Wednesday, April 30, 2008

2008 US Open Cup - MLS teams get into the mix

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake
7pm MT - Rice Eccles Stadium

With just 118 days to go till the final match, the MLS is about to start their US Open Cup Qualifiers. Tonight sees the worst American team by record from 2007 take on the newest top-level side. At stake, the chance to meet the Columbus Crew in the second round of qualification on May 27th.

If Real is to make it to the Cup officially, they will need to do two things. First, they will have to beat a MLS side in a US Open Cup related competition, something they have never done, and second, they will have to win three games in a row, something else I do not think they have done. The good news for them is San Jose should allow them to get off to a great start.

The Earthquakes have impressed me so far this season, but only because they are an expansion side. The fact that they are not getting blown apart shows good for the coaching staff, but in the end, they really don't have what it takes to become a big contender.

This should give Real the opening they need to get into the second round of qualification. With the season so young and no other tournaments on the schedule, my guess is coach Jason Kreis will put his best foot forward. That means they will be pressuring the 'Quakes with their surprisingly strong attack. As far as defense, even if they wilt like they did against DC, with just two goals from four games, I don't think San Jose has the firepower to exploit the issue.

At the end of the day, this should be a victory for the royals from Utah.

Sadly, this game will not be televised anywhere. It might end up on one of these three radio stations, but I'm not sure: English - KALL 700am (Salt Lake), Spanish - KTUB 1600am (Salt Lake), KLOK 1170am (San Jose)

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MLS Expansion - Vancouver's soccer future tied to railroad past

The future of a waterfront soccer stadium that could lead to a MLS team for the city of Vancouver hinges on the resolution of railroad issues. Vancouver Whitecap owner Greg Kerfoot has proposed building a $90m stadium with his own money, but he doesn't have enough land to make it happen. That's where the Vancouver Port Authority (VPA) comes in.

The VPA owns the strip of land Kerfoot needs to complete his stadium, however to get at it, the VPA wants rights over the part of the rail yard Kerfoot owns. Kerfoot is not in a hurry to give up his property, although he has given Canadian Pacific right-of-way to the rails in perpetuity.

So what is the big deal? Well the reason Kerfoot doesn't want to hand over the land or rights to another group has to do with his other plans for the site as he wants to build three condo towers around the stadium, which would defer a lot of the cost of the stadium (hello DC and San Jose).

Part of these towers will stand over the current rail lines, meaning he will need to place some serious support pillars into the area. This engineering work will probably require altering the path of the rails in some way. Needless to say, the more people involved in this means the less direct control Kerfoot has over the site.

For their part, the VPA fears that any drop in railway capacity will hinder the ability of their shipping port to handle all the traffic in the future.

Thus enters Canadian Senator and former Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell.
"Maybe it takes someone to sit down and say: 'Okay, boys and girls, is this going to happen?' " Campbell said Monday afternoon. "I don't know if anyone would consider me an honest broker, but I've taken mediation.

"From a politician's point of view, this [project] is a win-win."
Now it is up to Campbell to see if he can make the two sides agree. If he does, Vancouver becomes a top-tier MLS target.

As far as a backup plan, if it will help them land a MLS team, the Whitecaps owners are open to the idea of playing at a revamped B.C. Place Stadium, but only on an interim basis. The MLS is open to the idea but only if a stadium deal was assured of taking place.

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MLS Expansion - If Portland doesn't act fast, owner might be priced out of MLS

Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson would love to bring Major League Soccer to town, but he is concerned that the ever increasing expansion fee (now sitting at $40 million +) might price him out of consideration.

Still the dream of top-level soccer in the city is moving forward as Paulson plans on presenting his full proposal for a MLS team to the city as early as June. It is very much expected that he will ask for a public-private partnership that could cost the city more then $55 million.
Portland's bid hinges on Paulson and the city agreeing to a public-private partnership. Paulson said he is willing to absorb the league's $40 million expansion fee. The city would be on the hook for the rest, Paulson said, which probably would amount to more than $55 million.
A breakdown of the city's cost sees at least $20m going to the renovation of the Timbers current home PGE Park, which needs 'grandstand seating on the stadium's vacant east side, plus more restrooms and concessions.' The other $35m would go to the construction of a new, 9,000-seat baseball stadium for the Portland Beavers. The Beavers currently play at PGE Park but with the improvements mentioned above, would no longer be able to call it home. Paulson also owns the Beavers.

