Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Could an American lead Iran to 2010 World Cup glory?

Could it really happen? Could an American citizen be named Iran's next national team coach? In the current geopolitical environment, it seems a bit off, but Afshin Ghotbi might change that.

Ghotbi was born in Iran, but lived outside the country (mostly in the US, where he become a citizen) for 30-years. However, he returned to Iran in August to take over the coaching job at one of Iran's biggest clubs, Persepolis F.C. and so far it has been very successful. In 11 matches, he has seven wins and four draws and is nine-points clear at the top of the premier league. Other Iranian managers have panned his tactics, but the results speak for themselves.

With the Iranian national team still without a coach and 2010 qualification beginning in February, there has been talk of Ghotbi, thanks to his domestic work, taking over. If it did happen, it would not be the first time he was on the sidelines for an Iranian World Cup match as he was part of the US coaching team during the 1998 World Cup when the US lost to Iran.

So could it really happen? If the results keep coming his way and if the federation continues to have trouble finding a 'Western European' coach, it might. Still, even if it did happen, it might come to nothing as their is a situation concerning the top position in the federation.

Mohammad Aliabadi , one of Iran's Vice-Presidents, wants the top spot in the federation but does not want to give up his position in the government. With FIFA recently suspending Kuwait for government involvement in their FA, it would seem that if Aliabadi got the post, the same thing might happen (again) to Iran. If so, it might kill any hope of reaching the World Cup, thus making the job a lot less interesting.

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Kansas City fans finally get a little love

Kansas City Wizards fans must hold one of the hardest gigs in all of soccer. Year after year their team plays their matches in front of tiny, tiny crowds in an oversized stadium, and except for a couple of quality years, for the most part the team has not been the best. Still, the faithful are out there. They might not match the numbers of DC or Toronto fans, but they still no how to celebrate the game of soccer.

That's why it is so nice to see pieces like this talking about the atmosphere in the Cauldron.
For half an hour Saturday night, Lawrence freshman Anthony Frei and the other soccer diehards in sections 102 and 103 of Arrowhead Stadium sang, chanted and danced to the beat of bass and snare drums to support the Kansas City Wizards, who were in the midst of a fierce battle to take control of their first playoff game in three years.

In the 35th minute Davy Arnaud’s audacious free kick found its way past a diving Brad Guzan and rippled the back of the Chivas USA net. The 450 fans in the section of Arrowhead known as the Cauldron sent trash bags full of confetti and 120 blue-and-white checkered flags to the sky. They were rejoicing what would be the decisive goal in a 1-0 Wizards victory.
This is followed up by one of the best explanations I've ever seen about the joy felt by fans after a goal.

“Whenever a goal is scored it’s pandemonium,” Frei said. “There’s a huge amount of joy. In football, basketball and other sports your team scores at regular intervals. It’s all of that packed down into the one moment you are all waiting for.”

The article continues to explain the community that is a supporter's club and how they are trying to expand their numbers.

Anyone who is an involved fan will find nothing new here, but for those who might be curious fans, this hopefully will open their eyes. The more people that come out and experience a match, the more the sport will grow.

The one downside to this article, the Wizards have no more home games this season, so the curious will need to wait till April.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tony Meola still a solid keeper

Former US national team keeper Tony Meola has been named Goalkeeper of the Week for the Major Indoor Soccer League.

This award might not be as impressive as his MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2000, but it still nice to see Tony is still out there saving shots.

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Brazil and Germany to host World Cups

The country that inspired the colors used on the World Cup trophy will indeed host the finals in 2014. Fifa made official what people have known for years when they voted today to award the South American giants the honor of having the games.

Brazil has a little less than seven years to renovate/build stadiums and improve transportation issues, hopefully not at the cost of social programs for their people.

But Brazil was not the only country to earn a World Cup, as 2006 World Cup hosts Germany will again take on the role for the 2011 Women's World Cup. The decision came down to Canada (host of the 2007 U-20 World Cup) and Germany, but really, it was Germany's all along. This should give the German women an even greater chance of a three-pete.

Congratulations to Brazil and Germany.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Houston Dynamo downtown stadium deal coming together - MLS stadium update

Back in May, the Houston Dynamo signed a letter of intent with the city to negotiate a stadium deal. The letter called for a deal to be reached by mid-July. Well July is long over and forgotten with no deal reached. However, it now looks like a deal could be worked out by the end of the year as the club is looking at a location just east of downtown (a previous location near the baseball stadium has been ruled out).

The new deal will actual involve two different locations. The first location will be a 22,000-seat, open-air stadium downtown costing $70-80 million while the second location will be a satellite public soccer complex and training facility on the city's south side. To me, this makes the most sense. Put the stadium in a central location that is easily accessed by the city's population and put the bulk of the playing fields further out where the land is cheaper.

No official world on city money has been given, however it looks like AEG (the owner of the Dynamo) will invest over $60 million in this project.

As far as the players, they feel it is about time to get a deal done. Having moved from San Jose because they could not get a stadium, a few players are wondering what is taking so long, including defender Craig Waibel:

"We feel like we're a championship team, and we've won one, and regardless of what happens here in the (playoffs) we've done very well this season, we've had great attendance (average attendance was 15,883 in 2007), we've done everything we were supposed to do.

''We feel a bit frustrated that there hasn't been an announcement, but we understand there's a lot more things to this than just our feelings and our team."

If the Dynamo can end up with a stadium downtown, then the wait really would be worth it, but what about everyone else in MLS? One of the odd events, or non-events of this season has been the lack of stadium news, still things have been moving along. Here is a look at the way the future stadiums look right now:

Chivas USA - There is occasional talk of a possible move from the Home Depot Center, but nothing major has come of it.

DC United - How to sum this one up? There was a lot of movement on building a stadium along the Anacostia River at Poplar Point, however in July talks broke down. United offered to pay for the $150 million stadium, however it wanted '$200 million in city subsidies, including roads, tax incentives and the right to develop additional land.' The city has since put out a call for open proposals on ways to develop the land, some of which will not include a soccer stadium. There has also been talk about building a stadium next to RFK (which would then be torn down) or move the team out of DC (something the owners have said they don't want to do). With nothing set as of yet, it looks like United will play at least through 2009 at RFK.

Kansas City Wizards - Last November, the Wizards saw a $75 million soccer complex voted down by a large margin. Since then, their focus has turned to the site of a mall. The Tax Increment Financing Commission of Kansas City as scheduled a special meeting for 7 Nov. to listen to the proposal for Bannister Mall and its surroundings in south Kansas City. A new stadium would anchor the site and would open in time for the 2010 season. As far as the 2008 season, the team might end up playing at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.

New England Revolution - Despite occasional noise concerning a move from the much too big Gillette stadium, there really has not been much of a push to get the Revs a home.

New York Red Bulls - On 19 September 2006, the New York franchise broke ground on a stadium that they hoped would be ready by 2008. However, due to disputes between co-owners Red Bull and AEG, the progress on the site has been minimal at best. At issue is AEG's demand that a stage be included at the site in order to make it more profitable. Needless to say, the stadium will not be ready for 2008 and might not be up and running by 2009.

Real Salt Lake - After a very rocky process, Real got their stadium deal in Sandy and construction has been moving along very nicely. They still seem on pace to open in 2008.

San Jose Earthquakes - The team is still hoping for the city of San Jose to rezone some industrial land so owner Lew Wolff can develop it for residential purposes. He would then take the money made and build a stadium near the airport. The city has yet to move forward on this idea.

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Concacaf President Jack Warner lies about meeting Nelson Mandela

Everybody's favorite scandal plagued President of Concacaf and Vice-President of FIFA Jack Warner has found himself in the middle of another lie. Mr. Warner, who is running to become Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago went to South Africa last week to meet with Nelson Mandela in hopes of scoring political points back home. However, there was a little problem with this as 'Warner did not meet Mandela after he refused to sign an agreement that the meeting would not be used for political purposes.'

Yet Fifa put out a press released that stated: 'Fifa vice-president Jack Warner paid a whistle-stop visit to SA today to meet with Nelson Mandela as well as executives of the country’s Premier Soccer League [PSL].'

Oddly enough, Fifa has now removed the press release from their website, but here is the cached version from google.

So it looks like Jack Warner does not limit his creative ways to his soccer dealings alone.

On a different matter, if Warner did become Prime Minister, would he have to resign as Concacaf boss? It would make sense, but I can't find anything to suggest that he would.

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World Cup rotation dead - Fifa spits on Concacaf - Why is Jack Warner still in charge?

Fifa made it official today, the rotational system will die after the 2014 Brazil finals, meaning everyone except for little Oceania and Concacaf got a piece of the World Cup pie.

