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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Good ol' RFK

I've never been much of a DC United fan, but I have to give them credit for, at least during the early years of the league, having one of the best atmospheres of any of the MLS teams.

(Actually, in the early years they were about the only team that had an atmosphere.)

RFK stadium provided and excellent setting for that atmosphere. If the were to be a Wembley type stadium in the U.S.A. RFK stadium would be it.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Complications, uncertainty aplenty for future of NASL, Cosmos, USL entering key meetings

The tiers below MLS–and a number of the clubs that play in them–face future-altering decisions in the coming days.

(by Brian Straus si.com 12-3-16)

While the league at the top of the American (and Canadian) pro soccer pyramid, such as it is, focuses next week on crowning a champion, the battles beneath MLS finally may reach their conclusion.
There have been multiple meetings comprising some combination of NASL owners, NASL and USL executives and U.S. Soccer Federation officials in recent weeks, aimed at addressing the volatility and uncertainty weighing on the sport’s second, third and fourth tiers. And there’s more to come Monday and Tuesday in New York. There, the NASL and its most famous member, the Cosmos, could find themselves on their last legs.
The NASL, which sits one level beneath MLS, originally intended to compete with the older league on equal terms. But now it’s fighting for its survival. Pressure is coming from above and below. Minnesota United, one of the NASL’s most successful clubs, has joined MLS. Meanwhile, the third-division USL, which is affiliated with MLS, is expanding rapidly and will absorb two NASL clubs—the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury. And if the USL has its way, the Rowdies and Fury will be second division again in 2017. The league has filed a formal application with U.S. Soccer to move up the pyramid.

Several sources have told SI.com that they expect that application to be approved.

Absent promotion and relegation, divisions are largely semantic. But those semantics have consequences. The labels can impact investment, sponsorship, budget and prestige. They also indicate the standards to which U.S. Soccer holds a given league. At the moment, the NASL’s original D1 ambitions have faded. The departure of Tampa Bay, Ottawa and Minnesota leaves it with 10 teams—at least in theory.

Rayo OKC isn’t expected to return. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers don’t have an owner and are the subject of a legal complaint filed by Rowdies owner Bill Edwards, who apparently helped keep his rival afloat. The Jacksonville Armada have financial concerns, according to sources. And the Cosmos, the NASL’s three-time champion and flagship club, may be on its way out of business. Tension is high as the NASL tries to attract expansion teams while several existing clubs hunt for investors or eye the exit.
The USL, meanwhile, was at 29 clubs last season and will field at least 30 in 2017. It maintains that it’s already the de facto second division, even though it included 11 MLS-operated reserve teams, and it anticipates acquiring an official designation next week. But U.S. Soccer has no interest in creating a logjam of two leagues at the same tier, nor does it want to see its D2 league fold. NASL clubs considering a move to USL likely will have to pay to do so, and they must decide quickly whether to bet on the NASL’s survival or bolt for the USL and hope it’s raised to D2. A merger isn’t going to happen, and the USL reportedly rejected the NASL’s offer for interleague play. The USL has no interest or reason to alter its structure or ownership and wouldn’t be interested in absorbing every NASL club.

On Monday in New York, U.S. Soccer’s pro league task force will meet to review each circuit’s year-end reports and their requests for division sanctioning and waivers (not every team meets every standard). That task force is comprised of three USSF officials—chief administrative officer Brian Remedi, executive VP Carlos Cordeiro and U.S. Adult Soccer Association president John Motta. They’ll present a report to the full board of directors on Tuesday. USL and NASL officials will be in New York as well. U.S. Soccer could vote Tuesday to grant the NASL the waivers it needs to remain D2, thus maintaining the status quo. It could try to find a way to create one all-encompassing second division. Or it could “promote” the USL and “relegate” the NASL, which very well could result in the movement of some teams and the folding of others.

If one or more NASL teams shuts down or leaves before then, the league could collapse on its own.
The division standards, ironically, were enacted to prevent the sort of chaos that once was all too frequent in the USL and its predecessors. Fly-by-night teams would come and go, players and coaches dealt with sub-par operations and it was difficult to keep track of who was where. U.S. Soccer has wanted to tighten the standards over time, which the NASL objected to last year, and it’s believed the leagues are still operating under those set down in 2014.
A D2 league, for example, must start with a minimum of eight teams and have 12 by its sixth season. Next year will be the NASL’s seventh. Three-quarters of its teams must play in metro areas of at least 750,000 people and they all have to be in stadiums seating at least 5,000 fans. Each club’s principal owner must have a net worth of $20 million. Those standards are lower at the D3 level. U.S. Soccer has been auditing USL clubs this year to ensure they comply, and sources tell SI.com that the league is confident that meeting a sufficient number of D2 standards isn't an issue. But as long as the NASL occupies the second tier, the USL likely won't. There's no rule preventing two leagues at the same tier, but U.S. Soccer desperately wants to avoid that confusion.

NASL commissioner Bill Peterson has been trying to recruit expansion teams and at least four potential groups were present at the league’s meetings last week in Atlanta, according to sources. The NASL’s hope is that it can hang on at D2 long enough to bring new teams aboard in 2018. Los Angeles, San Diego, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta and Hartford are among the cities with potential investors, according to sources. The Chicago effort is led by former Chicago Fire president Peter Wilt, who also helped launch NASL finalist Indy Eleven. Wilt also is working to recruit investors in other markets, according to a source.

Indy is one of the healthier NASL clubs. It had MLS ambitions several years ago but a couple of failed stadium efforts put those plans to rest for the time being. Its average attendance of 8,396 was second in the league behind Minnesota (the overall average was 4,734). Tampa Bay and Ottawa were third and fourth, respectively, meaning Indy is the only one of the league’s four most popular teams that might remain in 2017.
Sources say the key to both leagues’ future may be in North Carolina, where the Cary-based Carolina RailHawks believe they are laying the groundwork for entry into MLS. The question is whether they’ll attempt to make the jump from the NASL, where they’ve spent the past six years, or the USL, where they played in 2007-09.

On Tuesday afternoon, presumably while the USSF board is meeting in New York City, the Railhawks will unveil a new name and logo, as well as their intention to finalize a stadium plan and secure an MLS expansion team within the next 12-18 months. The new name, North Carolina FC, and a standard shield logo were leaked early Friday by Raleigh writer Neil Morris.
The RailHawks were purchased last year by local medical software entrepreneur Steve Malik. He once was a proponent of aggressive NASL expansion. But if MLS is his ultimate goal, moving to the affiliated USL might be the ticket. He’d have natural rivals in Richmond and Charlotte (another market with MLS ambitions) and a better spot for his reserve team, which currently competes in the fourth-tier, semi-pro NPSL. The NPSL has a relationship with the NASL while its chief competitor, the PDL, is owned by the USL. It just so happens that two of the Railhawks’ three Carolina-based NPSL rivals, the Myrtle Beach Mutiny and Tobacco Road FC (Durham), moved to the PDL last month.

If Carolina switches leagues, the remaining dominoes may fall. The Cosmos, despite their on-field success and the value of their brand, could fold soon if a new investor isn’t found. Most front-office employees are on furlough and according to Minnesota website FiftyFiveOne, the club has lost more than $30 million since joining the NASL in 2013. The Cosmos had intended to leave Hofstra University and play the 2017 season at MCU Park, a baseball stadium in Brooklyn. A few players and head coach Giovanni Saverese remain under contract. It’s almost impossible to imagine the NASL without the Cosmos, but it’s also difficult to foresee them playing anywhere else. The club's decision to rebuff MLS’s expansion invitation left lingering bitterness that may come back to bite the Cosmos if the USL proves to be the only safe harbor.
Jacksonville is thought to be another candidate to move due to its financial situation. The number of USL teams and their focus on regional scheduling cuts costs. Those savings may be an inducement to FC Edmonton as well. The NASL’s only remaining Canadian club announced an extension for coach Colin Miller on Friday and co-owner Tom Fath told Canadian website The11 that, “The expectation is that we will play in the NASL in 2017.” Puerto Rico FC, which is owned by New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthon, and Indy are expected to survive.

And that leaves Miami FC, the ambitious club owned by Italian media rights mogul Riccardo Silva. MLS’s pursuit of a Miami franchise owned by David Beckham could mean the USL won’t be interested in taking Silva aboard. But the USL and Silva have talked, according to a source. Miami FC spent the 2016 season at FIU Stadium, but it was unhappy with the field.

