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.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Soccer stadium in the works at Utah fairgrounds

( 9-13-14)

Real Salt Lake ownership is offering to build a multi-million dollar soccer stadium on the state fairgrounds in Salt Lake City that would be home to a new minor league team for the Major League Soccer franchise and become the key element in the revitalization of the aging park.

Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen has committed to paying $13-17 million for an 8,000-seat stadium where a team would begin play in 2016 in the USL Pro league, one level below Major League Soccer.

No taxpayer funds would be spent, with Real Salt Lake paying all operating costs except for when the state uses the arena for the annual state fair.

The venue would be equipped with artificial turf so it could be easily used for other soccer and sporting events and concerts to drive more traffic to a park, said Trey Fitzgerald, spokesman for Real Salt Lake. Bringing a women's professional team to play there is also a possibility, he said.

Utah State Fairpark board chairman Roger Beattie says they are excited about the proposal and hope to finalize an agreement with the team by the end of the year. The board is doing research to make sure the plan benefits the fairpark as much as Real Salt Lake, he said, while also negotiating a new lease for the land with the state that must get done.

"We're absolutely thrilled that Del Loy Hansen and Real Salt Lake has an interest of being at the fairpark," Beattie said. "This property can be one of the great crown jewels in the state of Utah."

The fairpark that has been there for 150 years but has been underutilized, underfunded and only maintained, but not improved, over the last three decades, Beattie said. A state audit released earlier this year found that the annual state fair draws fewer state residents and costs the state more that similar events in Arizona, Idaho and New Mexico.

The stadium would bring additional revenues and allow the board to reinvest in the park, Beattie said. The long-term plan is to upgrade the rodeo arena and build a small expo center, he said. No funding source or plan has been set for either of those projects.

For Real Salt Lake, the project marks another step in the franchise's development into a perennial playoff contender in Major League Soccer and a mainstay in the Utah sports community, Fitzgerald said.

The team was founded a decade ago and has played its games in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy at Rio Tinto Stadium since the 20,000-seat venue opened in 2008. The team received $45 million in public funds to help build the stadium, which accounted for about 38 percent of the total cost.

The minor league team would provide a way not currently available to get players who can't find the field with Real Salt Lake more regular playing time during USL's 30-game season, serving as a bridge between the team's youth academy in Arizona and the professional team, Fitzgerald said. The L.A. Galaxy is the only team in Major League Soccer with a minor league affiliate in the same city, he said, though several teams are working on copying that model.

"This team is critical to our long-term success from a player development standpoint," Fitzgerald said. "(Coach) Jeff Cassar will be able to work with his hand-picked USL coaching staff and have them run the same system on training days and on game days that we run in MLS."

The team — to be named Real Monarchs — would play 15 home games a year, with tickets costing an average of $10-$12. The plan is to play the first year at Rio Tinto Stadium and 2016 at the fairgrounds.

Hansen, who made most of his money in real estate development, became sole owner in January 2013 after being a minority for three years prior. He sees the stadium as an investment in both his soccer team as well as the community, Fitzgerald said.

"He is a builder and he likes to build things," Fitzgerald said. "That's where his sense of community opportunity and responsibility comes from."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Red Bulls take the 2014 MLS Super Cup

Red Bulls marvel at "engaged, unstoppable" Henry vs. SKC

(by Franco Panizo 9-8-14)

When Thierry Henry is engaged, he is simply overpowering.

That was a refrain that was reiterated more than once inside the New York Red Bulls’ locker room following a 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City that put them back in a playoff position on Saturday.

It was not just the sizzling second-half goal Henry scored that was the difference in the match, but also his determined demeanor from the opening whistle.

Stationed in a new role out on the left side of the midfield, the 37-year-old Henry demonstrated from the opening whistle a fiery passion that lasted even after the final whistle at Red Bull Arena.

New York’s captain is no stranger to showing his trademark intensity and fierce competitiveness, but this was a bit different.

More of it was channeled towards beating the opposition. More of it was used to encourage teammates rather than scowl at them for mistakes (though, naturally, there was some of that). More of it was used to hustle and defend, things that even the technically-gifted Henry has been criticized quite a bit for since joining the Red Bulls.