This comes as no surprise as Fifa boss Sepp Blatter has been hinting at this for some time now but still, one has to wonder why Concacaf President and Blatter's BFF Jack Warner was not able to bring his confederation the finals as he promised. Since it was Concacaf's to lose and Warner lost it, hopefully all the FAs will realize that Warner is not the great strength he portrays himself to be.

So 2018 now becomes an open bidding tournament much like, as Blatter points out, the Olympics. I guess that means 2018 process will be a lot like those for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Blatter listed China, Australia, Mexico, the United States, England and one combined offer from the Netherlands and Belgium as countries already showing interest in the finals. However, seeing that those in Europe pushed this moved, it is pretty safe to say that most of them are already unofficially out. I'm sure Fifa will keep as many countries 'in the game' as they can so as to milk as much out of it as possible, but in the end, 2018 is now England's World Cup to lose.

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MLS Expansion - The problem with Portland is the stadium

It would seem that the only thing holding MLS back from giving Portland a team is PGE Park. MLS commissioner Don Garber likes the stadium but says that major changes need to happen to make it work for the league.
"It's hard to accept that you would not be in an optimum facility," Garber said, explaining that Philadelphia is close to approving a $125 million soccer stadium, and other cities have expressed interest. "Years ago, we needed to play wherever we could. Now we're in a position where we can play where we want to play. ... That's a very positive development for the sport."
To make the park an 'optimum facility' Garber says they need to, among other things, install seats along the east side of the stadium, upgraded locker rooms and improve the rest rooms. The problem of course is who is going to pay for such upgrades?

Timbers owner Merritt Paulson is willing to pay the $30 million expansion fee to get a team but does not want to pay for the stadium. PGE Park is owned by the City of Portland, so people will look in their direction, but publicly funded stadium deals are always a sticky situation.

Add what would a stadium situation be without a bit of a time crunch as Paulson says that he does not want to pay more then $30 million for the franchise, meaning that if MLS increases the fee, he says he will walk.

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2007 MLS Playoffs - Week 1 recap - I guess everyone was actually playing for week 2

The first leg of the first round is over and even though three teams hold an edge, nobody is in a real bad place. Traditionally, the first leg is a low scoring affair, but even by MLS post-season standards, this round was mighty lacking in the goal department. I would like to say that it was do to outstanding defensive work, however it had more to do with sloppy midfield play and failures to finish. But on the plus side, each of this week's games should see some offensive pushes as every team needs a goal.

But first, the playoff table:
PlayoffsWeek 1
Att per game14,24514,245
Goals per game.75.75
Ties1 (25%)1 (25%)

New England 0-0 New York
The Red Bulls must be disappointed after this match as they owned the possession game and even found open space in front of the Revs goal, but could not finish. Claudio Reyna was showing his skill in the midfield and Francis Doe had his chances (as did Angel), but they New England defense either just got a touch on the ball or sent the ball right to Matt Reis. The Revs were cool on attack as they didn't for Jon Conway to make a stop until the second half and often found a way to loose the ball on weak challenges. Overall, not an interesting 90-minutes of soccer. Still, got to hand it to New York for getting over 14,000 people out for the game.

With this series tied going back to Gillette Stadium, the Revolution have to love their chances for advancing to the East Conference finals for the fifth straight year, but to make it happen, they need keep Angel from getting free in the box and find a way to push more players into the final third.
Attendance: 14,165

Houston Dynamo 0-1 FC Dallas
If I hadn't watched the match, I wouldn't have believed just how lopsided this one was in favor of Houston. They were pushing forward, making passes, stopping counters and overall doing everything that should win you the game. Well that is except scoring and making a defensive mistake in your own box.

Did Dallas even try to attack during this one? It seemed like their plan was get a goal and then hold on at all costs. Once that happened, they sat back and absorbed all Houston's pressure and fouled a lot. A win is a win, but it does make you wonder what they plan on doing in Houston on Friday. Is their plan to let the Dynamo run the game like they did on Saturday and hope to hold them goalless for 90-minutes? If so, head coach Steve Morrow is one hell of a gambler.

As for Houston, their problem continues to be their offense as they have just one goal in their last three matches. De Rosario is looking lively again but Brian Ching is still off his track. The perfect example of this came in the closing minutes when Ching had a great chance on goal but Dario Sala was able to get just enough on it to knock it wide. Last year, Ching made that shot. With neither Joseph Ngwenya nor Nate Jaqua really looking that great either, one has to wonder where the goals will come from (hard to believe they got 9 corner kicks and didn't look dangerous on any of them).

Heading down to Houston, FCD has to be a bit concerned. The Dynamo were unlucky to get out of Dallas with nothing while the Hoops looked lackluster just about everywhere except in goal. Houston will be able to get at least a goal at home, which will force Dallas to make something happen or go to penalty kicks, and with their history on pks, that would be a very bad thing.
Goal: Clarence Goodson (1) 23'
Attendance: 12,537 (wow, that is a tiny number, what happened here?)

Chivas USA 0-1 Kansas City Wizards
These two played an interesting match for the first hour but by the final 30, they both seemed happy to just let the game end. The Wizards came out fast and furious at the start and put the goats on their heels, but could not punch through. Once the game settled, it became obvious how much Chivas was missing Maykel Galindo and Ante Razov. Chivas would push the attack but had no idea where to place the ball for a finish.

The Wizards tried to get Eddie Johnson involved, but for the most part, he was a no show, except when he got a foul about 30 yards away from goal. The following free kick by Davy Arnaud was simply beautiful as it just edged over the Chivas wall, hit the slick ground and caught Brad Guzan off his mark. Really was nice.

So now things head back to California with Chivas needing to make up a goal. The goats are still the favorites in this one but I could easily see an upset taking place. Without the power up top, they just don't have the options needed to beat back defensives lack they did during the second half of the season. Jonathan Bornstein and Jesse Marsch are doing a good job of causing trouble, but it just doesn't seem like enough.
Goal: Davy Arnaud (1) 35'
Attendance: 12,442 (a really good number by KC's standards)

Second Leg schedule:
Chicago Fire vs. DC United - 1 Nov 7:30pm ET, ESPN2
FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo - 2 Nov 8:30pm ET, DK, MLStv
NY vs. NE - 3 Nov 7:30pm ET, FSC, FSE
KC vs. Chivas - 3 Nov 10:30pm ET, HDNet, DK, MLStv

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Friday, October 26, 2007

2018 World Cup getting closer to England

Fifa boss Sepp Blatter as personally assured Prime Minister Gordon Brown that rules will be changed to do away with the rotational hosting idea, thus allowing England and just about anyone else the chance to bid on the 2018 World Cup finals.

In addition, it now appears that the new rule will say that only the most recent confederation to host the finals will be barred from bidding. In the past, Blatter had suggested that the last two host confederations would be barred. This means that a return to the one in Europe, one somewhere else, one in Europe rotation is very likely.

One interesting part of the article says that England will 'face competition from Russia, the Benelux nations, Italy, Australia, China, Mexico and possibly the United States.' I don't really understand the 'possibility' in front of the US as they have openly said that they will bid (especially since the 2018 rotation would have gone to Concacaf if FIFA actually played by their own rules).

So there you have it, all signs point to England in 2018, although wouldn't it be funny if Russia snuck in and won it at the end?

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MLS Expansion - Earthquakes have a home

The San Jose Earthquakes have a home for most of their matches next season as they will play at Buck Shaw Stadium on the campus of the Santa Clara University. This stadium currently holds between 6,800-8,800, however upgrades might take place for MLS games. The team will play 'bigger' opponents at a larger, yet to be announced, stadium.

As you can tell from the picture, Shaw was built as a multi-sport facility. However, both the baseball and football teams now play elsewhere, leaving it as soccer only. Also, this is where Brazil practiced during the 1994 World Cup, so it has some soccer cred.

In addition, this stadium sits within spitting distance of the land the 'Quakes hope to purchase from the city for a permanent home and the teams new offices.

As far as the size, they might not end up playing in the smallest stadium in the league, depending on where Kansas City ends up.

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EPL should play matches in US

That is the idea being put out by West Ham non-executive chairman Eggert Magnusson.

With the NFL set to play a meaningful game in London this weekend, at least a few people in the EPL are wondering if they could do the same in America. The reason for this is simple, money. If they can expand their brand in the US, money will follow.

I have little doubt that most fans in England would not take a liking to this idea and see it for the gimmick it is. Plus with most teams already holding a very full schedule, the players might not take to the idea of flying to the states (even if it were just the East coast) instead of traveling across town to play a game.

But money has a way of making problems like these seem not so major. I don't see this happening anytime in the next couple years but as American influence grows in the English game, so might the push for this idea.