Another source said that Silva has spoken with Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross about possibly playing at Hard Rock Stadium (the latest/sixth name for the NFL facility). Ross helped launch the International Champions Cup, the summer friendly tournament that attracts big-name European teams to U.S. shores, and was linked to Beckham several years ago. Minor league soccer doesn’t appear to be Silva’s and Ross’s endgame. The NASL may not even maintain the eight teams required to qualify for D3 next year, although U.S. Soccer might still let it operate at that level for a season as it reorganizes. 
Where Miami FC will play in 2017 is uncertain. Where several others will play is uncertain. What is certain is that a solution must be found soon. USL teams still haven’t started crafting their 2017 schedules, because they don’t know how many teams will wind up in the league. The league’s annual meeting is next week in Florida. NASL players aren’t sure if they need to look for new clubs. Front office personnel face upheaval as well. Everyone is waiting for someone else to make the next move, and it appears it may fall to U.S. Soccer's board to untangle the knot.



Thursday, October 27, 2016

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The dangers of playing soccer,

getting someone's pinky shoved in your mouth.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Awesome fans

(photo from utahsportingnews.com)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Landon Donovan comes out of retirement to play for LA Galaxy

(si.com 9-8-16)

Landon Donovan has decided to come out of retirement and sign a contract to play for the LA Galaxy for the remainder of the year, according to Blake Thomsen of The Cauldron.
The Galaxy confirmed the report later Thursday, showing a video of Donovan going to his locker at StubHub Center and putting on a No. 26 jersey. The No. 10 jersey in which he starred for years is currently worn by Giovani dos Santos.
According to SI's Grant Wahl, Donovan will not be a Designated Player and is signed for the remainder of the season. He could play as soon as Sunday against orlando City SC.
Donovan released the following statement on his personal Facebook page upon confirming his return:

Landon Donovan September 8

I am very happy to announce that I have decided to rejoin my hometown team the LA Galaxy for the remainder of the MLS season. While this decision may come as a shock to many, I want to explain how and why it was made.

Two weeks ago, I was working as an analyst on the LA Galaxy vs. Vancouver Whitecaps match and during that game, the Galaxy suffered injuries to three players: Jelle Van Damme, Steven Gerrard and Gyasi Zardes. Over the next few days, Nigel De Jong was transferr...ed to Galatasaray and news broke that Gyasi would be out for the rest of the season. Since my retirement, I have remained in close contact with many of the staff and players on the Galaxy. I spoke with some of them that week and they jokingly asked if I was ready to make a return to the field to help fill some of the void left by the injuries and departures. I reminded them that I haven’t played a meaningful soccer game in almost two years and I certainly couldn’t fill the holes left by those players.

Over the ensuing days, I began to think about their inquiries and it struck me that perhaps this is something I should consider. I care so deeply about the Galaxy organization, and I believe I could help in a small way to aid the team in its quest for a 6th MLS championship. Further, the opportunity to have my son Talon on the field with me after a game was a feeling that I would never be able to replicate.

I then had a candid conversation with Bruce Arena and we began down the path of deciding whether this made sense. We both agreed that if this was going to happen, the expectations would be minimal and he would use me in situations that made sense for the team. I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with my family and close friends over the past several days, and we all agreed that this would be a wonderful opportunity and a win-win situation for everyone.

I know this won’t be received well by everyone. That’s ok. I’ve always made decisions in life based on two guiding principles: my own happiness and the happiness of those I love and care about. Being on the field again, being able to help an organization that has meant so much to me and having my son in my arms after a game will undoubtedly make me and all my loved ones happy. That’s all that matters.

To my fans:

I thank you all for your unwavering support. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate each and every one of you. I’ve been fortunate to lead an incredible life, and I can’t wait to be on the field again and hear your cheers. Also, as all you parents know, having a child is truly a life-changing experience. Nothing would make me happier than standing on the field with Talon and the rest of my family celebrating the Galaxy’s 6th championship on December 10th. I will do everything in my power to make that happen, and I hope we are all there celebrating together!

Donovan initially retired at the end of the 2014 season with the LA Galaxy, the team he had played for since 2005. He previously took a break from the sport after 2012 as he cited that he was tired and missed time with the U.S. men's national team. He returned to the national team in the summer of 2013.
Donovan remains the all-time leading scorer for U.S. Soccer (57 goals) and Major League Soccer (144 goals) and is also the MLS all-time leader in assists (136). He played in three World Cups but was left off the 2014 U.S. roster by manager Jurgen Klinsmann as the two men did not see eye-to-eye in their time together.

Since retiring, Donovan has remained close to the sport in a broadcasters role and most recently joined Swansea City in an advisory role. The Major League Soccer MVP Award was also renamed in his honor to the Landon Donovan MVP Award.



Friday, September 9, 2016

Tampa Bay away, New England home, 1999

Carlos Valderrama, John Harkes

I always liked this New England uniform, both their home and away. Sadly I think they only had this uniform for one year.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Nick Rimando becomes MLS's all-time leader in goalkeeper victories

(by James Edwards deseretnews.com 8-6-16)

In stoppage time on Saturday night, with Real Salt Lake’s 3-1 victory already well in hand, Nick Rimando reminded everyone why he’s the best in MLS history — he made two point-blank double saves on Nick LaBrocca.

Neither mattered in the big picture of the win, but they were the exclamation point on his record-breaking night at Rio Tinto Stadium.

A week after tying Kevin Hartman for the most wins in MLS history, Rimando surpassed him in front of his home fans with his 181st career victory in goal. Of those wins, 115 have been in an RSL uniform, the most for a keeper at a single team.

“It’s all to myself now. It feels real good now. Obviously I share it with a lot of teammates over the past years and lots of fans and my family, but to put myself on the sheet at No. 1 feels great,” said Rimando.

Rimando is now the MLS all-time record holder in four categories — shutouts, minutes, games started and now wins. In terms of active goalkeepers, Rimando has 120 more wins than second place on the list, Seattle’s Stefen Frei (61).

“It’s such a special night, such an amazing achievement from an amazing goalkeeper and an amazing man, and to do it in front of our fans — and for him to do it here at home in front of his fans and family — is massive,” said RSL coach Jeff Cassar.

Rimando is two games behind the retired Kevin Hartman for the all-time record in games played and roughly 50 saves behind him for the all-time lead.

He didn’t get the shutout he would’ve preferred on Saturday against Chicago, but he made a couple keys saves as Real Salt Lake moved from fifth to third in the Western Conference standings. RSL could easily drift back to fifth on Sunday though with Los Angeles and Kansas City both in action.

An unlikely source got RSL going against Chicago. Just 15 minutes in, Olmes Garcia buried a shot from outside the box as he caught Fire keeper Matt Lampson leaning the wrong way.

"That was the right choice by him in that situation, it wrong footed the goalkeeper. It doesn’t take a blast into the back of the net, it takes a smart choice, a good placement, and I couldn’t be more happy that he chose that type of shot from there and recognizing what needed to be done,” said Cassar.

Garcia was making his third straight start because of the injury to Yura Movsisyan, and he made the most of his rare extended minutes with his first MLS goal since June of last season. Movsisyan was on the bench as an available sub, but he wasn’t called upon because of the early goals.

Garcia’s goal was just the second time this season RSL found the back of the net in the opening 15 minutes of a match. Against a Chicago team on a historic MLS road winless streak of 35 games dating back to July of 2014, it was an important early goal to set the tone.

The scoring-early theme continued in the 27th minute when Javier Morales buried a penalty kick to double RSL’s advantage. Juan Manuel Martinez earned the penalty when he was leveled by the shoulder of Chicago defender Eric Gehrig just after heading the ball.

The goals were the two quickest of the season for RSL, and helped it avoid the late-game desperation that had been the theme in past road games.

Chicago did pull a goal back in the 58th minute when Arturo Alvarez latched onto the end of a big looping cross from LaBrocca, burying it with a one-time finish at the far post.

Morales only needed six minutes to extinguish any hope of a Chicago comeback. He uncorked a shot off the left post in the 64th minute after great ball movement around the edge of the penalty area, pushing RSL in front 3-1. He’s now scored three goals in the past three games.

“He’s been a special player for this team for a while. A lot of people don’t see what he does off the camera and what he does for this club in the locker room and outside,” said Rimando. “To have a performance like that today doesn’t surprise me one bit.”



Thursday, August 4, 2016

Nice Morales photo

(photo from RSL's Facebook page)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Landon at this week's MLS All-Star game

This is the saddest photo I've ever seen, Landy looks so hurt, almost fragile.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

SportsCenter on the Road visits Portland

(by Benjamin Baer mlssoccer.com 7-23-16)

The Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy have played in some big games over the years and Saturday's match-up is no different, except for one thing.

