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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

MLS, Adidas agree to eight-year sponsorship deal

( 8-30-10)

Major League Soccer and Adidas have agreed to a new eight-year sponsorship deal that officials believe solidify and validate the increased growth of the league and calls for significant investment in youth development.

The new deal replaces a 10-year, $150 million contract between the two organizations that started with the 2005 season. The new agreement will begin with the 2011 season and continue through 2018 -- when the league will be in its 22nd season.

The previous deal came before MLS added successful expansion franchises, increased player salaries and committed to deepening the talent pool with the option for teams to add multiple designated players. All those factors, plus record interest in the United States surrounding the World Cup earlier this summer prompted Adidas to approach MLS with a new deal.

"Both of us are feeling really good about the partnership we have had since the start of the MLS and the first deal that we did. ... We both felt this was the time to talk this deal out for a longer time frame and for spending the money on the youth development of the game in the U.S," Adidas America president Patrik Nilsson said.

A person with knowledge of the new deal said it's worth more than $200 million. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because financial terms were not disclosed by the league or Adidas.

"That's a great statement about the league that this company, very well respected football soccer company that has a very distinct and clear vision for the sport in North America and sees MLS as the cornerstone for that vision," MLS commissioner Don Garber said. "That's an important thing for us."

Adidas has served as one of MLS' partners since the league's inception in 1996. When the current deal started with the 2005 season, Adidas took over as the official athletic sponsor and licensed product supplier for the league. Adidas also purchased advertising rights.

The new deal continues much of the previous agreement, but makes a significant investment in youth development and reserve programs tied to all 16 - soon to be 18 starting next season - MLS franchises.

How that investment is executed is still to be determined.

"The goal will be to make a very direct link between our academies, our reserve league, our youth programs with a lot of the other youth programs going on in this country," Garber said. "Adidas can play a very important role in creating that bridge and solidifying all those ties."

There also will be additional commitment by Adidas in marketing support -- including additional retail marketing to increase player exposure - and with various media platforms.

The idea for broaching a new deal with four years remaining on the current sponsorship deal came from Adidas. Nilsson said he sees a bridge missing between the high school level and professional level and hopes the money included in this new deal will help strengthen that link.

"I think that is one area where we need to do more and MLS has acknowledged that," Nilsson said. "That is one of the key reasons why we decided to change this deal now and be able to invest stronger toward investing in that direction."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I've never been more proud of RSL

Remember the early days of RSL? Thats a weird thing to say considering our club is only 5 years old, but boy how things have changed.

RSL, like almost all new teams, has had to endure bad seasons, ugly play, times of despair, and thoughts as to whether or not things would ever change. Actually, maybe thats what the fans have had to go through and not so much the team. But not all new teams can say they've grown out of those bad times with something to show for it.

Some people may critize RSL for losing the game against Cruz Azul with only minutes or seconds to go, and most of them have valid points. But I've never been more proud of RSL than I am right now. While I watched the game on the internet at work, trying not to get caught by my supervisors, I enjoyed every moment of a hard fought battle by both sides in harsh conditions. I enjoyed a game where injuries were not faked, where each team played their hearts out for the win. The game had ups and downs like every big game should, a game where two quality sides know what's at stake and play like it, and it was played by two teams that know what soccer is about.

A tie may have been a more just but ties usually don't go down in a club's lore as opposed to a hard fought win or lose. Yeh, this one will go down as a game that we let slip from our grasps in the last minute along with our chance to make history, but it will go down in my history book as one of RSL's greatest moments. They played their hearts out like true champions, like gladiators, on the big stage of Mexico City, against another quality side and I've never been more proud.

Hold your head high RSL, you've earned it.

(more to come)

Game on

Real Salt Lake: Cruz Azul rallies for 5-4 win

(by Michael Black 8-26-10)

Real Salt Lake nearly made history Wednesday night. Then it didn't, then it did, and in the end, it didn't.

No Major League Soccer team has ever won a competition soccer game in Mexico, and while RSL came awfully close, that record stayed intact. A most bizarre ending kept it that way as the Mexican League's Cruz Azul came away with a 5-4 win over Real in a CONCACAF Champions League game in Mexico City with a four-goal outburst in less than 20 minutes.

"Everything happened so fast. I have never been a part of a game like that," said midfielder Kyle Beckerman in a radio interview.

When RSL forward Fabian Espindola scored in the 64th minute to give the visiting squad a 3-1 lead, the 0-19-2 record for MLS teams south of the border seemed destined to be changed by replacing the zero with a one. Instead, RSL experienced 19 minutes of its worst defensive soccer in team history.

"That's gravely disappointing, and it's not like our team," said coach Jason Kreis of the collapse. "After we went through a good end of the season last year and won the championship, I feel that we're a mature team that typically doesn't make mistakes like that."

The game didn't start well for Real. Following a foul called near midfield in the 5th minute, the Mexican squad played a quick restart to a streaking Javier Orozco, who took the through ball and beat goalkeeper Nick Rimando with a touch around him and hit it into the empty net. A replay clearly the showed the restart was illegal, however, as the ball never came to rest and was still moving when it was struck.

That certainly wasn't the strangest thing that happened as Mother Nature struck next with a torrential downpour that turned the pitch into a swamp — it even delayed the start of the second half for nearly 20 minutes as workers tried to push some of the surface water off the field.

Alvaro Saborio leveled things in the 23rd minute with a converted penalty kick after defender Horacio Cervantes knocked down Espindola in the box. Saborio put RSL ahead in the 44th minute when he capitalized on another Cervantes mistake. He intercepted a back pass that was drastically slowed by the water accumulation on the field and beat the keeper.

Real appeared headed for history when Espindola got what should have been the insurance goal in the 64th minute. Saborio dribbled the ball wide on the right side of the penalty area. He cut the ball back across the mouth of the goal, where Espindola raced in and hit the ball into the open net for an apparent win.

It wasn't over.

"I do think we got a little too comfortable there and thought that maybe it was going to be easy," said Kreis. "We've seen it in our league before where, if we get a two-goal lead, the other team quits. And obviously there's no quit in Cruz Azul."