So if it did happen, what kind of effect, if any, would it have on MLS? Since any game would probably happen outside of the MLS season (I would think they would wait till after the Super Bowl to maximize exposure and due to stadium issues), I think the impact would be little. If the game was tied in with ticket sales to a MLS club (like the Revolution), it might give a slight bump, but overall, I think it would be a wash. They would get soccer fans out to watch such an event, but I don't think this would act as a catalyst to turn those fans into MLS fans.

Now where this could go many years from now is a much more interesting possibility. What if EPL and MLS clubs competed in some sort of 'SuperLiga' type event? Obviously, this idea is at least a decade away from even being taken seriously, but if the two leagues could play competitive matches against each other and if the MLS sides did not look like crap, then there could be a direct benefit to MLS as well as the EPL. Now this is a lot of 'ifs', but it is fun to speculate.

In the end, I think at some point in the next 10-years, an EPL match will take place on US soil. It will be sold out and probably even carried on ESPN or ABC (or maybe Fox). People will hype it up and the ratings will be okay, but in the end it will serve more to line the pockets of the owners then advance the game in the US.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday Night Soccer - DC vs. Chicago - Let the playoffs begin

DC United vs. Chicago Fire
8:30pm ET/5:30pm PT

As I said in my playoff preview, this should be a real fun series. United will be looking to break the Chicago curse while the Fire will be hoping Blanco can find a way to get them a couple goals in a match. The Fire are on a 8-game unbeaten streak while DC have not won a match in their last four, but the playoffs change everything.

Still, a lot of this match will be determined by the injuries United suffered last weekend versus Columbus. If Moreno and Emilio are doing all right, tonight will not be that bad. However if either is really hurting (especially Emilio), it might be a really bad first leg for United.

Predictions: Me DC 1-1 CF, Wife DC 1-0 CF

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2007 MLS Playoff preview

The 2007 playoffs kickoff tonight in Chicago as the Fire play host to Supporters' Shield winning DC United. Now instead of just focusing on this one game, which should be a good one, I thought I would give my overall view of the playoffs including a prediction on how things will play out.

DC United vs. Chicago Fire
(25 Oct 8:30pm ET, ESPN2 & 1 Nov 7:30pm ET, ESPN2)
There is no other team that strikes as much playoff fear into United fans hearts as Chicago. The teams have meet three times in the post season and the Fire have won them all (including the MLS Cup in 1998). In fact, till New England beat DC in last year's conference championship, the Fire were the only club to ever knock United out of the playoffs. With that kind of voodoo going on, Chicago should feel good these days.

However, this year's version of the Fire is suffering from a big problem that could end their streak in that they can't score goals. Amazingly, Chicago has either failed to score only managed to find the net once in 22 of their 30 league matches this year. Traditionally the playoffs are a lower scoring affair then the regular season, but not so low that you do not need offensive strikes. Unless the Fire can find a contact guy up top (Calen Carr could be a surprise in this role), their 1.0333 goals per game average will not be enough to get past United and Emilio.

DC had a bad final run of the regular season and still can fail to use the wings to their fullest, but this is a team that is smart on defense and good in tight situations. Add to it the experience that the wonderful form of Troy Perkins in goal, and they have everything you need for a win.

In the end, this might just be the best series in the first round. Chicago will keep it close with Blanco adding something special to the mix (I am very much looking forward to Blanco in a high-pressure match), but in the end DC will get what they need to advance.

Predictions: Me - DC (combined score of two games) DC 4-2 CF, Wife DC 3-1 CF

New England Revolution vs. New York Red Bulls
(27 Oct 7:30pm ET, FSC, FSE & 3 Nov 7:30pm ET, FSC, FSE)
This one doesn't have the history of DC-Chicago but it is still bound to be interesting to watch. One of the undercurrents that I think should be fun to watch is the Altidore-Twellman match up. Okay, they will not be covering each other, but it would seem that these two are about to pass one another on the US national team roster (with Altidore going in the good direction). If Jozy can come up big this year like he did last year and if Twellman doesn't show so well (which is pretty normal in the playoffs), it could be the final bit of convincing Bob Bradley needs to call the younger into camp.

From the look of it, Jozy has a number of things going his way with the biggest being Angel. One of the things that makes Juan Pablo so great his is ability to open space for other players by pulling the defense towards him. The Revs have a good backline but they have slipped up a number of times of late and with Matt Reis off a step between the posts, Jozy should get some great chances.

However, the Red Bulls still suffer from an on/off midfield. With Reyna questionable, who knows what could happen especially with Shalrie Joseph and Steve Ralston working things for NE.

In the end, New England will win this as they win most non-MLS Cup post-season games.

Predictions: Me NE 5-3 NY, Wife NE 2-3 NY

Chivas USA vs. Kansas City Wizards
(27 Oct 8pm ET, HDNet, DK, MLStv & 3 Nov 10:30pm ET, HDNet, DK, MLStv)
KC, welcome to the Western Conference, here is one of the most creative and talented teams to play against, best of luck.

On paper, this one should not be close, but I have a funny feeling about this. Maybe it has something to do with the top team from the West getting knocked out in the first round for the past two years or maybe it has a lot to do with the injury to Ante Razov, but I think Kansas City might shock with this one.

The last few weeks, the goats have been less then their best with Sacha Kljestan having to lift a lot. I have little doubt that Sacha will continue to do well, but I don't think he has the team around him to hold off a hard charging team. I know, they managed to keep Houston under wrap for 50-minutes down a man, but I think the Wizards will find a way.

My reason for this has a bit to do with the play of Scott Sealy, but even more to do with their matches this year. KC took the one at home and almost tied on the road except that Razov got an injury-time goal. The Wizards actually out played Chivas in that match but luck went against them. If that luck happens to be on the bench for this series, I would not be shocked if KC made it through.

As odd as it seems, I think the Wizards will pull this one out.
Predictions: Me CV 3-3 KC (KC advances on pks), Wife CV 4-1 KC

Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas
(27 Oct, 8:30pm ET, DK, MLStv & 2 Nov 8:30pm ET, DK, MLStv)
So will this series be a grudge match or a blow out? If it goes the grudge match route, FC Dallas stands a much better chance of finally topping their intra-state rival.

Carlos Ruiz will be looking forward to this one, but less face it, other then his ability to get Ricardo Clark kicked out for the rest of the season, he has not done much of note. In fact, Dallas is painfully lacking in their attack, which will present a major problem against the best defense in the league. Kenny Cooper is looking better, but he still fails to get into the middle of things, thus limiting the influence his size could have on his game. Abe Thompson might be an alternative or maybe the always fun to watch Arturo Alvarez, but in the end, I just don't think they have the guns to take the series, especially when they face Pat Onstad in goal.

Houston has had their own issue with scoring but Ching is looking better, while Dwayne De Rosario seems to be coming out of his funk. Throw in Joseph Ngwenya and a sneaky Stuart Holden and there should be enough for Houston.

Predictions: Me HD 3-1 FCD, Wife HD 3-0 FCD

So why not predict a little further.
Conference finals:
Me: DC 2-1 NE, HD 1-0 KC
Wife: DC 3-2 NY, CV 2-0 HD

MLS Cup:
Me: DC 3-1 HD
Wife: DC 1-2 CV

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MLS Expansion - If Seattle gets a team, Poulsbo might get the Sounders

If Seattle lands an expansion team as expected, the Sounders might end up staying in the USL. What that means is the MLS team might not take the name Sounders with them and if they do not, at least one member of the Sounders' ownership group want to keep the team alive.

Robin Waite would be willing to build a soccer specific stadium in Poulsbo (a city on the Kitsap Peninsula, which is located on the west side of the Puget Sound), for a new version of the Sounders. It is about 15 miles away from downtown Seattle.
"Yes, it's a possibility," said Robin Waite of Tracyton, part of the Sounders' ownership group who has been actively trying to build a soccer-only stadium with the hopes of luring a USL franchise to the region.

Waite is zeroing in on nearly 13 acres of land in Poulsbo after a recent attempt to purchase an eight-acre parcel of land in Olhava fell through.

"We're under contract right now on the land," Waite said of the site he's currently zeroing in on.

There are, he said, some wetland issues.

"We can put a stadium on it," he said of the property where he would like to build a 6,500-seat stadium that he estimates will cost him about $2.5 million. "The question becomes what do you do about parking."
The team would be very removed from the Seattle home they have come to know, but it might work. Still, the relatively small population density in the area might make it a bit difficult to draw a large crowd.

But this brings up a different issue, if Seattle lands a team, should they be able to keep the name Sounders? With more and more USL teams getting a look over as possible candidates for MLS, this might be an issue that repeats itself. So provided that all the legal issues are resolved concerning the name, what do you think?

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

2007 MLS Attendance Numbers - Full Season

The 2007 regular season is over and the attendance numbers look good. The league average for the year is 16,485 per game, which is a significant jump from 2006's 15,518 and 2005's 15,108. Actually, 2007 represents the best average since the inaugural run in 1996.