For the first time, SportsCenter on the Road will originate from the site of a Major League Soccer match-up on Saturday at 2:30 pm ET, live from Providence Park where the Timbers will host face the Galaxy on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. Canadian viewers can see the match on TSN.

Max Bretos and Dianna Russini will co-anchor the 75-minute program from inside Providence Park. SportsCenter on the Road in Portland will lead into the match telecast. There are many special features to be shown during the program including an interview with Timbers owner Merritt Paulson and a profile of LA Galaxy forward Giovani dos Santos.

Some other highlights of SportsCenter on the Road in Portland include:
  • Timber Joey, the unofficial mascot of the Portland Timbers will be interviewed on SportsCenter on the Road;
  • ESPN’s lead soccer match analyst Taylor Twellman will join Bretos and Russini on the set;
  • A look at Darlington Nagbe's journey from Liberia to becoming a MLS star and US national team player;
  • Sit-down interviews with one player from either team in the MLS Soccer Sunday matchup;
  • A video essay – an ode to the City of Portland – by weekday 1 am ET SportsCenter anchor and native of Portland Neil Everett.
ESPN’s SportsCenter on the Road initiative, which takes the program out of the studio to events and fans, began in 2015.
SportsCenter on the Road has originated from pro and college football and basketball games, the NBA Finals, the Super Bowl and NFL Draft, the College Football Playoff, the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, the Little League World Series, the Indianapolis 500, the World Series, MLB Playoffs, MLB All-Star Game and more.




My take:

Well, it only took ESPN 20 years to get on board.

This reminds me of the old days when I sent emails to ESPN suggesting to them that they help MLS grow by doing a "MLS Minute" at the end of each Sportscenter on Saturdays and Sundays. Of course there was now way in hell they were going to do that but it made me feel better, kind of.

Actually all it did was aggravate me more and more.

It also reminds me of when the Commissioner Doug Logan ripped ESPN a new one after the failed to even mention DC United beating Vasco De Gama to take the 1998 Inter-American Cup which in my mind is still the greatest achievement by any US soccer team, club or national team.

Anyway, it's pretty much a mute point, soccer is a little too "Millennial" for me now.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

July 19th, 2016 RSL vs Inter Milan

RSL loses 2 - 1

Late goal lifts Inter Milan past Real Salt Lake in friendly

(by James Edwards deseretnews.com 7-19-16)

Over a 60-second span late in the second half on Tuesday, Inter Milan’s Stevan Jovetic missed a sitter and then hit the post on a chipped shot attempt from about 12 yards out.

He made up for the squandered opportunities with a goal worth the price of admission for the international friendly at Rio Tinto Stadium.

In second-half stoppage time, and with his back to goal, Jovetic back-heeled a shot between the legs of RSL backup keeper Lalo Fernandez to punctuate Inter Milan’s 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake in the international friendly.

After scoring first in the match, it was a discouraging loss for RSL, but one coach Jeff Cassar said everyone can learn from — particularly Fernandez.

“Myself being a goalkeeper, it happens. But to make the next step for him, it can’t happen. It’s just something to learn from,” said Cassar. “I thought he handled himself when he was in there, but that’s the time where you’ve got to recognize we need that solid save that keeps us in it. It didn’t happen tonight, but I still have confidence in him."

Fernandez was one of 28 Real Salt Lake or Real Monarchs players Cassar utilized in the first international friendly against a European team at Rio Tinto Stadium since it opened in 2008.
Inter Milan is currently in the United States as part of its preseason tour, where it will play four matches over a two-week period against a combination of European and MLS teams.

Real Salt Lake opened the scoring in the 18th minute on an opportunistic finish from Jordan Allen, one of five starters in Tuesday’s match who didn’t start last Saturday against New England.

Joao Plata’s looping corner kick sailed over the heads of everyone but Inter’s Geoffrey Kondogbia and RSL’s Justen Glad. Kondogbia had inside position on Glad, but when the ball landed at his feet he redirected it straight toward goal and right in the path of Allen, whose simple touch found the back of the net for the 1-0 lead.

“It’s somebody that’s prepared to score … that’s what you want from players on attacking set plays to be ready at any moment,” Cassar said.

Allen started at attacking midfield in place of Javier Morales, who needed extra rest after getting kicked a few times last weekend against New England. He offered a different look for RSL.

“I thought he did a really good job. When he plays that position, he does things different than our other No. 10s that we have. We’re able to get in behind a little bit more with those runs out of the midfield,” said Cassar.

In the 31st minute, RSL subbed off six of its starters, with Yura Movsisyan, Juan Manuel Martinez, Plata, Tony Beltran, Kyle Beckerman and Glad all leaving the match.

With the friendly sandwiched between two league games, Cassar said before the match that his regulars would play limited minutes.

Inter Milan trotted out a mix of first-choice and second-choice players to start the match. Of its top 16 players in appearances last season, five were in the starting 11 on Tuesday. They played the entire first half.

Shortly before halftime, Inter Milan leveled the score at 1-1 in the 42nd minute as Danilo D’Ambrosio drilled home a powerful volley off a corner kick. RSL substitute Ricardo Velasco, who plays for the Real Monarchs, tried to clear it off the line, but the shot was hit with too much pace as his clearance went straight up into the top of the net.

“We gave up a set play goal in the 42nd minute. It’s unacceptable,” said Cassar. “I can accept it because we didn’t work on it, we had guys that hadn’t been with us, but it’s more of a mentality. I just want our group going forward to be tougher, to be sharper in certain moments of the game, and I think when we do that we’re going to be a very, very good team.”

Inter Milan made three changes at halftime, including subbing off top striker Mauro Emanuel Icardi. RSL made three more changes at the half, and ultimately played all 28 players on the roster.

Chris Schuler was one of those subs in the 59th minute as he came on for Jamison Olave, and he was greeted by a warm reception for the Rio Tinto Stadium faithful. The former RSL regular has played in three matches with the Real Monarchs this season as he tries to work his way back into full fitness.




(RSL's Tony Beltran and Inter's Caner Erik)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

No MLS Super Cup winner for 2016

New York Red Bulls and Portland Timbers scrap to 0-0 draw

(by Daniel Feuerstein onceametro.com 7-10-16)

The New York Red Bulls' first game since parting company with Lloyd Sam was a welcome return to home ground after a grueling and dispiriting winless, four-game road trip. The injury-riddled Portland Timbers couldn't put anything past Luis Robles or the backline, but the Red Bulls couldn't get anything past Jake Gleeson and this match ended in a scoreless draw.

In Sam's absence, there has been a lot of talk of Gonzalo Veron, one of two Designated Players on the RBNY roster, stepping up to claim the regular start we've been assuming he'd get almost from the day he signed. Veron did get the start, and while these was some miscommunication out there, he made dangerous runs and found his teammates with some threatening crosses on a few occasions.
Unexpectedly, Felipe was the Red Bulls' most consistent threat on goal. Veron, Mike Grella and Bradley Wright-Phillips - nominally RBNY's front three - combined for four shots, none on target. Felipe had four of his own, and three were on frame. But Gleeson stood up to everything the Red Bulls threw at him.
So both sides got a point, which was better for Portland than for the Red Bulls. For some, the question is whether RBNY has lost confidence after the Copa America Centenario Break, because its form has dipped precipitously over the last few weeks.
"Overall on the day we have a lot of half chances, we have a lot of chances and created a lot of opportunities and it wasn't quite good enough on the day," said Jesse Marsch, "Talking to some of the guys in the locker room, was it a confidence issue, was it a lack of sharpness or a little bit of both? We got to still have a lot of belief on this team so at the end of the day we can push hard and get a result. Towards the end we did, but I thought we could've done more at the start of the second half."
On another day, whatever issues are affecting the Red Bulls up front might have been compounded by the team's misfortune at the back. The luckless Gideon Baah went to the ground in the first half, apparently aggravating the same injury that hobbled in RBNY's match in Columbus two weeks ago. This signaled the return of French center back Damien Perrinelle to MLS. He has played in a couple of USL games for NYRB II and in the friendly win against Club America as part of a gentle reintroduction to the first team. Called off the bench more abruptly than had been planned, he looked like he hadn't lost a step.
"It's an amazing feeling. First of all I want to thank all my teammates, to all the Red Bulls Staff. It's a very good feeling and I wasn't expecting to play this game, but it was nice," said Perrinelle, "Not so many minutes but, I thought I was going to play five in the back at the end of the game.
I was ready from the start [when Gideon Baah went down with the injury], because I expect this kind of thing, this wasn't the first time it happened with me, when I am on the bench I expect to be ready."
The best of Perrinelle was on display in the 85th minute when he made a fantastic tackle on Fanendo Adi. But the center back made several timely interventions that suggested he has not lost anything but time to injury.
But the result extends a troubling streak for the Red Bulls: winless in their last five with just two points and two goals scored in that stretch. They will try to turn it around on Wednesday, July 13, when they host Orlando City - an opponent dealing with a little turmoil of its own, having just fired head coach Adrian Heath. Maybe RBNY's luck will change.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Thursday, June 23, 2016

MLS tried to play soccer on a flooded field and gave up after 4 minutes

(by Mark Sandritter sbnation.com 6-2-16)

It rained a lot on Thursday in the Dallas area. FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo tried to play a soccer game in the same area. The two did not mesh well.

