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, December 24, 2013

Real Salt Lake has a warm, fuzzy coach

(by Brad Rock 12-19-13)

The only time Jason Kreis cried was at the end, after Real Salt Lake had narrowly missed winning another MLS Cup, and he knew he was leaving.

Jeff Cassar, on the other hand, was choking up on Thursday before he had left his house.

Welcome to the tender side of RSL.

“Jeff is much more affable; he cracks a joke more, and he shows his emotions on his sleeve,” said team president Bill Manning. “Jason never would have done that.”

Imagine that — a coach you want to hug.

RSL introduced its new head coach at snowy Rio Tinto, and it appears this will be a feelings-on-the-shirtsleeves team. Kreis had emotion, too, but when the media was around it was on simmer. Even when he publicly criticized his team, which wasn’t often, he did so in a distant monotone.

Real management says Kreis was great to work with, which was true if you were in his inner circle.

Cassar just has a bigger circle, which apparently extends to nearly everyone. On Thursday he tearfully thanked his wife, as well as owner Dell Loy Hansen, the players, management, fans and even the media.

“Because you’re what’s driving this team,” Cassar said.

He forgot to thank the parking staff, but it was his first day.

He’ll get around to it.

“Every time I think about it,” Cassar said, “I really start to cry, because there are so few opportunities in life and Dell Loy, thank you. Thank you.”

There was a lot of talk about RSL being a “family” on Thursday and it was hard to disagree. General manager Garth Lagerwey and Cassar played together in Miami, along with current RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Kyle Beckerman. Lagerwey and Cassar also were together a season in Dallas.

“I might not have had a pro career if Jeff hadn’t been kind enough to dislocate his elbow in 1997 and then tear his ACL in 1999 in Miami, so as teammates I think we were both healthy on the same team for just one year,” Lagerwey said.

In a sense, Cassar’s appointment is similar to Tyrone Corbin replacing Jerry Sloan with the Jazz. Kreis and Sloan each took their teams to the league finals twice. Both were disciplinarians, and were replaced by an assistant coach.

But that’s where the comparisons end, mainly because Corbin inherited a team in flux, living out the last days of a long run of prosperity. Cassar is inheriting the MLS Cup runner-up.

Hansen said the Salt Lake of 2014 will “never have had less change in RSL’s history.”

Corbin has a team of kids, trying to get respect, while RSL has a side combining national team players and MLS All-Stars with intriguing young talent.

So naturally on Thursday, no one was lowering expectations. Now that Real has one MLS Cup and a Cup final to its credit, management says it isn’t taking a breather.

“Literally nothing changes,” Lagerwey said of transitioning to Cassar. “We’ve been working together every day for six years, so transition on the management side was as easy as you can possibly have.”

It apparently went smoothly on the player side, too. When polled, players overwhelmingly recommended Cassar.

Hansen said he expects the team’s success to continue for at least a decade, thanks to its young players and its new coach. But unlike the Jazz, this isn’t meant to be long-term rebuilding.

“We want to win now,” said Manning.

So the new era of RSL is underway.

Same players, different boss.

“You never really know; in two years time we’ll be able to tell,” Manning said. “But I think we’re all very comfortable with the choice.”

The club waved good-bye to the guy with the hard stare and selected someone as likable as a golden retriever.

That will go a long way.

RSL tabs Jeff Cassar as new head coach in place of Jason Kreis

(by James Edwards 12-18-13)

Real Salt Lake didn’t have to look far to find its new head coach. It was the guy sitting to Jason Kreis’ right the past seven years.

Jeff Cassar, 39, was promoted from RSL assistant coach to RSL head coach Wednesday afternoon, and he’ll be formally introduced at a press conference Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Cassar was an assistant to Kreis for all but one month of Kreis' tenure as Real Salt Lake's coach, and that continuity and his familiarity with the RSL culture were big reasons Cassar was tabbed as Kreis’ replacement.

“Jeff was under a really good head coach. Jeff had a very tight relationship with Jason, and was a very important part of our collective success the last couple of years,” said RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey.

Cassar and former RSL assistant Robin Fraser were the two finalists for the head coaching job, a clear indication ownership wanted to maintain the team-is-the-star mentality Kreis established. The club ultimately believed Cassar was the right man to maintain that culture.

“We’re going to reward success. Any successful organization and any successful culture has to reward success, and when people are loyal and do well for you over a long period of time they’re going to get their shot,” said Lagerwey.

Cassar, a former MLS goalkeeper, becomes the third head coach in RSL’s short history.

“Jeff’s been a crucial member of the RSL family since 2007. His terrific leadership abilities, strong character and understanding of our locker room, tactics and overarching club culture will allow us to continue to compete for trophies in 2014 and beyond,” said RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen in a press release.

During his seven years as RSL’s goalkeepers coach, Cassar was instrumental in helping Nick Rimando elevate himself into a U.S. national team-caliber 'keeper who will likely be on the U.S. World Cup roster next summer.

Over the past seven years Cassar also served as RSL’s top assistant coach, which gives him tremendous insight into the ins and outs of the organization.

“He’s been intimately involved with many aspects of the coaching staff and organization for a while,” said Lagerwey. “He’s been our top minor league scout. He has a tremendous network in terms of kids filtering up through the lower levels. He’s really dialed into the player pipeline and he’s really dialed into our academy, and those are all strengths that will help him and a foundation to build on.”

Cassar's MLS playing career spanned 11 seasons, including two stints with Dallas (1996-97 and 2003-06), one with Miami (1998-2001) and one with the MetroStars (2002). During that time, he made 79 appearances, finishing with 13 shutouts, a 28-36-10 record and a career goals-against average of 1.76.

It was a good career, but by no means a great career. What separated him from others was his work ethic, a big reason why he spent half a season in the English Premier League with Ipswich Town and the Bolton Wanderers. Even though he never made an appearance with a senior EPL squad, Cassar started in seven reserve games.

Real Salt Lake said Cassar won’t make public comments about his hiring until Thursday’s press conference. However, when he joined RSL back in May 2007, he said the family culture in Utah was a big reason he took the job, and that likely hasn’t changed.

"The people are great, and I'm a massive family guy, and this place just oozes family. It oozes being outside and mingling and meeting people. It's not like everyone's in their own hole,” said Cassar back in 2007.

Cassar has big shoes to fill replacing Kreis, who led RSL to six straight playoff appearances from 2008 to 2013. Cassar was his right-hand man throughout it all.