The nightmare began in the 75th minute. Orozco scored No. 2 on a shot deflected by defender Rauwshan McKenzie, narrowing the gap to one at 3-2.

It was only the beginning.

Orozco completed his hat trick in the 88th minute to make it 3-3 with a shot from the top of the box. Only one minute later, he struck again. He got his fourth tally of the night when he got behind McKenzie on a cross and once again beat Rimando. The miracle come-from-behind win was complete.

But wait.

Two minutes into stoppage time, RSL midfielder Will Johnson took a deflected pass in the penalty area and drove the ball into the net for the miracle draw.

But wait again.

In the 94th minute Christian Gimenez fired a shot from the top of the box that once again deflected, of course, and found the back of the net, sending the home crowd into a frenzy for the 5-4 win.

"I just think we had a couple of mental lapses and they made us pay for it," said Beckerman on the radio. "We made them pay for some lapses they made, and then they just made us pay one more."

Real must quickly regroup as it resumes MLS play with a game Saturday in Toronto.

August 25th, 2010 RSL vs Cruz Azul

RSL loses 5-4


RSL close to making history, but a wild finish sees Cruz Azul rally

( 8-26-10)

Real Salt Lake came so very close to making history in Mexico City, but a late goal-scoring furry denied the MLSers as they fell to Cruz Azul, 5-4, in a wild Champions League match hindered by heavy rainfall and a waterlogged pitch.

Real Salt Lake had paced a 3-2 lead with just two minutes remaining on the clock. Had they held on to that tenuous advantage, they would have become the first MLS team to have won a meaningful game in Mexico.

However, as perpetual rain turned the field to a small lake, a series of slapstick routines resulted in an outrageous four-goal scoring flurry in the waning minutes that saw Javier Orozco finish the night with four goals and Christian Giménez tally a stoppage-time winner for the host Cementeros.

Cruz Azul jumped out in front early after Orozco received a pass off of a quick restart that found him in behind the defense, and he easily sidestepped Nick Rimando to score the goal.

Real Salt Lake leveled in the 23rd minute after a deflected ball found its way to Fabian Espindola's feet, and as he maneuvered in behind the defense he was fouled by defender Horacio Cervantes. Alvaro Saborio stepped up to convert the tying PK.

Saborío added his fourth goal of the tournament near the end of the first half as he picked off a back pass by Cervantes, who had not accounted for the pool of water between himself and the goalkeeper. The ball failed to travel the full distance back to his teammate, and Saborío pounced on the opportunity to give RSL a halftime lead.

The Mexican side came out in attack mode in the second half, intent on getting an equalizer. However, RSL capitalized with a counterattack when Saborío put pressure on a defender and picked his pocket. He then played a wonderful square ball that caught Espí,,ndola, who put the ball away with his left foot.

Cruz Azul narrowed the advantage in the 75th minute when Orozco scored his second of the match. He collected the ball off of a free kick with his back to the goal before turning and taking a shot that deflected off of the leg of an RSL defender. The deflection caught Rimando diving to his right as the ball headed toward his left and into the net.

In the 87th minute, Orozco scored his third of the match to bring it level, and then added a fourth in the 89th minute to give Cruz Azul the advantage.

However, Will Johnson appeared to earn RSL a point two minutes into stoppage time. The celebration was short-lived, though, as Cruz Azul took the re-start down into the RSL end and scored with a blast from the top of the area by Giménez.

Javier Orozco

Thursday, August 19, 2010

stadium photos, RSL vs Arabe Unido

RSL win overshadowed

(by Tony Jones 8-19-10)

Sandy - Jason Kreis said that Real Salt Lake’s 2-1 win over Arabe Unido of Panama represented “everything that is wrong with soccer.”

Nick Rimando, RSL’s goaltender, agreed, saying that he “had never seen anything like this before.”

Indeed, Real Salt Lake’s victory Wednesday in the first game of the CONCACAF Champions League was amusing, sad and frustrating all at the same time.

There were so many injury delays that Kreis was convinced the team from Panama was faking, and didn’t hesitate to say so when asked about it after the game. There was eight minutes of stoppage time, an almost unheard of amount.

Arabe Unido’s tactics were enough of a sideshow that the importance of RSL’s win was decidedly overshadowed in the moments after.

“If someone came to watch this game and saw soccer for the first time, he wouldn’t be coming back,” Kreis said. “If someone were watching this game on television, he wouldn’t watch another game. It’s unfortunate, but there has to be a solution for this. If a player is injured and leaves the field, don’t let him come back a minute later. Keep him out.”

Most unfortunate is the way things ended. The winning goal was supplied by forward Alvaro Saborio on a penalty kick in stoppage time. The foul call, inside the box, was questionable at best and one that drew vehement arguments from the Arabe Unido players and coaching staff.

“You have to credit Alvaro,” Rimando said. “He stepped in and made the kick. It showed that he had plenty of confidence in himself.”

In all, there were 10 yellow cards and two ejections. But in the end, RSL got what it wanted and needed: Three points and a favorable result.

It did so by rallying from a deficit for the first time this season, finding themselves down a goal in the 13th minute when Armando Cooper pushed one past Rimando. From there, however, RSL was dominant, limiting Arabe Unido to just four shots on goal for the entire match and launching 14 of its own.

Saborio scored the tying goal in the 45th minute on a pretty pass from Chris Wingert, and Real Salt Lake continued its offensive pressure for the remainder of the game.

“I think we thought things were going to be easy at first,” Kreis said. “I think the guys were shocked to be down, and it took a while to find a rhythm. Once they did, they were fine.”

Real Salt Lake avoids flop in Champions League opener

(by James Edwards 8-19-10)

SANDY — Real Salt Lake found out Wednesday night that nothing comes easy in international competition — especially when your opponent isn't interested in playing soccer.

After the match, RSL coach Jason Kreis didn't hesitate criticizing Arabe Unido for feigning injuries throughout the game and embarrassing the sport.

In the end though, Real Salt Lake got the result it desperately needed with a 2-1 victory over Arabe Unido in the opening game of the CONCACAF Champions League, but boy was it stressful.