I guess the biggest question I have about the Portland situation has to do with the ownership group. Paulson is not a poor man but he is not the billionaire type the league has been looking for of late. This makes the Portland situation seem a lot like the St. Louis situation. If the city approves the funding request, both cities will have rich but not mega-rich owners with solid public backing.

One big difference, unlike Paulson, St. Louis owner Jeff Cooper is not the son of the current US Secretary of the Treasury.

Anyway, the question I have for Paulson is how much he is willing to invest in a future team beyond the roughly $40m expansion fee and does he have other owners setup to take part in the project (his pop is partial owner in the sports teams)?

If Paulson is not ready to invest the big money needed to make Portland a success, I find it hard to see the league moving in.

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DC United and VW in jersey sponsor deal?

Is a new jersey sponsor about to join the MLS ranks? It seems so as the Examiner reports the sighting of a DC United player in RFK wearing a team jersey with the Volkswagen logo. No official word has come out of the front office but it is no secrete that the team has been looking hard for a shirt companion.
If completed, the arrangement would make United the ninth of 14 Major League Soccer teams to sell the front of its jersey to a corporate sponsor. The Los Angeles Galaxy currently has the league’s top deal, reportedly earning between $3.5 million and $5 million a year from Herbalife through 2011.

Volkswagen of America recently strengthened its ties to the Washington area, announcing in September that it was moving its headquarters from Detroit to Herndon. It has announced major sales targets increases in North America over the next 10 years.
Since DC released their 2008 shirt earlier this year, speculation has been ripe that a shirt deal was on the way as the entire front of the jersey had little on it.

If United land VW, it will be a very solid get as they are a well-known international company with a good history in the sport. Also, as you can see in my mock-up of the jersey, their logo would not clash with a DC jersey.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Oscar de la Hoya to wear Dynamo orange at Saturday night fight, Tony Meola becomes an elementary school principal

While his team is taking on Chivas USA in Houston, Oscar de la Hoya will wear Dynamo orange as he fights Steve Forbes at the Home Depot Center near LA.
"Since this is my first fight as part owner of the Dynamo, I thought it would be fitting to represent the team by wearing their 'forever orange' color as a part of my ring outfit Saturday night," said De La Hoya, who will also be wearing a Dynamo team patch on his shorts. "They are actually playing the same night I am fighting and I have a great feeling we will both come out victorious."
For De La Hoya's sake, he might what to show a better attack then the Dynamo have this season.

But joke comment aside, hopefully this will be mentioned before and during the fight. One of the pluses of having someone lake De La Hoya as an owner is the cross promotion that should happen.

In other news, former US goalkeeper Tony Meola has a new job, principal of Rafael Hernandez Performing Arts Elementary School. Starting this Friday, Meola will decide who gets detention, what is proper school attire and how to stop the outbreak of gum chewing.

Okay, I might be going a bit overboard as Meola will only hold the position for a few hours while taking part in the Newark Public Schools System's 12th Annual Principal for a Day Program.

Rumor has it that he turned down a request by Bruce Arena to serve Sloppy Joes at lunch.

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2008 MLS Power Ratings - Week 5 and Columbus rules

Is the West even worth talking about? Of course they are, but the way they are playing at the moment, it doesn’t look good. The fact that all five bottom spots are held by Western teams is a bad omen for things to come.

That said, this upcoming weekend should see some movement in both conferences as there is only one match between the two.

So here are the ratings:

1. Columbus Crew (Last week 3) - The Crew are on top! The Crew are on top! They managed to eek out a victory even though they gave Houston lots of time to take it away. Smart play if they could pull their midfield together a bit more, they might be able to hold this spot for a little while. Congrats to Sigi on his 100th MLS win.

2. Chicago Fire (4) - The problem is still the same, they need to find more goal scorers but with a defense that is near the top in the league, they are a contender.