Home Attendance
TeamHGTotalAvgBest vsWorst vsHR
LA15363,78224,25227,000*19,225 RSL 6/176-6-3
TFC15301,90620,12720,522 LA 8/0519,123 HD 5/165-7-3
DC15293,55419,57046,686 LA 8/0912,908 NE 5/0310-2-3
NE15251,13216,74235,402 LA 8/129,508 CF 5/068-3-4
NY15247,94816,53066,237 LA 8/187,802 CR 5/139-3-3
CF15247,35616,49021,374 LA 10/2110,115 CC 6/036-3-6
RSL15239,39515,96024,633 LA 9/1913,003 HD 8/044-7-4
HD15238,24015,88330,588 LA 10/0711,114 TFC 7/158-3-4
FCD15227,18215,14520,500**9,165 NE 4/297-5-3
CC15226,70615,11322,555 LA 9/3010,254 KC 6/205-5-5
CV15226,22715,08227,000***8,756 FCD 5/2610-1-4
CR15221,22914,74918,458 LA 5/2610,677 NE 8/166-4-5
KC15173,78411,58632,867 LA 9/277,101 CR 7/225-3-2
HG: Number of Home Games, HR: Home Record
* LA reached 27,000 six times - 4/28 CV, 8/23 CV, 9/01 RSL, 9/23 FCD, 10/13 HD & 10/18 NY
** FC Dallas reached 20,500 twice - 4/22 CR & 10/20 KC
*** Chivas USA reached 27,000 twice - 5/20 LA & 9/29 CF

Nothing overly surprising from these numbers. There is the big 15-16,000 pack with a couple teams sliding under and three jumping nicely over. Also, no surprise that every team had their largest home crowd against LA, except FC Dallas who did not have a MLS game against LA when Beckham was on the team. It is interesting to note that home record does not seem to have a big influence on the numbers. But how do these numbers compare to last season?

Last Season
TeamAvg Attend 06Avg Attend 07% Change
NE11,78616,742+ 42.0%
CR12,05614,749+ 22.3%
CF14,08816,490+ 17.0%
LA20,81424,252+ 16.5%
CC13,29415,113+ 13.7%
NY14,57016,530+ 13.5%
DC18,21519,570+ 7.4%
KC11,08311,586+ 4.5%
FCD14,98215,145+ 1.1%
RSL16,36615,960- 2.5%
HD18,93515,883- 16.1%
CV19,84015,082- 24.0%

Way to go New England for getting those numbers up, but will they be able to do it again next year without the benefit of as many international double headers? Colorado did well to get people to their new stadium, the Fire used Blanco to get their seats filled and the Crew, New York and DC should all be happy with their bumps.

Kansas City's numbers are lackluster but they are better then what could have been since the team didn't know where they were going to play till a month or so before the season. With this in mind, this year has got to be seen as a minor success, but also a warning that they need to decide on a 2008 home soon.

Both Real and Houston are in similar boats as the aura of a new team is wearing off. That said, I am a bit surprised to see the Dynamo's numbers down as much as they are since they are league champions.

Dallas grew but I doubt they are very happy with the rate. I wonder if the stadium's location has anything to do with the stagnant number?

Finally, what is up with Chivas? The best year by far and they dropped a quarter of their total attendance. Their numbers picked up after they removed GM Javier Leo, but they still have a great deal of work ahead of them.

Home Capacity
TeamAvg AttendCapacityAvg % of CapStadium Type
TFC 20,12720,52298.1%SSS
SSS: Soccer Specific Stadium, CS: College Stadium, NFL: NFL Stadium

It is nice to see every sss above 50%, but again Chivas sticks out as the oddball. Toronto and Colorado have got to be happy with their numbers, although the Rapids obvious have a lot more room to improve.

DC did an amazing job in an American football stadium, while NE's, NY's and KC's percentages show the other side of things. Having a stadium less then a quarter full really hurts any environment.

But how much do these numbers have to do with Beckham?

Home Attendance minus Beckham matches
TeamAvg w/oAvg w/% Change
NY12,97916,530- 21.5%
KC10,06611,586- 13.1%
DC17,63319,570- 9.9%
NE15,40916,742- 8.0%
HD14,83215,883- 6.6%
RSL15,34015,960- 3.9%
CV14,49315,082- 3.9%
CC14,58215,113- 3.5%
CF16,14216,490- 2.1%
CR14,51014,749- 1.6%
TFC20,09920,127- .1%
Again, not a lot of surprises here. The teams in the largest stadiums take the biggest hit with out their Beckham match in the equation. Actually, if there is a surprise it is how little of an impact Beckham actually had on the numbers. Yes, 5-10% is a lot but it is not everything. I'm sure there is an argument to be made about a 'Beckham effect', like people buying 5 game packs in order to get a Beckham ticket, but overall, the numbers without Beckham are still pretty respectable.

It is also worth noting that without the Beckham game, only 6 teams do worse then they did last year (NY, KC, DC, HD, CV RSL). Don't get me wrong, that is still over half the list but it also means five teams improved (not counted LA or Toronto) even without the big man.

But what about road shows?
Road Attendance
TeamAGTotal Att.AvgAR
AG: Number of Away Games, AR: Away Record

It should come as no surprise that LA is top or that Chicago is second. If anything, this is proof that the designated player idea has worked out at least in one way for MLS. In fact, the four teams that currently have a designated player hold the top four road averages. It could be a coincidence or it could be fans showing up to see the big paycheck talent.

The bottom five positions are also interesting. Toronto makes sense because they were not very good and Colorado is a team most people seem to forget about, so that explains their numbers, but KC, Houston and New England had quality sides this year (although KC fell to pieces toward the end). I know the difference in the numbers is minimal, but one would think Houston and New England as 2 of the best teams in the league with some well known players would have had better road attendance.

So there are the full attendance numbers for the 2007 regular season. What does it tell us? Maybe that people actually started tuning in a bit more and showing up, but we will need to see if this once a one time 'oh wow, Beckham is here' event or if the league can keep the growth going. With San Jose not really having a home pitch, KC still struggling to get noticed, and NY and NE still not packing them in even with strong play, next year might prove a bit difficult.

By the way, here are the season ending numbers from the USL-First Division (thanks to Lucas over at Nerdword)

Here are the numbers:
TeamHGTotal AttAvg Att
Montreal Impact14154,49711,036
Rochester Raging Rhinos14130,7009,336
Portland Timbers 1495,5926,828
Vancouver Whitecaps1472,2645,162
Carolina RailHawks1471,735 5,124
Puerto Rico Islanders1466,1434,725
Charleston Battery1455,5503,968
Seattle Sounders1446,5453,325
Minnesota Thunder1444,1103,151
Atlanta Silverbacks14 36,0032,572
California Victory1415,6191,116
Miami FC1412,828916

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October 2007 FIFA Rankings - Argentina takes the top spot

The October rankings are out and Argentina has returned to the top spot. They last held the #1 position in March of this year. Other movement has England again falling out of the top 10 after climbing to number 9 last month while Mexico took a bit of a slide to 15th. The US holds steady at 18, which is 11 spots hirer then they were last October. However the big news is Russia who pole-vaulted 10 spots to 16th overall.

Rank Team (Last month) Points
1. Argentina (2), 1,533
2. Brazil (3), 1,459
3. Italy (1), 1,387
4. France (6), 1,271
5. Germany (4), 1,245
6. Spain (7), 1,226
7. Netherlands (5), 1,207
8. Portugal (8), 1,203
9. Czech Republic (11), 1,174
10. Croatia (10), 1,155

11. England (9), 1,137
12. Romania (12), 1,086
13. Scotland (14), 1,049
14. Greece (15), 1,034
15. Mexico (13), 978
16. Russia (26), 960
17. Uruguay (19), 900
18. United States (18), 886
19. Nigeria (23), 841
20. Poland (16), 837
Both the Ukraine (22nd) and Sweden (24th) fell out of the top 20.

Over the whole list, Georgia had the biggest upswing by ticking up 33 spots to 71st, followed by New Zealand (+28 spots to 128th) and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (+24 to 73rd).

On the downside, Bolivia went backwards 17 steps to 107th, Belarus shed 24 spots ending up in 94th and the biggest loser of all is Cape Verde Islands who dropped 36 places to land at 112th.

