RSL Cup blog taking a long much needed break

I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996.

However, over the past couple of years, and especially the last several months, I've began to see the ugly underbelly of this sport. Most likely it has always been there and I was just too naïve to see it, but I cannot not see it anymore.

I'm taking a much needed break from the sport of soccer. I may or may not be back. I may or may not update this blog, I don't know. It would be a shame since I've had it up and running for almost 10 years, but the fun I once had just isn't there any more.

Hopefully you fare better.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

Inclement weather halts MLS labor negotiations

(by Leander Schaerlaeckens 2-11-10)

WASHINGTON -- Major League Soccer and its players union will not be making their Feb. 12 deadline for reaching an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, the MLSPU has confirmed.

The previous five-year collective bargaining agreement expired on Jan. 31, but both sides agreed that, rather than let the situation result in a lockout or a strike, they would give themselves two more weeks to come to an agreement.

The failure to reach a new agreement, however, is less due to an inability to reconcile differences at the negotiating table than a consequence of inclement weather, which has seen Washington get pounded with almost 40 inches of snow since Saturday. The snow has left swathes of the city powerless, and it has crippled public transportation and made driving nearly impossible.

"They weren't able to come down to Washington," MLSPU director of player relations Eddie Pope said of the MLS owners. MLS commissioner Don Garber and president Mark Abbott were scheduled to travel to Washington on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. "Because of the weather there have been a couple of setbacks," said Pope. "We've barely talked. We're just now starting to crank things back up.

"There's nothing we can do about the weather."

MLS and the players union will be releasing a new statement announcing a second extension to the deadline. What that new date will be is not yet clear.

With the first game of the season, between the Philadelphia Union and Seattle Sounders, now exactly six weeks away, the margin for error is shrinking rapidly.

"It's been all right," Pope said of the latest round of negotiations. "We are just trying to take things one step at a time."

As evidenced by Pope's remark, the players have been nothing but patient because, from my understanding of the numbers that are on the table, the players are not being unreasonable. Far from it.

The league, by its own admission, is thriving. Teams are being added left and right. If Montreal does indeed join MLS in 2012, as expected, the league will have added teams in six consecutive seasons, going back to 2007, when Toronto FC joined. Not all teams are breaking even, but revenue is up. But while clubs thrive, players do not. Relative to revenue, their salaries have shrunk. In other words, the money the league has been generating has grown far quicker than player salaries.

When players in other leagues threatened to stop working in order to extract more money from the owners, it was sometimes hard to empathize. But these players are not wealthy men trying to get wealthier, for the most part. In 2009, only four of 355 MLS players had a base salary of more than $1 million. Just nine were in the upper American tax bracket. At the other end of the spectrum, 46 players were making the $34,000 minimum for senior players, while 24 played for the $20,100 development player wage. In 2008, when the salary for development players was $12,900, no less than 80 players had to somehow survive on that income, for what is essentially a full-time job.

The league continues to proselytize about slow growth, forever pointing to America's professional soccer history, which is littered with failed ventures, such as the North American Soccer League's infamous flameout after brief success. But growth is achieved through the players. As it stands, even the slightly above-average are often disinclined to stay in MLS and prefer to join a third-tier European league instead. And the fact that MLS refuses to ensure that all elite college players sign, rather than try their luck in Europe, is nothing less than criminal.

Your solid MLS starter who is not a star seems to be the lowest on MLS's priority ladder. Yet if nothing else, MLS should be taking care of those players. In the foreseeable future, the stars will keep leaving, and the prodigies will, too. That leaves your solid starting players as your foundation. They'll be the recognizable faces, the hometown heroes, by virtue of having been around. But currently, MLS is rewarding defection by those very players to insignificant Scandinavian leagues by refusing to pay them what they are worth -- or even half that.

Take Lee Nguyen. Nguyen, who would make a good but not stellar MLS midfielder, had every intention of returning to MLS after a four-season stay in the Netherlands, Denmark and Vietnam. With FC Dallas positioned to pick him up once he signed with the league, he would have been the sort of player who could provide Dallas with a building block, a hometown hero (Nguyen was born in nearby Richardson, Texas, and grew up in Dallas). One who would be recognizable could reach out to the community and, who knows, maybe sell a few jerseys, too. But the league lowballed him, offering him no more than the $34,000 minimum, for a promising 23-year-old with three years of experience in Europe and three caps for the U.S.

Without securing the services of the Lee Nguyens of the world, MLS will struggle to build a solid base of players and fans. So if it wants those, it will have to take care of the above-average players in the new CBA.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Team motivation

All sports teams come up with funny ways of motivating themselves. Back in 2006 or 2007 the team could not win a game to save their lives. A few guys on the team grew mustaches and decided not to shave off them off until they won, they were on there for a long time. A bewildered fan decided to have some fun and came up with this classic.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Jason channels Jordan

May 14th, 2005 the Godfather scores against LA in the 65th minute.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Coach says player's alleged affair hurt 1998 U.S. Soccer team

( 2-2-10)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Breaking more than a decade of silence, former U.S. coach Steve Sampson says he dropped John Harkes two months before the 1998 World Cup because the captain was having an affair with the wife of teammate Eric Wynalda.

Harkes has long denied having an affair with Amy Wynalda.