3. New England Revolution (5) - Way to match into Texas and take what you want. They still lack power in the final third and their defense makes Reis work for it, but still looking good.

4. Toronto FC (7) - Another game where they let the other side control large parts of the game, which is bad, yet they still came out a winner. It is a dangerous style but the Leafs seem to make it work.

5. FC Dallas (1) - Just when FCD started to have me convince that they we solid in all areas, they play like they did Thursday night. Nothing on offense, confusion in the middle and mismatch in the back. The good news? That still might be enough to win the West this year.

6. Kansas City Wizards (2) - In many ways the better team against Toronto but not on the scoreboard. The fact that they could not finish anything might just be a horrible sign of things to come.

7. New York Red Bull (8) - How could it take them so long to put away San Jose. Jozy again saved the Bulls but even few teams with give them so much time to make it happen.

8. Colorado Rapids (6) - It took going down a goal to get this team going, yet they still couldn't keep Mapp under control. Biggest worry, where are the goals going to come from. They are the only team in the league without a two or more goal scorer so far this season.

9. DC United (14) - Got a small gift against Real but over all it didn't matter. The team was finally hitting the feet with their passes and creating mischief in front of goal.

10. Los Angeles Galaxy (11) - Finally Donovan is playing like everyone wants and expects him to. This gives them an option up top, even when Beckham shuts down for large stretches of the match. Still, any decent offense would have converted three more goals from all the galactic defensive errors.

11. Real Salt Lake (9) - They got cheated on one of the penalty calls, but there is still no reason for the beating they took in DC. They lost their patience and their game fell apart.

12. Chivas USA (10) - What was that? Giving away balls, letting Donovan have space and failing to convert all but one of the many defensive mistakes LA gave them. Even with Razov back in the lineup, the goats looked mighty weak.

13. San Jose Earthquakes (12) - The good news is they held off a better New York team for most of the match. The bad news is if Ronnie O'Brien is having an off night, San Jose has no offense.

14. Houston Dynamo (13) - They had their best game of the season and still came up short. They created plenty of, as DeRo called it, 'half-chances', but without an added threat up top, it was not enough. Good news is their defense only made one major mistake on the night. Bad news, it cost them a goal.

And that's the week as I knew it.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

2008 MLS Week 5 recap - None of the best are in the West

Only five weeks in and the East looks to be the class of the league this year as they won all five matches between the conferences. If there is any piece of good news the West can take from this weeks games it is that in all but one of the five, the Western side was the visitor. I'm guessing that is cold comfort for the clubs.

As far as the number go, total attendance numbers rose this week to a bit over 17,000 with LA taking gold with 27,000 followed by DC with 23,269 and Toronto with 20,045. Every match had at least 10,000 spectators except for the Red Bulls who could only pull 9,053 against San Jose. FC Dallas was second worse with 10,453. It is a shame that the two games that were most easily accessible to a national television audience also happened to be the two worst attended.

This week's other numbers of interest saw the league go without a tie or a red card while maintaining the roughly 24 fouls per match average. So here are all the numbers for the week:
Week 5

Season (35)
Week 1 (7)
Att per game
Beckham Att
Beckham Avg Att (5)
Goals per game
Fouls per game
Cards (red)
109 (8)
27 (0)
East 11-1-3
East 5-0-0
5 (13.9%)
0 (0.0%)

Kansas City Wizards 0-2 Toronto FCA bad call was behind Amado Guevara's first goal in his re-re-re-return to MLS as he was in an offside position when the ball was played, but if the ref don't notice then there is nothing to talk about. KC held their own for large stretches of the game as they kept TFC at bay, however the Wizards had no extended period of attack (except for a few minutes in the first half). Toronto fans are no doubt happy with Guevara, but they should still be concerned with the lack of finishing in the final third. With just nine shots on goal, they still have much room for improvement. That said, Guevara's free kick strike was fantastic.
Goals - Guevara (1) 56, (2) 77
Att: 20,045

