Friday, March 31, 2006

70 Days to Go: EJ, LD, and DmB in NYC

Something to think about as we head into the weekend. this billboard's at 34th & 7th in NYC, right next to Penn Station and The Garden. Good job, Nike.

Trendy, Trendy Red Bulls

It seems that all of the New York media is weighing in on the Red Bulls. Trendy New York Magazine, home of cutting edge photo layouts of wealthy city dwellers’ bathrooms and “of the moment” cover stories like “Forever Youngish: Why Nobody Wants to be an Adult Anymore” (probably ‘cause of those pesky mortgage payments) comes the image above. It’s from April 3rd issue’s “Approval Matrix” feature, which plots the week’s culture/celebrity/news items on a “brilliant-despicable” x-axis vs. a “highbrow-lowbrow” y-axis. How did the Red Bull sale fare? More brilliant and highbrow than The Donald’s new son’s name Barron, and more despicable and lowbrow than The Ringling Bros. Elephant Walk. Sounds about right to me.

Tee Vee
Here's a sampling of this weekend's matches on the tube - all times Eastern. Don't forget to spring your clocks forward on Saturday night...

SATURDAY, April 1
6:30am: EPL: Birmingham-Chelsea, FSC
11:00am: EPL: West Brom-Liverpool, FSC
1:00pm: ESP: Real Zaragoza-Villareal, GOL
2:00pm: EPL: Newcastle-Spurs, FSC
3:00pm: ESP: Barcelona-Real Madrid, GOL
4:00pm: MLS: Dallas-Chicago, ABC
4:00pm: ITA: Lecce-AC Milan, FSC
5:00pm: ITA: Inter Milan-Messina, GOL
6:00pm: MEX: Atlante-Toluca, GALA
7:00pm: COL: Nacional-Deportivo Cali, GOL
8:00pm: MEX: Chivas-Pachuca, TELEF
8:30pm: MLS: Kansas City-Columbus, DK
10:00pm: MEX: Necaxa-Monterrey, TELEF
11:00pm: MLS: Los Angeles-New England, ESPN2
11:00pm: BRA: Palmeiras-Rio Branco, GOL
12mid: MEX: Tigres-UAG, GALA

SUNDAY, April 2
9:00am: ITA: Lazio-Empoli, FSC
9:00am: ITA: Fiorentina-Roma, GOL
11:30am: GER: Schalke-Hamburg, FSC
1:00pm: ECU: Olmedo-Emelec, GOL
1:00pm: MEX: UNAM-Chiapas, UNI
3:00pm: FRA: Paris SG-Bordeaux, FSC
3:00pm: ESP: Betis-Sevilla, GOL
5:00pm: MLS: DC United – New York (looks funny, doesn’t it?), FSNY, DK
5:30pm: GUA: Municipal-Antigua, GOL
6:00pm: MEX: San Luis-Cruz Azul, GALA
7:00pm: MLS: Chivas USA-Real Salt Lake, DK
7:30pm: MLS: Houston-Colorado, DK

7:30pm: COL: Ind. Santa Fe-Millonarios, GOL
9:30pm: BRA: Sao Paulo-Santos, GOL
11:00pm: ARG: Boca Juniors-Banfield, FSC

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Music. Nonstop.

Maroon 5 is out and Shakira and Wylcef Jean are in as halftime entertainment for the Red Bulls' home opener on April 8th at Giants Stadium. The two artists are sure to attract Hispanic and Caribbean football and non-football fans to the Swamp.

Say what you will about Red Bull management, but they're pulling out all the stops to draw fannies to the seats for the re-branded club's first-ever home date.

With so much going on off-the-field at the home opener, (motocross, Cosmos/Metros ceremony, halftime) one has to wonder what will be in store for the club's second home date vs. DC on April 22nd. Marketing messages have talked up the sideshow surrounding the soccer to be played. For fans to come on back to the stadium, the on-field product will have to deliver a good amount of that Red Bull buzz.

Here are the Metros' attendance for the first and second home games of each season, save '99, which weren't readily available. We'll all be watching carefully to see what happens in the new, fizzy era of RBNY.