Wynalda brought up the situation late Monday during a discussion on "Fox Football Fone-In" about the scandal in England over an alleged relationship between England captain John Terry and the former partner of Wayne Bridge, his teammate on the national squad.

Sampson told The Associated Press on Tuesday he was glad the story was coming out now because "maybe people will have a little better of an understanding of what happened in the final months leading up to the World Cup."

After advancing to the second round of the 1994 World Cup at home, the U.S. finished last at the 1998 tournament in France, getting shut out by Germany, then losing 2-1 to Iran and 1-0 to Yugoslavia.

"It wasn't about losing 2-0 to Germany or losing to Iran," Sampson said. "There was more to it than that that impacted I believe the outcome of this team."

Wynalda said he spoke out during the program he co-hosts on Fox Soccer Channel because he was asked about Terry, who has been front-page news since Saturday in British newspapers.

"There's a lot of similarities between what happened to us in '98 and what's happening now to England," Wynalda told the AP. "It's an unfortunate time for England, because I know how that can affect a team firsthand. Obviously, we all know how we did in the World Cup in '98."

Harkes was a member of the 1990 and 1994 U.S. World Cup teams and became the captain before he was dropped by Sampson in a surprise move in April 1998. He made 90 international appearances from 1987-90.

"I am not going to rehash the things that have happened in the past," Harkes said on Tuesday in a telephone interview. "1998 was devastating to me and my family. It was hard enough not to play in the World Cup, but it was even difficult to go through that time period, the most difficult time period of my life."

Sampson said on Tuesday that Roy Wegerle, another U.S. player, came to him and assistant coach Clive Charles between the Feb. 25 game at Belgium and the March 14 match against Paraguay in San Diego and said he had personal knowledge of the affair. Charles died in 2003 and Wegerle, now retired, did not return a phone call on Tuesday

In 1998, Sampson said Harkes, then 31, was dropped because the midfielder refused to play a more defensive role. Sampson also cited "leadership issues" but didn't elaborate.

Sampson, much criticized by players during the World Cup and fired afterward, defended his decision to hide the truth. He said he discussed his decision at the time with then-U.S. Soccer Federation president Alan Rothenberg, secretary general Hank Steinbrecher and current president Sunil Gulati, a longtime member of the leadership.

"I felt that these are the kinds of issues that need to stay in the locker room and within the team and not (be) exposed to the public," Sampson said. "The private issues for me were the most serious issues. I think I could have lived with everything else and kept John on the team if it had not been for the private issues. It's one thing to have an affair outside the team. It's another to have one inside. ... There are just certain lines that one cannot cross."

Rothenberg said on Tuesday he had no memory of any discussion of the matter, Gulati declined comment and Steinbrecher did not return a telephone message.

Wynalda, however, insists an affair did take place.

"I'm calling it an inappropriate relationship. It was a major contributor to why I'm no longer married," said Wynalda, a father of three who separated from his wife in 2003 and then divorced.

Wynalda said that when Sampson informed him in the spring of 1998 that he was dropping Harkes, Wynalda tried to persuade the coach to change his mind. Sampson didn't recall such a conversation, but said that doesn't mean it didn't take place.

"At that time, I felt that he was still a player that could help our cause and he was still one of the best 22 players in our country," Wynalda said.

Wynalda and Harkes played together just once after that, for a January 2000 friendly against Chile.

"At that point, it was still manageable," Wynalda said.

Both former players and coach are preparing to be analysts for this year's World Cup. Wynalda also was writing a book.

"I've suffered quite a bit through this whole process. My healing is over, so I'm OK to talk about it," Wynalda said.

Sampson said he wanted people to know that he and Harkes mended their relationship in 2005 and exchanged a handshake.

"Maybe now people will have a little bit more of an understanding as to why I made such a critical decision back in 1998," Sampson said. "The last thing I wanted to do was drop John Harkes from the team because I really did believe that he was an outstanding leader on the field."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

His Beckhamness

Whether you think he's the bee's knees or overhyped, there is no doubting MLS took a huge leap forward when Beckham joined LA in 2007.

Of course with Becks you also get Posh, which is not a bad deal. I certainly wouldn't kick her out of my bed for eating crackers.

Beckham at his best, playing hard for the the Three Lions.

Gomez gets popped by Pope

Tampa Bay Mutiny

1996 home uniform

(Roy Lassiter)

2000 and/or 2001 home uniform

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

MLS, Players Union to continue to negotiate through Feb. 12

( 1-28-10)

NEW YORK -- Major League Soccer (MLS) and the Major League Soccer Players Union (Players Union) announced Thursday that the two organizations have agreed to continue to negotiate through February 12, as they work towards reaching a new collective bargaining agreement.

"While we still have areas of disagreement, the talks have been constructive and both parties believe it makes sense to continue to work hard to reach agreement," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. "This extension provides both MLS and the players the opportunity to continue our discussions while clubs are in training camps preparing for the 2010 MLS season."

"Both the Players Union and MLS have concluded that a new agreement will not be reached by February 1, but we have agreed to continue to talk and we will be meeting over the next two weeks to determine if a new agreement can be reached," said Players Union Executive Director Bob Foose. "In the meantime, MLS Players are reporting to training camp, and preparations for the 2010 season will continue."

The current CBA, the first in MLS history, is a five-year agreement that had been scheduled to expire on Jan. 31, 2010.