Houston Dynamo 0-1 Columbus CrewFor the first time this season, the Dynamo defense looked tough again. Sure their one big mistake resulted in a goal, but overall they looked much better (although Boswell again was the weak link), which allowed their midfield to control the game (Ricardo Clark was fantastic). Sadly for the defending champs, their offense could not make the most of their chances making Houston the only team to still have a zero in the victory column. By the way, oddity of the game, hand ball by Ostad in the box after a pass back resulting in an indirect kick.
Goal - CC: Alejandro Moreno (4) 22
Att: 15,271

Real Salt Lake 1-4 DC United
After losing in Real a few weeks back, DC went into a huge funk. After Saturday's match in DC, I'm guessing the funk is over. Marcelo Gallardo's amazing 80th minute goal should be enough by itself to inspire the team to a few more wins. Still, United started flat and, oddly enough, didn't really get going till Marc Burch came on for an injured Fred. Also, the first pk should not have been as it was an accidental hand ball. Still, the second 45' were owned by the team in black.
Goals - DC: Jaime Moreno pk (2) 31, pk (3) 52, Santino Quaranta (2) 67, Marcelo Gallardo (2) 80
RSL: Carey Talley (1) 77
Att: 23,269

Colorado Rapids 1-2 Chicago Fire
The Rapids played the Fire pretty even on the night, but couldn't find anything until it was too late. For the Fire, their offense did improve, although they are still far from dominating teams. Justin Mapp has a solid game, giving Chicago an addition option to moving the ball up field, however Blanco was off on the night. Overall, this game was a little tiring to watch.
Goals - CF: John Thorrington (1) 53, (2) 84
CR: Tom McManus (1) 86
Att: 14,251

Chivas USA 2-5 LA GalaxyI've never seen so many clearance balls out of the box go straight up in the air. The strange thing was it happened much more often to LA, but Chivas couldn't make anything out of it. Another oddity, Backham disappeared for large stretches of the match while Donovan showed just how angry he is by gloating in front of the goat's bench. Anyway, both these defenses are something nutty to watch, but with Razov coming back, Chivas should finally improve.
Goals - LA: Donovan (6) 18, (7) 59, Alan Gordon (1) 76, Donvan (8) 78, Gordon (2) 84
Chivas: Sacha Kljestan (3) 38, Ante Razov (1) 62
Att: 27,000

San Jose Earthquakes 0-2 New York Red Bulls
Jozy Altidore was the reason for both goals as he forced a trip in the box to earn his team a pk and then finished big in extra time. This was the first time San Jose has been squashed this season as the Bulls controlled pretty much the entire match. Claudio Reyna had a good night and almost got his first goal for New York, but it was cleared off the line. The biggest worry for the Reds coming out of this one has to be their inability to put the game away. They were the far better team but they could not find net untill the final minutes of the match. Other teams will not give them so much time.
Goals - NY: Mike Magee pk (1) 79, Jozy Altidore (2) 95'
Att: 9,053

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Houston stadium gets another tenant

The Houston Dynamo don't even have a deal lined up yet but they might already have a secondary tenant for their proposed soccer stadium. Texas Southern University, located just south of downtown Houston, is very interested in using the new venue for their American football games.

"Although I officially start on May 1 at Texas Southern University and I haven't had an opportunity to look at all of the data involving the proposed stadium, TSU athletics and its football program would be excited to be able to participate and partner with all entities involved in the project to ensure Texas Southern has a state of the art football facility," said Charles McClelland, the schools' new athletics director in an interview with FOX 26 Sports.
This one report doesn't give much information, so it is not clear if TSU would pay some of the cost for the stadium or if they would just be renters, but it is something to watch. Since the main sticking point for the Dynamo seems to be about a $20m tab they want someone else to pickup for construction, a joint venture with TSU might be the final piece of their stadium puzzle.

So the plus side, if this all falls into place, would be a stadium getting built. The downside, from August through November, there would be American football lines on the pitch. Not the worst trade off, but still a trade off.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

MLS Expansion - Will Vancouver ever let Whitecaps owner build a stadium?

The Vancouver Whitecaps are yet another soccer team having troubles getting their stadium built, however their issues are very different from those of most teams as the organization is not looking for public money to fund the project. Instead the objection centers on the use of waterfront land.