Here is the way CONCACAF shapes up:
15 Mexico (13)
18 USA (18)
51 Canada (54)
55 Honduras (59)
64 Cuba (71)
65 Panama (66)
66 Costa Rica (56)
68 Haiti (83)
73 St. Vincent and the Grenadines (97)
78 Trinidad and Tobago (64)

92 Guyana (103)
93 Barbados (108)
100 Guatemala (88)
103 Jamaica (96)
134 Bermuda (135)
141 El Salvador (137)
144 Suriname (143)
145 Antigua and Barbuda (131)
148 Dominican Republic (139)
156 St. Kitts and Nevis (146)

161 Nicaragua (158)
163 St. Lucia (163)
165 Grenada (162)
170 Bahamas (168)
180 British Virgin Islands (179)
181 Turks and Caicos Islands (181)
183 Netherlands Antilles (182)
187 Dominica (186)
188 Cayman Islands (188)
195 Puerto Rico (195)

197 Anguilla (197)
200 Belize (200)
200 Aruba (200)
200 US Virgin Islands (200)
200 Montserrat (200)

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

MLS Expansion - Don't expect any news soon

MLS released a statement today concerning expansion and to sum it up, don't expect any announcements anytime soon. That said they still plan on expanding to 16 teams by 2010.

"MLS does not have a set deadline to make that announcement," said the statement released by MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche. "Thus, it may be early 2008 before both teams are announced."

The main issue with waiting concerns stadium construction. If any of the expansion teams is to start their first season in a new stadium, they will need 16-24 months to build the site, making spring '08 the latest possible date for such an arrangement.

Still, this bit of news seems to push the idea of a MLS Cup announcement out of the way, which will give fans in Seattle, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Portland a little more time to argue about which is the best home for a top team.

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Firing season is here, which MLS coaches are the hunted?

The regular season might be over but the firing season has just begun. So which coaches are safe and who has a target on their back? Let’s take a look and see.

First, those who are safe:

Tom Soehn (DC United since 2007) - Had some trouble early but regrouped the team and made them into a force. A late season let down is disappointing but nothing close to deserving a pink slip.

Preki (Chivas USA since 2007) - With all the issues Amado Guevara caused early, it would have been easy for this team to fall apart, but Preki made them into true title contenders.

Dominic Kinnear (Houston Dynamo since 2006) - Another wonderful year from Kinnear. He has dealt with injuries well and has built a good bench. The only way he leaves is if he decided to leave for San Jose.

Bruce Arena (New York Red Bulls since mid-2006) - Unless he is pushing to get the US Women's job, the Bruce is staying in New York. The pickup of Ángel and Mathis now looks genius and the development of Altidore is great. Even a bomb against New England wouldn't result in his dismissal.

Curt Onalfo (Kansas City Wizards since 2007) - If KC was a bit more established and not looking at so many off the pitch issues (stadium, attendance, publicity, etc), the late season crash would have moved Onalfo into the maybe, but not likely list. However, with things the way they are and a playoff berth in hand, he is here for another year, which is good because I think he will develop some serious talent over the next few seasons.

Mo Johnston (Toronto FC since 2007) - Yes, his team had no able to score goals but they played some of the most passionate soccer in the whole league. Had it not been for injuries, they might have snuck into the playoffs. For a first year club, Mo put together something impressive, now can he make it grow?

Juan Carlos Osorio (Chicago Fire since mid-2007) - He hasn't been around long enough to fire plus he has handled Blanco well and the team improved after his hire.

Jason Kreis (Real Salt Lake since mid-2007) - Much like Osorio, he hasn't been around enough to get tossed plus Real showed some great improvement under his leadership.

So those are the guys that seem to be completely safe, but what about the other five bosses? Most of them will stay but one or maybe are probably done. Here is the way I see the other five:

Fernando Clavijo (Colorado Rapids since 2005)
Reasons he will be fired: The Rapids played some of the most boring and uninspiring soccer in the whole league. They constantly underperformed and for the first time since 2001, failed to reach post season. Clavijo hasn't shown much in the way of player development. They will humiliated 5-0 by Seattle in the US Open Cup quarterfinals. With the new stadium, this team needs some excitement on the pitch to keep people coming back.

Reasons he will stay: Um, let's see, the past two coaches all got four seasons so Clavijo should get one more. And maybe the Rapids don't want to spend the money to bring in anyone else and change the system.

Prediction: If Clavijo is still the coach next season, it is proof that the Rapids organization doesn't care about the game.

Sigi Schmid (Columbus Crew since 2006)
Reasons he will be fired: For the fourth season in a row the Crew have missed the playoffs and ended up in sixth place in the East. Through out the season, the team suffered from a lack of control late in matches. They picked up pace with the introduction of Schelotto, but Sigi couldn't make it last.

Reasons he will stay: The Crew did show progress over last season and with a couple moves, could be a playoff team in 2008. Also, the Hunts who are much more focused on FC Dallas own the Crew.

Prediction: Schmid should be gone but he'll probably get a reprieve.

Frank Yallop (LA Galaxy since mid-2006)
Reasons he will be fired: Two seasons in a row without making the playoffs. Due to trades this year, the team is in a tight spot when it comes to the designated player rule next year. Hard to be a 'Super Club' when you have a losing record. Lalas needs to blame someone.

Reasons he will stay: The late season run showed what the team can do. Had a number of injury woes plus the schedule was against him. Has a better understanding of how to handle the team (and the press).

Prediction: Unless Lalas can land someone big (hello Klinsmann), Yallop will stay. That is unless he decides to head up the coast to San Jose instead.

Steve Morrow (FC Dallas since 2007)
Reasons he will be fired: The team has underperformed this year. They had a chance to win the US Open Cup but failed even with home pitch advantage. The Denilson acquisition has been a flop.

Reason he will stay: The Hunts want a winner but even they understand that a coach needs more then one season to make everything come together.

Prediction: Morrow will stay but if 2008 doesn't start strong, he will be gone by July.

Steve Nicol (New England since 2002)
Reason he will be fired: Can't get the team over the final hurdle to win a MLS Cup.

Reasons he will stay: The Revs have been one of the best teams in the league since his arrival. Finally won a trophy with the US Open Cup. Is excellent at spotting and developing young talent. Knows the US game better then just about any other coach in the league.

Prediction: It seems weird to fire a good coach, but FC Dallas did it last year after Colin Clarke won the West but failed to bring home the MLS Cup or US Open Cup. If the Revs get knocked out in the first couple rounds (or worse, make it to the Cup again and fail), the organization might decide they need someone else to finally win the big prize. Still, I would be very surprised if Nicol wasn't still on the sidelines next season.

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MLS Expansion – Philadelphia stadium plans released; All comes down to PA Senate

The plans for a new MLS stadium in the Philadelphia area were unveiled yesterday. It is a 20,000-seat facility that follows in the steps of other proposed second-generation MLS stadiums and has a roof covering the fans (click on image for larger view - thanks to Philadelphia Pro Soccer Foundation for the image).

It total, the stadium will cost $115 million. Delaware County officials have already pledged $30 million to the project, but the team's ownership group still needs the state of Pennsylvania to contribute $40 million or the deal will not work.

Governor Rendell has asked the State Senate to approve a $500 million request for statewide capital redevelopment assistance (which includes $40m for the stadium), but the Senate might not act on this request before the end of the year. If they do not, Rendell says 'the project will fall.'

But this stadium will not be used for soccer alone, as a proposed Delaware County Sports Authority would own it along with the land. They hope to use it for concerts, football games and high school graduation ceremonies. They also plan for it to anchor 'an additional $400 million development project that would include a mix of retail, office and residential construction.'

If all goes as plan, the stadium would open for the first season of play in 2010.

With MLS looking more and more likely to name the next two expansion teams during next month's final in DC, it does appear this deal is up to the PA State Senate. Could their lack of a vote (or rejection of the plan) be the tipping point for awarding the other expansion team to St. Louis or is MLS's desire to be in Philadelphia so great that they would hold off on the announcement in order to give the state more time?

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Greg Ryan gone at last

The time of Greg Ryan as US Women's boss is over as US Soccer boss Sunil Gulati has pulled a Bruce Arena on Mr. Ryan and decided against renewal of his contract.

Here is the official, thanks for coming, it has been fun, now get off my property note from Gulati:
At the conclusion of each world championship cycle, every national team's performance is closely analyzed. There are many factors considered in this analysis, and it certainly isn't just about one loss or one particular coaching decision. In this case, after looking closely at the last six weeks and the team's performance at the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup, we have made a decision to change leadership of the U.S. Women’s National Team. I want to thank Greg Ryan and his staff for their work over the last two-plus years. We look forward to the continued development of our National Team as one of the best in the world.
After the horrible play his side put on in the World Cup, topped off by one a horrible decision concerning the goalkeeper and the subsequent demand for the team to turn against the wronged keeper, Ryan's departure cannot come soon enough. That might be a little harsh for a coach that lost only one match in his 55 coached, but the loss was the result of all his stumbles up to that point.