After four minutes of slipping, sliding and trying to play something that resembled underwater soccer, the referee blew the whistle and halted the game due to a rain delay. That was probably a wise decision when the ball itself turns into practically an immovable object.

To their credit, the players tried very hard. But, whatever they were playing did not really resemble soccer.

The rain stopped, allowing the teams a chance to resume play. Or at least attempt to resume play.



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

RSL uniforms, 2005 road white's

Mathis to Dipsey, "And that's how Wayne Newton came up with the song Danke Shoen."

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Monday, May 23, 2016

Wannabe MLS Hooligans Are Adopting The Worst Of Soccer Culture

(by Justin Block huffingtonpost.com 5-23-16)

Before the New York Red Bulls and NYCFC match kicked off at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, two incidents between rival fans sparked police involvement. First, seen in the video above captured by Bleacher Report UK’s Garry Hayes, an NYCFC fan and a Red Bulls fan exchanged missing punches while the two sides taunted each other.

Elsewhere outside of Yankee Stadium, in a separate incident, the tension between fan groups continued. When Red Bulls supporters arrived en masse to Yankee Stadium before kickoff, they had a standoff against NYCFC fans, hurling insults and bottles. They made a scene, and frankly, the whole thing looked pretty lame.

So what’s the beef here? Why are these two groups of fans fighting? It can’t be over a May 2015 noise complaint against NYCFC fans on the PATH train, right?

As it stands, the rivalry is based on where the two teams play more than anything. Despite having “New York” in their name, the New York Red Bulls actually play in the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. NYCFC, on the other hand, make a point to display their pride in making New York City their home, temporarily playing in Yankee Stadium as they mine New York City’s boroughs for land to build a soccer stadium on. It’s not dissimilar to how the NFL’s New York Jets and Giants share MetLife stadium in the swamps of New Jersey’s Meadowlands.

Geographically, that’s set up the “Hudson Derby” beef between fan bases: NYCFC actually plays in New York City and its fans don’t let Red Bulls fans forget that. Red Bulls fans give NYCFC fans hell for playing their soccer on top of a baseball field and for signing aging European stars — a transfer tactic MLS fans want to see less of.

None of these gripes, however, are authentic or deeply rooted in any way. They’re all superficial, stemming from how the two clubs market the supposed “rivalry.” Saturday’s match followed a week of MLS and club marketing efforts known as “Rivalry Week.” Inadvertently, MLS may have unintentionally incited these incidents by playing up a non-rivalry rivalry. Essentially, the two divisions of New York soccer fans have been fed a narrative to get them psyched up for the match. And with NYCFC still developing their own fan culture in their second season of play, it’s easy bait for fans to take.

And they’ve bit hard. Saturday’s events aren’t the first time the two sides have gone after each other. In August 2015, AP soccer writer Rob Harris captured footage of NYCFC fans and Red Bulls fans fighting and throwing signs at each other outside of a Red Bulls’ supporters bar in Newark, New Jersey. The pre-game altercation was eventually broken up by a few police sirens.

All of this is to say: There is no New York soccer rivalry. The two teams’ wannabe hooligans or “Ultras” are misguided, lame, dangerous and, most of all, seriously unoriginal.

The way the fans have gone about expressing their hostilities is ripped straight from European soccer’s hooligan fan culture, specifically England’s. In Harris’ video, fans can be heard chanting “WHO ARE YA?” at each other in English accents. In Hayes’ tweet, he drew a parallel between England’s deadly hooligans in the ‘80s and what happened on Saturday. These aren’t good looks for either team, and should the violence persist, MLS as a whole, either

Soccer hooliganism is still going strong in European countries like Turkey, where the violence is threatening their top-flight league’s existence, much like England’s hooligans in the ‘80s. During that time, fan violence in England was so widespread that many people were killed or seriously injured; attendance began to drop as people steered away from the hateful cauldrons around city stadiums. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher even set up a “war cabinet” to combat hooligans and save English soccer from itself. It worked, and hooliganism has faded in England while the Premier League has risen to the top of international sport.

But do NYCFC and Red Bulls supporter groups want to go down that path? Their behavior looks especially bad compared to how fans act during MLS’ premier rivalry between the Portland Timber and Seattle Sounders. Those two cities have a longstanding rivalry dating back to the ‘70s, giving each fan base’s culture a historical anchor point and authenticity. Moreover, each team’s supporters are simply spirited, not violent. And because of that, MLS loves to point to their derby match as their best overall product.

Although I didn’t personally see either of Saturday’s brawls, I attended the match and came away impressed with the in-game atmosphere. When I spoke to an NYCFC rep during the match, they noted that although the turned-up atmosphere gave it that rivalry feel, the matchup couldn’t possibly be a rivalry, yet — NYCFC is 0-4 against the Red Bulls, scoring an aggregate of four goals to Red Bulls’ 17. Especially in the wake of NYCFC’s 7-0 home defeat on Saturday, they probably need to beat the Red Bulls first before their fans can stake a fierce, competitive claim as their rivals. Just as it is with the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, there’s no real competitive rivalry if the teams aren’t good.

Standing outside of the stadium post-match, an NYCFC fan and a Red Bulls supporter began bantering at each other. The NYCFC fan only had curses to hurl. The Red Bulls fan had the last word: “You lost 7-0 and we’re up 17-4 on you guys, a**hole.”

Given the passion and excitement these fans have invested into their clubs, a true rivalry is indeed brewing in New York professional soccer. But to get there, fans need to kick-out wannabe English hooliganism, take in a few decently competitive matches and organically let the rivalry unfold.

Stop forcing it, fans.



Monday, May 16, 2016

Olde Tyme Association Football

Pablo Mastroeni sporting an olde tyme stache.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

More photos of the new BMO Field in Toronto

Funny how much difference a roof will make.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Inside the "off-the-charts exciting" rise of FC Cincinnati

(by Andrew King mlssoccer.com 5-13-16)

On Saturday, leaders of a Cincinnati pro sports franchise are hoping to draw 25,000 fans to their stadium for an afternoon matinee.

But it won't be to watch Major League Baseball’s Cincinnati Reds, who play later that night. Instead, hordes of fans are expected to make their way to the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, where FC Cincinnati of the United Soccer League play just their fourth home game in franchise history.

And while 25,000 fans would eclipse Cincinnati’s own regular-season USL record – they sold 20,497 tickets for their second home game – the club’s sights are set even higher than fitting a few thousand more people into their building.

When the ownership group led by CEO Carl Lindner III announced that FC Cincinnati would be joining the USL for the 2016 season, they seemed armed with all the tools to succeed.

Lindner is a co-CEO at American Financial Group, while his father – Carl Lindner Jr. – was a part owner of the Reds and has appeared on Forbes magazine’s list of the world's richest people.
Jeff Berding was named president and general manager, and brought 19 years of experience, including stints with the Cincinnati Bengals and as a member of the Cincinnati City Council.

The club hired former US national team and MLS midfielder John Harkes to his first head coaching job and gave him the freedom to build a team that would play attractive soccer in the midst of a market that contains 50,000 youth soccer players.

That core of experience influenced the club from day one.

“Everything we do, I think about, ‘How would we want to do it with the Bengals?’” Berding said. “John thinks about, ‘How would we do it with D.C. United or with the men’s national team?’”
But FC Cincinnati were fighting history.

Teams have been failing in the city since the Cincinnati Comets played in the American Soccer League in 1972. The Comets folded in 1975 and the Cincinnati Kids, partially owned by baseball legend Pete Rose, lasted just two years in the Major Indoor Soccer League.

After 13 years, the Cincinnati Cheetahs of the United States Interregional Soccer League managed to last four seasons and were followed by the Cincinnati Silverbacks, Riverhawks, Excite, Kings, 1790 Cincinnati Express, the Saints and the Dutch Lions.