Whitecaps FC owner Greg Kerfoot is ready to front the full cost of the $90m, waterfront stadium, however those opposed to the idea feel the location will deprive the public from access to the water as well as negatively alter the historical area. This dispute has caused Kerfoot's proposal to linger for four years, just waiting for approval.

So why bring this up under the header of MLS expansion? Simple, if this stadium gets approved in the next year or so, it would catapult Vancouver from not even a chance territory to serious contender in the quest to land either the 17th or 18th franchise in the league.

As envisioned, the stadium would start off as a 15,000-seat facility, but could expand to 30,000, which fits in just fine with the current MLS stadium requirements. Add to it the waterfront view and the rivalries with Seattle and Toronto and they might just have something magical. But it all comes down the stadium as MLS Commissioner Don Garber has specifically told the city, no stadium, no team:
"The key for Vancouver is being sure they have a stadium plan. It's the third leg of the stool to give the city an opportunity to be part of the mix in future MLS expansion."
Vancouver still stands far outside the realm of MLS reality as cities like St. Louis, Miami, New York and Montreal push forward, but that could change very quickly if Kerfoot's plan is approved.

On a side not, Kerfoot seems to be the Canadian version of Lamar Hunt as he has placed a lot of his own money into developing the game in the country.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

2008 MLS Power Ratings - Week 4

Four weeks in and the East dominates the ratings, however it is a team from the West that holds the top spot. Will this continue? Week 5 gives us 5 games between the conferences, which will either solidify these numbers or throw everything out of whack. Anyway, here are the ratings as I see them:

1. FC Dallas - The fact that they are the only undefeated team in the league is not the main reason they top the list for me, instead it has to do with their defense. What, FCD has defense? That's a new tradition. Anyway, the team has only given up four goals from 4 matches. Since 3 came against Houston, that means Dallas is doing something special most of the time. Then again, this might just be another quick start only to see it all turn to dust come August.

2. Kansas City Wizards - They ate up the stink that was Chicago over the weekend, but they really should have found a way to get another goal, which seems to be a common issue. It only takes one to win, but it sure makes it stressful.

3. Columbus Crew - Much like Dallas, the defense in Columbus is proving to be a pleasant surprise. This combined with their solid work up top could make them something to watch. Now fans just need to show up to watch them.

4. Chicago Fire - It is almost like 2007 in review. With the big win against the Revs the exception, 1-goal games are their trademark. That means some strong defense but it is at the cost of creativity in the attack. The Fire have yet to show who will save the team when Blanco is off.

5. New England Revolution - Fighting back against the Bulls a man down is an impressive show, but they still look out of sink. The midfield is missing firing in a way I haven't seen in a number of years.

6. Colorado Rapids - One weak something to watch, the next garbage. If they repeat their 'style' from Saturday night again, look for Fernando Clavijo to finally go.

7. Toronto FC - Two wins in a row give them something big, but they collapsed in the second half against Real and their offense still needs help.

8. New York Red Bull - The Jozy goal is one for the ages but the other 89 minutes were worth forgetting. Okay, that is not a true statement, but New York again found a way to give away points. With little attack coming out of the midfield, the Bulls are hurting up top.

9. Real Salt Lake - They should have walked out of Canada with a point as they owned the second half. Still, their play is looking positive and they are creating chances, now if they could just finish a few more of them.

10. Chivas USA - Defensive mistakes are killing this club and making Brad Guzan's life hell. Maybe if the injury bug stays away for a bit, things will improve, but right now the golden goats look made of tin.

11. Los Angeles Galaxy - The Beckham-Donovan teaming is paying off but their defense is shoddy and they have no options off the bench. They might make for some fun games, but they are far from the top of MLS.

12. San Jose Earthquakes - If have been impressed with this expansion side as they have been the better side for the last two games thanks in large part to Ronnie O'Brien and Ryan Cochrane. If these two stay healthy, the 'Quakes might not end up the worst team in the league.

13. Houston Dynamo - Last year's defensive giant looks mighty small these days. Not holding a lead is very bad. We all focused so much on the Dynamo's offensive hurt during the off-season, maybe we missed what was going on in back. If there is something good for the team, they have only played one of their four games so far at home.