If Cassar is able to maintain and build on that success in 2014 and beyond, the $20,000 tampering fine that RSL paid back in 2007 for hiring Cassar away from FC Dallas will continue to be some of the best money ever spent by the club.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

RSL's 2013 season - one gigantic kick in the crotch

RSL's 2013 has been one gigantic kick in the crotch!
Sure, 2013 was supposed to be a "rebuilding" year and we made it all the way to the final. Not only that but we had a chance at the every other possible title available to MLS teams.
First we had a shot at the Supporters Shield, an outside shot but a shot nonetheless.
Second, the US Open Cup was ours for the taking, a game played on our home turf against this year's Relegation Boot recipient.
Third, we made it all the way to MLS Cup.
Finally, according to the rules since the inception of the CONCACAF Champions League we would qualify for next year's tournament since we made it to MLS Cup.
But no, the planets were out of alignment, our chi was off, and we finished the year with nothing but a kick in the crotch and a thank you sir.
The Supporters Shield came down to the last weekend but we were beat out, we lost the US Open Cup to DC United by a score of 1 - 0, we lost MLS Cup in a shootout to Sporting Kansas City, and thanks to a change of rules not approved until after the season was over Portland will play in the Champions League since they finished with the best record in the Western Conference (NY Red Bulls finished with the best record in the East and won the Supporters Shield.)
Anyway, goodbye 2013, thank heavens for the off-season. I need to get my mind on something else and forget this year.
RSL won't participate in 2014-2015 tourney after CONCACAF vote     
( 12-13-13)
 Real Salt Lake announced on Friday that the club will not participate in the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League. The CONCACAF executive committee voted today to adopt U.S. Soccer’s and Major League Soccer’s proposal to alter the USA’s qualification rules and that the changes will be implemented in the 2014-2015 round of the tournament.
Last January, Major League Soccer proposed a change to the USA’s qualification rules that was officially submitted by the U.S. Soccer Federation for CONCACAF approval. MLS proposed that the berth given to the MLS Cup runner-up be given instead to the MLS team that has the best regular season finish in the conference opposite of the Supporters’ Shield winner. The league believes that this change would make finishing first in each conference more significant. If one team were to qualify with multiple berths or a Canadian MLS team were to qualify, the berth would then go to the U.S. MLS team with the next best regular season record.

Real Salt Lake would have qualified under the old rules as 2013 MLS Cup runner-ups but that berth will now be awarded to Portland Timbers who finished the regular season first in the Western Conference – opposite of Supporters’ Shield winners New York Red Bulls.

Portland Timbers will join MLS Cup winners Sporting Kansas City, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winners D.C. United and New York as the four U.S. based MLS representatives in the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League. The winner of the 2014 Canadian Championship – contested between MLS clubs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Toronto FC and Montreal Impact and NASL side FC Edmonton – will also qualify for the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League.

The winner of the CCL advances to the FIFA Club World Cup. Real Salt Lake reached the final of the 2010-2011 CONCACAF Champions League but ultimately lost to Mexican side Monterrey. RSL is the only MLS team to ever reach the CCL Final.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Coach Jason Kreis officially leaves RSL to become the new coach of New York City FC

(by Mike Sorensen 12-10-13)

To almost no one’s surprise, Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis is leaving RSL to take over as the new coach of New York City FC, a 2015 Major League Soccer expansion franchise.

"I'd like to thank Jason for a remarkably successful run during his nine years with Real Salt Lake as both a player and as a head coach," RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen said in a statement Tuesday night. "Jason obviously leaves the Utah soccer scene significantly better than he found it, building the competitive foundation of one of Major League Soccer's elite organizations.’’

Hansen said the club would name a new coach as soon as the end of next week.

“We will continue to move forward — quickly — with the 'team is the star' ethos that he and our general manager Garth Lagerwey implemented back in 2007," Hansen said. “We are certain that the job Jason leaves behind — with both the accomplished veteran core and the glut of promising youth — is quite attractive to potential candidates.’’

It has been no secret that Kreis was the top candidate for the New York job and rumors have been circulating since September. Kreis even addressed the possibility after Saturday’s MLS Cup loss to Kansas City, saying he was “going into hiding for three days" and adding, “What happens over the next couple of days is real hard.’’

According to a report on, Kreis informed his players of his decision over dinner at his house Tuesday night.

“I would like to thank everyone associated with Real Salt Lake, including the fantastic fans, for the many special years I spent there,’’ Kreis said in a statement from the New York club. “I wish them the very best for the future.’’

The New York franchise is owned by the same owners of Manchester City FC of the English Premier League and Kreis said he will “immerse myself in football in the football operations in Manchester, observing some of the leading figures of European football.’’

“I am looking forward to making my contribution to New York City FC from the very outset,’’ Kreis also said. “The opportunity to develop the first professional club based in New York City was impossible to pass up. There will be a lot to do before our inaugural season in 2015, but I am confident that with the support teams in the (Manchester) City organization, we will be well-placed to hit the ground running.’’

Kreis, who turns 41 at the end of this month, played college soccer at Duke and then competed in Major League Soccer for 12 seasons. He played nine years with the Dallas Burn before finishing his playing career with Real Salt Lake. He retired early in the 2007 season to take over as RSL's head coach, replacing John Ellinger.

Kreis’ biggest accomplishment was winning the MLS championship in 2009 over the L.A. Galaxy. Besides last week’s second-place finish in MLS Cup, he also led RSL to a CONCACAF Champions League final appearance in 2011 and a U.S. Open Cup final appearance this past fall. His record with RSL over all competitions was 111-87-69. His No. 9 jersey was retired by RSL in 2011.

In his postgame remarks Saturday, Kreis said the future looks bright for RSL.

“I don’t think this team is going to be changed in any large way,’’ Kreis said. “There’s a ton of really young talented players with this group.’’
The 20th Major League Soccer club, New York City FC, announced Tuesday that it had appointed former Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis as its first head coach in club history as it is set to open its inaugural season in 2015. “Jason is one of the true pioneers of Major League Soccer, and a leader any team would be proud to have at the helm,” NYCFC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna said in the NYCFC release. “His skills and experience, together with his commitment to quality football, make him the ideal choice to lead New York City FC in its first season and beyond. He has already left a historic mark on the league, both as a player and coach, and we have every confidence in him continuing to do so at New York City FC.” As NYCFC is not set to kick off in MLS competition until the 2015 season, NYCFC announced in the release that Kreis will officially begin his new venture with the expansion MLS club in January 2014. The New York City based club said Kreis will first travel to England where its English Premier League, Manchester City FC, is located where he will work closely with its head coach, Manuel Pellegrini. NYCFC also stated in the release that during Kreis’ time in England with Manchester City FC he will observe “the club’s approach to coaching, training and player development, with the goal of applying similar approaches to New York City FC.”


Monday, December 9, 2013

RSL's quest to win MLS Cup comes up agonizingly short in Kansas City


 (by James Edwards 12-7-13)
Shootouts provide drama unlike anything else in sports.
Five years ago penalty kicks provided Real Salt Lake with the absolute highest of highs and delivered the franchise’s only title. Saturday afternoon, however, RSL experienced the absolute agony of penalties.

In a wildly entertaining MLS Cup level at 1-1 after regulation and overtime — a game that saw RSL hit the post three times — Sporting Kansas City prevailed 7-6 in a marathon shootout that went to the 10th round of penalties at Sporting Park.

The final dagger for Real Salt Lake came when Lovel Palmer banged the team’s 10th penalty off the crossbar, securing Kansas City’s first MLS Cup since 2000 in front of a passionate sellout crowd of 21,650.

“In 2009 we were the happy guys and tonight not,” said RSL midfielder Javier Morales.
As difficult as swallowing another runner-up finish was, coach Jason Kreis said the 20-kick shootout in no way defines his team this season.

“For me there was no way for this group to lose. We were in a no-lose situation in this match. Just by getting to this final was a remarkable statement about what this group of players has been able to do,” said Kreis, whose team also lost the U.S. Open Cup final a couple of months ago. “Very easy to look at that in a negative way, but I don’t think we should because frankly I thought we played outstanding tonight. It wasn’t like we came here to defend or bunker in or break them on a counter.”

