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.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Johnny Walker

Will Johnson decides to take a casual stroll across the pitch during RSL's friendly with Puntarenas FC.

The waiting is over and he has arrived

(by Kristian Dyer 7-13-10)

And now, things will never be the same again.

It was the worst kept secret in the soccer world this past year, but now that the New York Red Bulls have officially announced Thierry Henry joining the team, things for this franchise and this league will never be the same. Henry adds a star quality, a certain cache that the New York franchise has never had. With all due respect to Juan Pablo Angel and players in the past such as Roberto Donadoni, Lothar Matthaus and Youri Djorkaeff – none can compare to Henry on and off the field. This goes for you too, Branco.

And David Beckham? You’re no Thierry Henry.

Henry comes in his prime, a player one year removed from being the catalyst for Barcelona’s dominant run through La Liga and the Champions League. The French international was still desired by a number of top clubs from around the world before making his decision to come to New York official. When he puts on the jersey of the Red Bulls on Thursday afternoon in front of what surely will be a packed media contingent, he will elevate the game in this town to a whole new level.

On the field certainly, but off the field as well.

He may be close to being a household name in this country, a telling sign for a sport that is still very much a niche in America’s sportscape. His endorsement deals have lined him up with sports stars in commercials and his play on the field has earned him the respect of millions. It was Henry, after all, who created a stir with followers of the English Premier League, selling tens of thousands of Arsenal jerseys in this country. His move to Barcelona and subsequent scoring form only elevated his status.

And how, Thierry Henry belongs to us. In his prime no less.

An ambassador of the game, Henry is not saddled with the hype and controversy of Beckham. He is not an enigma, a player who’s off the field antics and celebrity ever having overshadowed his play on the field. Henry has always been one to let his star shine brightest during 90 minutes of sublime play on the field. His signing by the Red Bulls is not just about selling seats – it is about winning this franchise its first ever MLS Cup. Something that Englishman in Los Angeles has never done.

Beckham, you see, has his detractors.

From his fashion to his hair to the shirtless posing, Beckham earned his critics for the business side of his brand. Henry comes with no such baggage. There surely must be a singular critic of him somewhere in the world, notwithstanding Raymond Domenech, but universally, Henry is praised as a teammate and a player. Yes, he is a name, but more importantly, he will score goals.

But the most telling part of his tenure here will be if Henry can lift that MLS Cup at season’s end.

He has a shot to win a title in New York and it won’t be an easy task. You have to go back to 1982 when Giorgio Chinaglia spearheaded the Cosmos to find a New York soccer team lifting a top-flight trophy. The Red Bulls made the MLS Cup in 2008 but played the role of bridesmaid, bowing out to Columbus. Henry’s career might be marked by increased attendance, plenty of media attention and hype and surely a goal or two. But for New York fans, getting that first ever trophy will define his legacy.

The stars are now aligned in New York for that trophy to be brought home.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

World Cup final sets ratings record

( 7-12-10)

NEW YORK (AP) -- World Cup television viewership rose 41 percent over four years ago for English-language telecasts in the United States, with Spain's 1-0 overtime victory over the Netherlands setting a record for a men's soccer game.

Sunday's game in Johannesburg, which gave the Spanish their first World Cup title, was seen by 15,545,000 viewers on ABC, according to fast national ratings. The previous high was 14,863,000 viewers for the United States' 2-1 overtime loss to Ghana in the second round on June 26.

An additional 8,821,000 million viewers watched Spanish-language coverage Sunday on Univision, according to Nielsen Media Research, bringing the total to nearly 24.4 million.

ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 averaged a 2.1 rating, 2,288,000 households and 3,261,000 viewers for the 64 World Cup games. The rating was up 31 percent from a 1.6 four years ago, while households increased 32 percent from 1,735,000 and viewers rose from 2,316,000.

The increases had been higher while the U.S. remained in the tournament. Through the first 50 games, the rating was up 48 percent, households increased 54 percent and viewers rose 60 percent.

"We always expected that the presence of the U.S. team would provide us with these big spikes," John Skipper, ESPN's executive vice president of content, said Monday. "The TV rating is only a little piece of the story. One of every three people watched on something other than the television at their home, either watched in a bar, or on their phone, or in their office on a computer."

ESPN paid FIFA $100 million for rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, while Univision spent $325 million. With the next tournament scheduled for Brazil, where most of the host cities are only one hour ahead of EDT, the possibility of some prime-time telecasts could boost ratings again. South Africa is six hours ahead of EDT.

FIFA has not yet set 2014 game times.

"We do know that we have the advantage of the time zone and we will get prime time games, so we have every confidence that we will see another fairly significant ratings increase in '14," Skipper said.

And looking ahead, the 2022 tournament could be in the United States. FIFA's executive committee will vote Dec. 2 on the 2018 and '22 sites, and while the first is expected to go to a European nation, the U.S. is favored for 2022.

The only World Cup game with more U.S. English-language viewers than for Spain's win Sunday was the 1999 women's final at the Rose Bowl, when the U.S. beat China, a game seen in 11,307,000 households and by 17,975,000 people.

Sunday's match received an 8.1 rating on ABC, up 6 percent from the 7.7 for Italy's penalty-kicks win over France in the 2006 final. This was the fourth-highest rating for a men's World Cup game behind Brazil's penalty-kicks victory over Italy in the 1994 final at the Rose Bowl (9.5), Brazil's second-round victory over the U.S. in 1994 (9.3) and this year's Ghana-U.S. match (8.5).

The U.S.-Ghana game narrowly edged the final in households, 9,455,000 to 9,389,000.

Miami-Fort Lauderdale finished with the highest average tournament rating on ABC/ESPN at 3.9, followed by New York and Washington (3.6), and San Diego and San Francisco (3.5).

Viewership for the final on Univision was up 49 percent from 5,903,000 for 2006. Sunday's game was the third most-watched program on U.S. Spanish-language TV, trailing Argentina's win over Mexico on June 27 (9,405,000) and the finale of the novella "Destilando Amor (Essence of Love)" on Dec. 3, 2007 (9,018,000).

Univision averaged 2,624,000 viewers for the tournament, up 17 percent, and 1,625,000 households, an increase of 11 percent.

Thursday, July 8, 2010