“When Thierry’s pissed off in the right way, when he’s engaged and when he’s taking it upon himself to be mentally into it right from the beginning, he’s unstoppable,” said midfielder Dax McCarty.

 “You can’t stop a player like that when he wants to play at his absolute best. I think he always wants to play at his best, but sometimes his frustration comes out in the wrong ways.

“I thought tonight he was unbelievable defensively, playing more tilted to the left. That kid Igor Juliao likes to bomb up and down the right wing and for the most part Thierry was right there with him and he was still making things happen going forward. When he’s like that, there’s not one person in this league that can stop him.”

Henry having this engaged approached could simply be chalked up to how important the match was for the Red Bulls, who started the night on the outside of the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture. But there was more behind it than that.

After seeing his club be frustratingly inconsistent all season, Henry approached head coach Mike Petke this week in training to have a conversation. The specifics of that talk were not made public by either Petke or Henry following Saturday’s triumph, but what came of it were positives that appear to resemble the ones that emanated from their long meeting last year following a heated confrontation in training.

“Thierry, true to who he is as a person and a captain, he sought me out and we had a long conversation,” said Petke. “Together we rededicated ourselves and tried to figure some stuff out. I told him, ‘Before, you showed what a captain is by coming to me earlier in the week and speaking about some things. Now, you’re going to show what a captain is on the field,’ and he did.”

“He led the team, he put tireless work in and he capped it off with a Goal of the Year nomination, for sure.”

The tally came in the 52nd minute. Henry received a pass from Lloyd Sam, burst by his mark and hit a screamer into the far top corner. Dom Dwyer responded two minutes later with a nice strike of his own, but the Red Bulls did enough to ensure that Henry’s world-class finish would stand as the winner.

Henry came off in the 89th minute, and while he could have been gassed given the hardworking shift he put in, he still had enough in the tank to berate fourth official Jose Carlos Rivero before and after the final whistle.

It was just another example of the kind of ambition that may well have rubbed off on the rest of Red Bulls in a week in which they absolutely needed an injection of enthusiasm.

“When he wants something, that’s when you start to see that everybody gets behind him and, this week, that’s what it’s all about,” said goalkeeper Luis Robles. “He was engaged, he was encouraging people, and he was just saying that it’s time to stop all the talk, it’s time to stop the excuses and let’s just go, let’s do it together.

“When he’s up in the front leading, no one, no one is going to slack off and that’s exactly what this week was about.”

More discussion, no decision on Fairpark soccer stadium

(by Emilee Eagar 9-10-14)

The owner of Real Salt Lake approached the Utah State Fairpark Board on Wednesday with more information about building a new soccer stadium on the fairgrounds, but no decision was made.

"We're ready to move virtually immediately," Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen told the board, adding that he would pay all construction costs, estimated at up to $18 million.

"This will be a straight-up commercial deal, in our mind, that benefits the park," he told the board. "We want to give back."

Hansen said the 8,000-seat stadium would house the Real Monarchs, a United Soccer League team for players ages 17-23 who need more playing time and training before advancing to the professional level.

Hansen said he also hopes to create a community gathering place and help revitalize the Fairpark.
Chairman Roger Beattie said the board has an agreement to negotiate and work with Real Salt Lake to ultimately come an official agreement. The discussions are exciting for soccer fans in the state, Beattie said, but he compared it to running in the dark.

"It's a lot of fun until you hit a tree," he said. "There's a lot of work that has to be done behind the scenes right now, a lot of analysis. But at this juncture, everybody is excited to proceed and hoping that everything will work out well."

Both Hansen and Beattie said they hope to have a plan in place by the end of the year.

"Our timeline has to do mostly with Real Salt Lake and the need to start to get into the ground so the stadium would be ready in 2016," Beattie said. "I would hope that certainly by the conclusion of this year this is all finalized and everything is signed, sealed, delivered, and we're waiting to break ground."

Hansen said another factor in the timeline is what lawmakers decide to do with the fairgrounds and if the Utah State Fair should stay at it's current location.

"They have to extend the lease to the (Fairpark board) or we wouldn't have anything that we could count on to lease against," Hansen said.

Beattie said the board will meet again at the end of the week and once a month when the fair ends. He said there will be "a significant number of meetings" before anything is formally decided.