In a match that featured fantastic momentum swings throughout 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of overtime, the shootout was no different.

Kansas City had an opportunity to win in the fifth round, but didn’t. Real Salt Lake had a chance to win in the eighth round, but didn’t.

The 10th round of kicks eventually determined the cup winner as Aurelien Collin buried his kick for Sporting Kansas City and Palmer caromed his off the bar.

“The amount of close plays, goals called back, you just look back on it, I don’t think I’ve ever played in a game where there was that many momentum changes and close plays,” said RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy.

Alvaro Saborio — RSL’s regulation goal scorer — and Grabavoy quickly put RSL in a big hole in the shootout when Saborio went high and Grabavoy was saved with Kansas City taking a quick 2-0 lead.

A Nick Rimando save and makes by Kyle Beckerman and Joao Plata helped RSL close the deficit to 3-2, which seemed to merely set the stage for Graham Zusi to steal the spotlight with a championship-winning PK. However, he pushed his shot well over the crossbar. Morales calmly converted his penalty to send it into extra kicks.

After two rounds of makes, Kansas City’s Lawrence Olum put his penalty in the eighth round wide, which set the stage for Sebastian Velasquez to be the Robbie Russell-esque hero of 2013. However, his shot was saved by Kansas City 'keeper Jimmy Nielsen.

“For me those penalty kick situations are like flipping a coin,” said Kreis.

Well before it got to penalties though, there were opportunities for Real Salt Lake to seize its second championship in franchise history. After all, it hit three posts over the course of the game — something that’s plagued the franchise in big matches through the years.

The first post came in the 29th minute when Chris Wingert’s dangerous service forced Nielsen to punch the ball. He ended up punching it straight up and slightly behind him. Findley tried tapping it home out of midair, but hit the inside of the post instead.

On a frozen field that made conditions very difficult to deal with, both teams struggled to settle into any rhythm.

“Both teams couldn’t settle things down at all. We were panic stations when we got the ball, giving it away too cheaply. Both teams played very direct in the first half,” said Kreis.

Early in the second half Real Salt Lake settled into the game, and not surprisingly its goal game shortly thereafter.

RSL broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute when Saborio chested down a cheeky chip from Beckerman and blasted it past Nielsen for the 1-0 lead.

The goal sent RSL’s 1,500 fans in the corner of Sporting Park into pandemonium as their club was 38 minutes from lifting MLS Cup.

Over the next 21 minutes RSL twice came agonizingly close to doubling that advantage, but was denied by the post each time. Beckerman’s shot in the 62nd minute caromed off the post and over the end line, and then in the 73rd minute Morales chipped a shot over Nielsen that hit the left post and then trickled across the goalmouth and out over the end line again.

“To be honest I think this group is a little bit used to that. We’ve had a lot of games where the ball comes off the woodwork,” said Kreis, who quickly added: “Kansas City had a couple clear-cut chances they didn’t put on the frame. I could whine about hitting the posts. (Kansas City coach Peter Vermes) could whine (that) his players should’ve put them on frame.”

Just three minutes after Morales was denied, Collin injected life into a dormant Kansas City side by heading home a Zusi corner kick to level the proceedings at 1-1.

The last 10 minutes of regulation were shaky for both sides, but particularly for RSL with Kansas City trying to build on the late momentum.

The fatigue of playing on a frozen field started to catch up with both teams in overtime, which quickly set the stage for penalties.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Real Salt Lake: RSL looking to impose will on Kansas City in MLS Cup

(by Brad Rock 12-6-13)

 A month ago when Real Salt Lake opened the playoffs at Los Angeles, it approached the match with a very conservative, defensive posture and was incredibly lucky to only lose 1-0. On a different night, the Galaxy could've scored three or four goals and won the series in the first leg.

In RSL's three playoffs games since, the club has wisely reverted back to its aggressive, attack-first mentality, and the results have followed suit with three straight victories and a 7-2 goal differential.

Heading into Saturday’s MLS Cup at Sporting Park, affectionately referred to as Blue Hell, Real Salt Lake knows from experience it can’t afford to sit back.

“For me it seems like the players are more relaxed and enjoying the moment and playing more free, which is when we’re at our best,” said RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy.

When Real Salt Lake is on top of its game, it’s pinging the ball around the midfield and the opponent is doing a lot of chasing.

That’s how Kansas City likes to play at home too, and Saturday’s championship is all about which side can impose its will on the other — not to mention push aside the misery mother nature has in store with forecasted temperatures in the teens.

“One thing that will be important for them playing here is to try and possess the ball a little bit because typically we outpossess our opponents at home, and they’re known to be a possession team,” said Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber. “If they’re able to possess the ball a little bit, that will help them and obviously our goal is not let them do that.”

Fellow Kansas City midfielder Paulo Nagamura said making life difficult for RSL midfielder Javier Morales is the key to slowing down Real Salt Lake.

“They’re a very creative team, especially with Morales. He’s a guy that we always have to keep an eye on him and don’t let him create much. He’s the most dangerous guy on that team. If you give him an inch or so he’ll make you pay,” said Nagamura.

Kansas City beat Real Salt Lake 2-1 in the only regular-season meeting between the teams at Rio Tinto Stadium back in June, and the visitors had success by frustrating Morales.

RSL was missing four regulars — Alvaro Saborio, Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Tony Beltran — because of international duty, but Jason Kreis’ team could be at full strength for Saturday’s 2 p.m. MST kickoff on ESPN.

Saborio and Chris Wingert were the only two RSL regulars who missed Game 2 of the Western Conference final against Portland, but they’ve trained all week and are available.

“I’m good to go, absolutely. I don’t know if I’m in the lineup or the 18, but I’ll be looking to help the team in any capacity I can,” said Wingert.

The return of leading-scorer Saborio to the attack could be a boost as well, especially if he’s paired with Robbie Findley. Even though players like Joao Plata and Olmes Garcia might bring a bit more flare to the match, RSL has only lost one match this season (3-1-5) when Findley and Saborio are in the starting lineup together.

Saborio and Findley can only be successful if the nine guys behind them do their job, and Wingert said he’s looking forward to the challenge of trying to do that on the biggest of MLS stages.

“We’re going to try and do our best to impose our will on them. Obviously we like to possess the ball and try and take it to the other team and press them a little bit — even though of course they’re going to have the crowd behind them and they’re going to be trying to put us back into our end,” said Wingert. “If we’re capable of doing that like the team did last week … we’ll be in good shape.”

Both franchises have hoisted MLS hardware before, most recently with Real Salt Lake in 2009. Kansas City's last title came in 2000, a drought home-field advantage could play a big role in ending Saturday.

Friday, December 6, 2013

In our opinion: RSL's title hopes bode well for soccer's future in Utah

( 12-2-13)

The skeptics who once doubted major league soccer could thrive in Utah are now drowned out by the roars of fans ready to celebrate another championship by Real Salt Lake.

Of course, the squad will have to make it past a team from Kansas City to claim its second Major League Soccer Cup in five years. But win or lose, the RSL franchise already has done its fans proud and proven that a sport beloved around the world can generate in Utah the same kind of loyalty bordering on fanaticism as it does in places like Liverpool, Madrid or Rio de Janiero.