Yet Ryan alone is not the only problem hitting the women's team. The lack of a quality league has also stunted the growth of the women's game. This has limited the player pool to those that Ryan and company think to make the cut as well as decreased the time players have to develop.

The biggest weak point for the team in this past World Cup was the midfield as it looked sloppy and unable to provide the connection needed to control games. The problem is, midfielders need games to develop far more then attackers or defenders. Till the new league starts up in 2009, the best thing US soccer could do to help this problem is double or triple the size of the residency program, but the cost on that might not be acceptable.

America was able to dominate the early years of the women's game mainly because Title IX gave women options in this country that they had in few other places, however now that more nations have taken an interest in the sport, this is not enough. Whoever the next coach might be will need to find a way to get this team moving again.

It will be up to a Gulati, U.S. Soccer Secretary General Dan Flynn and Mia Hamm to discover whom that person is.

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2007 MLS Week 29 Recap or And that was the way it was

The 2007 regular season has ended on much the same note as it began, and that's not a great thing. Most of the games over the weekend didn't really have much of a punch to them. There was still some good action to watch, but overall, not the type of weekend that this season deserves as a cap off.

Anyway, here are the league numbers for the full 195 game season:
SeasonWeek 29
Att per game16,48520,575
Beckham Att (7*)244,22148,374
Beckham Avg Att34,88924,187
Goals per game2.6512.143
Inter-conferenceEast 30-28-26East 2-0-1
Ties50 (25.6%)3 (42.9%)
* Number of MLS matches with Beckham in attendance
** I cannot locate the attendance numbers for Colorado-Columbus (2 Sept) or LA-Columbus (30 Sept) so the season average is for only 193 games.

New England Revolution 2-2 Toronto FC
I should have known that the most exciting match of the weekend would end up in Canada. Michael Parkhurst's goal shot from around the world should have been enough to own this one, but the Revs had another late game collapse that cost them full points. If Danny Dichio can cut through their line so easy coming off of injury, I just wonder what a healthy Angel and Altidore will be able to accomplish. The Revs again look like a team that is going to beat themselves.
Goals: NY: Michael Parkhurst (1) 47+', Taylor Twellman (16) 47'
TFC: Collin Samuel (3) 59', Danny Dichio (6) 92+'
Attendance: 20,374

Columbus Crew 3-2 DC United
If United fans were not nervous before this match, I'm guessing they are now as their team is again limping to the playoffs. However, this lost in meaningless, but the injuries suffered by Moreno and Emilio are not. Will United be able to get their stuff together on short rest against a Fire side that can be dangerous? We'll see. As for the Crew, great way to end the season. A little work on the off-season in 2008 could be a good one for them.
Goals: CC: Robbie Rogers (2) 21', (3) 91+', Alejandro Moreno (7) 66'
DC: Christian Gomez (9) 89', (10) pk 93+'
Attendance: 23,149

Kansas City Wizards 2-0 FC Dallas
If United fans are worried, FCD fans must be a little terrified. Did Dallas just decide to not show up at all for this one? I know they had nothing to play for, but getting embarrassed heading into the playoffs is never a good idea. KC knew they need to win and they finally played like a team that wanted one. Scott Sealy was amazing but Davy Arnaud has some good moments as did Jack Jewsbury. Eddie Johnson, on the other hand, had his chances but decided to play rugby rules and put the ball over the bar. Dallas did have a couple good shows in Alvarez and Cooper, but they still need a big turn around in order to pull off a surprise against Houston. Lets also hope the American football lines are not on the pitch for the playoffs.
Goals: KC: Scott Seally (6) 39', (7) 55'
Attendance: 20,500

Real Salt Lake 1-0 Colorado Rapids
Oh the Rapids, what a sad game that one was. At least DC and FCD have an excuse for not showing up. Colorado spent the night just blahing around on the pitch until Real went up a goal. They had some excitement late but thanks to the superb work of Nick Rimando in goal, the Rapids got nothing. All I can say is that after the way Colorado has played this season, I cannot thank Real enough for keeping them out of the playoffs. One last thing, way to go Kyle Beckerman for getting a yellow card in the first 3 seconds.
Goal: Robbie Findley (8) 87'
Attendance: 14,777

Houston Dynamo 0-0 Chivas USA
The Dynamo have nobody except themselves to blame for not taking the West as they had their chances but could not finish. Brian Ching is still off a bit while Corey Ashe just seems to be playing his own game out there. The good news is Dwayne De Rosario is showing signs of finally hitting his stride while Stuart Holden is staying strong. Chivas was unlucky to go down a man as that was the softest red issued to a non-LA opponent this season. But even before they lost a man, the goats were lacking. If Kansas City plays the way they did against FCD, they could shock Chivas, even if Brad Guzan is as fantastic as he has been all season.
Attendance: 16,853

Los Angeles Galaxy 0-1 Chicago Fire
The Rapids can take to heart the knowledge that they were not the only team that failed to deliver in their biggest game of the season as the Galaxy tanked in the windy city. Landon Donovan again did not show well under pressure but neither need anyone else on his side (with the exception of Joe Cannon in goal). At no point did LA string together a big number of passes or own possession, yet somehow the score remained tied till the closing moments. There is no reason this game should have been tied heading into stoppage time. Chicago is still suffering from an amazing case of failure to make anything out of everything. How many times do they need to get open shots before they get a goal? Dominating a game and only getting one goal is not the sign of a wonderful team. By the way, this makes the 22nd time this season the Fire have scored one goal or less. Still, the team is on a high and with DC coming to town on Thursday, which might just be enough to carry them forward.
Goal: John Thorrington (1) 93+'
Attendance: 21,374

So there are the weekend games and here is the playoff schedule:

DC United - Chicago Fire (25 Oct 8:30pm ET, ESPN2)
NE - NY (27 Oct 7:30pm ET, FSC, FSE)
Chicago Fire - DC United (1 Nov 7:30pm ET, ESPN2)
NY - NE (3 Nov 7:30pm ET, FSC, FSE)

Houston Dynamo - FC Dallas (27 Oct 8pm ET, HDNet, DK, MLStv)
Chivas USA - KC (27 Oct, 8:30pm ET, DK, MLStv)
FC Dallas - Houston Dynamo (2 Nov 8:30pm ET, DK, MLStv)
KC - Chivas USA (3 Nov 10:30pm ET, HDNet, DK, MLStv)

So the Eastern Conference gets the main TV coverage while the West requires a little searching.

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MLS Expansion – Philadelphia bid gets $30m boost

The Sons of Ben are a little closer to having a team to cheer on as 'Delaware County has agreed to spend $30 million for the construction of a soccer stadium on the Chester waterfront, bringing a Major League Soccer franchise closer to the Philadelphia region.'

And whom do soccer fans in the area have to thank for this money? The gambling industry. "(T)he $30 million would come from revenue generated by the new slots casino in Chester." So could a new Philadelphia team be called Philadelphia Slot Jockeys?

In addition, the Chester Redevelopment Authority will donate part of the land for a stadium.

Now that the expansion group as the backing of the locals, they are hoping that the state government will join in.

"This is the county piece, and we are still pursuing the state piece," said Charles G. Kopp, an attorney for the investors group. State aid is crucial to the plan.

In total, the cost for bringing a team to the area will be around $150 million. The investors seem willing to place some of their own money on the table, but I'm guessing they would like a $20-40 assist from the state. Pennsylvania governor and former Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell has said that he is in favor of the idea but no money has been yet promised.

So where does Philadelphia stand on the expansion order? Seattle seems to be all but a lock and with commissioner Don Garber suggesting that the team to come into the league with Seattle will be from the East coast, it would seem Philadelphia is very close. Still, the St. Louis stadium proposal still seems a little further along, but with Gerber also suggesting that 2 more teams could come into the league as soon as 2011-2012 (he said this on ESPN last Thursday), maybe he is willing to wait on the team from the Midwest.

If the league hopes to annouce the two new sides by MLS Cup, the next three weeks should be very interesting.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

2007 Week 29 Predictions

The final weekend of play and four of the six matches have something riding on them. This is both a fun aspect of the US game and an annoying one. It is always interesting when teams are still playing for something at the end but it is also annoying when you realize that only three of the 13 teams are out of the playoffs this late in the game. But the good news, one of those four meaningful games is not for a playoff spot but for the top of the conference.

