Ramblings of a Soccer Junky
Sunday, March 26, 2006
  6 days and counting...
It’s hard to believe that winter is almost over and MLS season is less than a week away…it’s cold here in Northern Indiana!!!  Yeah, I’m still missing LA.

Anyway, it seems Germany throttled the US the other day.  That’s what the score said.  Personally, I’m not too concerned.  I thought the final score flattered the Krouts a bit.  Sure, the US didn’t deserve a victory but it is still Spring Training.  Even the Yankee’s (MLB) lose a few this time of year.  

Speaking of baseball, I had to laugh when I read that MLB owners didn’t like the World Baseball Classic cuz it was taking players away from their teams to play meaningless games and potentially running the risk of injuring the players.  Have they been talking to certain Arsenal, Man U, Chelsea (enter several other names here) bosses?

I’ve been saying for some time that MLS teams should do more to encourage fans who want to travel to road games.  After all, a section of traveling fans at game will only add to the atmosphere at stadiums built for NFL teams.  People who make time in their schedule to spend an entire day just to watch 2 hours of footie have to be the type of people the league wants to attract.  On the East Coast, there are several teams close enough to make regular bus trips possible. Of course, people willing to spend the time in a bus will probably fork out a couple bucks to do so…but NY is willing to offer it as a freebie.  Nice.  Line up a corporate sponsor (ok, team owner) to pay for the marketing stint and suddenly get more people at games.  Create more atmosphere and have more people spending money on concessions--$5+ a beer sure helps the balance sheet.  Where’s the problem?  Well, Mr. Dyer over on MatchNight doesn’t think so.  I’ve a feeling that more teams will look into things like this.  I guess it’s easier to swallow when you’re on the outside looking in.

I caught some of the Alajuelense-America match the other night.  Sure, the Champions Cup has problems and will continue to do so for a while.  But it was a good match--even with the America Reserves starting--and a great crowd.  Hey, the Mexican league is the strongest (financially) league outside of Europe.  They easily have the most money to spend on talent in the region so yeah; they are going to dominate the competition.  However, just like in the Open Cup, it’s possible for teams to slip up.  Wasn’t it two Costa Rican teams in the final last year?  Give it time—and hopefully more money in MLS—and we’ll be seeing more games like that.

So, this (rumored) new team in the Philly area looks like it’s going to be owned by the guy who was looking at buying KC last summer.  Can’t say that’s a surprise.  Heck, it may actually happen.  It’s great to see more money coming into the league for new sources.  Oh, and more fans for Red Bull to drive to Rotes Bulle Stadion (I think I got my German right).

Hey, Reading won the Championship.  I would not have mentioned it if Ipswich weren’t playing such crap right now…but congrats to them…oh and now it looks like two more Yanks will be on teams at the top level.  
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
  The final warm-ups
So, Bruce and the boys will take a some small fish just before heading to Germany.  I think the match-ups and the schedule for this.  It (kinda) mirrors the schedule (short time frame/travel etc.) that they’ll be doing once they get to Germany.

On top of that, it’ll give the team a chance to really work with each other against decent (yeah, not great, but still decent) teams.

But the best bit, there’s a good chance I’ll be in Cleveland for the match against Venezuela.  Yeah, there I go again only thinking about myself.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
  Not just names...but colors too.
So, the other day I had a beef with all the name changes going on…well, today I’m gonna take things one step further.  At some point in the last 10 years (well, maybe 8 as I didn’t really mess with the internet much until ’98) I got on the MLSnet mailing list.  No biggie really.  I actually skim through them.  However, in the email I got today it advertised getting the new NYRB jersey.  WooHoo!! I get to see the new one already (I think to myself), but no.  We still only get a badge.  I hope that Adidas do a bit of a better job getting new replica shirts out than Nike.  Anyone remember how Nike was unable to provide Fire fans with jerseys to buy in ’98 cuz no one liked the name Nike wanted for the team?