After a red card reduced Arabe Unido to 10 men in the first half at Rio Tinto Stadium, the Panamanian club tried every ploy and tactic in the books to stall its way to a tie. The stretcher was called onto the field nearly a dozen times in the second half as players did their best Hollywood impersonations.

"I think tonight was in a microcosm everything that's wrong with our game. It was a game that wasn't managed properly from the very beginning, and it was always going to lead to what it led to," said Kreis. "I can't fault them for their tactics to sit back, especially after they scored a goal and they get an ejection, but then we've got to come up with a solution in our game where we're not having players laying on the ground every three minutes and letting them go off the field and letting them come right back on."

As frustrating as the ploy was, it had Arabe Unido on the doorstep of an unlikely draw with the game level at 1-1 heading into eight minutes of stoppage time.

In the end, referee Paul Ward might've been more frustrated.

He was a busy, busy man all night calling fouls (32), handing out yellow cards (10), red cards (2) and calling for the trainer and stretcher ridiculously too many times.

To say Ward awarded Real Salt Lake a 90th-minute penalty kick out of spite for Arabe's flailing tactics might be an overstatement, but it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility.

With Nelson Gonzalez going down in the box on a soft challenge, the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Alvaro Saborio calmly buried the penalty to lift RSL to the 2-1 lead as it moved atop the Group A standings, level with Toronto FC at three points.

"I hope the penalty decision was made because he thought it was the right one," said Kreis when it was suggested the call might've been made out of frustration.

Regardless of why it was awarded, RSL walked away with the victory.

"I've seen some wasting time, but not like that. It was kind of entertaining, but also frustrating," said Rimando. "It was kind of sad to see, but we got the three points at the end of the day so we're happy."

Real Salt Lake jumps back into CONCACAF Champions League play next Wednesday when it faces Cruz Azul in Mexico City.

A better start will be needed in Mexico if it hopes to pull out a result.

Arabe Unido opened the scoring in the 13th minute when Armando Cooper buried a deflected shot past Nick Rimando. It was a dream start for the visitors, who weren't intimated at all by RSL's league dominance at Rio Tinto Stadium.

"For whatever reason we didn't handle the beginning of the game right, I think we thought it was going to be a little easier than it was," said Kreis.

An unnecessary challenge by Jamison Olave led to the goal. The defender stepped high into the midfield to dispossess a midfielder, but instead Victor Mendieta slipped the ball past him and into the vacated space. That left Cooper all alone with only Nat Borchers to beat, and the Arabe Unido captain easily side-stepped him and buried the shot for the 1-0 lead.

Arabe Unido looked comfortable defending the lead over the next quarter hour, but that all changed in the 29th minute. Nahil Carroll was shown a straight red card for what the referee deemed violent conduct on what seemed like a 50-50 challenge with Kyle Beckerman.

After that it was a hunker down and pray mentality for Arabe Unido.

Its first objective was to protect the lead until halftime, but it came up one minute short. In the 45th minute Alvaro Saborio slipped in behind Arabe defender Andres Santamaria and headed home a wonderful cross from defender Chris Wingert.

With the man advantage, Real Salt Lake spent virtually the entire second half in its offensive half but it could never settle into a rhythm.

"For us it was tough to get a rhythm out there because how many times the ball stopped and how many times they were on the floor, but that's CONCACAF," said Rimando. "Teams come up, they're going to try to stall. If we're up in a game in Mexico city I'm sure we're going to try to stall to, probably not like that. It's part of the game, but I've never seen it that so enhanced."

July 19th, RSL vs Panama's Arabe Unido

RSL wins 2-1


Late PK earns RSL a win in their first-ever CCL match

( 8-18-10)

SANDY, Utah—Real Salt Lake’s initiation into Champions League play started out on the wrong foot, but they managed to pick up the full three points with a 2-1 win over Panama side Árabe Unido at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday.

Alvaro Saborio tallied a brace, which included a stoppage-time penalty kick after Nelson Gonzalez was tumbled in the box. The Panamanian visitors finished the match with just nine men following a toughly contested affair.

Árabe Unido open the game matching Real Salt Lake’s 4-4-2 with a 3-3-4 formation that morphed into a 4-5-1 on the defensive side of the ball. And they spent plenty of time on the defensive side of the ball in the opening minutes.

However, it was the visitors who opened scoring. The goal came against the run of play following a well-played through-ball to Armando Cooper. The Árabe Unido captain appeared to be in free on RSL ‘keeper Nick Rimando; however, defender Nat Borchers arrived late and got a leg in front of the ball, which created a deflection that Rimando was unprepared to handle. The ball found its way into the net to give the visitors a surprising lead.

The game would take another strange twist a few minutes later when defender Nahil Carroll received a straight red for a studs-up tackle on RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. From that point on it appeared that Árabe Unido had one objective: to kill the game off.

However, in the 45th minute, Real Salt Lake earned the equalizer when Chris Wingert put a long cross into the box that found the head of striker Saborío, who nodded the hosts level just seconds before the break.

Real Salt Lake then dominated the possession in a second half littered with numerous injuries, both real and feigned, and a number of disciplinary cards.

Despite being a man down, the visitors managed to keep RSL at bay for the duration of the second half—at least in regulation time. Minutes into stoppage time—nine minutes were added on—Real Salt Lake earned awarded a penalty kick after Gonzalez was nudged from behind just inside the box.

Saborío stepped up to take the spot-kick to earn a brace—and a win for RSL in their first-ever Champions League match.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

MLS beginning to mimic NASL with talent imbalance, rapid expansion

(by Topias Lopez 8-7-10)

Pele isn't dancing at Studio 54. The Cosmos aren't the night-life kings of New York. But suddenly pro soccer is starting to look a lot like 1977, with Major League Soccer morphing into the NASL.

A rush of players who have already reached the summit of mount fútbol, coupled with annual expansion, sees MLS retreading the dance steps of the NASL's disco era.

On Saturday, the New York Red Bulls welcomed the Los Angeles Galaxy in a game that epitomized the positives and negatives of this, the designated player era.

David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, Landon Donovan and Juan Pablo Angel -- the biggest names and most skilled players in MLS history -- were all on hand along with 25,000 fans. Meanwhile, across the nation, an admirable bunch of 8,619 die-hards watched a nameless collection of 22 guys slug it out as San Jose played host to Kansas City.

