Ramblings of a Soccer Junky
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
  They're starting to get it....
I haven't had the chance to be online much the last few days so when I saw this report about ESPN's new media blitz for the upcoming MLS season...well, I had to make the time.

But before I was able to post anything, I found that my buddy, Mr. Fish, had already tracked down the ads online. Check them out...they're as good as I'd hoped based on the earlier report. The ads are focused on attracting non-soccer fans. Anything to dispel the myths that the sport is just 22 guys kicking a ball around is a positive step...well, that's my opinion.

Ok, so it took a couple days (had to work on Sunday) but I finally got to see Sunday's game. I've read a ton of blog posts on it. Basically, all I have to say is that it was a good performance. Landon was in top form which I found interesting this early in the season...and the Interim Tag should be removed for Bradley's title soon. Oh, and his son surprised me with his performance too.

Add Portland to the list of potential expansion locations. I almost moved there a couple years ago.

Oh, back to my school work...

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Saturday, March 24, 2007
  It's not quite the same kinda global brand I'd associate with CitiBank
Until recently, I'd never heard of Herbalife. Heck, I've now heard of them but still don't really have a clue what they sell. Maybe that's why they are forking out all this money so people like me will buy their product. I dunno. I think I would have preferred to wear CitiBank on my chest. However, the money is good, though not what had been rumored a few weeks ago. Bottom line, they sealed the deal.

Now, I guess I can't really have too much of a beef on the Herbalife deal. I mean, back in my youth, I'd have probably jumped at the "Herb O' Life" name in a StickyGreen/420/KGB kinda way. But I'm grown up now (well, unless you ask my wife) and that type of thing doesn't bring quite the same humor. Well, I was a Beavis and Butthead addict as well....but I'm probably admitting more than I should.

Actually, I really shouldn't complain too much about the name of sponsors on shirts. Back in the early Nineties, Ipswich had a local company named Fisons as their sponsor. Why not? They are based in Ipswich (well, before they were bought out) and produced a product which was used in the area. However, when you realize that Fisons was a chemical company who produced fertilizer....well, it really was an invitation to rival fans to comment on how "shit" we were.

But money is money and as I'm not paying the bills, I guess I'll just have to shut up and advertise a company I know nothing about.

Which leads me to 2 final comments. 1) Herbalife is spending a lot of money to get their name out yet I really don't know much about them (nor do I have the desire to) I must not be in their target demographic. 2) They sure have a ton of cash available in their marketing budget...there's got to be a decent markup on their product.

UPDATE: My buddy Dan Loney has now caught me up to speed with his piece(s) on Herbalife. I kinda wish I hadn't read them now.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007
  Let's go shopping
So, Nike and US Soccer have released a new 3rd Jersey which the team will wear for the first time on Sunday. I can't say I'm really excited...then again, it's not awful either. It's just... I dunno. Pinstripes? Aren't they supposed to make you look slimmer or something? Better check the roster to see which players on the squad need the slimming agent.

teams. If it were my decision, I'd make sure next seasons jerseys are ready to be ordered for Christmas (or whatever gift giving event you celebrate that time of year). Heck, with only a few weeks until the new What I really don't understand is the timing. Why bring out a 3rd jersey now? Aren't 3rd jersey's supposed to be a merchandising tool to part fans from more of their hard earned cash? MLS and US Soccer always seem to release these at strange times. It's March now. Why didn't they release something four months ago before Christmas when parents/friends/spouses of soccer fans are looking for things the soccer fan in their lives would enjoy unwrapping? It's the same for MLSMLS season, has anyone seen the new jerseys available anywhere? Maybe I've been looking in the wrong places...heck, does anyone know what colors LA will be wearing, or are they going to change mid-season?

What do I know? I'm only a customer.

NOTE: Image used without the permission of US Soccer or Nike in case you are wondering.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007
  And now...the end is near....
I wish I could remember more about the match like who it was against and the result. However, I'm pretty sure it was in July of 2002 and it was against KC or Columbus or someone like that. LA lost a match at the Rose Bowl and just looked awful doing it. I watch the match from my seat in Sec 5 Row 13 (right on the halfway line...great seats) thinking it was going to be another disappointing playoffs.

The next day I read in the paper (I'm pretty sure it was in the LA Times) that once in the locker room after the match, Cobi Jones had written the words "PRIDE" on a chalk board and gave an impassioned speech to his teammates about having pride in their team, their teammates and the city they represent--or something like that. Either way, LA's season got back on track and finished with Cobi grabbing the MLS Cup and running across the field with it to share with the LA fans who had made the trip to Boston for the final. What a great leader.

We all knew this day was coming. Mr. Galaxy has announced his retirement.

I've followed Cobi's career pretty much since he first played for the US. We are the same age, about the same height, back then I had long hair as well and I played in and outside attacking roll. The differences, he was a good player...and I wished I was a good player.

I followed his unsuccessful season in Coventry as best I could. I knew he was in Rio with Vasco but could never find much information..probably cuz there wasn't any. When he signed with LA, I pretty much decided I'd be going to games at the Rose Bowl.