Columbus Crew (34pts) vs. DC United (55pts)
7:30pm ET/4:30 pm PT
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv
The Crew are already out of the playoffs and United have won the Supporters' Shield so neither of them have much to play for. Still, United has looked a bit soft of late so they need to use this game as a warm up for whoever awaits them next week. For the Crew, this season was not one to remember but beating United on the final day would at least give them a big splash at the end. Plus, this could be Sigi Schmid's final game in charge.
Predictions: Me CC 1-2 DC, Wife CC 0-3 DC

Kansas City Wizards (37pts) vs. FC Dallas (44pts)
8:30pm ET/5:30pm PT
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv
KC holds their future in their own hands as a win will grant them at least two extra games, but this being the Wizards, I'm guessing it will not happen. They don't really have much offense and even though Dallas is a mismatch at every position, the amount of time KC usually give their opposition should be enough for Dallas to make something out of it.
Predictions: Me KC 0-1 FCD, Wife KC 1-2 FCD

Real Salt Lake (24pts) vs. Colorado Rapids (35pts)
9pm ET/6pm PT
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv
Eddie Pope's wonderful soccer career comes to an end tonight. Hard to believe the man the one the first MLS Cup is hanging it all up. He is an amazing person and hopefully one that will inspire those who are just now coming into their own. Aside from Pope, Real have a lot to play for tonight as they have a chance (with a win) to not be the worst team in MLS. In addition, they could knock the Rapids out of the playoffs if they can keep Colorado from getting out with more then a tie. It will be interesting to see how the Rapids play this match as they normally just play boring soccer while waiting for an opportunity to present itself, however since they need a win, they might actually have to attack.
Predictions: Me RSL 2-2 CR, Wife RSL 1-3 CR

Houston Dynamo (51pts) vs. Chivas USA (52pts)
10:30pm ET/7:30pm ET
TV: Fox Soccer Channel (30-min pre & post), FSE
This should be the best game of the weekend. Houston needs a win to take the West and earn home field advantage in the conference final. Chivas has only lost once all season at home but it was last week to a 10-man Colorado side. With Ante Razov out for Chivas, their attack has taken a big hit. In fact, their overall possession game is not looking like it once did, which will provide Houston with some room. However, the Dynamo are missing a proven center back, which, along with the hole still being caused by Ricardo Clark's suspension, could damage their push. Unless someone goes up by three early, look for a full 90-minute experience with this one. One final note, could this be the game that decides who wins goalkeeper of the year? Brad Guzan is fun to watch but Pat Onstad is the old pro. I'm really looking forward to this match.
Predictions: Me HD 2-1 CV, Wife HD 0-2 CV

Beckham Galaxy (34pts) vs. Blanco Fire (37pts)
Sunday - 3pm ET/12pm PT
TV: Telefutura
At this moment, this game is a major playoff showdown, but if Colorado and Kansas City win, it will not be worth so much to LA. Oh, have you heard that Beckham and Blanco will face off in this one? Seems like MLS would want to promote that somewhere. Anyway, LA have the best current run in MLS which is amazing since they are only playing average ball. Meanwhile the Fire are giving us some fun games but are killing themselves by not making anything of their chances and allowing in late goals. With the Galaxy still having a horrible time passing the ball and clearing the ball out of the final third, Chicago should have the needed chances to put the game away. That is why I suspect that LA will win. It just seems like Chicago will blow their chances and LA will sneak in a couple.
Predictions: LA 3-1 CF, Wife LA 1-1 CF

So here are our predictions for the teams that will make the playoffs this weekend:
Me: Chicago and LA with Houston winning the West
Wife: Rapids and Chicago with Chivas winning the West

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Uruguay and Argentina want to host the World Cup

Back in 1930, Uruguay hosted the first ever World Cup and they want to do it again 100 years later. However, they realize that the current version of the finals is a bit too big for them to do it alone, so they have joined with neighbors Argentina for the right to host the 2030 World Cup.
AFA president Julio Grondona expressed his desire to help Uruguay host the event through a formally written letter that was sent to the AUF headquarters in Montevideo earlier on in the week.

“Working for this goal together will bring the relationship between both nations closer than ever. The sporting authorities, and both governments, must work together so that we can reach our objective by 2030,” he stated.

Grondona (76) feels that both nations have a lot of work to do, and they will only send in their proposal once they have a detailed outline of the whole project.
So these two have joined together to host an event that is still 23 years away.

But there might be a problem with this desire. FIFA is expected to soon pass a rule that will end the World Cup rotation after 2014 and that will open up future finals to all continents except for the last two that have hosted World Cups. Because of these changes (and other things coming out of FIFA), it is very much speculated that Europe will again play host in 2018. So here is the way future cups look:
2010 - South Africa
2014 - Brazil
2018 - Europe (most likely England)
2022 - Asia or North America
2026 - Asia or North America
2030 - ?

Knowing that Europe doesn't like going more then two finals without playing host, it would be hard to imagine them not pressing for the 2030 cup.

This is still along way from anything happening and who knows what shape the world will be in 20-years from now (or what rules FIFA will have changed), but the way things are looking from here, it might be a choice between celebrating the history of the game or letting Europe have another one.

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According to MLS, LA won last night

NY 1-1 LA
I'm not sure what game the folks over at MLSnet were watching last night, but it must have been a little different then the one I saw as they say 'Galaxy win again' (as of noon ET).

To be fair, the blurb below the headline as well as the linked article mentions the tie, but it is an interesting slip. Perhaps the Fire are correct in assuming the MLS wants LA in the playoffs more then Chicago.

As far as the game itself, the Galaxy never really got things going as their passing was less then impressive and their midfield was getting beat all over the place. They did make some chances a bit past the hour mark, but overall, nothing worthy of a win.

On the other side, that was one of the best road performances out of New York in some time and Jon Conway came up with the big saves when he needed to, and what about Jozy Altidore? He was finding his space and pushing aside LA defenders with ease and almost killed off the Galaxy with an excellent run and just off target shot in stoppage time. I can only guess what Don Garber was thinking during that late run.
Goals: LA: Troy Roberts (2) 15'
NY: Jozy Altidore (9) 16'
Attendance: 27,000

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

MLS Expansion - Garber says Seattle and an East Coast city next

MLS commissioner Don Garber was impressed with what he experienced in Portland yesterday, but it looks like Seattle will be the city to earn one of the next expansion teams.

"The league probably will name Seattle and an East Coast city as sites for the newest franchises, to begin play in 2009, Garber said. Portland is vying for one of two more expansion teams that would begin play in 2010 or 2011, he said. The competition includes Atlanta, Montreal, San Diego, St. Louis and Vancouver, B.C."

This is the most definitive statement I have seen from Garber concerning the next two expansion teams. Now he did say 'probably' to allow some wiggle room, but it looks like Seattle is indeed on. But what about the East Coast city? If you're in Philadelphia, you got to like the sound of that. The other possible cities are New York or Miami but neither of those cities seems to be as close to a deal as the city of brotherly love.

Which makes me wonder about St. Louis as things have been looking really good there. The City of Collinsville is taking a lot of steps to get the land annexed and rezoned for stadium use and the bond package doesn't seem to be hitting major roadblocks, but then again, maybe more is happening behind the scenes in Pennsylvania.

But back to the article, it seems that PGE Park is a good option for MLS but a few things are needed such as 'grandstand seating on the stadium's vacant east side, a new playing surface and more restrooms and concessions.' If this happens, it means the baseball team needs to move, which would require a new facility to be built, costing around $30 million.

On the plus side, it appears that those in city government are interested in making it happen, however not at the cost of basic services.

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MLS playoff race

The final weekend of the 2007 regular season is here and there are still a number of questions as to what which two teams will earn the final playoff spots. In all, four teams have a chance but only Chicago and Kansas City hold their destiny in their own hands.

Anyway, here is the way the playoff picture currently looks:

Current standings:
7 - Chicago - 37pts
8 - Kansas City - 37pts
9 - Colorado - 35pts
10 - Columbus* - 34pts
11 - LA - 33pts

Chicago hosts LA on Sunday
Kansas City travels to Dallas on Saturday
Colorado hosts Salt Lake on Saturday
LA hosts New York tonight and travels to Chicago on Sunday

Tie breakers**:
Chicago beats KC with 2 wins from their 3 matches
Colorado beats Chicago on goal difference (they tied both games)
LA beats Chicago with 1 win but they still have one game to play
KC beats Colorado on goal difference (they tied both games)
LA beats KC with 1 win and 1 tie from their 2 matches
Colorado beats LA with 2 wins from their 3 matches

So how do they get to the playoffs?
If they win, they are in.
If they tie, they are in if Colorado or KC does no better then a tie.
If they lose, they can still advance if KC loses and Colorado does no better then a tie.

Kansas City
If they win, they are in.
If they tie, they are in if Colorado does not win their match by more then two goals and either Chicago loses or if LA fails to get at least 4 points from their remaining two matches; or if Colorado does no better then a tie and if Chicago loses.
If they lose, they can still advance if Colorado does no better then a tie and LA fails to get at least 4 points from their remaining two matches.

If they win, they are in if both KC lose; or if LA and Chicago tie and KC loses or ties if Colorado wins by more then 2 goals and KC ties.
If the tie or lose, they are out.