In the NASL's heyday, small towns like Tulsa languished while the Cosmos reached iconic status. The danger is that MLS, too, could become a league dominated by big-market, marquee-player teams. Galaxy president of business operations Tom Payne candidly admitted that there's a certain appeal to the big American cities that MLS' small markets lack.

"The bulk of the top-level designated players want to come to L.A. or New York, to be honest," Payne said. "That's based on the market, what they know is New York or Los Angeles."

Payne said the Galaxy's philosophy of big-time designated players won't stop when Beckham's MLS career ends. In fact, he expects Los Angeles to add a third DP next year. However, he dismissed the idea that one designated player can shift the balance too far in favor of one team because of the wide-open, 11-player nature of soccer. He emphasized that MLS remains committed to its single-entity structure.

That some big-market clubs have drawn well behind star power this season should make it clear that at no time should that business model go away. If it does, teams such as the Wizards, Earthquakes and FC Dallas could also disappear -- all average less than 11,000 this year with San Jose on the bottom at 8,550 per game. Even some big-market teams such as New England are suffering attendance dips in 2010 (the Revs are averaging 11,797).

See, these teams don't enjoy the sponsorship dollars or attendance numbers of places such as Seattle, Los Angeles or Toronto, where crowds average 20,000 or more. The Sounders top the league at 36,154 per game. Perhaps the recent DP signings by San Jose (former Hull midfielder Geovanni) and Kansas City (Mexico's Omar Bravo for the 2011 season) will help redress this imbalance, along with a crying need in the case of San Jose and Kansas City to resolve their respective stadium situations (the Wizards are slated to move into their new stadium in 2011).

Without revenue sharing and cost controls, these clubs could vanish as the overhead of rising salary demands becomes financially unbearable. And the common fan often overlooks the costs of the salaries for front-office staff, advertising, travel, equipment or grounds crews when thinking about a club's total expenditures.

Fans also support winners regardless of the sport. If small-market teams can't afford the players necessary to compete, they'll suffer from a lack of bandwagon boosters as well.

The late Lamar Hunt, a founding investor in MLS, warned back in 2005 that the designated player could cause resentment much the way the franchise player tag has been largely seen as a negative designation in the NFL. It took all of a few months before resentment surrounded Beckham. It was none other than Donovan who publicly criticized the man the "Beckham rule" was designed to snare. Donovan questioned Beckham's commitment to the team and essentially said the guy making the most money in the league ought to be the hardest worker, but that Becks wasn't. The Galaxy teammates eventually ironed out their differences in a private meeting.

One of the NASL's failures was when small-market teams began trying to spend beyond their means to compete. So far, MLS clubs have avoided that pitfall, through a tight salary cap. However, the danger is growing more real as the lure of the big name becomes greater.

Under the current system, the owners pool their resources to pay the players from a communal fund. However, the designated player rule allows millions to go toward players as long as the individual club is footing the bill. For example, Beckham's annual $6.5 million guaranteed salary is about two or three times what other teams pay their entire roster.

Beyond NASL's competitive imbalance, there was also the rapid expansion, which seems the current trend in MLS with Seattle, Philly, Portland, Vancouver and Montreal. There's also talk of a second New York team.

Will there be enough quality American-born players to go around for a league that was supposed to develop the U.S. athlete? And just as important, will people pay to see it? If the soccer consumer were willing, you could argue there wouldn't be as great a need for designated players.

In 2009, "small-market" club Real Salt Lake knocked off the mighty Galaxy for the MLS Cup. It did so without a designated player, relying instead on the guts of coach Jason Kreis and the philosophy of general manager Garth Lagerwey.

"The emphasis in our model so far is based on depth and continuity," Lagerwey said. "The team is the star and we are better than the sum of our parts."

Lagerwey said expansion is vital to becoming a true national league rather than a regional or niche sport. However, despite the success of 2009, Lagerwey did acknowledge the potential for imbalance.

"A team with three DPs that are particularly good DPs, that fit well in MLS, could provide an overwhelming advantage," he said. "If a team is outspending everyone by $15 million, that does become prohibitive at a point."

That point may be coming sooner rather than later if the gap between the haves and have-nots continues to widen. In 20 years, MLS will still be alive -- there are too many soccer fans, there is the foundation of soccer stadiums and there are just enough committed owners. But here's hoping that come MLS Cup 2030, no one is lamenting the fact that just like today's English Premiership, only a handful of teams realistically have a shot at the title. This would be just as tragic as the demise of the Miami Fusion, Studio 54 or the Cosmos.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

CONCACAF Champions League groups

(by Steve Davis 8-13-10)

Mexican teams are kings of the CONCACAF hill when it comes to its regional Champions League, the annual competition (formerly the CONCACAF Champions Cup) that carries a smidge of weight with the clubs, but just marginal interest from hardcore supporters and practically zero resonance in the general sports market.

Still, there is a fairly lucrative prize looming as group stage matches begin on Aug. 17: a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup.

Mexican sides will be favored to get there, with Pachuca back to defend last year's title. Fellow Mexico side Atlante won in 2008 and Mexico City's Cruz Azul fell in the final both years. Overall, Mexican sides have accounted for seven of the eight semifinalists, as Major League Soccer clubs have struggled to gain any foothold in the tournament. The L.A. Galaxy was hardly the first MLS team to go crashing out ingloriously when it was eliminated in preliminary round action last week.

Following preliminary round play, 16 sides now have reached group stage: four from MLS, four from Mexico, the giant killing Puerto Rico Islanders and seven others sides from Canada and Central America. Here's a quick look at the field with double-round robin play set to begin next week in four groups:

Cruz Azul (Mexico): Los Cementeros certainly aren't as well-known as their fellow Mexico City side Club America. And though they don't have as many league titles, they do quite well in these competitions. Cruz Azul has made the CONCACAF Champions League final twice, falling both times. It also once made the Copa Libertadores final, falling to Argentine power Boca Juniors in penalties in 2001. Longtime Mexico national team fixture Gerardo Torrado captains the team.

