Ramblings of a Soccer Junky
Sunday, November 13, 2005
  Boy is this Crow Sandwich good!
I’ve been negative about Sampson from the moment he was hired as Galaxy coach…I’ve been disappointed by the performance of Pando Ramirez all season…but this sandwich sure tastes damn good and I don’t mind being wrong right now.  Sampson brought LA the double and Pando scored the goal that clinched it.

C’mon, no one thought it possible.  I mean, LA had the ninth best record in the league this season and only made the playoffs because the Western Conference had two expansion teams.  However, all that is thrown out the window because LA was able to do the business on the day.  

And boy did they do the business.  Yeah, the game went to overtime.  But, LA did control the midfield for the majority of the match.  The maintained the majority of possession and created the better scoring opportunities.  Nicol (and Mariner—they do seem to coach as a team) made a number of changes but Sampson was able to counter then.  It was a great chess match.  I was on the edge of my seat for most of the 120 minutes.  What is it with Guatemalan goal scorers in overtime in finals against the Revs?  

The only downer was that LA keep going to overtime when they win the Cup and ABC have to switch to some other programming before we are able to see the boys lift the trophy.  But I’ll get over it—I’m sure there will be a DVD released sometime in the next few months that will allow me to see that.

I’m going to continue to enjoy this Crow Sandwich for at least a couple of months until LA start their Champions Cup campaign.  Tuesday is my birthday and I couldn’t have asked for a better present.
  Moving Sucks
As if taking the GMAT this week wasn’t enough…I’m leaving the Rockies and moving to Hooserville next week.  So, I really have not had the chance to get online much lately.  But I’ve still found time to have some games on while the wife has me cleaning everything before getting someone in to clean the place—I’ll never understand my wife’s logic there.

So, last week I was among about 20 Galaxy fans at Invesco braving the cold to witness what none of us thought possible—at least nothing I’d voice in public—making it to the MLS Cup Final.  Personally, I’m still not convinced Steve Sampson is a great coach.  However, I can’t fault him in the last two matches.  Last Saturday’s game plan may not have been the most attractive soccer, but LA did what they had to, win.  Even more impressive they won on the road in freezing conditions (I had snow at my house that morning—hardly conditions SoCalers enjoy).  LA won the match thanks to some great defense.  Ty Marshall was every bit as key to LA’s success as Donovan.  Marshall was obviously missed in the first match against San Jose, but he’s been key in the two matches he’s played.  Of course Donovan’s goals, the second in particular, were what put things over the top.  After the second one went in, I know I went crazy.  The improbable was happening; LA had booked its ticket to Dallas.

I have a theory which I think explains why LA has had the success they’ve had.  It’s tough for a team to be successful in both League (regular season) and Cup (playoffs or, well…the Cup).  Look at leagues around the world.  You’ll hardly ever see teams able to win both.  Some teams are better able to be successful over the long haul (the entire season) and others are better at winning over 90 or 180 minutes.  Just look at Liverpool last season.  They won the Champions Cup, but weren’t able to do well enough in their domestic competition to qualify (without a bunch of politics) for this season in order to defend their title.

On Sunday, I got to thaw-out while watching the lively NE-Chicago match.  What an entertaining match it was too.  You have to love the drama a match like that creates.  BTW, if you haven’t see “MLS Pictures” documentary they are showing on FSC, do it.  The match seems even more intense with background NFL Films type narration.  Anyway, congrats to the Revs for holding on (they did seem to bunker down a bit early) and earn the right to face LA this afternoon.  Should be a good match.  I’ll be happy to take the score the two teams had the last time they met in the final.

It does seem odd that MLS would schedule the final on the same weekend as the World Cup Qualifying playoffs.  Thankfully, neither of the MLS teams in today’s match had players involved in those playoffs.

I enjoyed what I was able to see of the Scotland-US match yesterday.  Both coaches were using the match to look at some new players so the result wasn’t ever going to prove much.  But it’s always fun to see a bunch of players fighting for future consideration.  I thought both teams played well.  For the US, Wolff and Spector seemed to help their case for inclusion in Arena’s squad next summer.  Beasley also proved—in my eyes—he is probably the most dangerous field player we currently have.  In the end, it was a fair result and I enjoyed the football.  Oh, and FSC’s prematch coverage was pretty sweet as well.  Interesting they had a Scot in the studio and another—well, Scottish parents—in the commentary booth.  I hope coverage like that is a sign of things to come.  A half-hour pre-match show for big games always adds to the excitement…well, at least that is my opinion…and it doesn’t hurt to be able to squeeze in a few extra ads during the build-up.

How ‘bout Man U beating Chelsea?  I wonder what the “Not 4 Sale” mob make of that one?

One final note before the wife makes me do some more packing.  Robin Frasier announced his retirement the other day.  I always thought he was a class act and was one of the best central defenders in the league…especially during his time at the Rose Bowl.  Good luck in whatever you do next Robin and thanks for helping to grow the sport in this country.
Friday, November 04, 2005
  The Traffic in Miami
My focus lately has been on the MLS playoff so it's good to find something else of interest.