Ultimately, Beattie said the board wants to see the community re-energize, keep up the history of the park, while improving it through a relationship with Real Salt Lake.

If the board decides the stadium brings that to the park, it would move forward with the project, Beattie said.

"The board, at this point, does not see why we cannot come to an agreement that would be mutually beneficial for everyone involved," he said.

In his presentation, Hansen said the direct estimated revenues of the stadium would be between $575,000 and $875,000. Real Salt Lake would pay a ground lease of $10,000, and the rest of the money would be generated from parking and concert event revenue.

Hansen said Real Salt Lake and the Fairpark would split parking revenue, except during the Utah State Fair, when all money would go to the Fairpark, as well as full use of the stadium.

"Basically, we'll build a stadium and essentially give it to the ground," he said.

Hansen said Real Salt Lake will use the stadium for the next 40 years, with the possibility of a 10-year extension, and then the stadium would belong to the Fairpark.

Hansen said he hopes to build a youth-oriented and energetic fan base with the presence of the Real Monarchs.

The Monarchs will start playing next year at Rio Tinto Stadium stadium in Sandy, with hopes of moving to the fairgrounds in 2016.

"These players will be exciting to watch," Hansen said. "And that's what this is about, is building aspirational soccer for the youth."

Other plans for the stadium would be a women's pro team, an amateur men's team, rugby and lacrosse leagues and youth camps.

Beattie said the stadium would be built straight out from the grandstand toward the road. It wouldn't negatively impact any of the 13 historical buildings on site, but it would affect about 400 parking spaces, he said.

Beattie said with TRAX and parking across from the fairgrounds, he's not worried about parking. If there isn't enough, they could consider building a parking structure.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

2014 Super Cup - leg 1

Match Recap: Sporting Kansas City 1, New York Red Bulls 1

(match highlights link ^)

(by Steve Brisendine 5-27-14)

Early on, it looked as though Thierry Henry's 100th start for the New York Red Bulls would be the beginning of a forgettable – even regrettable – night for his club.

But after withstanding an early offensive flurry from Sporting Kansas City and falling behind even before the 10-minute mark, both Henry and the Red Bulls made something decent of Tuesday night's match. Henry assisted on Bradley Wright-Phillips' league-leading 11th goal early in the second half, and the Red Bulls left Sporting Park with a 1-1 draw.

It broke a three-match losing streak for New York (3-5-6), while Sporting – who led after nine minutes on Toni Dovale's first MLS goal – are 5-4-4 and on a four-match winless streak after their second straight draw.

They did get Aurelien Collin back from a two-match absence due to a hamstring strain, though, and the big central defender's aerial presence and open-field tackling ability likely helped Sporting take the point.

Sporting attacked out of the gate and could have been up 3-0 after five minutes but for two big defensive plays and a blast that just missed by inches.

Igor Juliao made a long run into the box and chipped goalkeeper Luis Robles in the second minute, only to see Chris Duvall clear the ball off the line. Ibrahim Sekagya made another goalmouth clearance of Sal Zizzo's header in the fifth minute, and Benny Feilhaber drove a close-range free kick off the underside of the crossbar later in the fifth.

Dovale wouldn't be denied on Sporting's next big chance, though. He took Feilhaber's through ball in traffic, worked his way to a spot just outside the top of the penalty arc and unleashed a left-footed shot that curled into the lower left corner of Luis Robles' goal.

After that, though, Sporting wouldn't get off another shot on goal until Robles saved Dovale's blast toward the upper right corner in the 79th. That was also the last save Robles had to make, as Kansas City didn't put another attempt on frame.

The confetti cannons did go off in the 25th minute, but prematurely; Kevin Ellis put the ball in the net from close range but was whistled for a foul on Robles that created the opportunity.

Five minutes after the break, it was even. Wright-Phillips made a run to take Henry's through ball, drove on goal and put his shot just under 'keeper Eric Kronberg.

Kronberg came up big on a pair of challenging shots not long after the hour mark to keep things even, though. He dived to his right to parry Peguy Luyindula's low drive out for a corner in the 66th minute, then controlled Henry's dipping try from outside the area after the restart.