14. DC United - They might just have the best technical skills in the league, but they are disorganized in the final third of attack. Their final third of defense isn't that wonderful either. But much like last season, only an idiot would count United out at this point.

And that's the week as I knew it.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

MLS Commish gets a blog, reacts to Houston letter fiasco

MLS continued down the digital road this past weekend as commissioner Don Garber launched his blog, 'The Commissioner Speaks.' Although the first entry is not that exciting, this is a great direct to take. Hopefully they will soon figure out how to allow comments and maybe give it more linkage off the front page, but for now, it's just nice to know they are doing this.

Although there wasn't much in the first post, two pieces of information did pop up. First, MLS on TeleFutura was more popular with Hispanic men then "the Lakers/Spurs NBA game, the Yankees/Red Sox game on ESPN and the Masters on CBS."

Not a big surprise there, but still nice to know.

Then comes the other issue, a stadium for Houston.
As you can imagine, I was very surprised that Mayor White in Houston released to the media a letter I sent to the Dynamo ownership group. The letter stated my concerns with the lack of progress with the team’s discussion with the city regarding a stadium partnership. And anyone who read the letter knows, I was not threatening the Mayor in any way.

The Dynamo, no different than the Texans, Rockets and Astros, need a stadium of their own, and have offered to provide far more private capital to the deal than was required by the owners of the city’s other sports teams. Team President Oliver Luck has been working with the city to creatively construct an agreement that does not in any way take funding away from any key city services.
If it was not meant as some sort of threat, why send it in the first place? Perhaps the word 'threat' is the sticking point, but it seems obvious that he was warning the mayor that if things didn't get done, the league is ready to move the team. Is that a threat or a warning? I don't care what he answers because either way, it shows a huge disrespect for the fans (an issue he didn't touch on at all).

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2008 MLS Season numbers so far

Just four weeks into the 2008 season and some trends are starting to appear. League wide average attendance numbers are pretty steady at a bit above 15,000, which is lower then last season's overall average, however a bit above where the numbers sat at a similar time last season (a year ago the average per game was just under 15,000).

As far as goals, the number is up against last year's start, however this past week saw the fewest number per game of the season. Is this due to better defending as teams settle into the long haul or is it just a momentary drop?

On the foul side of things, I am amazed by the consistency of these numbers. Each week the average number of fouls per game has been between 23.9 and 25.1. Certain individual games have had more or less, but in the end the numbers hold steady. I didn't track fouls last season so I don't know if these numbers are down.

But the most interesting number as I see it is the number of ties. Last season you could expect between 25 and 30% of all matches to end knotted up but so far this year less then one out of every five games have ended even.

Anyway, here is a week-by-week look at some numbers:

Week 4

Season (28)
Week 1 (8)
Att per game
Beckham Att
Beckham Avg Att (3)
Goals per game
Fouls per game
Cards (red)
82 (8)
22 (1)
East 6-1-3
East 1-0-0
5 (17.9%)
2 (28.6%)

Week 3

Season (21)
Week 1 (8)
Att per game
Beckham Att
Beckham Avg Att (3)
Goals per game
Fouls per game
Cards (red)
70 (7)
28 (2)
East 5-1-3
Tie 3-1-3
3 (14.3%)
1 (12.5%)

Week 2

Season (13)
Week 1 (7)
Att per game
Beckham Att
Beckham Avg Att (2)
Goals per game
Fouls per game
Cards (red)
42 (5)
23 (3)
East 2-1-0
East 1-0-0
2 (15.4%)
1 (14.3%)

Week 1

Season (6)
Week 1 (6)
Att per game
Beckham Att
Beckham Avg Att (1)
Goals per game
Fouls per game
Cards (red)
19 (2)
19 (2)
East 1-1-0
East 1-1-0
1 (16.6%)
1 (16.6%)

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Israel's top defender now appreciates his time with the Colorado Rapids

When Dedi Ben-Dayan returned to Israel (link in Hebrew) in August of 2006, he called his time in America a waste stating that didn't feel he had improved as a player. However the past few seasons have changed his tone as he now sees is two-years in MLS 'as one of the best experiences of (his) career.'
"For me it was the best time to move and Colorado was the best team to move to. I needed some time for myself and in the States, unlike in Israel, players have their space. No one bothers you too much," he tells The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "I miss it. Because over there you feel free and play without any distractions from outside."