Four years after MLS downsized their operation by laying off all their employees in Florida, Miami gets a new professional soccer team....and maybe two in the USL.

Yesterday, Traffic Sports USA announce they would be starting a USL Division 1 team in Miami next season. This is good news all around in my opinion.

If you think you've heard of Traffic Sports, you probably have. They were formerly known as Inter-Forever. They have worked with CONCACAF for several years marketing, promoting and running CONCACAF competitions (Gold Cup, World Cup qualifiers etc.) for a while now. They also have bought rights to a lot of matches--particularly in South America--and broadcast them through PPV outlets. So, they've got a lot of background in the sport....certainly more than AEG.

What I'm wondering is:

  1. Why did it take so long to get a new team in Miami?
  2. Why wasn't someone like Traffic approached sooner?

If run correctly, a team in Miami should to very well. The fact that the new team will probably be playing a lot closer to the city center...one reason many believe the Fusion failed.

Additionally, Traffic knows the fans of the sport and how to reach them. Well, the Spanish speaking fans in this country. They've been doing that for years. Seems to me it will be a good fit for everyone involved.

Oh, and it looks like another group will will be putting a team in the Fusion's old stadium in Fort Lauderdale. Should be interesting to see how this rivalry grows.

I wonder how long it will take for Soccer Silicon Valley to approach the USL (or vice-versa) if the Quakes do move? It seems to me a great alternative and if the USL does find the right owners and continues to grow the way it has been the last couple of years, that we could see a situation where USL has teams that can compete with MLS sides...well, maybe one day. But the more MLS teams more/relocate/fold, the more opportunities with a fan base already in place for USL.

Well, it could. USL offers fewer barriers to entry than MLS. Start-up costs are a lot lower and running a team in USL doesn't offer as many restrictions as MLS. Ya never know.

But all that remains to be seen. In the mean time, congratulations to the fans in Miami and good luck to Miami FC.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005
  Shades revisited
Ok, so no one seemed to get my obscure 80's band reference the other day. But the news that was hinted the other day has come to fruition.

Forget about the Spanish language right, let's talk about the English language rights for the next two World Cups. $100 million! Maybe that's not a ton if you compare it to NFL or NBA TV rights, but when you compare that to what SUM/MLS paid four years ago, it's an increase of 150%!!!

Four years ago, no TV bothered to bid on those rights and SUM/MLS was created and bought the rights, then time on ABC and ESPN in order to show the matches. Now, ABC/ESPN had to bid against NBC to get the rights.

Now, I'm no expert on these things, but I'm guessing those who paid SUM/MLS to flog their products and services during the matches (commercial free) got some pretty good return on their investment. Why else would the price of doing business go up so much?

Also, I'm kinda surprised NBC was even involved in the bidding. They've managed to shy away from paying for broadcast rights of sporting events the last few years...why are they suddenly bidding on the largest event on the planet? There has to be some money to be made by broadcasting soccer in this country after all.

All of this, of course, is great news for fans of the beautiful game in the US. My guess is that we'll see a lot more coverage during the World Cup in 2008. They'll need to insure they have plenty of pre and post game shows to fill with ads.

Also, this could have some good trickle down effects for MLS.

"It's important for FIFA and the network to work with MLS," FIFA's director of marketing and television Jerome Valcke said. "Soccer is not just about the World Cup. The national team, the domestic league must have exposure."

Garber said the announcement bodes well for MLS.

"This absolutely raises value of soccer as TV property in the United States," Garber said. "We stand to benefit by the raised value of the sport commercially."

So, does this mean MLS could be selling some broadcast rights for their matches to ABC/ESPN in the not too distant future? Will NBC (or Fox) try and get in on the act?

This is all good news any way you look at it. Top sports leagues didn't get where they are big having to buy air time in order to get their games broadcast. It's all baby steps, but this is a pretty big baby step in my opinion.

So, even with all the negative press the playoff structure MLS is getting right now, maybe the future for soccer in the US is getting brighter after all.
  Another pointless HT
Honestly, I don't know why they bother with a HT show at the MLS Cup final. I mean, who the f**k are Click Five? I guess they are looking at selling a few more tickets to the Soccer Mom crowd by having them play. But seriously, will anyone bother to watch?
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
  Some Best news
He's not out of the trouble yet, but it's good to hear that George Best's condition is improving.

"He's a little better and he's now off the ventilator, which is very good news," his physician, Dr. Roger Williams, said outside Cromwell Hospital. "He's recognizing people. He's better in that respect, but please don't run away with thinking he's fantastic because there's still a long way to go."
I'm hoping his condition continues to improve. BTW, did anyone else notice last week on the previews for next weeks Dream Team that Best does a cameo in this weeks show? Yes, I admit it. I watch Dream Team...what of it? We all have our secrets. ;)
  Ms Killion, you are so predictable
My favorite humor writer in NoCal does it again. I had to laugh when I read this.