Prospective fans were aware of those failures and at first, it affected excitement.

“There have been a lot of teams to go through here over the years,” said fan and University of Cincinnati graduate Jared Handra. “A lot of great owners have tried to bring soccer here and haven’t been able to make it work. So at first, we were all like, ‘Well, here comes another one. Let’s see if it sticks.’”

Lindner says he knew it would “stick” all along, provided the ownership group and team leadership could capitalize on a Cincinnati market that Berding says has “tremendous upside.”

“I’ve kind of been keeping my eye on professional soccer for a while,” Lindner said. “With the great sports town that Cincinnati is and the loyal fanbase that exists here for other sports, I think there’s been a great, pent-up demand by all those youths over the last 30 years to have someone to root for and get behind and have fun with.”

So Berding plunged forward in Cincinnati, bringing the decision-making from the NFL’s Bengals into the soccer world and using his knowledge of the Cincinnati market.

“In Cincinnati, if you think about everyone’s favorite sports teams, they have certain things in common,” he said. “All their games are on radio and TV, so all our games are on radio and TV … We have a stadium that people would associate with big-time sports … All of that was critical for the market to appreciate that we’re doing this at a high level.”

And the market noticed.

Before their first match, the club had sold more than 4,000 season tickets. By kickoff of their first-ever home game on April 9, 14,600 people had showed up to watch the match. By that point, Handra had become one of the leaders of Die Innenstadt, a supporters group with German flair.

The club, he said, was inescapable within the city.

“They’re just there,” Handra said. “You see it everywhere. I don’t know if it comes down to marketing or the brand. But you just see it everywhere. You can’t get away from it, and that’s something that’s never really been done here, I don’t think.”

In their first three matches, the club is averaging about 15,000 fans, and team leadership admitted FC Cincinnati’s debut season has been better than they could have imagined.

“We’re having a higher level of success sooner than we anticipated,” Berding said. “We were certainly confident that the soccer market in Cincinnati is strong, but we wouldn’t have predicted averaging 15,000 people through three home games. The Cincinnati area has responded in a tremendous manner.”

Even the players can’t believe what has transpired in the stands beyond the pitch.

Omar Cummings signed with the club in the offseason, one of several MLS veterans to do so, and was recovering from injury when the season began.

“Being in the stands, actually watching the game and seeing the fans, I got more of a fan perspective,” he said. “It was great. It was phenomenal.”

Cummings, who was an all-Big East forward with the University of Cincinnati, said he’s been surprised by the entire situation. When he watched from the stands as the franchise scored its first goal at home, he said it was his favorite moment so far.

“The stadium just erupted,” he said. “To feel that energy, to feel that roar, everyone had a blast.”
Despite dominating USL headlines and attendance numbers, FC Cincinnati leaders aren’t counting their achievements. Their sights have been set high since the franchise formed.

Berding says he believes the team’s early success is sustainable. To facilitate that, the team has increased in-stadium vendors by 50 percent, ordered more merchandise for game-day sales, opened every concession stand in Nippert and is furiously hiring ticket sales representatives to handle demand.

They even need more Verizon hotspots to connect all the credit card transactions happening within the stadium.

“We have problems, but they’re good problems to have,” he said.

But since the very beginning of the franchise, Berding and ownership have made it clear that they’ve got MLS aspirations on their minds. While the club is less MLS-focused in the midst of the current season and is “thrilled” to be in the USL, acknowledging those aspirations was an important message to potential fans and those interested in the franchise.

“When we launched in August, the greater Cincinnati market – the bus community, the news writers, the fans, the civic leaders – they wouldn’t have a whole lot of familiarity with the USL, but I think most people generally know about MLS,” Berding said. “We felt it was important to put it out there that the USL is an aspirational league, and Cincinnati views ourselves as a big league town … We had to let people know that long-term, we would have the goal to be like an Orlando City and have an opportunity to be promoted. People had to understand where we fit and what our goals were.”

Berding believes in installing a professional atmosphere from top to bottom.

That mentality made Harkes’ appointment crucial. Berding says he believes in order to capitalize on the Cincinnati market – its massive group of youth soccer players in particular – he’ll need to give them an enjoyable product.

“We certainly hired a coach that has maybe an unrivaled network in US soccer and parts of Europe,” Berding said. “When we hired [Harkes], we felt he would be a very effective recruiter, very successful at identifying talented players to play an entertaining brand of soccer. We wanted to be a pressing team. We wanted to be a team that plays possession with a purpose and is scoring a lot of goals.”

Cummings said the team has the ambition to be “one of the top teams” in USL in just its first season. And while it’s early, FC Cincinnati is just three points off the best record in the league, despite playing only eight competitive games together.

“This club has been trying to do things right,” Cummings said. “It’s as professional as I’ve seen. They’re not going to get everything right from the get-go, especially being a new club. But I’ve been impressed with everything they’re doing so far … If they’re not getting stuff right and players say, ‘I think we could do things better,’ they try to improve upon it.”

Despite acknowledging those aspirations, FC Cincinnati is taking the moment to enjoy the success that’s surprised even their leaders.

And while plans for an academy system are on the horizon and a 15-year lease at Nippert Stadium might cast doubts on short-term MLS viability, no one can rain on FC Cincinnati’s parade.

“It’s off-the-charts exciting for me and my whole family and all of our partners,” Lindner said. “We’re having a heck of a lot of fun and I think in life, that’s as important as business success. It’s about passion and enjoying what you’re doing.

“How fun is it to bring something from the ground up and see it flourish?”



Saturday, May 7, 2016

Toronto FC marvel at improved BMO Field: “Feels like a whole new stadium”

(365soccer.org 5-6-16)

After a grueling two months on the road, Toronto FC can finally look forward to kicking off in front of their own fans with BMO Field set to host FC Dallas on Saturday night (7:30 pm ET, TSN4 in Canada, MLS Live in US).

Eight straight games away to start the season was trying, but now TFC have a run of four home matches before returning to the road. The reason for that lengthy journey? The completion of Phase II of extensive renovations to the stadium, including a trio of roofs covering each stand.

“It feels like a whole new stadium,” said club captain Michael Bradley from the ground on Thursday. “When you walk out there now, the whole feel and perspective is entirely different. It sets in that we’re getting ready to play a game here which is something that we’ve all really been waiting for. We’re excited to get out there on Saturday with our fans supporting us.”

“It’s impressive,” remarked TFC head coach Greg Vanney. “When you walk out the tunnel, it’s just this wall of red. With the addition of the roof, it looks like such a proper stadium.”

“Keeping the sound in the building,” the coach added, “[is] going to be amazing. The crowd comes and they make so much noise, they’re banging the drums and they’re singing. Now it’s going to reverberate back into the stands. I can’t wait to get everybody in here and see what it looks like, and hopefully put on a good show.”

“[The roof] is only going to make it louder,” said midfielder Jonathan Osorio. “I don’t know how loud, but I’m excited [to find out].”

Having sampled nearly every other ground in MLS, Osorio rates the new BMO Field highly. “For me, this definitely makes the top three; arguably, the best. It’s beautiful. There’s a lot of nice stadiums: I really like Kansas City, what they’ve established there. Red Bull Arena is really nice. But I like this one better.

“It’s amazing what they’ve done to it,” smiled the Canadian international. “The roof looks amazing; all the renovations are world-class. This is a big step for the club.”

“It’s been a while since we played here,” added Bradley. “Everybody should be excited about us coming back – ourselves, our fans, people in the city, everybody.  But obviously, it’s the first home game of 17. No matter what happens, there’s still a lot more work to be done.

“The focus now is about making this place somewhere that opposing teams come and know they’re in for a game where it will be hard to get points…In terms of your stadium, your support, the way you play; these things all come together,” explained Bradley.

“And it’s important for us to make sure we take advantage of our good start and really make it add up.”



Monday, April 25, 2016

First XI: Amazin' Metros

(by Jeff Bradley mlsnet.com 3-1-05)

I'm feeling nostalgic. Perhaps it is because I ran into Ted Gillen, a member of the original MetroStars, the other night at a high school basketball game in Toms River, N.J. (Ted is currently the boys coach at Toms River East). Or perhaps it's just because I can't get over the fact that MLS is about to enter it's 10th season. Since I've been with the league since the beginning, I'm going to dedicate this First XI to Gillen and the rest of the '96 Metros.