Los Angeles
If they get 6 points from their two matches, they are in.
If they get 4 points from their two matches, they are in if KC loses and Colorado does no better then a tie.
If they get less the 4 points, they are out.

There is one scenario I'm not 100% sure about. If Chicago and KC tie while Colorado wins by no more then 2 goals, then all their teams will be tied on points and each team beats another in a tie-breaker (Chicago beats KC who beats Colorado who beats Chicago).

No matter what happens, at least one team will enter the playoffs with a losing record and unless Chicago win on Sunday, the number will stand at two.

* Columbus is out due to head-to-head results against both Chicago and KC.
** Tiebreakers go head-to-head, goal difference, goals scored for the season

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US 1-0 Switzerland - Player grades

US MNT 1-0 Switzerland
Was this match a sign of things to come for the US? The way the young guard rolled into their positions has got to make even the most skeptically fan at least a little happy. Yes, it was just a friendly, but it was obvious Switzerland did not want to lose it.

But as much fun as it was to watch the youth make their debut, the thing I liked best is the way the team adjusted to the Swiss backline. In the past, Team America has been easy to frustrate because they would just keep attacking in the same way even when the results were nothing. Last night, their style of attack shifted as the young players took the field. There was a sense of the unexpected and that allowed them to knock the Swiss off their stride just enough to get a goal.

The US still has some weaknesses such as their free kicks. None of the four people that took meaningful kicks (in the final third) really did much with them. The playing surface could have something to do with that, but Switzerland was able to send in some good balls, so I'm not sure.

Overall, a very balanced match that showed the US can play and win in Europe. So here are my player grades:
Starting XI
Marcus Hahnemann (GK) - He was not really tested much in his half, but when he was needed he was there. A-
Steve Cherundolo (D) - Steve did what was needed but did not spend a lot of time around the ball. He did miss his mark on a couple corners. B
Oguchi Onyewu (D) - It is good to try and get in the head of your mark but not when it distracts you from the rest of the match. The yellow wasn't justified, but it is no surprise. He did hold his own and disrupted the push forward. B+
Carlos Bocanegra (D) - Providing cover in the back and pushing forward when needed. He was everywhere and showing strong leadership as captain. A
Eddie Lewis (D/M) - He didn't have much time in the back but he did break up a couple balls. It took him some time to click into the midfield role when Beasley went out, but he did get a flow going. B
Benny Feilhaber (M) - Not an outstanding performance but was doing some of the little things to win balls. His touch was a bit off on the passes. B
Maurice Edu (M) - Excellent first game for Edu. He adjusted well and found holes. Also, he seemed to keep his feet better then anyone else on the slick pitch. A-
Michael Bradley (M) - Bradley has a way of causing something to happen in the 80+ minute range, but normally it is a hard foul that results in a red card. This game's big moment was much better then that. Not a great game but still really good. A-
DaMarcus Beasley (M) - Early injury means no grade for Beasley.
Taylor Twellman (F) - Sadly, a big weak point on the pitch for the US. He was not finding space and was absent. He did pull back into the midfield a few times to get the ball, but with the Swiss defense what it was, there was little chance of taking it all the way. C
Clint Dempsey (F) - He was out of step for much of the first half, but started pulling it together in the second (it actually started after Beasley went off, so one has to wonder if more fault lies with his teammates). His willingness to muscle the opposition is something the US needs and his passing is spot on. Also, loved the 'hard charging' run when he was subbed out. A-

Heath Pearce (D, on for Beasley in 31') - Handled the side wonderfully. Got beat a few times but recovered. Overall, a great outing. A
Brad Guzan (GK, on for Hahnemann in 46') - Was a bit shaky at times but with all the work taking place in front of him, he held together well. A-
Dan Califf (D, on for Onyewu in 46') - Held up in the middle and didn't make a fuss. A-
Freddy Adu (F, on for Twellman in 77') - It might just have been 15-minutes, but it was still a great showing. His passing and ability to force his way into space (while staying on his feet) was wonderful. However, when golden chances come for goals, you need to finish. A
Danny Szetela (D, on for Lewis in 84') - Not on for long, but did excite in the attack. Will be fun to watch him develop. Gentleman’s B
Robbie Findley (F, on for Dempsey in 90') - Not on long enough to get a grade.

It is always nice to see so much goodness coming off the bench.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

US starting lineup for Switzerland

That starting lineup for todays match is out and with the exception of Maurice Edu getting a start, there is really nothing overly surprising about it (actually the Edu start is not a big surprise either). The backline is a return to the 2006 with Bocanegra now holding the role of captain.

Here is the lineup:


Cherundolo   Onyewu   Bocanegra   Lewis

Edu          Bradley

Feilhaber                                                  Beasley

Twellman                    Dempsey

It will be interesting to see how Twellman and Dempsey play off each other.

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MLS Expansion - Portland gets a second visit

MLS Commissioner Don Garber and league president Mark Abbott will be in Portland today to revisit PGE Park. The two are interested in seeing the park in full 'game condition' ahead of tonight's US Women's match against Mexico.

Garber first looked at PGE Park in March but at the time, it was not setup for a full soccer experience. The two will talk with Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson about the requirements needed to make PGE MLS ready.

"I'm sure they want to talk about the stadium and what it might take to bring it up to MLS standards," said Dan Courtemanche, a league senior vice president.

So if you are in the area and want to show Garber what Portland soccer fans are like, here is your chance.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

2007 MLS Week 28 Power Ratings

The penultimate week is over and it has left us looking at teams in a different way. Is there a slide happening at the top or is it just a rest? Will some sad saps sneak into the playoffs or will late charges carry a few teams through till the end? All we be told soon. Onward to the ratings:

1. DC United (Last week - 1) - I wonder how many of the United faithful are having at least a little 'oh no, don't let this be 2006 again' fear floating around this week. For two games in a row, the team has looked out of step. Is this just a minor relaxation before the playoffs or is doom making another post-season stop in the nation's capitol?

2. Chivas USA (2) - They got beat at home by a 10-man Rapids side that was playing horrible in the midfield. With Ante Razov out for many weeks to come, could it be that the goats just don't have the backbone to steady their own trip? Interestingly, much like DC, their goalkeeper (Brad Guzan) is keeping them looking like a top rate side.

3. Houston Dynamo (3) - Houston finally won in Utah but they had some scary moments early. Still, they recovered and started playing their own style. However, will the lack of a proved center back keep them from beating Chivas and taking the West on Saturday night?

4. New England Revolution (4) - The Revs are slow walking their way to the playoffs. They seem happy to take it easy and let the hard work begin against New York. One interesting thing, Matt Reis seems a bit off his game of late.

5. Chicago Fire (5) - I think the Fire like to sweat because they do make it hard on themselves. Their goal scoring problems have resurfaced as Blanco doesn't have many targets to serve the ball to. They are doing better at not letting in late equalizers, but this is a team without a finisher.

6. Los Angeles Galaxy (8) - The Galaxy have won five in a row, yet they still have not had a really great game. Even against a 10-man Toronto, they didn't dominate but they are still getting the points and keeping MLS's front office dreams alive, so they do deserve credit. Cobi, Klein and Donovan are provide a good center for the team and that might just be enough to punch their way into post season.

7. New York Red Bull (7) - The Bulls are starting to put together a side that, even without Reyna, can compete, but their are still hurt from ball control. If they have a healthy lineup, they got something, if not, they will, at best, just hold on.

8. FC Dallas (6) - That Thursday game against Chivas was so very bad. There was nothing coming out of the middle and very little use of the wings. I don't know what has happened to FCD but they are a team a drift. Still, wonderful to see Kenny Cooper back in the starting lineup, now if he can learn to muscle in the box, he might end his side's first round nightmares.

9. Columbus Crew (11) - Are the Crew the Cubs of MLS? They finally return to some good form only to see that it is too little, too late? Even if Sigi Schmid is out after this weekend's game, the team has many good players to build around.

10. Kansas City Wizards (9) - Will I win the beat I made 2 months ago that KC will not make the playoffs? At the time, it seemed stupid, but KC is great at giving it up down the stretch. There is no flow to this team so the talent at the top goes waiting. However, they might get lucky and steal a full three points from a shrinking FCD on Saturday.

11. Real Salt Lake (10) - Real is still not a good team, but they are finding pieces. I wonder who will have more trades during the off-season, Real or Toronto?

12. Colorado Rapids (12) - The Rapids pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season this weekend, but it had nothing to do with their skill on the pitch. Okay, a little harsh, but the team just lives by holding on and hoping for a quick counter.

13. Toronto FC (13) - TFC tried to ruin the fun by killing off LA, but they just could not get it down. Injuries and first season equal pain, but they are still fun to watch.

And now week 28 steps aside.

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