But in retrospect, it all seems like a setup. The reward for the Earthquakes' outstanding season was an opening game at Los Angeles. They were playing an absurd format that sent the best team on the road to start. The Galaxy, of course, is the pet team of the Anschutz Entertainment Group, the owners that want to get rid of the Earthquakes.

And the Earthquakes were playing against their former star teammate, Landon Donovan.

"Landon knows how to rise to the occasion,'' Kinnear said.

And Donovan rose -- with two goals in the first leg, then doing just enough Saturday night, with an assist for the only goal the Galaxy needed to seal its series victory.

One can almost imagine the AEG executives laughing maniacally as they watched. Their evil plan had worked to perfection!

But no matter what AEG wants -- and, apparently, it wants to dump the Earthquakes in some soccer outpost -- league officials watching the game had to see the value of the San Jose Earthquakes.
I wanted to post her entire ed/op piece...but figured that section alone was plenty...but go ahead and read the whole thing...it's funny.

Now, the "chip on the shoulder"--"ugly red-headed step-child" act is getting a bit old. Fact is, AEG are a business and they are in business for one purpose, to make money. Fans in NoCal may think LA get favorable treatment, but it comes at a price...a hefty one every time a Galaxy fans enters the HDC and decided to buy a beer, or a dog...or anything for that matter. It costs some serious coin to be a Galaxy fan.

In addition, yeah your boy Landon is a sore subject...and will probably continue to me. Thing is, he had to earn the respect he now receives from Galaxy fans. If you had done a poll of Galaxy fans this time last year, at best they would have said they'd take him on the team...but with reservations. Honestly though, even though Landon did score a couple goals in the first leg, he didn't win the series single-handedly. I'd say Pablo Nagamura was much more an MVP the way he shut down San Jose's new poster boy, Dwayne DeRosario. On top of that, key players like Cobi Jones, Kevin Hartman, Tyrone Marshall and Peter Vaganes were in Galaxy colors long before AEG bought the team. So, that argument doesn't really hold water anyway.

Fact is, and I said this yesterday, one team did what it had to move on in the playoffs, yours didn't. Now, that's two competitions LA knocked San Jose out of this year. Where were your excuses when LA moved on in the Open Cup after winning at Spartan?

As for the "absurd format" of the playoffs? I don't recall many complaints about it in past seasons when the blue boys lifted the Cup. I didn't seem many complaints about the playoff format then. The playoffs do seem to be getting quite a bit of negative media right now. I've always thought it would be best if MLS had a home and home best goal series to decided the Champion, but I won't go into why that'll never happen right now.

I'd thought about doing some research to see how the playoffs have performed over the years...but I'm too lazy. Thankfully, Scaryice did it for me.

Over three years, 8 of 12 favorites have advanced in the quarterfinals under the aggregate system. How is that "making a mockery" of the regular season? You can't just look at this year's results. I don't know how deeply you analyze the stats, but I have some numbers for you. Looking at all previous MLS playoff matchups, the higher seeds advanced the following percentage of times:

Best 2/3: 71% (17 of 24)
First to 5: 72% (13 of 18)
Aggregate: 67% (8 of 12)
Single game: 62% (8 of 13)

It's virtually the same. The higher seeded teams are not at a disadvantage. It's true that they don't have quite the advantage they did under the previous systems, but the tradeoff in knowing the playoff dates for scheduling/tv purposes is worth it (or you'd be seeing lower attendances).
Thanks Scaryice. You proved what I believed to be true all along. What you do in the regular season does give a bit of help in the playoffs, but you still need to show up on the day of the playoffs if you are going to succeed.

Funny thing, no one complained about the playoff format 2 years ago when LA blew a 4-0 aggregate lead with 60 minutes left...I seem to recall the San Jose media were the first to hail the match the greatest MLS match ever. Boy things sure change with things don't go your way.

To be honest, I enjoy the LA-San Jose matches. Seriously, it's the only rivalry with a great history and the playoff matches this season have only added to that history. I hope we won't be seeing the Houston Smurfs next season. Funny thing though, rumor has it, when Herculez Gomez when to shake Dominic Kinnear's hand after the match on Saturday, Kinnear refused to shake his hand.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

To which, my boy Herc replied, "ok, I'll see you in Houston next season." The kid is more Mr. Galaxy thank Landon or Cobi these days. Sure, this adds more fuel to the fire. Of course, I can't verify the accuracy of this whole exchange, but I wouldn't discount it too quickly.

Anyway, on to Denver this weekend. I can't believe I'm having trouble getting to the game at this point. We are having trouble finding a babysitter for 6-month old Little PZ. Hopefully we can work things out by Saturday so I can join the fans heading to Invesco from SoCal. I'm reading that the Rapids are trying to overturn Nkong's Red Card. Sorry, but I can't see any reason why they would. I saw it. Yes, it wasn't intentional, but he did have his elbow out. He could do the same thing another 100 times and it wouldn't have been seen, but it was this time. If you are going to go for the ball with your elbows out, it's the risk you take.

Ok, so maybe I should look for something on the Revs-Chicago match this weekend...maybe tomorrow.

Who'd have thought the playoffs could be so fun?
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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