11. Opening Night at the Rose Bowl. I'll never forget the first Metro game, a Saturday night affair in the Rose Bowl. Early in the day, we started hearing reports that the game would be a sellout, meaning the "downsized" Rose Bowl capacity of 18,000 would be sold out. As afternoon approached, word got out that we could be looking at a crowd of 30,000 or more, and that they were going to do away with the downsizing. Early in the evening, I got into a car with Tom Friend, now a colleague of mine at ESPN The Magazine, who was covering the game for the New York Times. As we got caught in traffic outside the Rose Bowl, Friend says to me, "There's only one day of the year when you see traffic like this heading to the Rose Bowl ... January 1." Ultimately, a crowd of 69,000 and change gathered to watch the Galaxy defeat the MetroStars 2-1. I was told that another 10,000 fans were sent home because they needed to keep a portion of the seats empty for a fireworks display. It was an amazing beginning.

10. Home Opener. The Metros' second game overall was its home opener and more than 40,000 were on hand to see the MetroStars take on the New England Revolution. What I'll never forget was the fan reaction when the Metros took the field. They went berserk for a Metro team that was still awaiting the arrival of Roberto Donadoni and Tab Ramos. Of course, Metro fans will all remember how the game ended ... with a 90th minute own goal by Nicola Caricola. After the game, Nico answered many questions about the blunder, explaining that a Revs player had clipped his heel, causing him to touch the ball over Tony Meola's head. Upon review of the replay, there was no Rev within five yards of Caricola. There was no heel clipping. Just a Metro gaffe that will never be forgotten.

9. Even Worse. The MetroStars would lose their second MLS home match in equally horrendous fashion, dropping a 2-0 game to the Columbus Crew. The game marked the debut of Ramos, who played brilliantly save for one moment. With the Crew leading 1-0, the Metros were awarded a penalty kick. Now, I do not recall Tab ever taking a PK for the national team (which would've been the only times I'd ever seen Tab play up to that point in his career), but he wanted the ball on this occasion, his home debut for the Metro. As he went to take the kick, Ramos' feet slipped out from under him and he flubbed the ball right at Bo Oshoniyi. Moments later, Billy Thompson was scoring the insurance goal for the Crew and the MetroStars were 0-3.

8. First Flop. The home loss to Columbus was also the debut of the original Metro villain, Ruben Dario "Rubencho" Hernandez. Put it this way, Rubencho was the "king of goals" of his day, or so Metro was told. In his debut against Columbus, within the first five minutes of play, a ball fell to Hernandez's feet with an empty net to shoot at. He flubbed the shot and grabbed his head in disgust. He'd play nine more matches for Metro and score a grand total of zero goals. Rubencho was sent back to Colombia shortly after Carlos Queiroz came to the Metros to take over for original coach Eddie Firmani.

7. First Hero. Not only did he score the first goal in MetroStars history, Giovanni Savarese scored the first eight goals in MetroStars history. Amazingly, however, Savarese always struggled to find a place in the team's starting lineup.

6. First Cult Hero. With eight games to go in the regular season, the MetroStars finally found a replacement for Rubencho. His name was Antony De Avila and he was known as "El Pitufo" or "The Smurf." De Avila arrived and immediately set the league on fire. Scoring six goals and dishing out two assists in those eight games. De Avila was truly amazing in '96, finding little openings once or twice a game and finishing perfectly. The Metros were convinced they had a striker for the long haul, but a year later, when De Avila stopped finishing so efficiently, he was shipped out ... and never heard from again.

5. Clincher. My favorite De Avila goal came in the Metros final home game of the season, against the Crew. About 10 minutes in, he gets played into the box and absolutely ripped one into the upper corner past Brad Friedel, who had been all but unbeatable in the nets after arriving in Columbus from Turkey. De Avila's goal stood up for a 1-0 MetroStars victory that clinched the team a spot in the playoffs.

4. Playoffs. For my money, the most passionate playoff series ever contested in MLS was the first-round matchup between Metro and D.C. United. I remember saying to Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News, as I looked at D.C.'s fans as they bounced and sang, "Can you imagine people caring so much about a team that's been around such a short time?" The series was epic with the MetroStars winning the first game in a 10-round shootout (Savarese sent the game to the tiebreaker with a late equalizer off the bench), D.C. answering back in Game 2 with a 1-0 win, a late goal by Marco Etcheverry. I'll never forget the goal because Marco actually shot the ball with his right foot. I am now left to wonder if the it was the only right-footed goal of Etcheverry's MLS career. Game 3 lived up to the billing. D.C. took an early lead and was in total control of the game until De Avila scored late to equalize. In the waning moments, Roberto Donadoni hit the post with a free kick and De Avila missed an empty net from inside of six yards. Just as it looked like the game would go to a decisive shootout, Etcheverry gathered a ball outside the box, sidestepped one defender and was taken down by a fellow named Rob Johnson. A PK. Raul Diaz Arce buried it and D.C. United advanced and ultimately won it all. Not too long ago, Bruce Arena told me that '96 Metro team, coached expertly by Queiroz, was one of the most difficult teams any of his D.C. teams had to play against.

3. Aftermath. In a quiet Metro lockerroom, I walked up to Matt Knowles, a defender whom the Metros had taken with their first pick in the inaugural draft. Matt goes down in my book as the funniest player in MLS history. I patted him on the back and asked him, "Will you keep playing indoors?" To which Knowles looked around the locker room and stated, "Oh yeah, are you kidding me? This (stuff) here is WAY too serious."

2. First Departure. The post-mortems on that season had not even been written when we learned that Queiroz would be heading for the big, big bucks of the J-League, where he'd be coaching a team called Grampus Eight. It was a tough loss for the Metros. Queiroz was not only a good coach, but also a very hard worker who did an amazing job of making the '96 MetroStars a quality team. As we would learn later on, however, Queiroz was not one to stay put in any one place for very long. Japan was just another stop on a tour that has no end in sight. We'll see him back in MLS one day, rest assured.

1. First Offseason. So it was out with Queiroz and in with Carlos Alberto Parreira, one of the game's real gentlemen (who just so happens to be in charge of Brazil's national team once again). Parreira will not, however, go down as a great MLS coach. Not even if he wins another World Cup with Brazil. When you consider he had a team that consisted of the following players: Tony Meola, Peter Vermes, Branco, Roberto Donadoni, Tab Ramos, Antony De Avila and Shaun Bartlett, and did not make the playoffs. That's pretty hard to comprehend. It is all part of history. And as we enter Season 10, it's great to have it.

RSL Partnership With Real Madrid Falls Short Of Initial Promise

(sportsbusinessdaily.com 5-28-09)

Though MLS Real Salt Lake (RSL) Owner Dave Checketts heralded the club's 10-year partnership agreement with Spanish La Liga club Real Madrid as including "training visits, exhibition matches and the joint construction of a soccer academy for elite young players" when a deal was reached in '06, "little of that has come to pass," according to Michael Lewis of the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE.

RSL has trained in Madrid "only once, not annually Checketts said it would," and the "first of what was supposed to be biennial exhibition games between the teams in Utah was canceled last summer, when RSL agreed to allow Real Madrid to play elsewhere for more money."

A proposed $25M RSL soccer academy also "remains up in the air ... amid a faltering global economy and scandal within the Real Madrid hierarchy involving the former president with whom Checketts reached the agreement."

Checketts: "What they're saying to us now is, 'Let us get the new leadership put in place, the entire board of directors signed off on our agreement with you -- and you will continue to have our support and enthusiasm ... and we'll come back to you.'"

Real Madrid Dir of Strategic Planning Ivan Bravo said the club continues to have a "know-how exchange with Dave and his group, consulting each other on topics ranging from sports decisions to business opportunities."

But both sides said that the "weak global economy has been a big problem."

RSL has not traveled to Spain outside of its '07 training trip because a "weak dollar has made it too expensive."

Lewis noted the "confluence last summer of the weak dollar and soaring oil prices kept RSL from hosting Real Madrid for a scheduled exhibition game."

Bravo said that Real Madrid "must alternate its summer trips to cultivate its world-wide fan base."

He said the club will return to Utah "when the timing is right."

Meanwhile, Checketts said that both sides are "'still enthusiastic' and 'remain committed' to building" the proposed academy, though RSL "won't be able to do so until Salt Lake City finalizes plans to build an adjoining multi-field soccer complex."

Checketts said of the academy, "In this economy, all the rules change. I don't know when or if that will get done".



Real Madrid backs out of exhibition with RSL

(by James Edwards deseretnews.com 5-17-08)

Real Madrid has officially backed out of its scheduled and contracted Aug. 9 exhibition game with Real Salt Lake according to RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey.