To get to the season finale on Dec. 7, Real’s squad of savvy veterans and emerging new talent vanquished the top-seeded Portland Timbers in a two-match display of focus, confidence and strategic mastery. The Portland fans were no doubt disappointed by the outcome, but continued throughout the final match to chant their team’s fight song in a show of enthusiasm even the loudest NFL arenas don’t often exceed.

The same exuberance over the years has been displayed by sold-out RSL crowds chanting fight songs and anthems, which include a song from a few years ago that begins with the lyrics, “We are fighting as the mighty Real; we came together if you’re wondering how….”

Yes, there are those who might well be wondering how this came together – a franchise that started with shaky expectations but has since given the world’s most popular sport a firm foothold in the Rocky Mountains.

Utah is, in many ways, a natural place to promote soccer, which is known in many other nations as football. Not only is there a large and growing Hispanic population here that appreciates the sport, the area also is home to many people who served church missions in areas where the sport dominates. They come home with a newfound appreciation for the game. In addition, youth soccer leagues thrive along the Wasatch Front, building a ready made base of young and excited fans.

We were not happy with the way RSL and state lawmakers pushed a public financing deal on taxpayers to help with construction of Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy. Such public support seems to be built into the pro forma of many major league franchises in virtually all sports these days, which is particularly unfortunate at a time of tight budgets and economic hardship. Despite their connection to civic pride, sports ought to be able to survive on their own, as any other business. There is no denying, however, that soccer has a loyal following in Utah and that RSL’s success feeds that enthusiasm.

Of course, in the world of professional sports, nothing is certain (which is another reason taxpayer involvement ought to be avoided). Financial concerns perennially challenge small-market franchises like RSL, which recently underwent an ownership change and is now in the midst of a change involving a major corporate sponsorship. All of that aside, RSL has proven its viability as a source of local pride and civic identity.

That bodes well for the future of the sport in Utah — just as the team’s gritty, never-give-up attitude on the field bodes well for its chances in December to further secure a place of prominence in what’s known as the world’s “beautiful game.”

Real Salt Lake grabs Western Conference title, books trip to MLS Cup

(by Kira Terry 11-24-13)

Real Salt Lake was crowned the Major League Soccer Western Conference Champion Sunday night and punched its ticket to the 2013 MLS Cup final with a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers in the Rose City.

The Salt Lake club entered the second leg of the Western Conference final up 4-2 on the aggregate score from the first leg of the series Nov. 10 with the Timbers.

RSL forward Robbie Findley increased the Salt Lake club's aggregate spread to 5-2 in the 29th minute when he put a ball past Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. Just moments before, RSL midfielder Luis Gil took a strike at Ricketts and it was blocked, but Findley got a foot on it putting it past Ricketts and into the back of the net.

The Timbers had two first-half goals from defender Pa-Modou Kah called back by the official due to a foul called on forward Rodney Wallace and then an offside’s call to Kah.

 With the 1-0 win, the Claret and Cobalt broke the Timbers' 16-game unbeaten home streak in MLS competition at JELD-WEN Field dating back to April 6. The Timbers went 14-1-5 in the MLS regular season at its fortress.  Portland finished the match with the majority of the possession at 54.9 percent to 45.1 percent for the Salt Lake club, but the Timbers failed to convert any of its 18 attempts on goal. The Claret and Cobalt’s single goal on the night was enough to take the series and grab the Western Conference title, the trophy and a trip to the MLS Cup.

RSL went 1-0-2 at JELD-WEN Field this season and increased to 4-0-2 in all competitions against the Timbers this season. RSL is now 7-1-3 all-time against the Timbers.  The Salt Lake club played without two regulars — forward Alvaro Saborio and defender Chris Wingert — due to injuries. Defender Lovel Palmer and rookie forward Devon Sandoval got the starting nods from RSL head coach Jason Kreis. Palmer went 59 minutes before being relieved by defender Abdoulie Mansally, and Sandoval left the match in the 85th minute when he was subbed out for forward Olmes Garcia.

RSL will travel to face Sporting Kansas City in the MLS Cup final on Dec. 7. Sporting Kansas City advanced as the Eastern Conference victor Saturday night with a 2-1 over the Houston Dynamo.

Real Salt Lake was crowned the Major League Soccer Western Conference Champion Sunday night and punched its ticket to the 2013 MLS Cup final with a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers in the Rose City. The Salt Lake club entered the second leg of the Western Conference final up 4-2 on the aggregate score from the first leg of the series Nov. 10 with the Timbers. RSL forward Robbie Findley increased the Salt Lake club's aggregate spread to 5-2 in the 29th minute when he put a ball past Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. Just moments before, RSL midfielder Luis Gil took a strike at Ricketts and it was blocked, but Findley got a foot on it putting it past Ricketts and into the back of the net. The Timbers had two first-half goals from defender Pa-Modou Kah called back by the official due to a foul called on forward Rodney Wallace and then an offside’s call to Kah. With the 1-0 win, the Claret and Cobalt broke the Timbers' 16-game unbeaten home streak in MLS competition at JELD-WEN Field dating back to April 6. The Timbers went 14-1-5 in the MLS regular season at its fortress. Portland finished the match with the majority of the possession at 54.9 percent to 45.1 percent for the Salt Lake club, but the Timbers failed to convert any of its 18 attempts on goal. The Claret and Cobalt’s single goal on the night was enough to take the series and grab the Western Conference title, the trophy and a trip to the MLS Cup. RSL went 1-0-2 at JELD-WEN Field this season and increased to 4-0-2 in all competitions against the Timbers this season. RSL is now 7-1-3 all-time against the Timbers. The Salt Lake club played without two regulars — forward Alvaro Saborio and defender Chris Wingert — due to injuries. Defender Lovel Palmer and rookie forward Devon Sandoval got the starting nods from RSL head coach Jason Kreis. Palmer went 59 minutes before being relieved by defender Abdoulie Mansally, and Sandoval left the match in the 85th minute when he was subbed out for forward Olmes Garcia. RSL will travel to face Sporting Kansas City in the MLS Cup final on Dec. 7. Sporting Kansas City advanced as the Eastern Conference victor Saturday night with a 2-1 over the Houston Dynamo.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

MLS uniforms 2013, the 3rd kit post

Uniforms in MLS keep progressing thankfully, long gone are the ugly early days of uniforms created by kids with a box of crayons. (Now, if we could just get a couple of logos fixed. New England, Columbus, hello?)

This year three MLS teams came out with alternate 3rd jerseys, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. However, the color purple continues to be left out of the league. C'mon RSL, this is your chance.

Anyway, below are photos and articles about those new jerseys.


Sporting KC unveils third kit, presented by Ivy Funds

Black jerseys pay homage to club’s original look in 1990’s 

( 4-27-13)

Sporting Kansas City unveiled the team’s third jerseys moments before kickoff tonight, taking the field at Sporting Park in an all-black alternate uniform that pays homage to the club’s roots when the team wore black in their first four seasons from 1996-1999.