After playing for five clubs in Israel as well as Colorado Ben-Dayan admits he has matured into a well-rounded player, and person, and attributes much of that change to his time playing for Uruguayan coach Fernando Clavijo at INVESCO Field.
There's little doubt now that the American experience helped Ben-Dayan. Since moving to Netanya he has become one of the outstanding defenders in the country and the first choice left back in Dror Kashtan's national team.
Ben-Dayan was a bright spot for the Rapids during his time in the league and it is good to know that he now feels it was also a good thing for him.

On his main point, it is a bit ironic that one of the main signs of soccer's low place in the American sports scene, the lack of heavy media coverage, is also one of the best selling points to many foreign players (especially those still developing).

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

MLS commish threatens to move Houston again if stadium deal is not reached

MLS commissioner Don Garber has drawn the line with the city of Houston by basically saying help build the Dynamo a stadium or the team will move. His exact words:
It is inconceivable that MLS will allow the team to continue playing as a secondary tenant in a college football facility after the League moved the team due to the challenges at San Jose State.

While another relocation would be equally traumatic, we both must consider our options to ensure that the team has a path to economic success. We learned an important lesson in San Jose: a passionate fan base is not enough to support the economics of operating a professional sports team. The team needs a soccer-specific stadium to ensure success.
Is someone over reacting or might der commish truly be looking at the Earthquakes/Dynamo and be thinking 'Miami Wanderers'*?

Whatever the reason, this letter is pretty much a bunch of spit to the face for Dynamo fans. Yes, teams need to make money, but to so callously say 'give us what we want or else' is really disappointing. It didn't work in San Jose so what makes Garber think it will fly in Houston? And what does this signal to the thousands of Dynamo fans that show up match after match? To me it means MLS might not yet be one of the big three sports in America, but they care as little about the fans as most in those leagues seem to.

By the way, I find it very interesting that Garber points out that San Jose didn't work because it doesn't have a stadium, yet the Earthquakes have just started playing again without a stadium deal in place. I guess they will have two years to make it work or Garber will threaten to take the team elsewhere. Hay, after he moves the Dynamo, Houston will be available.

As far as the actual stadium issue, it looks like the City of Houston and the Dynamo are at an impasse caused at least in part over the growing cost of the stadium (it is now priced at $105m, up from $80-90m).

Mayor Bill White has said all along that he didn't plan on using tax dollars for the construction of the site, which the Dynamo seemed okay with, however they now are saying 'the club and the City would share the cost of the project.'

Stadium deals have never been an easy thing, however this one could easily become one of the worse (although the DC situation might still be able to top it).

* I picked Miami because it seems like MLS really wants to go there, just like they really wanted to go to Houston. Plus, there has been stadium talk there of late. Anyway, I have no idea if there is even a city in mind.

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Houston's Eddie Robinson suspended three games for attack on KC's Wahl

The Houston Dynamo are rapidly becoming the Oakland Raiders of MLS as Eddie Robinson has been suspended for three matches and fined $1000 after an ugly, ugly elbow to the face of Kansas City Wizards defender Tyson Wahl (see video below).

As you can see from the video, this was a horrible, intentional act by Robinson. Combine this with Ricardo Clark's 9 game suspension for kicking the little fish last season and you have a reputation starting to take hold. (Here is the video of Clark's kick - it will open Windows Media Player).

Oddly enough, I think Robinson's act is worse then Clark's because Robinson's seems premeditated and the action is not taking place near him at the time while Clark looks to be reacting poorly to things taking place around him.

I think Clark's suspension was too harsh (the rest of the 2007 season would have been enough) and I don't think Robinson's is enough (5 games would have been more justified). Then again, Tyrone Marshall was only suspended for three games after his nasty tackle that broke Kenny Cooper's leg last season so I guess the lesson is the more physical harm you do in your attack, the less your suspension will be.