Real Madrid played a friendly at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2006 in front of more than 40,000 fans, and a contract was signed between the two teams for a return visit in 2008.

Citing finances, Lagerwey said Real Madrid will instead will be in Colombia the first week of August, followed by a visit to Germany the following week.

It's estimated that RSL was supposed to pay Real Madrid 1 million Euros to make a visit to Utah in 2008. At the time, that translated into about $1 million U.S. dollars, but today would be about $1.6 million.

Real Madrid has decided it can earn significantly more taking its globally renowned brand elsewhere. Lagerwey couldn't help but admit that from the business side, it made sense for the European super club.

Lagerwey is obviously upset about the decision but stressed that RSL is committed to delivering quality international games to soccer fans in Utah anyway. He couldn't be specific, but RSL's GM said the club is in talks with a couple of Mexican League teams and a few European teams as well. Lagerwey also reiterated that Real Madrid's decision not to come to Utah this year doesn't impact the partnership between the two clubs that was signed in 2006.

Last year in a span of four days in July, RSL hosted exhibition games against Everton of the English Premier League and Boca Juniors from Argentina. It also faced the Fijian and Chinese National teams.

In addition to facing Real Madrid in 2006, RSL also played a friendly against Morelia of the Mexican first division.



Saturday, April 16, 2016

Houston Dynamo's new Zona Naranja proves a hit with supporters

(by Phil West mlssoccer.com 4-13-16)

Sunday’s nationally televised match between the Houston Dynamo and the Seattle Sounders showcased two of the league’s most intriguing (and some might say confounding) teams, ending in a 1-1 draw. But it also showed off some exciting developments for fans of Houston, the home team that night.

After a series of off-season meetings with club officials, Dynamo supporters' groups moved from two sections along the end line on the stadium’s southwest side, which they were in danger of outgrowing. Now they've got new digs, the Zona Naranja, a more spacious upper deck underneath the scoreboard at the opposite end of the stadium, encompassing Sections 215-217.

It was a trade-off that the supporters groups determined had net positives. There would be opportunities to create tifo that could be seen throughout the stadium, and even more importantly, there would be a chance to accommodate more supporters than the 500-ish that the original section provided.

Three home games into the season–including a pair of heartbreaking wins-turned-draws, sandwiching a delicious 5-0 romp over rivals FC Dallas in the Texas Derby–the new Zona Naranja is not only new. By many supporters’ accounts, it's also providing an experience that's improved.

“I think moving up to the 200s has changed the dynamics for the better,” said Manny Gutierrez, one of the leaders for El Batallon, the barra-styled supporters group that stands in the center section of the new Zona. They're responsible for the brass instruments and drums that play almost continually throughout the match. “It’s not people who might be buying tickets just to get cheap, close seats. The people coming here want to be actively involved.”

While most of the Dynamo supporters buy season tickets to sit in the Zona, the available single-game tickets allow potential new supporters to chant and stand alongside more seasoned supporters. That allows for the increased participation at which Gutierrez hinted.

Faith Stringer, a Texian Army member who drives two hours from Bryan-College Station (best known as the home of Texas A&M University), concurred. “I think the view’s much better, and I feel like we’re much more noticeable,” she said. Pointing to her wide-brimmed hat, she added, “The sun’s not great, though.”

The Zona is backed by a giant scoreboard and thus doesn’t have the overhang that the opposite end of the stadium has to shield from the elements. Home matches from mid-April to October offer more forgiving evening start times to keep fans from overheating, but supporters have sensibly negotiated water coolers in the Zona to make sure they’re getting enough water.

“Dehydration can sneak up on you really quick, especially when you’re chanting at full volume throughout a match,” said Chris Smink, the former Texian Army president, who’s gone beyond mere tents to shop fans and generators at some summer tailgates.

“The fans are definitely enjoying it,” said Houston Dash managing director Brian Ching of the new Zona. Ching has been instrumental in bringing supporters and team officials together to remake the supporters section into an anchor for stadium-wide atmosphere. And he noted that despite some early trepidation about change, he said “95 percent of what we’ve heard is positive, and we’re continuing to work with the fans to make it even better.”

It’s clear that the organization is taking a role in pumping up the crowd. The PA system jump-started the “Forever We Are Orange” chant that is the Dynamo go-to, as the team lined up to start the match. And then, the Zona Naranja supporters took it from there.

They kept the chant going through the kickoff and, accompanied by incredibly emphatic trumpets and trombones, well into the match’s eighth minute. And when Giles Barnes scored in front of the supporters late in the first half, they broke out a giant orange, back, and white version of the Texas flag–current Texian Army president James Hromadka describes it as “car dealership big”–and unfurled it over the whole section.

It’s a tradition that they’ve gone to since BBVA Compass Stadium opened in 2012. But now, it’s become a bigger and more visible tradition that ever before.



Sunday, April 10, 2016

Real Salt Lake announces plans to build $50 million training complex in Herriman

(by Xoel Cardenas ksl.com 4-9-16)

Real Salt Lake and Herriman Mayor Carmen Freeman unveiled plans to build a $50 million soccer training complex, the Major League Soccer club announced on Saturday.

“As an organization, we believe that building this gathering place from ground up, developing local talent, and training that talent to an elite level, will lead to stronger connection and ultimate success,” said RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen in a news release. “The goal has been to create a program for youth training and academy training that is equal to anything that you could find in Europe at the elite soccer academies: Ajax, Barcelona, England. So we've looked at them very closely.” RSL and the city of Herriman plan to break ground on the 42-acre plot later this month. The training complex will include eight fields, one for Herriman city public use, and a total of seven regulation-size soccer fields. Four of the fields will be natural grass and outdoor, with the remaining three fields utilizing artificial surface. Two of the artificial fields will be housed in a 208,000-square-foot structure, the largest pre-engineered free span building in North America.

The complex will house daily training activities for RSL and the Real Monarchs, as well as extensions of the club’s Arizona-based U-18 and U-16 USSFDA Academy setups, according to an RSL press release. Potential future additions include an RSL women’s professional team and other youth development age groups.

“This defines professionalization of soccer in America,” said Craig Waibel, Real Salt Lake general manager. “This is commitment from an owner to build an organization — not build a building, not build a field and call it an organization — this is commitment beyond what we’ve seen to this point. This is creating a definition for our organization that’s going to exist and identifying what defines us for years to come.” The facility will employ 50 full-time staff members and 20 part-time staff, according to RSL.

“Every city looks for an iconic landmark that will identify it regionally and internationally,” Freeman said. “From a job creation standpoint, the stimulation of economic growth, with great benefits for our residents, to have such a unique opportunity of an incredibly inclusive nature is enormous.”

“Herriman, I have to say, really went out of their way to invite us to be there,” said Hansen. “This complex will serve as the crown jewel of Herriman City, with our residents experiencing huge benefits on all fronts,” said Nicole Martin, a Herriman city councilor. “It is rare yet incredible that a successful entity such as RSL shares our city’s vision for creating a family-friendly, world-class destination, and now we become essentially a ‘soccer-topia’ to hone athletic and academic skills for decades to come.” RSL’s Herriman Training Complex will also sit adjacent to a 250-student STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) charter school developed by Utah State University, with 77,000 square feet of classrooms and a 90-acre campus.

“We have a passion for how our residents live, work and play, and this complex and the adjacent STEM school will provide amazing value for our residents,” said Herriman City Councilor Coralee Moser.

Hansen has also created the nonprofit “RSL Youth Academy Foundation,” which will create “regional training centers” across Utah and potentially Arizona. The first three locations are scheduled to be North Logan, Ogden and West Valley City, with Orem and St. George planned for later on. “Our collective passion about building this community is at the core of everything we do, with my job being to guide the group and lead us in how we connect to the community of nearly 10 million people across Utah and Arizona,” said Hansen. “I’m Salt Lake, I’m Utah, this is what I care about, and this is what the RSL values reflect, the club rooted civically in the community with everyone invited as a point of unification.” The facility is scheduled to open in July 2017.



Thursday, April 7, 2016

Why MLS’s Expansion to 28 (or 32) Teams is Good for NASL

(by Chris Kivlehan midfieldpress.com 1-17-16)

Major League Soccer has announced its intent to expand to 28 teams, and while it may seem counterintuitive, I believe this is actually a good thing for the North American Soccer League. Further, it is a good bet that MLS isn’t stopping at 28, but rather 32 seems like a more likely number. MLS shares many owners with the NFL, and more than any other league, MLS looks up to the NFL.

