Friday, January 27, 2006

The Good, The Bad, The Games on TV

There was quite a bit of MLS news this week, with former players joining clubs as assistant coaches, player drafts and trades, and rumors of the next expansion team (the Rocks?), but there was one positive development that wasn’t given enough attention in the media: the news that 16-year old MetroStars Youth Academy player Johnny Exantus was getting a shot to join the reserve team. “Johnny X” scored the goal that gave the Metros U-16 club the 2005 Super Y-league national championship, and his early returns from training have been promising. Should Johnny make the reserve side, his story will hopefully be the first chapter in the next phase of MLS player development. Currently, only a handful of clubs have developed youth soccer academies, but nothing will connect the teams to their communities more than developing local talent up into the organization. Much has been written about the inability of college soccer to properly prepare players for the professional ranks. By developing players from high-school age through academies and Super-Y League teams, to the reserve and first teams, MLS will not only produce better, younger players for parent clubs, but should be able to earn back their investment through player sales to European sides. Fans of all MLS clubs should be rooting for the X-man to make an impact.

On the down side, there’s AEG’s horrible decision to alienate a vital component of its fan base by naming the Houston club after a “year of infamy” in the eyes of the Mexican and Mexican-American fans of that market. Today’s Times Business section has the story of the marketing blunder. I realize there’s something of a paradox here. Much has been written about Mexican fans thumbing their collective noses at MLS, preferring to follow their home Mexican club instead. With the US-based Spanish-language networks televising at least 6 MFL matches every weekend, it’s been easy for them to ignore the American league. It would logically follow that those Hispanic fans wouldn’t take the time to vote for the club name on the Houston MLS web site. However, by alienating a large portion of the fan base with the name 1836, AEG will reinforce the notion that MLS is a “gringo” league that the city’s large Hispanic population won’t need to support. There are those that think the club’s name is no big deal, but frankly, did AEG not see the inherent controversy in selecting 1836? Why not just go all the way and name the team the Wetbacks? It was a bad, bad business decision.

Here’s the soccer to be seen in the Super Bowl’s donut week (all times et)

Saturday, Jan. 28
7:30am: ENG: Cheltenham-Newcastle, FA Cup, FSC
10:00am: ENG: Everton-Chelsea, FA Cup, FSC
12 noon: GER: Borussia Dortmund-Wolfsburg, FSC
12 noon: ITA: Palermo, Siena, GOL
2:30pm: ITA: AC Milan-Sampdoria, GOL
4:30pm: BRA: Palmeiras-Portuguesa Santista, GOL
6:00pm: MEX: Monterrey-Morelia, GALA
8:00pm: MEX: Chivas-UNAM, TELEF
8:30pm: HON: Platense-Victoria, GOL
10:00am: MEX: Necaxa-Chiapas, GALA

Sunday, Jan. 29
9:00am: ITA: Treviso-Lazio, FSC
9:00pm: ITA: Ascoli-Juvenuts, GOL
11:00am: ESP: Sevilla-Villareal, GOL
1:00pm: ENG: Portsmouth-Liverpool, FA Cup, FSC
1:00pm: ESP: Mallorca-Barcelona, GOL
1:00pm: MEX: San Luis-Toluca, UNI
3:00pm: FRA: Monaco-Lyon, FSC
3:00pm: ESP: Celta Vigo-Real Madrid, GOL
5:00pm: USA: USMNT-Norway, ESPN2, TELEM
5:00pm: ITA: Lecce-Milan, FSC
5:00pm: GUA: Comunicaciones-Jalapa, GOL
5:00pm: MEX: Club America-Pachuca, TELEF
7:00pm: ELS: Firpo-Once Municipal, GOL
9:00pm: BRA: Rio Branco-Corinthians, GOL

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