Real Salt Lake (United States): The tournament comes at a busy but productive time for the current Major League Soccer champion, who has just one loss in league play since April. Jason Kreis' team has been collecting points on the road lately, thanks in part to Costa Rican striker Alvaro Saborio. Midfielders Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman remain the side's heart and soul.

Toronto FC (Canada): Chad Barrett and Dwayne De Rosario scored in Honduras last week as a 2-2 tie against Amado Guevara and Motagua was sufficient to push Toronto into the group stage. Barrett also scored in the Canadians' 1-0 win over Motagua at BMO Field in the first leg. Preki's rebuilt side captured Canada's berth in the tournament by claiming its second consecutive Canadian Nutrilite Championship over Vancouver and Montreal.

Arabe Unido (Panama): One of the bigger fish in the small pond that is Panamanian soccer, Arabe Unido has finished first or second in its domestic league seven times since 2001. The club from Colón, Panama, advanced into last year Champions League quarterfinals but fell to Mexico's Cruz Azul by 4-0 aggregate.

Columbus (United States): The current Eastern Conference leader in Major League Soccer was one of eight automatic tournament qualifiers (who joined the eight preliminary round survivors). Columbus was the only MLS side to advance past the Champions League group stage in 2009-2010, falling to Mexico's Toluca in the tournament quarterfinals. Ageless attacker Guillermo Barros Schelotto leads the side once again, now with five goals and seven assists in league play.

Joe Public (Trinidad and Tobago): The organization is the creation of controversial CONCACAF President and FIFA vice president Jack Warner, who wanted a professional club to that could help develop players for international duty. This is the second time in three years Joe Public has made the tournament's group stage. Kerry Baptiste, capped 43 times for Trinidad and Tobago, scored in both legs of the team's preliminary round win over Costa Rica's Brujas.

CSD Municipal (Guatemala): A heavyweight in its country, Municipal is the only Guatemalan club to win the (formerly named) CONCACAF Champions Cup, although that was back in 1974. Guillermo "Pando" Ramirez, who hit the L.A. Galaxy's game-winner in the 2005 MLS Cup final, provides the main scoring threat.

Santos Laguna (Mexico): The Guerreros (Warriors) are off to a great start in league play with a 3-0-0 record and a plus-10 goal difference so far in the Mexican Apertura. They also go flying into Champions League play off a 6-0 aggregate win over Trinidad and Tobago's San Juan Jabloteh, as Rodolfo Reyes scored twice in the return leg. Santos plays at the modern Nuevo Estadio Corona.

CD Saprissa (Costa Rica): The Monstruo Morado (Purple Monster) is the only Central American club ever to reach the FIFA Club World Cup, finishing third in 2005. But failure to advance out of Champions League group stage the last two years has Costa Rica's dominant club desperate to reclaim past glory in the re-named tournament. Veteran defender Victor Cordero is one of the few holdovers from that fantastic 2005 side.

Marathon (Honduras): The team backed into tournament group stage when it fell at home in San Pedro Sula to Panama's Tauro, but advanced on 4-2 aggregate. Claudio Labarinas scored twice in the 3-0 victory in Panama. A third consecutive Champions League quarterfinal appearance may be tough to pull off this time around as Marathon must overcome the loss of high-scoring striker Walter Martinez, who just left for China's Beijing Guoan.

CF Monterrey (Mexico): Monterrey looks like a club on the rise, having won Mexico's Apertura title last December and about to debut in the Champions League tournament. Mexican international Luis Perez, former international Duilo Davino and longtime club fixture Jesús Arellano lead the team. The Rayados play in the 32,000-seat Estadio Tecnologico, Mexico's second oldest ground.

Seattle Sounders FC (United States): In an apparent case of addition by subtraction, coach Sigi Schmid and his Sounders have found their stride since Freddie Ljungberg's estrangement and subsequent trade. The well-supported club is unbeaten in eight straight in all competitions. That includes a 1-0 win over El Salvador's Metapan in Seattle and a 1-1 draw in the return leg to confirm the Sounders' group stage berth. Striker Fredy Montero is sizzling lately, with talk of a possible MLS Most Valuable Player award now stirring.

FAS (El Salvador): Argentine striker Alejandros Bentos hit twice in the club's 2-0 victory over Guatemala's Xelaju to claim the 16th and final Champions League group stage berth. Young midfield creator William Maldonado may be a star on the rise. On the other end, captain Cristian Álvarez, Bentos and William Reyes (capped 18 times by El Salvador), remain effective in their early 30s.

CD Olimpia (Honduras): Six players from Olimpia, one of two predominant Honduran sides, recently represented their country in South Africa. Olimpia is the only Honduran side ever to win at Mexico City's Azteca Stadium; the Lions prevailed there in 1988. The side is especially strong along the right, where fullback Johnny Palacios and midfielder Danilo Turcios patrol. Young striker Roger Rojas is property of Wigan Athletic in England but on a two-year loan to Olimpia.

Puerto Rico Islanders (Puerto Rico): The recent giant killers of the tournament struck again in the qualifying round, shocking the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center, 4-1, and then finishing out in the return leg on the island. Coached by former FC Dallas boss Colin Clarke, the Orange Troop rampaged into the tournament semifinals two years ago. American goalkeeper Bill Gaudette has a habit of coming up big in the competition while Jamaican forward Nicholas Addlery provides the primary offensive threat.

Toluca (Mexico): Most of the team is back from last spring's league championship side, which also made a Champions League semifinal appearance. The Red Devils did lose Colombian midfielder Vladimir Marin but replaced the quality in Argentine striker Juan Cuevas. Chilean striker Hector Mancilla has struck 50 times over the past two years for Toluca. Midfielder Antonio Naelson (often known as Zinha) has 49 appearances for Mexico and almost 400 for his longtime club.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

History of the Supporters Shield

(Taken from a discussion on Bigsoccer, October 2004)

Since we are near the end of the MLS regular season a lot of talk has been revolving around who will win the Supporters Shield and the Domestic Treble. Now I know what the SS is and how it's awarded and all that but what I don't know is the history behind it (with the exception of the Miami supporters and Bigsoccer's 10 most wanted list), and I'm sure there's a lot of people who don't know it either. So would anyone care to explain? In a polite manner, if your gonna bring up single table or any crap like that then go away.