The NFL has 32 teams and its owners seem quite content with that number.  The NFL could easily support more than 32 teams; cities like Columbus, Salt Lake City, Portland, Orlando and Oklahoma City are as NFL caliber as Buffalo, Jacksonville, Kansas City and New Orleans.  That’s before looking North to Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver or overseas to London or Frankfurt.  So why doesn’t the NFL have 40 teams?  It’s about maximizing revenue and value of the franchises.  The scarcity of NFL teams drives the value up.  

The illusion of scarcity is why MLS, with 24 franchises awarded to date, is only saying they are going to 28 teams right now, rather than coming out and saying that 32 is the end game limit.  If there are four expansion spots left, and two of them are practically spoken for by Sacramento and San Antonio, that artificially drives up the value of the “last two” spots because there is more demand than supply.  If there were six spots readily available, they would be worth less than just two.  MLS will likely stop expanding once their owners, who again overlap in many cases with the NFL, decide they have hit a number that maximizes league revenue per owner and franchise value.   The NFL has identified 32 teams as the sweet spot for revenue and franchise value maximization.  MLS may determine the right number for their league is less than 32, but they are unlikely to decide it is more than 32 teams.

A 28-32 team cap for MLS is a boon for NASL.  There are 70 markets in the USA that could support a first division soccer team.  The top 10 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs)  could likely support several teams, as they do in Europe only to a lesser extent here since the market for the game is less developed.  NASL can likely put teams in different parts of the 10 largest MSAs, and be the most relevant team within a comfortable drive of the area they serve.  

For example, MLS is moving into downtown Atlanta.  The city’s northern suburbs are populated and wealthy, and traffic in Atlanta is notoriously bad.  The MLB’s Atlanta Braves are moving to Cobb County north of Atlanta because of a sweetheart stadium deal and the fact that is an attractive part of the market to be in.  An NASL team could thrive in Cobb County near the Braves, while Atlanta United FC flourishes in its downtown stadium shared with the NFL Falcons.  The recent failure of the Silverbacks in that market is a result of not having the right owners in place with financial strength and determination to field a strong alternative to MLS.  Challenging in an MLS market requires a strong backing with a good strategy to carve out their own niche.

Not all markets offer this opportunity, however.   The top 10 markets, and perhaps Seattle-Tacoma, would be interesting bets as MLS-having locations NASL could compete in.  The good news is as MLS selects its final 8 markets, there are plenty of excellent metropolitan areas that will be left over NASL.

Where will MLS go?

Teams 21-24 are set with Atlanta United FC due in 2017, Minnesota United FC moving from NASL to MLS in either 2017 or 2018, LAFC debuting in 2018 and Miami Beckham United finally nailing down their stadium site.

25 and 26 appear to be locked up as well. Sacramento ticks all of MLS’s boxes like no expansion bid before, and the San Antonio Spurs acquisition of Toyota Field and launch of a USL franchise has been done with an open wink and nod from MLS.

So there are 2 more open spots “available” for MLS, and likely a hard maximum of 4 additional berths beyond that.  This is good for NASL.  It is not as good for USL.

It is good because it will attract more qualified investors in soccer across the country – more than can possibly join MLS.  These prospective owners will have three options:  invest in something other than US pro soccer, invest in a developmental league in USL or invest in an aspiring alternate major league in NASL.

MLS commissioner Don Garber says they are talking to groups in St. Louis and San Diego, which would position the league to fill gaps left in those towns by potentially departing NFL teams.  He has tossed out Detroit and El Paso in similar conversations before. Long ago, MLS coveted Cleveland and Rochester as well. The billionaire owner of FC Cincinnati probably isn’t investing in USL to stay there.  The Charlotte Independence owners have signaled their intent for MLS. Arizona United hired Frank Yallop as part of a plan to drive to MLS. Louisville is talking about a stadium plan to land MLS. MLS rejected investors from Las Vegas.

So let’s say MLS goes to 32 teams and they are:  25. Sacramento, 26. San Antonio, 27. St. Louis, 28. San Diego, 29. Cincinnati, 30. Phoenix, 31. Charlotte 32. Detroit.

Those are eight of the biggest MSAs left on the table, so that’s a pretty significant list of open markets lost.  One region I am leaving off the MLS list is Tampa Bay.  Certainly Tampa Bay is larger than some of the other metro areas on the list and expanding to Tampa Bay strike a blow to NASL.  I left it off because the current owner, Bill Edwards, is unlikely to want to give over the control necessary to join MLS, there is a nearby MLS franchise in Orlando, and failure of the Tampa Bay Mutiny once before. However even if we replace Charlotte on the above list with Tampa Bay, and NASL loses the Rowdies with all the history and tradition they represent, the overall trend would still be favorable.

Why MLS maxing out is good for NASL

Because it means MLS is done growing, which means if you are an ambitious independent USL team owner, what are you investing for? You either need to suck it up and make peace with being minor league playing MLS reserve teams, you close up shop or you move to a more ambitious league of fellow independent teams aspiring to be first division.  This conundrum almost certainly awaits Louisville, which is too small of a market to attract one of MLS’s final spots.  I would expect a defection of spurned independent USL owners who are locked out of MLS when it stops growing at 32 teams. Tulsa, Charlotte, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Austin are all markets with more potential than what that USL would be able to harness and would be ripe for NASL to poach.

Beyond the present USL towns, where does a maxed-out MLS leave great markets like Nashville, Memphis, Buffalo, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Baltimore, New Orleans and Milwaukee?  Locked out of MLS forever, or waiting patiently until an MLS franchise falters enough to be relocated.  Those are all strong potential MSAs for NASL to move into.  Beyond that there are solid markets like Chattanooga, El Paso, Hartford and Birmingham, which MLS would never touch.

MLS going to 28 or 32 teams may mean NASL loses another franchise or two along the way, but it has so much more to gain by capitalizing on the demand generated by the prospect of MLS expansion along with the impact dwindling odds the USL independents have for moving up, as the game of soccer grows in popularity across the country.

If MLS goes to 32 teams, what could NASL grow into?

In a scenario where MLS stops at 32 teams, NASL could look every bit as major a league in terms of the markets it supports by putting teams in the top 10 MSA/TV markets as well as in top 11-50 markets passed over by MLS.

If you positioned NASL teams with the right investor backing into different sections of the top 10 MSA markets with MLS, you could put teams in Orange County, East LA, Ventura County, the Inland Empire or the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles; in the city or northern suburbs in Chicago; in Arlington or Fort Worth in the Dallas MSA; in the Sugar Land area of the Houston MSA; in the city or northern suburbs of Philadelphia; in northern Virginia or southern Maryland in the DC area; in the city or northern suburbs of Boston.  This would be in addition to the Atlanta example above, as well as the existing New York Cosmos, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Miami FC.  Reports have a Peter Wilt-led revival of the Chicago Sting potentially following the city/northern suburb path mentioned above, as well as the Bay Area Professional Soccer group looking to land a team in San Francisco or the eastern Bay Area.  While it might not be necessary to have teams in all of these markets, it would be helpful in getting NASL a good TV contract one day.

Add to those teams in Baltimore, Cleveland, Buffalo, Nashville, Memphis, Las Vegas, Hartford, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Austin, Providence, New Orleans, Virginia Beach, and more.  Not only are there enough markets to support an alternate first division of American soccer, but you have enough available markets to support a multi-tier pyramid structure with promotion and relegation, should NASL want to introduce the much in-demand system to differentiate the product it offers in the marketplace from MLS.

Available markets are not the problem, not by a long shot.  Qualified and motivated investors are the scarce resource for NASL right now.  There are sure to be many groups who fail in their bid for a MLS team, whether they are independent USL clubs or investment groups that don’t presently operate a club.  When the MLS musical chairs game is over, NASL will look more appealing to those left standing who don’t want to damn themselves to a minor league existence forever, and who are willing to make an investment in a league that has big time ambitions.  As new investors emerge after MLS is maxed out, their choice will be between NASL and a USL that offers no growth beyond minor league purgatory.

NASL is like any challenger entrant into a business market with an established leader. It needs to find a different angle in the market to be successful and appeal to an audience that is not served by the leader. That niche can be its base of strength and it can grow from there.   Just as Coke and Pepsi co-exist as successful soft drinks while there are plenty of alternative beverages (sports) available to the consumer, so too can MLS, NASL and USL each find their own path to success without requiring the failure of the other.  For MLS, that success is to be the best American style sports league in US soccer.  For USL, that is to be the best minor league supporting MLS.  For NASL, that path is to be the best traditional soccer league in North America.