The limited edition Sporting Kansas City authentic third jersey, along with a line of merchandise that includes t-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, tank tops and scarves, will be on sale exclusively at Sporting Style locations inside Sporting Park during tonight’s match. The items will then be made available online at starting on Sunday.

“Our in-house brand team set out to create a kit that blurs the line between fashion and sports,” said John Moncke, Sporting Kansas City’s Vice President of Stadium and Brand Revenue. “This jersey looks just as good with denim as it does on the field. You can wear this out, and people won't think you have a soccer jersey on.”

Complete with a collar at the neck, the jersey material is 30% lighter than the previous generation of kits and the design features an argyle pattern across the front that alternates between the team’s Sporting Blue and Dark Indigo colors. Adidas, Major League Soccer's exclusive supplier, has provided the club's uniforms since the inaugural season in 1996.

Ivy Funds, Sporting Kansas City's presenting jersey partner and the official investment management partner of Sporting Club, is prominently showcased with the asset management firm's logo centrally located on the front of the uniform. Headquartered in Overland Park, Kan., Ivy Funds entered into a multi-year sponsorship agreement with Sporting Kansas City that was announced at the 2013 MLS SuperDraft earlier this year.

In addition to Saturday’s match, Sporting Kansas City will wear the alternate jersey for select CONCACAF Champions League games during the 2013-2014 tournament and designated matches during the team’s defense of their Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title.
Sporting Kansas City’s third kit release showcases the club’s emphasis on trendsetting fashion styles and provides a distinctive new look and feel for the team’s evolving brand. Sporting KC currently ranks second in merchandise revenue per capita amongst all MLS teams to date this season.
“We think that if you have a conversation about the coolest kits in the world, then our third kit should be a part of that dialogue," Moncke said.

LA Galaxy 3rd kit unveiled

Fans designed and voted on kit, which is a nod to the Galaxy's old colors

( 6-15-13)

Last summer, through an exciting and first-of-its-kind Facebook application, the LA Galaxy, along with Herbalife and adidas allowed fans to decide what the club’s 3rd kit would look like for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Fans submitted more than 8,000 designs and were able to cast their votes for one of the final five fan-designed kits.

After months of anticipation, the Galaxy are excited to announce the winner of the LA Galaxy 3rd Kit Contest!

Drum roll, please...

The winner, with 30.3% of the total votes is Carlos Rodriguez!

Speaking with last year, Carlos had this to say about what inspired his design and what it would mean to him to have his kit selected by the fans:

On his inspiration for the design:

  "I wanted the jersey to be a throwback to the inaugural season. Though there are certainly some people who might not place that jersey among the nicest LA Galaxy kits throughout the years for its somewhat flamboyant appearance, I have always looked at that jersey as one of the most iconic kits in MLS history. Unfortunately, since those jerseys are out of production, I felt a kit harkening back to that year could be a memento for older and much younger Galaxy fans who never had a chance to put on that jersey or would like to don those colors once again."
On what it would mean to have his jersey selected as the Galaxy’s official 3rd Kit:
"I have always had a great love for the Galaxy and I look back very fondly at the times my uncle, my cousin, and I would head to Pasadena to catch a game. As an emerging fan of the beautiful game, the Galaxy along with the rest of MLS was my first real immersion into the world of soccer and as a young kid I did not grow up idolizing soccer greats such as the Ronaldos or the Zidanes but rather Galaxy players such as the aforementioned Cobi Jones, Mauricio Cienfuegos, and Jorge Campos.

Having my design selected is, therefore, my chance to be etched into the history of the team I love so much and to whom I am eternally gratefully for truly enriching my childhood."
Tonight, Carlos joined Galaxy President Chris Klein and Dan Calichman, the first Galaxy captain, for the official unveil of his design. Fans can check back on after tonight's Reserve League game for more from that event.

The Galaxy will debut the new 3rd kit for Alumni Night on Saturday, August 17 when the club takes on Real Salt Lake.

Philadelphia Union unveil new third jersey, inspired by Bethlehem Steel

(by Jonathan Tannenwald 2-26-13)

Now it's official. After lots of rumor and speculation - and some leaked photos on the internet Tuesday afternoon - the Philadelphia Union finally unveiled their new third jersey during their Meet the Team event at Xfinity Live.

The black, white and red color scheme is a tribute to Bethlehem Steel, the famed club from the 1910's and 1920's that won five U.S. Open Cups.

Led by Archie Stark, Bethlehem Steel rose to local and national prominence in an era when soccer was a huge deal in America.

At that point in the country's history, the east coast's vast population of European immigrants hadn't truly assimilated yet. Baseball was only starting to gain mass appeal, and professional football was far inferior to college football in terms of popularity.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Godfather looks on with falcon eyes

If RSL wants to erect a statue one day of Coach Kreis it should be based on this photo. Epic.
(more to come)

After Flirting With Failure, Major League Soccer Popularity Now Surging

(by Alex Morrell 11-8-13)

Clark Hunt — son of the late NFL legend and Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt — has a lot to be excited about these days. Yes, the president and partial owner has watched his Chiefs leap to their first 9-0 start in a decade after years of irrelevance. But the NFL season is long and brutal, and a variety of misfortunes could derail a Super Bowl bid and render that enthusiasm short-lived. He has more to be genuinely excited about in a different league and a different sport altogether– the other football: Major League Soccer.

The MLS Cup Playoffs are underway, and even though FC Dallas, the team he owns with his family, didn’t make the post-season, the future of the league he and his family helped build from the ground up has never been brighter.

For years it’s been the league that cried relevant. Hyped up events  — from hosting the World Cup in 1994, to luring legendary British midfielder David Beckham to the L.A Galaxy in 2007, to recent international success of the men’s and women’s national teams — offered promise to finally catapult domestic soccer into national prominence, only to provide an small, incremental boosts after all the dust and fanfare settled. The lucrative television rights deals of the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL have long dwarfed that of MLS — which as recently as 2011 signed a three-year deal with NBC worth a meager $10 million per year, according to the Sports Business Journal. A decade ago, MLS was teetering on the brink of failure.

“We’ve been hard at work for 18 years. There were some days early on where we thought it wouldn’t make it,” said Hunt, 48, who along with father Lamar, was instrumental in launching the professional soccer experiment in the U.S. in 1996 and  has stubbornly refused to let it fail. “Just 10 years ago we had 10 teams, three owners and we were really in trouble.”

Now, there are 19 teams – with another New York City team scheduled to launch in 2015 and one in Orlando in the works. And with Hunt selling his second soccer team, Columbus Crew, for an MLS record $68 million this July, ownership is as dispersed and valuable as ever. Average attendance has surged to 18,600, a more than 35% increase from the 2000 nadir of just over 13,700.

Perhaps most importantly, there are the stats that point to the sport finally gaining traction.

Rich Luker has been conducting and analyzing polling of American sports fandom since 1994, when he launched the ESPN ESPN Sports Poll. The poll – the first of its kind and the only national syndicated intelligence service dedicated to the study of sports — gathers data on a broad, inclusive list of sports and their U.S. fan bases. The growth Major League Soccer fandom has experienced the past five to 10 years is remarkable,  Luker says.

Of the 18,000 people surveyed in 2012, more than a third identified themselves as fans of Major League Soccer, according to the Luker on Trends – ESPN Sports Poll. It’s a 24% increase from five years ago and a 33% increase since 2002. Avid fans of the league — now at 7.3% — grew 35% from 2007 and 43% from a decade ago.