Anyway, the loss of Robinson just adds to Houston's defensive problems. Although it is only three games into the new season, it looks like the defensive giant that was Houston 2007 might be dead on the pitch. And the tears for Ryan Cochrane begin to fall in Dynamo land.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

MLS Expansion - Seattle going for their first sellout tonight

Seattle might not get their first MLS match till next March, but the Sounder organization is looking for their first sold out match tonight as Mexico plays China at Qwest Field.

The new Sounders are putting the match on along with Soccer United Marketing, the marketing arm of Major League Soccer, and have already sold 48,000 tickets, 19,000 tickets short of a sellout.

As one would expect at a Mexican match, there will be a large Hispanic contingent at the game, which presents the Sounders a great chance to expose themselves to a knowledgeable fan base.

As far as the match, it should be a good one as Mexico looks to show something in their first outing since Hugo Sanchez was shown the door. Meanwhile China, well, they do have F Qu Bo. What I'm trying to say is Mexico should, even without some of their best, put on a clinic tonight. If they don't, there will be some anger.

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San Jose close to a stadium deal - City agrees to $132m deal

The Earthquakes return to San Jose is close to becoming permanent as the city and team owner Lew Wolff have agreed to a $132m deal that could lead to a stadium by 2010.

Although this is great news for the club, there are still a number of hurdles such as getting City Council approval for the deal.

So what is in the agreement? Wolff will purchase 66 acres of land by the airport (click on map to see the site) from the city for $132m. Wolff will set aside 18 of these acres for a possible stadium, while the other 48 will become home to retail, office and a 300-room hotel.

However, in order to build the stadium, Wolff still needs the city to rezone 78 acres of land he owns elsewhere in San Jose from industrial to residential. If they do, Wolff will take the profits from the development of that site to pay for the stadium out by the airport.

Before any of the residential development can take place, the city needs to change the zoning, an environmental study needs to take place and Wolff must find a developer.

If all these items happen and if the City Council approves the $132m airport land deal, as expected, then the Earthquakes will likely have a new home.

If this does not happen, could San Jose become the first city to lose a MLS team twice?

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Returning from the great blog exile

After a bit of a surprise 3-week sabbatical from this blog, it is funny where life will take you, I'm happy to be back. So what did I miss?

From the limited number of MLS matches I've seen, it looks like I've been absent for the start of a really solid season. Refs are calling fewer fouls allowing the game to achieve a much better pace then in the past. Got to admit, I like this.

Seattle ended up keeping the Sounders name for the expansion team saying they had to listen to the fans. If only someone could have seen this coming.

The US women will join their male counterparts in Beijing for the Olympics after beating Costa Rica 3-0 in the semifinals to earn one of the two Concacaf spots. The fact that they then went on to beat Canada in a closely fought, meaningless first place match (you don't get to type that a lot) only adds to the fun of it all.

LA's defense is still good for a few laughs.

MLS teams repeated last year's results in the Concacaf Champions Cup as both Houston and DC exited the competition in the semifinal round. With this the final version of the CCC, let's hope for better results in the new Concacaf Champions League.

Real Salt Lake still has their curse over DC United in Utah. The last two years the defeat at Real came closer to mid-season and started a bit of a downturn for United. It will be interesting to see what comes of it this year.

Do you think Houston is second-guessing their Boswell for Wells trade at all? With Onstad out and Bobby not yet in the Dynamo groove, I'm guessing this isn't the start that Kinnear was hoping for. Then again, it is a long season and Dominic has worked wonders before.

Three games in and Kenny Cooper and Landon Donovan are creating and finishing chances at a very exciting clip while Blanco doesn't seem to be going to ground every time he touches the ball. If these things hold up, this season might just be one for the record books.

Beckham is actually playing so 2008 is already better then 2007.

Hugo Sanchez failed to live up to any of his promises and was unanimously kicked to the curb as coach of Mexico.

Overseas, it is wonderful to see Brian McBride back on the pitch and returning to full form. Too bad it is probably a bit too late for Fulham. On the plus side, can you say Olympic overage spot? McBride, Altidore and Adu with a bit of Sacha Kljestan on the side might just be the recipe for offensive success in China.

So there is three weeks in a nutshell. I have missed this.

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