Sam [Sam Pierron, a KC supporter] first presented the Shield to the LA Galaxy supporters at the Rose Bowl in the pouring rain in the summer of 1999. Since then the holding supporters, with one exception, have presented the Shield to the at the Supporters Summit prior to MLS Cup to the new winners. In 2002, Sam Pierron did the presentation as none of the Miami Fusion supporters made the trip - in fact, they spent much of the summer debating whether to hold the Shield hostage, destroy it, send it to Argentina, etc....

from an interview with sam that I think sums up quite a bit of the history

"JH: What was the motive behind coming up with the Supporter’s Shield?

SP: Well, as you know the Supporter’s Shield is the award given to the regular season champion, which is determined by the team who has the most points at the end of the season (i.e., winning and drawing the most games).

It wasn’t my idea. It was the brainchild of a Tampa fan, who wanted to call it the Scudetto, in honor of the regular season champion of Italy. And he had a sculptor friend come up with a design. But then he needed to raise money to have it made. I was selected as the chairman of a committee to raise money and discuss various issues with the trophy.

This was in early 1997, before the Supporters’ Summit was started. This was a product of communications between the supporter’s clubs. In the discussions over the name of the trophy and the format of the trophy, [the Tampa fan] got mad and because most people didn’t want to name it the same thing he did and didn’t like Scudetto. They thought that we should give it an American name for an American League.

At the time MLS had the shootout and there was much debate whether we should use shootout points in the standings. There was big yelling and screaming match [the Tampa fan] quit, and the project went on the back burner. About a year later, somebody brought it up again, and I just decided, “screw committee work. I’m going to get this done; I’m going to raise the money. I’ll find someone to design it and build it, and we’re going to get this done.”

So there had been some money raised by some of the clubs, and I figures out how much that was. I then sent out a notice asking for more donors. I got a pretty strong response, so I was able to have a target in mind. I was talking to Phil Schoen who was then the ESPN major league soccer announcer got a hold of me, and told me that he wanted to donate. At this point I probably had $600 in the account, and I didn’t know how much more I was going to get. So I visit Phil at his hotel the next time he was in KC, broadcasting a game. He writes me a check for five hundred bucks. And that single handedly changed the scope of things.

When you go overnight form $600 to $1100, and you know you’re going to get more donations, this changes everything. It kicked the project into another gear. That year was the year of the first Supporter’s Summit, which as you know, is a gathering of all the Supporters Clubs to discuss issues and then have a good time. That year I brought with me a sketch that I that I had made in conjunction with a KU metal works student, for the Supporters Shield. I picked her by going to an arts festival in Olathe, just wandered around looking for sculptures that I liked. And I liked hers. And I also figured that “hey she’s in Lawrence, it’ll be easy to communicate. Two, it’ll be cheaper because she’s a student and she’ll do it for very little. And also, she was very cute. This is the way history happens I suppose.

So I went to the Supporters Summit with the sketch and my plans for the way the trophy would be presented, and for the way it would be earned. I said “look, we’re going to award it based on however MLS determines the regular season champions, because that’s the way that the teams are playing by. In the meantime, we’ll try to change the rules to the way that we want them.” And that was one of the big themes of that first Supporter’s Summit. The Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner [of the MLS] came out, and we told them in one voice “Look, we don’t wan the shootout. We want the game to be played like it is in the rest of the world. With draws; we want the clock to move the right way. AND we want to present THIS trophy to the regular season champion. To give them something tangible to shoot for, so they know that those 32 season games weren’t meaningless, or a prelude to the playoffs. The presentation was, if I may say so, a rousing success. At that point the other supporter’s clubs just started handing me checks. I ended up raising about $3000, which paid for the Shield and some attendant plaques that were about $2200. This leaves us a nice little nest egg to work from, to fix problems and to make a new nameplate every year. And then maybe to build a bigger and better Supporter’s Shield in some years.

At the time I made the presentation to the league, I suggested that the winner of the Supporter’s Shield get one of the continental qualification spots in the Americas and in the Caribbean tournament play. Now that’s happened. At that time the supporters were all stating very strongly that they wanted the end of the shootout. The next year, they took out the shootout. I think maybe the moral to that story, and maybe something to tie everything together is that one of the chief goals of the Mystics and every other supporters club in the United States is working together towards common goals, and I think we’re really proving that collective action can really work. We’re kind of a little laboratory, taken out of oh-so-serious things like labor negotiations or environmental policy. We’re kind of like a collective action playground. We make up a small minority of any given population at a MLS game, but we do make up a larger population of those who are there every day and every game. Come rain or shine. I like to think that we’ve done a lot to make the soccer experience in America look something more like what we want it to look like. Even if we haven’t always succeeded at least we’re giving a good fight and giving a base for it to grow in the future."

The Supporters Shield came out of the first Supporters Summit in Pasadena, prior to the 1998 MLS Cup.
The Supporters Summit was the idea of Mike Breton(President of the Ultras Galacticos Supporters Club from LA and myself as well as the president of the Empires Supporters Club from NY. The idea came from the 1997 party DC had before the 97 Cup final. We thought that if we could get all the Supporters Clubs together in one place at one time that we could somehow influence the MLS.
Before the meeting all presidents of all MLS clubs present, except TB, met for breakfast at a local restaurant to refine and prioritize a list of issues, concerns and suggestions to be presented to MLS leadership, who where going to attend the Summit. The attendees were Doug Logan, Sunil Galati,the GM of Miami and Kevin Payne from DC., as well as representatives from Addidas, Nike and the local press.(Pasadena Star News).
At the breakfast, a selection of Supprters President were elected to raise the various issues with our guests. they also agreed on a mission statement and goals for the Supporters alliance. There were also a newsletter workshop.
The meeting took place at the Ramada Inn in Pasadena. the only thing that I remember was the idea of the shield for best record and Doug Logan contributed $100.00 toward it in cash.
That is preety much what I remember of the Summit on the Sat. before the final on Sunday. After the Summit we all went into Old Town Pasadena(very trendy) and had a party with dinner, drinks and silent auction for charity, with all clubs contributing items for the auction.
So I hope this answers your question. It's been six years, but I kept the program from the summit so everything should be accurate.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

First incident of fan violence in MLS stadium

as far as I know that is. I remember there being stories of one or two fights outside of MLS stadiums, mostly between DC and NY fans, but I don't think there has ever been a fight inside a stadium during a game. Nobody wants to see hooliganism raise its head in MLS, that certainly would not be good for the health of the league, and hopefully the league can learn from this incident since it looks like it was caused by poor planning and weak security. This incident took place on July 20th during the Chicago Fire vs Pumas UNAM Superliga match.