Anyway, so I go browsing and find that 2 out of the 12 teams that will be taking the field in 2 weeks don’t have jerseys for sale.  In fact, I’ve never seen what either team will be wearing this season (though I’m sure someone reading this will inform me).  

My point is, with all this name changing/rebranding, fans don’t have as much as they could go get themselves ready for the new season.  It’s bad enough new shirts aren’t available to buy until the season is about to start (I still think smart business people would make sure they are ready by Christmas…but what do I know?) but it looks like fans in Houston and NY (or is it NJ?) won’t be able to show their team colors until sometime later.  

But there’s great business people in MLS HQ calling the shots…what do I know?
Friday, March 10, 2006
  The name game
Seriously, what’s in a name?  The last week has seen two of the 12 MLS teams change their names (or rebrand themselves, as Marketing types would say).   What a joke.  

OK, so Houston Earthquakes would have been about as strange as say the Utah Jazz or LA Lakers…mmm, they haven’t done too poorly.  So, the AEG brain trust went with Houston 1863 (I think I got the right year) as the team name.  Personally, I didn’t have much opinion of the name either way, but some activists in Texas made a big deal about the name etc.  Of course, no one mentioned the fact that the name of the city also…well, I’ll let you do your own history research on who Sam Houston was.

Now, they are Houston Dynamo (or is it Dynamo Houston?).  The name is great for Cold War Eastern European teams.  In fact, I highly recommend reading “Dynamo” by Andy Dougan. I’m just not sure about the rebranding of team in North America with that name.  We can do better.

Now we also have New York Red Bull (or is it Red Bulls?) in the mix.  Yeah, I know Red Bull have paid a lot of money to do all this and at the end of the day, I’m certain we’ll see a much better product because of this.  My big concern here is what happens if Red Bull sells the team 10-15 years from now?  Will there be yet another brand change?  BTW, has there been any backlash from New Jersey officials about the new name yet?

The best change MLS has made in his short history was to dump the Clash name and go with the name of the former NASL team.  It had more identity, people knew it and it worked…plus, all the organizations success came while it had that name.  Of course, they are no more.

I’m all for the league making money and keeping the professional game going in this country.  However, sometimes there can be too much effort put into the marketing side of this.  Wouldn’t it be great to see a bit more effort on the actual product?
  R.I.P Doug Hamilton
Some things are more important that soccer.  I know I’ve been a huge critic of Galaxy GM, Doug Hamilton the last few years.  I still believe he missed the point on so many things related to developing a solid fan base.  However, news of his sudden death has me in shock.  I would never wish anything like this on anyone.  Despite my opinion of him, he did many great things for the Galaxy and was a major part in making them the club they are today.  He wasn’t very old.  I know he leaves behind a young family—I’ve seen him with his son on several occasions.  My condolences go to him and his family.  RIP Doug.

This news really puts Wednesday night’s match in perspective.  Yeah, it was heartbreaking watching LA go out that way when they were 2-0 up at the half.  I thought it was a great effort from the boys.  Their legs just weren’t there.  Saprissa are no slouch either.  There’s a reason they are always one of the best teams in the region.  To have them against the ropes while still in preseason though shows how good LA can be.  Heck, the Revs did a solid job as well and didn’t lose until very late.

I really wish there were eight more teams in this stage of the Champions Cup.  This would allow (MLS) teams in preseason more of a chance to in better “match shape”.  But until the money is there, we probably won’t see that.  On to the regular season.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
  The curse of LA's #9 shirt
My favorite media-type, Nick Green had an interesting piece in the Daily Breeze earlier this week about LA's Memo Gonzalez.  Ya see, going into his 4 season in LA, I think everyone is about to agree his time in the sash has been a flop.    

I remember when he was drafted.  There was all kinds of talk about him being the next Mauricio Cienfuegos—there will never be another Cien…he was a class act and the best player ever to play for LA—but things haven’t worked out that way.

Everyone seems to have their theories on what went wrong with Memo, but for me, everything started to go downhill for him when he selected the #9 shirt his second year.

