the way the Argentina vs Brazil game was scrolled? The game was in the Argie Capitol, not in Rio. Guess it’s just me but it looked strange seeing what looked like a road win for Argies. Maybe it was just more lack of sleep on my part.

Anyway, congratulations to Argentina, Japan, Iran, South Korea and Saudi Arabia who can now book their flights to Frankfort for next summers World Cup. We now know 6 of the 32 teams that will be involved.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
  Missed marketing opportunity?
At the end of the US games these days the PA has been playing a tune “The Red, White and the Blue”. I’m guessing I’m not the only one to notice this anyway. Anyone know the name of the tune or who it's by?

It’s probably not a great tune--I've only heard a small piece of it--these types of songs usually aren’t. However, I thought it might be fun to get the CD to get me in the mood for future games. I looked on USSoccer.com and found nothing in their store. Anyone have any ideas where it can be found?

Why don’t they play that as the intro to TV broadcasts?

Anyone hear Football’s coming home by Skinner and Baddiel? Perhaps it’s just me but it just seems like US Soccer is blowing an opportunity here. The Yankee version isn’t as good…but it’s better than nothing.
  Catching up with after a long weekend
One thing they don't tell you about having a newborn son...visits from the family take up a lot of your time. So, while playing tour guide this weekend, I only managed to catch the second half of the US-Costa Rica game and MLS Wrap. Guess it could have been worse. I really need to get my Tivo hooked back up.

Anyway, while catching up two articles caught my attention. I'm not sure I've mentioned this on my blog before, but Nick Green at the Daily Breeze in LA has become my favorite Soccer Reporter in this country. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he holds much the same opinions as I...or maybe it's the fact that he calls it as he sees it (which is often the same as I see it). So, I come across this piece he wrote in the Breeze about tonight's Galaxy vs. Yokohama game. Then compare it to what was published in the OC Register and you'll see what I mean. If the sport and MLS are going to succeed, we need to media to do more than just regurgitate what some MLS PR person would write. My hope is that if enough of the media point out where MLS is selling us less than the best possible product, the bosses will finally do something about it and give us a better product all around....one can dream right?

So this leads me to the main point I wanted to make after this weekend. So, after 10 years, it looks like my biggest complaint about the league these days is that so many matches are played without the best players. The last two weekends have been the best examples of this. I had planned on running a list of how many players each team was missing due to international call-ups...but I'm lazy and you just need to look at the squads the US, Guatemala and Costa Rica (are there any Tico's playing in MLS now?...haven't had enough coffee yet today) to get an idea of how depleted MLS rosters were.

You take away the top players in the league and sell the games as meaningful and count the results in the standings....yeah, that's really giving the fans value for money. I don't know about the rest of the league, but at the HDC I was paying much the same ticket price for Galaxy games as I did the last time I saw Ipswich play in the Premiership (honest, it was only a couple years ago...maybe 3...they'll be back). Paying Premiership prices to see MLS Reserves is hardly value for money. C'mon Mr. Garber, you keep talking about bringing the MLS schedule in line with the FIFA International calendar. All you have to do is have weekends off when there are International games. Heck, there's a division of your conglomerate who own marketing/broadcast rights for the international games (for both the US and Mexico) why cannibalize your product with such conflicting choices? Let the fans of the sport focus on (and possibly travel to) the Internationals on those weekends and then everyone can focus on league fixtures the once all the top players return to their clubs.

Speaking of MLS matches, I had a feeling with a new coach on board to give the players added incentive, Chivas may get their second win of the season...and first on the road. Boy was I wrong. Is it me or do they just suck? Even with former Galaxy stars Ezra Hendrickson and Ryan Suarez in their backline, their defense is like a sieve. How long will it take Vargara's crew to fix the damage they've done?

Oh yeah, I mentioned it a while ago but the US stuffed Costa Rica in SLC on Saturday. It was a much better performance than we saw last week in Chicago against England. But how good would the US be right now without Kasey Keller? Good result, on to Panama tonight. How many are planning to stay up late and possibly have little sleep before going to work tomorrow? Will that basebore game that's on when the US-Panama game is being played really pull more viewers? We've got a long way to go.

Finally, speaking of the World Cup Qualifiers, I was happy to come across the HexagonalBlog this morning. I don't know who the guy who's publishing the blog is, but he's doing a great job of rounding up everything that's anything related to the regions best trying to make it to Germany next summer.
  Still trying to bend the rules
It's looking like Liverpool will get the chance to defend their Cup according to the Guardian. UEFA are now looking at bumping someone else instead. Still, it all sounds much like the offer by Welsh side TSN to play a home and home for TSN's spot. I still think it the best solution...but what do I know.

One question, wouldn't it be amusing if the Scouse mob can't get through the qualifying rounds?
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
  Carson Galaxy???!!!
Sounds to me like the Assemblyman from Anaheim is a bit bitter about the Angels new name.

Quote from LA Times article

Sports teams: Would ban professional teams from using the name of a city where they don't play most of their games unless they get a city's permission or provide disclosure. AB 1041 by Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Anaheim).

What next? The Oakland Warriers. Of course, we should all be used to elected officals wasting tax payers money on silly stuff like this.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
  Slap on the wrist?
Ah, silly season is well in effect now. It's kinda sad really, but the most entertainment is still coming from England. How long before stories like this will become common over here? Probably never.

So, it seemsChelsea were talking with Ashley Cole while still under contract with Arsenal. This is a big no-no with the FA. It’s such a bad thing that they fined Chelsea £300,000. Um, I'm betting Roman Abromovich has that loose change floating around in his couch. They also fined Cole £100,000 and Jose Mourinho £200,000.

Now, I don't know but those fines really seem a slap on the wrist. That's really going to put those involved in the poor house.

Of course, if the FA really wanted to punish those involved, they would have taken points away...but that won't be done unless they get caught again. Yes, caught. C'mon, you know the big clubs do this all the time.

Wouldn't it be good if last nights Metros/Chicago match were as entertaining?
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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