(Chicago fans in red, Pumas fans in blue. It looks like the Chicago fans are a little outnumbered.)

(below is a report of what happened taken from

From what I've read Pumas fans purposely moved next to section 8?
Any truth behind this?

Es Brennt
Yep true. They weren't provided a section to stand, sing, wave flags, so they took their own.

Our sections were being completely throttled. The guest services and security gaurds were completely focusing their efforts on section 8, inspecting tickets and removing people from our mostly empty sections. Meanwhile one section over, there is no ticket checking, there is no security presence. What started out as maybe 10 Pumas fans standing in the front row had grown to hundreds filling the section by the late second half of the match. They were also somehow allowed to bring in hard wooden flagpoles which are never allowed. Section 8 have to enter through their own gate and have everything rigorously inspected by glaring puff chest security guards.

So late in the match there is a mass of drunk and rowdy Pumas fans right next to us, their team is losing and the songs are not even related to the match any more, just a steady stream of taunting and insulting songs directed at Section 8.

What happened next was inevitable given how badly the situation was being handled.

The Pumas fans moved right into our sections and the fists start flying. Once again, after trouble has broken out and there is a "life and safety issue" in progress, Monterrey Security stands at the top, hesitating. They stood there watching as the two groups exchanged blows. Then after a few moments that felt like an eternity, they went down and finally formed a line in the aisle. The fighting stopped, but beers and projectiles were still flying. Monterrey guards got hit with a few beers and some nacho cheese and decided to pull out. They decided they didn't want to get dirty and that it was just OK to let the fans fight each other. The manager guards yelled at their crew to leave the section, "******** all these guys" and "let them fight".

So they did.

Security and guest services left the section and just let two large groups of fans fight each other. I am amazed by that. I am also amazed that the injuries sustained by both sides in the fight weren't more severe. The fighting dragged on and on for about 8 minutes, which in fight time is an eternity. There were some bloodied people on both sides, but damn could it have been worse. Finally security moved back into the section and asked Section 8 leaders to calm Section 8 folks down, it was far too late for that at this point. Incredibly too late, embarrassingly too late, insultingly too late. We did what we could.

Somewhere in the process security declared it was Sector Latino's fault, which is beyond contempt, SL occupies a section all the way at the other goal from S8 this season. They only came over and backed up S8 after Monterrey Security had pissed themselves and abandoned our supporters section.

Security did not hold their line. They did not extract anybody. They made no arrests. They stood idly by while people beat on each other. They stood idly by while Pumas fans threw bottles, swung wooden poles, and used belt buckles as weapons. These are the same tough guys who love to rough up youngster soccer fans over smoke bombs and smuggled beers. Scared out of their minds in the face real crowd violence. A complete and total failure.

Monday, August 9, 2010

RSL fans pack Rio Tinto, July 24th

Rio Tinto sold out on July 24th 2010 as RSL took on Chivas USA. Fans were treated to a victory and fireworks after the game. A wonderful sight!

Superstitious RSL will debut new jerseys on the road

(by Michael C. Lewis 8-7-10)

For the first time in its history, Real Salt Lake will follow the example of countless other teams in a variety of other sports by unveiling a new “alternate” uniform.

It just won’t do it at home.

Instead, the team will debut its new bright yellow outfits when it plays at Kansas City on Saturday night, in part because it superstitiously fears that switching uniforms at home could jinx its 20-game regular-season unbeaten streak at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Of course, team officials played coy on that point, with coach Jason Kreis saying the decision was made “above my head” and that uniform colors have had little to do with constructing the second-longest home unbeaten streak in Major League Soccer history.

“We had more flexibility of introducing a third kit on the road,” general manager Garth Lagerwey insisted.

Yet the team has had the uniforms all season, spokesman Trey Fitz-Gerald said, and still has no plans to wear them at home — at least until it loses there again.

The team had considered breaking out its new uniforms for the opening game of the CONCACAF Champions League at home later this month, but won’t be allowed to wear them in that tournament because there is no room on the short sleeves of the jerseys for an official Champions League patch.

Yellow jerseys will go on sale at the stadium when RSL opens its inaugural trip into the Champions League against Arabe Unido of Panama on Aug. 18, but the team still will be wearing its usual red and white uniforms on the field.

“If you’re winning and doing well, it’s a nice uniform,” said defender Chris Wingert, who used to wear yellow regularly as a member of the Columbus Crew. “But if you’re not doing well, I don’t think you want to be out in bright yellow colors.”

Several other MLS teams have introduced “third kits” this season, most notably the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC.

While Toronto has played in pink jerseys to encourage breast cancer awareness, the Sounders have used a garish neon yellow-and-lime-green kit nicknamed “Electricity.”

The yellow RSL outfits made by adidas are known as “Victory Gold,” and the defending MLS Cup champions will wear them at Philadelphia next week, in addition to the game in Kansas City.

“Obviously, we hope that fans like the jerseys and will buy them,” Lagerwey said, though the team is not expecting an overwhelming consumer demand.

Meanwhile, the team is hoping for a strong start to its rugged stretch of 14 games in the next 56 days.

It lost its last road game last month to snap a franchise-record 10-game unbeaten streak, but beat the Wizards 4-1 earlier this season and is coming off a 3-0 home victory over last-place D.C. United last weekend.

It remains the highest-scoring team in the league with 32 goals, with one of the stingiest defenses.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The original soccer club

(by Dale Johnson 2-11-05)

The village of Dronfield may not be renowned amongst football fans across the globe, but it now holds a unique place in the game's history. The Coach and Horses Ground is home to Sheffield FC, the oldest football club in the world.