Let’s look at who has had the #9 shirt for LA since MLS started in ’96:

…and I assume Memo will wear the #9 shirt again this season.

Yeah, the Brian’s did well up in No Cal once they left LA, but neither impressed at the Rose Bowl.  Everyone on that list has been a disappointment in LA.  Will anyone be brave enough to wear the shirt once it’s vacated by Memo?
  I guess it's how you look at things
The other day I posted how I was happy with the progress the Champions Cup has made the last few years.  Now, SI contributor, Luis Bueno, tears apart the competition.

Now, I'm the first to admit that I can be naive about many things. However, I'm betting Mr. Bueno had even heard of the competition 5 years ago...let alone followed it.  Hardly anyone did.  At least now some SI writer is actually commenting on it. Good or bad, any publicity is good...right?    

My problem is what he’s making the comparison.  Yeah, the CONCACAF Champions Cup is nowhere near being an equal to the UEFA Champions League.  I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone say otherwise.  However, let’s compare the competition today with where it was 5 years ago when LA won.  Five years ago, the competition was held over a two-week period in the LA area.  The matches were played at Cal State Fullerton and the Coliseum.  There was hardly any media covering the event and TV cameras…yeah right.  I forget what the attendance for the final was when LA captured the trophy but there was no need to play the match at the Coliseum.  They probably could have played the match at some local park and everyone in attendance (myself included) could have had a good view of the match just gathering around the touchline.

My point is, Mr. Bueno is missing the big picture here trying to…I’m not sure what he’s trying to prove here.  The Champions Cup has come a long way in a short time.  Whether or not it’ll ever rival the Champions League or the Copa Libratadors is another matter.  However, as with MLS, change doesn’t happen over night.  Its small meaningful steps that need to be made as the sport grows in this country and the region.  I’m happy with the progress being made.  Now, what baby steps are coming for the Open Cup…it’s long overdue for some improvements.
Friday, March 03, 2006
  Is this Bull?
Probably not. The latest is that AEG could be selling the Metro's to Red Bull. Honestly, I don't see this as a bad thing. The guy loves sports and own's a couple of teams in Austria as well as a couple F1 racing teams. Yeah, he'll be in it for the money just like everyone else. But the real question is, will AEG allow Lalas to stay with Metro Red Bull or will Lalas finally take Doug Hamilton's place in LA?
Thursday, March 02, 2006
  Busy week
I  cannot believe this is the first time in over a week that I’ve had the chance to actually sit down in front of my computer and post something.  Boy, has my life changed.  The good news is that I still caught a couple of games during that time…the bad news is that I completely forgot to record the US game yesterday…I’m still kicking myself on that one.  I saw the highlights yesterday and it seems the US did well.  It wasn’t that long ago that the US had never beaten a European team in Europe…what’s that, three now?  

So, LA could only manage a 0-0 draw at home to Saprissa last week.  Actually, I wasn’t too disappointed by the result.  For a team in preseason, I thought LA actually looked good.  They moved the ball around well and created some good chances…they just couldn’t finish them.  With another two weeks together, I can see LA managing to move on.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that the Champions Cup was almost an after thought.  Teams would all meet in one place—usually LA but Vegas was the destination once—and play a single elimination competition.  It’s making steps in the right direction.  The current home/away format seems to be bringing bigger crowds to games and heck, it’s on TV!!  I’d love to see it grow even further.  Perhaps having more than MLS and Mexican teams with a couple Costa Rican teams with whoever else makes it through the qualifiers entering at this stage.  I’m sure one more round won’t kill the MLS or Mexican clubs but I’m sure the argument against is money.  I’m sure the USSF has a fair bit of say in how the Champions Cup is run…isn’t it ironic that my desired changes for both competitions are much the same?  Maybe not.  Either way, things are still moving in the right direction and you have to love that.

Oh, and how ‘bout the Man Utd Bucs showing up to play on Sunday?  Glazier brought them some silverware.  I wonder what the FCUM supporters made of that.  I haven’t seen/heard any protests lately.

More later.
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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