During his time with LA, my opinions of his performances fluctuated greatly. A lot of the time, I didn't think he was giving his full commitment , that he wasn't trying. I was certain he took his position in the starting XI for granted. Weather it was true or not, as a season ticket holder attending every home match and watching the road games on TV, that's the opinion I'd formed. However, when I'd really be down on him, he's suddenly come to life and turn in a great performance.

The last few years, LA fans have known he'd have to hang up his boots eventually. That day will come at the end of this season. As much as I at times have wanted him to do this sooner, I'm now sad realizing that #13 won't be playing in 2008.

I know retiring of numbers in MLS is something which probably won't happen...and probably shouldn't. However, I'm not sure it would be right for anyone else to wear Cobi's number.

Thanks for 12 great seasons Cobi. I'll be in Bridgeview (closest MLS team to me now) to see you play one last time.

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Monday, March 19, 2007
  A new Club vs Country twist
I think Landon has actually earned some more respect from me.

"I don't want to be gone all summer," said Donovan, who was called up on Thursday for games against Ecuador and Guatemala later this month. "I want to be here when Beckham gets here. I want to be here for a lot of the games. This is a big year for us, for the Galaxy."

To focus on the Galaxy, would Donovan then consider declining a possible invitation to Copa America?

"Yeah, I would," Donovan said. "It's kind of like a slippery slope because you don't want to turn down an invitation to play for your national team. But I am trying to make it pretty clear the importance of being here this year and being a part of this team this year. It means a lot to me. That's as simple as I can put it."

I realize that a lot of people who read my blog and about 90% of the posters on BigSoccer (though I haven't polled anyone) would probably disagree with me. However, I believe that Bradley should send an "A" squad to the Gold Cup and an U-23 or team made up of "bubble" players to the Cupa America.

None of the coaches for any player Bradley names to both squads will be too happy about their players involved in two tournaments in one summer. In addition to coaches, GMs etc., MLS fans should not stand for any of their teams players being gone for 2 months in the middle of the season. That just won't work.

Like it or not, the Gold Cup is our regional tournament. We should go all out to win that. The US is an invited guest at the Copa America. As it's being played so close to the Gold Cup, we should take a second squad down there. Give some younger players exposure to big-time international competition. It really is the best solution.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007
  What's most important?
The other day I asked...
I've waited over 11 years so far, how much longer will I need to wait until winning the MLS Cup is more important than making money?
It's nice to see I'm not the only person asking that question...

Apparently, protecting the integrity of the MLS regular season is beneath the notice of decision makers at AEG and the league office. Unbalancing the league schedule of one of its clubs, the putative "Jewel of MLS", in fact, appears to be a small price to pay to secure a couple of ticket-window windfalls. One can only wonder whether the possibility of a split-season schedule was ever seriously considered in the league office, because the Galaxy's schedule would fit almost perfectly into such a format: league, Open Cup, and CONCACAF Cup matches in April-June, July off, then league matches from August until November. Thirteen teams, 12 matches per season, home and away, less fixture congestion, MLS Cup at the end of November between the two champions of each split-season, or playoffs, if you must, between the top four sides.

Urban goes on to ask...

Should the Galaxy fail to make the playoffs, will the blame be laid at coach Frank Yallop's feet? Will Alexi Lalas be the fall guy for galactic failure?

Or will blame be properly laid at the door of those who placed commercial interests ahead of more mundane considerations like a fair and balanced league schedule?

Great question. LA fans should be demanding more. I thought something was up when the schedule finally came out and every MLS side was going to have a chance to see Beckham. It mean that roughly 2/3rds of their road games would be played in the second half of the season.

I really want the sport in this country and MLS to succeed. However, how are we the fans supposed to take the league seriously when those bringing us the league don't? More time has been spent promoting individual players than promoting any individual team. Outside of Cobi Jones, no team has any player they had in '96. Attendance hasn't changed much since then. All these games against money-spinning teams and the signing of big names (except Beckham) hasn't exactly brought in more than single match ticket sales.

I've been saying it for going on 12 years now, until the league and the teams focus on putting the best possible team on the pitch that has a sole focus on winning championships both domestically (MLS Cup, Open Cup and maybe Supporters Shield) and internationally (I'm still waiting for an MLS side to knock a Mexican side out of the Champions Cup) they aren't providing the fans with the best possible product. Give the fans of each MLS town something to be proud of and to want to support rather than providing two hours of entertainment and hoping they'll come back.

On a related note, I've said for some time that I don't care when the season is played, as long as no matches conflict with International Dates--AKA MLS matches where the big name stars won't be present. Brucio over at the always great du Nord has what I think is an interesting idea. Move the season up a few weeks. There's a lot of positives to this idea. MLS teams playing in the Champions Cup will be better prepared. The season would end before the North American Championship of Baseball (not to be confused with the famous "World Series") Also, any team sharing their stadium with a football team won't have as many date conflicts. It's not like all the teams haven't been in LA or Texas or Florida or something the last few weeks. Open the season at southern locations for a few weeks before teams in the cooler climates have their openers. But I'm sure there's some explanation why this wouldn't work.