Nestled in between Sheffield and Chesterfield in the footholds of the Pennines, Dronfield provided a solution to a problem which had dogged the club throughout the first 144 years of its existence. Until April 2001 it had never had a ground to call its own and had endured a nomadic existence which had put its future under threat.

But the move to Dronfield gave Sheffield FC a base and real hope of moving forward from being an anonymous club amid the might of Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United to one which holds a place within the global footballing community.

If the initial results are anything to go by, those in charge are succeeding. They have become one of only two clubs to be bestowed with the FIFA Order of Merit - the other being Real Madrid - as part of the govening body's centennial celebrations. FIFA awarded the honour to Sheffield FC for being 'the oldest club in the world, founded in 1857, and a symbol of the role of football as a common denominator in the community and in society'.

Numerous clubs have come in wishing to play Sheffield FC, looking for the kudos of facing the world's oldest club.

Sheffield FC was formed on October 24, 1857, by two businessmen, Nathanial Creswick and William Prest. It was spawned from the cricket club which was eager for a sport to play outside summer when the sound of leather on willow had been silenced by the rain and the gloom of the winter months.

The formation of Wednesday was remarkably similar. Both were formed from cricket clubs (Sheffield Cricket Club and Sheffield Wednesday Cricket Club) and both had their inception during a meeting at the city's Aldelphi Hotel. Similarly, United was the brainchild of Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

Although it would be three years before Hallam, also from the Sheffield area, became the second football club, Sheffield FC would arrange special matches against specific groups.

From time to time they would have people whose name began with letters from the first half of the alphabet (A-M) against the rest. Married men would line-up against the bachelors and there would also be fixtures for professionals against workers.

It was football in its most primitive form, but when you are the first club in the world the options are limited.

The club possesses the first ever written version of the laws of the game, as well as the first printed version, testimony to their standing within the history of the beautiful game.

By 1862, 15 teams had sprung up in the Sheffield area and there was a similar growth beginning around London. And four years later Sheffield met London in the first ever game of its kind, with the capital coming out on top.

The Londoners were shocked when Sheffield travelled down for another meeting in 1875. They had never encountered 'heading' before and the sight of the northerners doing so caused much amusement among the thronged masses.

The lawmakers in Sheffield also introduced the wooden crossbar - it had merely been a length of rope - corner kicks, free-kicks, throw-ins and floodlit football.

Sheffield, nicknamed 'The Club' as an indicator to it being very first team, continued to have a leading role until the game began to turn professional towards the end of the 19th century. It was determined to remain an amateur side and as such drifted into the shadows while Wednesday and United become true forces in the sport.

Even so, The Club continued to prosper and won the Amateur Cup in 1904, beating Ealing in front of a crowd of 6,000 at Bradford's Valley Parade ground. Perhaps their greatest day came in 1977 when they ran out at Wembley for the FA Vase final, drawing 1-1 with holders Billericay Town before losing the replay at the home of Nottingham Forest.

Although major success has been sparse, Sheffield has continued to battle on in the lower reaches of the football pyramid. But the problems surrounding the ground had always acted as a albatross around the club's neck and a barrier to progress.

After setting up camp at a plethora of pitches including East Bank, Newhall Road, Old Forge, Ecclesall Road, Abbeydale Park, Hillsborough Park and Sheffield Wednesday's Middlewood Road training ground, the club found itself in the rather palatial surroundings of the 25,000-capacity Don Valley Stadium - built to host the World Student Games.

After a brief sojourn to Owlerton Stadium they were back at Don Valley, but although the cost was relatively cheap it was still too much for a side like Sheffield FC. As they continued to lose money the only way they could have a future was to acquire a ground of their own.

The club had become desperate for a venue to develop, enabling the team to move up the pyramid ladder with its scaled ground regulations.
In 2000 the lease at the Coach and Horses ground was signed by then-Chairman Peter Beeby. Sheffield FC debuted at the 1,200-capacity ground in a Northern Counties East League fixture the following April.

Four years on and giants strides have been made. Current chairman Richard Timms, who looks after all sides of the business, from the general business to the clubhouse bar, has worked tirelessly on both raising the club's profile and bringing it into the 21st century. The finances are healthier than ever before and there is the platform for greater things.

In 2002/03 The Club reached the final qualifying round of the FA Cup for the first time in over 40 years, bowing out to Conference side Northwich Victoria in a match played at United's Bramall Lane. And the Northern Counties East Football League Cup was won for the first time.

Last season promotion via the restructuring of the non-league divisions was missed by one place, having finished in fourth position in the Premier Division.

Sheffield FC now stands on the verge of promotion to the Unibond League, leaving them just three divisions below the Conference National. Of course, reaching such lofty heights is something of a pipe dream but making the initial step into the First Division of the Northern Premier League would act as a stepping stone.

The Sheffield FC of today is a shadow of its former self, despite having Adidas as its kit supplier and a raft of interest from all four corners of the globe. But the club remains semi-professional and works hard on its community links, having teams for both children and women.

And with the club due to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2007 plans are already being made for an event to match the occasion. FIFA, and especially president Blatter, have grown increasingly interested in the exploits of The Club and have already thrown their weight behind the project.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Feyenoord kid

Inter in court over 'Crusader' kit

( 12-12-07)

A Turkish lawyer is suing Inter Milan for taking to the field against Fenerbahce wearing a kit he claims is 'offensive to Muslim sensibilities'.

Inter wore the shirt, which is white with a red cross emblazoned on the front, in last month's 3-0 Champions League win over the Turks at the San Siro.

Watching the game on television, Izmir lawyer Baris Kaska decided the crosses reminded him of the symbol of the Christian Crusades against Islam, and felt Inter had 'manifested in the most explicit manner the superiority of one religion over another.'

He added: 'It made me think immediately of the bloody days of the past. While I was watching the game I felt profound grief in my soul.'

Now Kaska is demanding damages, and has also lodged a complaint with a local court urging UEFA to annul the result of the match.

Inter officials, who thought better of wearing the kit in the away tie in Istanbul, say they are 'astounded' at the legal action.

They pointed out that the red cross on a white background is a symbol of the city of Milan and comissioned the kit to mark the club's centenary.