The poll defines a fan as “a little bit interested” in a sport and an avid fan as “very interested,” a far more coveted distinction.

MLS’ avid fan base is the fastest growing of any sport, outpacing all others in the ten-year periods from 2001 to 2011 as well as 2002 to 2012. And the gains come from nearly all ages of both genders.
Why is MLS finally turning the corner? Hunt can’t point to just one catalyst, but he’s confident in its trajectory. It may never catch up with the NFL, but the league is now nipping at the heels of the bottom of the big four pro sports.

“Soccer has a chance to be the No. 2 sport in the U.S. in my lifetime,” said Hunt, who recognizes the international leagues are currently more popular but believes MLS will be the primary beneficiary of the sport’s growth in years to come.

Critical to that growth has been a rapid cultural and generational maturation of a rather unique fan base, according to Luker.

Soccer is the first sport that has been imported and commercially scaled in the United States that rose to global prominence entirely outside the U.S. Even if their earliest incarnations occurred elsewhere in the world, the four major U.S. sports rose to cultural and commercial significance within American borders over multiple generations.  Major League Soccer, only one generation old, was created because FIFA made it a condition for the U.S. to host the 1994 World Cup.

“This is a league that was born not of love or culture or tradition, but of mandate so the U.S. could host the second largest sporting event in the world,” Luker said. “It boggles the mind that we are where we are.”

The kind of fans the league is attracting and cultivating also bodes well.

The fan base, unsurprisingly, is especially robust among millennials and Hispanics, a steadily growing ethnic population in the U.S. But it has also made substantial gains among the 35-to-54 age demographic, which Luker calls “the most important demographic in sports and gaining strength.”
But beyond demographics and statistics, the culture and behavior of the fan base sets the league apart and has attracted the envy of the other leagues.

“What we are seeing in MLS is unlike anything we’re seeing in any other sport,”  said Luker, who likens the fan base to a cross between two iconic musical followings — grunge and Deadheads. Grunge existed on a small but intense scale for years before exploding in the Pacific Northwest and then nationwide. Deadheads, the loyal grassroots following of The Grateful Dead, traveled from venue to venue night after night to experience the music and the culture that accompanied it.

“Other sports are trying to find a way to emulate that. That vibrance transcends the game day experience and therefore the consumption of goods and the interest of the sport.”

Doug Williams can attest to the growing fervor. He’s the business development director for Sports Endeavors, which owns and World Soccer Shop and is among the largest soccer merchandise retailers in the world. The company, which will cross $200 million in revenue this year, has been around since 1984 — long before MLS existed. Merchandise from English Premier League teams still sells the best, but sales from MLS teams have increased substantially in recent years.

“The dominate league is the English Premier League — they’ve had a long time to get a good head start on that,” Williams said. “But the best MLS teams would be in our top 10 of all teams.”

These trends matter little, of course, unless Major League Soccer translates its burgeoning popularity into revenues that allow the league to grow and invest in its product. With its comparatively paltry TV deals set to expire in 2014, expect the fastest growing league in the U.S. to command a fee far surpassing those in years past.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

RSL's Supporter Shield race

(More info to come)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

American Outlaws’ growth highlights distinct passion among U.S. soccer faithful

(by Brian Straus 10-18-13)

My first genuine exposure to soccer beyond U.S. borders came in the spring of 1998. The World Cup was a few weeks away.

Thanks to my friendship with Paul Woolfson, the former head of London’s Sheffield Wednesday supporters club, I spent a couple of weeks living the life of a genuine English football fan. From the train ride to Hillsborough to the pick-up games and snooker matches against rival supporters groups, I enjoyed a brief but unforgettable immersion in that fascinating culture.

Along the way, there was one particular conversation that stood out. It occurred at a pub, naturally, and it concerned the primacy of club over country. Among the London Owls, there was consensus – they’d rather see Wednesday win the Premier League than England lift the World Cup. I was stunned but was assured the sentiment was typical.

The passion U.S. fans feel for their national team isn’t unique. But it is different. Patriotism is a big part of it. That phenomenon is evident during the Olympics, when millions of Americans suddenly care deeply about sports that barely register before and after the Games. And it’s obvious during the World Cup, the one month every four years when soccer is mainstream in the U.S.

The national team’s popularity also reflects soccer’s awkward growth here. For the generation that served as the sport’s American vanguard — the kids who pulled soccer from its niche when they took to suburban fields in the ‘70s and early ‘80s and who now wield such significant influence — there wasn’t much to look up to. The NASL was flimsy and dying and a league like MLS was a fantasy.

But there was a U.S. national team. It was the country’s club. The Americans who tied Argentina at the 1988 Olympics and then played in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups were common heroes among the legions who now play, coach and support the game. The London Owls were raised on Sheffield Wednesday. A generation of American fans was raised on a diet of red, white and blue.

Two of the younger members of that pre-MLS cohort, Justin Brunken and Korey Donahoo, put their passion to work. What started in 2007 as a small group of fans in Lincoln, Neb. gathering at a bar to watch the U.S. or arranging the occasional road trip has blossomed into a nationwide network of supporters numbering more than 15,000.

The American Outlaws now boast 100 chapters, many of which are in places like Sioux Falls, S.D. and Jackson, Miss. that seem far removed from the soccer spotlight. The sport has spread, and the organization’s influence now shapes the way national team matches are staged, presented, and covered.

The U.S. Soccer Federation reserves sections for organized supporters (there were around 9,000 seats set aside for last month’s U.S.-Mexico match in Columbus). They’re given leeway to coordinate chants and elaborate displays. The parties and pep rallies that accompanied this year’s World Cup qualifiers, which became multi-day events for the first time, are a reflection of the increasing enthusiasm. No story about a U.S. game is complete without a photo or reference to the AO spectacle, and even the group’s internal politics have been covered by major websites.

AO quickly has become a colorful and integral part of American soccer culture, one with a gravitas that likely will appeal to the next generation of fans. The London Owls certainly would appreciate that.

In July, in part because I thought they were cool and in part to make a point about branding in general, I compiled and posted around 50 AO chapter logos on Twitter. I was impressed with the creativity, spirit and artistry behind them. I also wanted U.S. clubs to see that fans, when left to design their own symbols, were inspired by local and civic imagery – not generic shields or random snarling animals or traditions stolen from teams across an ocean.

After attending the recent qualifier in Kansas City, where AO inducted its 100th chapter (Wichita), SI’s Grant Wahl suggested that we publish some of the chapter crests in the magazine. Senior Editor Adam Duerson made the space in the Oct. 21 issue and thought posting the remainder at Planet Fútbol would be a good idea. So, here they are.

We did our best to find clear, current logos for as many chapters as possible. We located most, but not all. The American Outlaws script was cropped from some so the original, local portion would be easier to appreciate. There are common elements in many – that script, AO bandana or crossbones – that tie the chapters together. But fierce hometown pride also emerges, creating a sense of club AND country — not  “or”.