OK, enough rant. We all know the most important thing is financial survival (profit?) for the teams/league etc. But I'm still entitled to my opinion.

Good luck to Houston and DC tonight.

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  MLS ahead of it's time again?
Wow, I never thought I'd see the day when the Football League (that's everyone below the EPL and above the Conference) decided to do away with ties and go to a shoot-out. We all know how well that turned out over here. There were too many injuries and, well, people (ie fans) just didn't like it. It's bad enough to kiss your sister (silly phrase about a tie) but to drop an additional 2 points in this way really is frustrating.
Maybe I'm wrong, but didn't I read last summer where FIFA wants to do away with penalty shoot-outs to decide games? Perhaps I read it wrong.
Either way, I don't like this idea. Heck, without a few ties, Ipswich would probably be in worse trouble than they are. It didn't work for MLS, it didn't work for NASL, why would it work in England? I never thought it added anything.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007
  Did Hell freeze over?
Wembley is finally done!

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  Enough with the use of this World Series name
Can't anyone think of anything original? C'mon now, the World Series of Soccer? How pathetic is that? Ok, so it's a nice little money spinner in the middle of the season to coincide with the arrival of the Spiced One (well, if Gretzky is the Great One...)

What really gets me about this whole thing is that in the rest of the world, do you think teams would make a commitment like this in the middle of the season? Six years ago, I had my flight book, hotel reserved and match tickets bought for a friendly Ipswich was going to play in Charleston against the Battery. Ya see, Ipswich had a two week break towards the end of the season (International Weekend or something) so Sheepshanks and Burley decided to take the team on a quick break to South Carolina and include the match. However, as the dates of the trip grew close, the decision was made to cancel the trip. Of course, fans like me were out the airfare, but Town players didn't risk the chance of needless injury right before the end-of-season run-in. Sure, I was disappointed but what was more important? Playing a meaningless match or qualifying for Europe. (Ipswich did qualify for the UEFA Cup and even managed a 1-0 vs Milan at Portman Road before getting stuffed at the San Siro)

So, back to my original point, I've waited over 11 years so far, how much longer will I need to wait until winning the MLS Cup is more important than making money?

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007
  First there was Old Spice...now there's...

Did they consider the name "Beckham Spice"?

My son wasn't feeling well last night. So, being the good daddy I am I went out in the snow (yeah, it was snowing here last night) and made a visit to the local drug store to get him something to help him with his illness. I walk into the place and right there in front of my on the first group of shelves was a cardboard ad for Beckham's fragrance.

It's only been a couple of months since the announcement that Beckham will be heading to LA. The marketers are already trying to get money out of this move. I've a feeling we are going to seem Beckham all over the place by Christmas. This is only the beginning.

Bottom line, if it sells more match tickets and merchandise, I'm still thinking this will be a good thing.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007
  ITFC-NASC is back online
It's been a couple of years but the North American Branch of the Ipswich Town Supporters Club have finally got a sit back online. It's not much and we are still putting it together...but it's more than we've had for a while. So, at least we've got that far.

If course, the timing is pretty good. Town are currently winning 2-1 at HT away to Hull. Our first away goals in 2007...can we hold on and get our first away win? Fingers crossed.

Anyway, the site is at ITFCNASC.com If you are a Tractor Boy (or Girl) and wanna get to know some of the most loyal fans in this part of the world (well, we have to be) feel free to join in.

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Monday, March 05, 2007
  Like him or not....
...you hafta feel sorry for Beckham. First he signs a deal he can't pass up to join LA. (If someone offered you the chance to make that kinda money you wouldn't pass it up either). Now he takes a bad knock and could be out of action for a while. However, I'm sure he'll be fully recovered by the time his deal with Real is done.

What really caught my attention in that article from the Times was the quote from Lineker.
"Of course, bringing back Beckham … could only be considered a short-term fix because, when he moves to the United States in the summer, he is going into semi-retirement. That is what is happening. I know what it is like because I went through it when I moved into Japanese football.

"The standards will be lower and he will be a long way from home. That will definitely be the end for him."

I have nothing but respect for Lineker as a player, but he's basing that opinion on information from almost 15 years ago. The sport has changed a lot in those years. You see a lot more players from Asia and North America in the Premiership now...where there any back then?

Anyway, weather or not Becks makes it back in McClown...errr McClaren's lineup is something he has no control over. Just like he didn't have a ton of control over Capello's decisions. But he's already won one manager over, who knows what else he can do.

He's still handling all this controversy in a classy manner and who knows what he's capable of. In this non-English person's opinion, there really aren't too many others capable of performing better for the Three Lions. Perhaps someone else will be naming the English squad in the near future.

Either way, I'm hoping Beckham has a fast recovery and he proves many more doubters wrong.

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  Scouse Red XI
A friend sent this to me and I had to share it.

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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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