If American soccer’s delayed emergence leaves a positive legacy, it very well may be reflected in the logos below.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

A purple 3rd

Over the years I have always mentioned when given the chance that I think RSL should have a third uniform in the color purple. "A purple 3rd!", I always exclaim.
Sometimes a few people will agree with me, sometimes people just look at me like I'm weird.
I was happy when three or four years ago RSL did venture into the 3rd jersey realm but wasn't all that happy with the Victory Gold choice. I guess it was ok but the blue and red that was on the shoulders/sleeves made it look a little odd.
Anyway, lately I've been thinking again that RSL could use a little shot in the arm in the uniform dept., even though I love the claret and cobalt just as much as the next guy it is always nice to change things up a bit.
I even had an epiphany the other day while looking at some news sites on the web and came across a story about "spirit day" and wearing purple to show solidarity against bullying. (By the way, October 17th is the official day to wear your favorite purple clothes.)
I thought a perfect way for RSL to take a stand against bullying would be to next year come out with a purple 3rd uniform and wear it several times throughout the year to draw attention to bullying. Especially where so many of RSL's fans are kids and teenagers who certainly come across bullying at school on a regular basis.
Maybe on the back of the uniform where the player's name would appear they could replace the name with the words "end bullying" or something similar.
I think it is a great idea. I've never been one to "get involved" when it comes to social issues, I usually just keep to myself and keep my head down, but at least I can suggest it to the Front Office folks in an email or letter and see what comes from it.
I'm sure they would be intrigued by the thought of boosting their replica jersey sales as long as a few dollars from each purple jersey sale could be donated to a local anti-bullying group perhaps.
What do you think? 
(link to this year's Spirit Day which will be October 17th)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Next big step for MLS: win CONCACAF Champions League

(by Brian Straus 8-7-13)

Those who might have become disenchanted by Major League Soccer's focus on slow and measured growth have had a pretty satisfying week.

There's a new owner in Columbus, a new superstar in Seattle and during last Wednesday's All-Star game, commissioner Don Garber unveiled plans to add four new clubs by 2020. Those aren't baby steps. They're the sort of headlines that make MLS' quest to become one of the world's top leagues by 2022 seem relatively more realistic.

Now comes the reality check. Progress in the boardroom and at the turnstiles is surpassing progress on the field. MLS teams may have built and filled stadiums, signed big-name players, launched academies and put down roots in their communities. But they still haven't won when it matters most. They haven't won the CONCACAF Champions League or appeared at the Club World Cup.

"We want MLS to grow at a fast rate. The only way you can really do that is by playing in international tournaments and winning them," Houston Dynamo coach Dom Kinnear said. "The pathway to global acceptance for this league on a competitive level is the CONCACAF club championship."

That pursuit resumes Wednesday in Montreal and Nicaragua as the 2013-14 CCL kicks off. The Impact, as Canadian champion, will play host to the San Jose Earthquakes, while Sporting Kansas City gets its first taste of continental competition in eight years when it visits Real Estelí's Estadio Independencia in Nicaragua.

Trips such as that have been part of the problem. Playing in Latin America is perilous, and since 2002, when MLS clubs had to start hitting the road, the league's CCL results have ranged from frustrating to embarrassing. Only one MLS team during that span has advanced to the finals (Real Salt Lake in 2011) and only once has an MLS club ousted a Mexican rival from the tournament (the Seattle Sounders, last spring).

"Baby steps," is how RSL GM Garth Lagerwey described the league's assault on that elusive CONCACAF crown. "I think we're in the Himalayas. We're in base camp and now we've got to climb Everest. But scaling Everest isn't just winning the tournament, but consistently competing for it and putting multiple teams in the end stages. To be one of the best leagues, we have to be better than Mexico. ... We are clearly making progress, but we clearly have work to do."

That "progress" is evident on paper, but it's probably not going to satisfy those who insist that legitimacy must be earned on the field. Despite all the new stadiums, new players and new franchises, MLS clubs are improving only gradually and haven't been able to solve their Mexican rivals.

Here's what they have done: In 2008-09, the first season featuring the CCL group stage format, four MLS clubs won a pathetic two games combined. Five entrants won seven matches the following season. In 2010-11, two MLS teams advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time and RSL came within a goal of winning the title. In the fall of 2011, FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders became the first MLS clubs to win matches in Mexico. In each of the past two tournaments, three MLS clubs have qualified for the final eight. But none made the final two.

Baby steps.

"I think we've gotten to the point now, MLS has, where advancing out of the round robin -- I wouldn't say it's a given -- but it's gotten to the point where it's expected," said Kinnear, whose Dynamo will join Montreal, San Jose, Sporting and the L.A. Galaxy in this season's Champions League. "The last hurdle is beating a Mexican team over two legs in the finals. ... I think we can do it. But things have to really fall into place for a team to do that."

While MLS clubs now routinely get past opposition from Central America and the Caribbean, Mexico remains the lofty standard. Liga MX representatives are 45-19-14 against MLS in CONCACAF play all-time and have won eight consecutive titles.

Money is a significant part of the reason.

Although there are obviously differences between teams in both countries, Lagerwey said that it was fair to expect a given Mexican club to spend two-to-three times more on player salaries than an MLS counterpart.

"That's not including transfer fees they'd pay for players," he said. "All in all it's probably five times in terms of money spent on players."

"Right now economically we're a little bit behind," Kinnear said. "It's not an excuse. It's a reality."

Not only does that money buy MLS killers like Monterrey forwards Humberto Suazo and Aldo de Nigris (who's now with Chivas de Guadalajara), it furnishes the depth that's so crucial in midweek competitions requiring arduous or exotic travel.

MLS offers up a bit of extra funding for its CCL representatives and pays out more to those teams advancing to the quarterfinals. The extra cash might help a club sweeten an offer and retain a decent player it might otherwise have to let go, but it's not nearly enough to close the gap with the Mexican powers.

"It's sort of like the army," Sporting coach Peter Vermes said. "You've got to have a 'Plan B' and a 'Plan C' always ready. Something's always going to happen to 'Plan A'. It's very difficult to go and scout these teams, but we've got some film on them. And as much as we've worked on getting some depth in our team, right now we're suffering quite a few injuries and it's a little challenging at the moment."

He said his club's first foray into the CCL will be "one of those things where it's going to be learning on the job."

MLS tries to help its CCL participants in other ways. It lifts restrictions on charter flights (they're limited in order to prevent wealthier teams from exploiting that advantage) and even moves regular season games around to make the schedule less arduous. But none of that has produced the quantum leap the league is looking for.

At the moment, Mexican clubs are still too deep, too talented and too inhospitable at home. One of them -- Club Tijuana, Toluca, Club América or Cruz Azul -- will be heavily favored to lift the trophy next spring.

"It has to go perfectly for you," Kinnear said when asked what it would take for an MLS outfit to get over that last hurdle. "You need (the referee's) decisions to go for you. Your team needs to be firing and playing well. You need a little bit of luck over two games. As far as the economics, we're not there and I think everybody understands that. But I think the MLS fan wants success right now."

He continued, "We're a young league -- 18 years in. We understand that. I think we're close. There are some factors that are still kind of against us, but these factors aren't big enough that we shouldn't be overcoming them soon."

Vermes said he hoped the tournament would help instill in his squad the same mentality, composure and game management so evident in previous Mexican champions.

"It'll make us a stronger team," he said.

And that will help forge a stronger MLS.

"Your stature grows as your team becomes more and more competitive within (CCL). It's important to have good performances in these competitions, for sure," he said. "Is it the final piece to the puzzle? I don't know. I think our league is growing leaps and bounds right now without Champions League, but this is a competition that runs alongside of it. It's become an important part of it. Everything has to evolve together. You can't lag behind."

Monday, August 12, 2013

Clash of colors

Dempsey back in MLS.
I like the colors in this photo though, Toronto red clashing with Seattle green.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Pretty trees

With the incredible view Rio Tinto Stadium has to the West we sometimes forget there is a nice view to the East too, especially with these nice trees on the SouthEast side.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sunday, August 4, 2013

MLS uniforms, 2013.

MLS has come a long way in the uniforms department, that's for sure.
Seattle dark grey uni's

New England red, white and blue

Nice color combos.

DC @ Seattle

Friday, August 2, 2013

MLS announces plan to add four expansion teams by 2020

( 7-31-13)

Major League Soccer isn't content to rest once its latest franchise joins the fold in 2015.

Instead, the league plans to expand to 24 teams by the 2020 season.

Commissioner Don Garber announced MLS's plan to add four more clubs during halftime of its annual All-Star game Wednesday night. The location of the teams has yet to be decided, but Garber said the league has already had discussions with potential owners.

The news came one day after Hunt Sports Group announced it was selling the Columbus Crew to investor Anthony Precourt, and with New York City FC beginning play in two years.

"The strength, passion and vision of the MLS ownership group is the foundation behind the success of our league," Garber said in a statement. "We look forward to adding new partners with the same commitment to the sport and love of the game."

Garber told The Associated Press during an interview this week that the issue of expansion would be discussed "in great detail" during a meeting of league owners on Wednesday.

"As MLS enters a period of accelerated growth," Garber said, "the addition of new teams will allow us to expand our geographic coverage, grow our fan base and help us achieve our vision of being among the best leagues in the world by 2022."

MLS will have added 10 new teams since the 2005 season when New York City FC begins play, and Garber said that has helped to spearhead a significant growth in the game in the United States.

"These expansion clubs have contributed to the vitality of our league," he said, "bringing passionate fans, new traditions and committed owners with new ideas."

One of the most intriguing ownership possibilities is former Los Angeles Galaxy star David Beckham, whose MLS contract included an option to purchase a franchise when his career ended.

Beckham has been linked to businessman Marcelo Claure, who owns Bolivian team Club Bolivar. The two appear interested in putting a team in Miami, where Claure's wireless company Brightstar Corp. is based. Beckham has said he plans to reveal his MLS intentions in the next few months.

"The foundations are now there for this sport to continue to grow," Beckham said last fall. "I've seen it grow in the last six years, and we all want it to continue to grow. My commitment as an owner, people will be well aware of that in the new year, and hopefully where that will be. And like I said, my commitment as an ambassador for this sport and this country won't change."

It makes sense that potential owners are lining up for an MLS franchise.

They can be had for a fraction of what a Major League Baseball or NBA team would cost - it cost English club Manchester City and its partner, the New York Yankees, an expansion fee of $100 million to launch New York City FC. Yet surging attendance and modest but consistent television growth appear to indicate that the league is becoming a valuable investment.

That's certainly changed from the early days of MLS, when an ownership group could acquire a franchise for less than $10 million and the league was fighting for survival.

"We've got a lot of cities that are kind of on our list right now that are exuberant - they have the right sort of circumstances," said Robb Heineman, the CEO of Sporting KC. "Our league is hot right now. If you don't believe in Major League Soccer, I don't know why."

Miami isn't the only city to be linked to an MLS team. Officials in Atlanta, Sacramento, Orlando, Detroit and the Twin Cities have also mentioned the possibility of landing a franchise.

In a statement issued by the league, Garber laid out the criteria the league will use in determining future expansion markets. Among them is location, committed and engaged ownership, a comprehensive stadium plan, demonstrated fan support for professional soccer, support of sponsors and TV partners, and a strategic business plan for launching a club.

Garber said the league will provide additional details, including a more detailed timeline, for its expansion plans in the coming months.

"The overall growth of the sport has been so dramatic over the last number of years by almost any measure," Garber said. "Whether it's the league or the national team or the women's game, all the developments are sort of proving the fact that we're a soccer nation."

Friday, July 26, 2013

San Jose ends Galaxy's hopes for a 3rd consecutive Super Cup

Gordon's brace leads the Quakes over Galaxy in thrilling California Clasico

( 6-29-13)

The Goonies put it all back together again against the team that started it all.

Shea Salinas and Alan Gordon scored in second-half injury time to give the 10-man San Jose Earthquakes a shocking 3-2 victory against the LA Galaxy at Stanford Stadium on Saturday night.

Salinas hammered home a loose rebound in the 92nd minute and Gordon nodded home an open header at the back post in the 93rd minute as the sellout crowd of 50,028 went bonkers. It was the second stunning comeback San Jose has mounted against the Galaxy at Stanford in as many seasons; the Quakes came from two goals down to beat LA 4-3 on June 30, 2012.

San Jose (5-7-6) improved to 2-1-0 under interim coach Mark Watson and, perhaps more importantly, rekindled memories of last season, when the Quakes had nine goals in second-half stoppage time, eight of which led to a win or draw.

Gordon had scored his first goal of the season in the 68th minute to draw San Jose to within a goal, but the Quakes’ chances looked dire after defender Victor Bernardez saw two yellow cards in the space of eight minutes and was sent off in the 77th minute.

Yet LA (7-7-3) could not make goals from Marcelo Sarvas in the 20th minute and Hector Jimenez in the 65th stand up and thus missed a chance to record just their second winning streak of the season.

Salinas pounced on a free ball after LA goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini was unable to corral a deflected flick header from San Jose rookie Adam Jahn.

Gordon found the game-winner moments later off a chipped cross from just inside LA’s penalty area by San Jose midfielder Sam Cronin.

Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane assisted on both LA goals, but the Galaxy were left to rue their missed chances at putting the game away – especially Jon Busch’s save on Jimenez in the 88th minute.

The game opened in fairly tight fashion until the Galaxy cut through San Jose’s defense with a couple of nifty volleys. Donovan floated a pass across the top of San Jose’s box, which Keane struck on the fly with his left foot. The ball found Sarvas open at 11 yards, where he cashed in with a right-footed volley of his own to the near post for his second goal this season.

Donovan and Keane teamed again to help Jimenez double LA’s advantage. Donovan beat Bernardez to shake himself free just inside San Jose’s offensive third, then fed an overlapping Keane in the left side of the Quakes’ penalty area. With a clot of defenders approaching, Keane fed the ball across the 6-yard box to the far post, where Jimenez slotted home into the open net for goal No. 2 of 2013.

Cudicini had to come up big in the 50th minute, when Chris Wondolowski’s header was not fully cleared, leaving a rebound for Marvin Chavez to hammer from 8 yards. But the shot went right into the body of a prone Cudicini.

Cudicini could not come up with the goods in the dying moments, however, and San Jose had found what the Quakes undoubtedly hope will be a turning point after gaining just 18 points from the first half of their MLS slate.

Frankie stage dives!

Columbus supporter