4/20/96 vs. NE: 46,826
4/27/96 vs. CMB: 26,416

4/12/97 vs. NE: 20,328
4/19/97 vs. DC: 26,322

4/11/98 vs. LA: 29,380
4/25/98 vs. SJ: 17,380

3/28/99 vs. CMB: -
4/3/99 vs. DC: -

4/1/00 vs. DC: 27,322
4/15/00 vs. CMB: 12,399

4/7/01 vs. NE: 30,753
4/21/01 vs. TB: 17,253

3/23/02 vs. NE: 13,234
3/27/02 vs. CMB: 45,411 (Ecuador/Bulgaria Doubleheader)

4/12/03 vs. CMB: 23,786
4/19/03 vs. LA: 19,801

4/17/04 vs. DC: 31,419 (Adu's first game in NY)
4/25/04 vs. NE: 8,129

4/2/05 vs. RSL: 12,657 (Monsoon)
4/16/05 vs. KC: 12,548

Special Guests


The big names of NY's soccer past will be honored before next Saturday’s RBNY home opener. How big? Think of the biggest name there is. Think of the guy running the biggest soccer tournament there is. Think of the loudmouth that fans feared would be taking over the Bulls. Think of the Metros’ first-ever superstar. That big. All the more reason to be at the Swamp on 4/8.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Facing the Media

Red Bulls Media Day was yesterday, and MetroFanatic has a great series of interviews up as usual. Look here to see some video yesterday's event at B.B. King’s in Times Square. Nice to see MSG paying attention, though they’re really just promoting one of the few sports properties they have left on their programming roster. No official news yet of the Jean-Philippe Peguero for Thiba + a draft pick trade, or for the opening day halftime show yet… but patience is a virtue. RBNY is running a daily giveaway as the countdown to opening day continues and fans can enter every day until April 8th. Nice. Lots of “season preview” stories are popping up national newspapers – give ‘em a look. Big ups to MF.com poster "The Pebble" for a story on the inching forward on the Harrison stadium... but shouldn't these steps have happened sometime in the past 5 years?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Being Green


Michael Lewis reports today that the Red Bulls' home opener will be played on grass, a huge step towards a more asthetically pleasing experience for RBNY fans and a safer one for the team itself. If you listen closely you can hear Youri Djorkaeff's knees thanking the team's Austrian overlords. Will the entire season be played on the natural stuff? We'll see.

Amado (the pout) Guevara has apparently recieved his green card, opening up another SI slot for the team. Will Alexi & Mo be able to find an affordable foriegner to put the bulge in the old onion bag? Any time now would be great.

Also, in a major improvement over the 2005 season, RBNY has secured television coverage for all of the team's league matches this year on MSG (24 times) and FSN (6 times). A 30-minute pre-game show, "Running With the Bulls," will appear before most matches. The team will also appear two times on ESPN2. Nice job, front office.

Harder to Breathe


Pop recording group Maroon 5 will be part of the attraction when Red Bull New York opens its home season next Saturday, April 8th, at Giants Stadium. The J Records recording artists will play at halftime of the RBNY-New England match, just part of the “special goings-on” that Red Bull hopes will bring folks to the Swamp for the match.

UPDATE: On Thursday, 3/30, RBNY announced that Shakira and Wyclef Jean would be playing the team's home opener instead.

Before the match, RBNY will host a motocross event and a “Hispanic concert” in the Giants Stadium parking lot for the tailgating masses. Will all the hoopla pay off in the form of ticket buyers? It’s too soon to say, but with the many free ticket promotions in place for the match, it’s obvious that the Front Office is trying to earn repeat business from customers by putting on a great show, in addition to the soccer that’ll be played.

That’s good, because last week’s RBNY results in Charleston did little to prove that the Bulls will have much to show on the field. RBNY went scoreless in losing three matches at the Carolina Challenge Cup, including the first-ever defeat by the host Battery over an MLS club in the three-year history of the tournament. With only six days remaining before the season opener in DC, Alexi & Mo are rumored to be placing a sacrifice at the feet of the Columbus Crew in order to get a natural striker. At this point, giving up Eddie Gaven and newly acquired defensive midfielder Danny O’Rourke for Westchester native Edson Buddle may not be the worst deal, if Mo is convinced that RBNY stalwart Mark Lisi can shoulder the load at D-Mid. Tick Tock. Time's a wasting.

Depressed in Dortmund

While it’s safe to say that Kerry Zavagnin, Brian Ching, and Chris Klein hurt their chances of landing on Il Bruce’s World Cup Roster, the most depressing Yank performance last Wednesday in Dortmund was from Tenalfy, NJ native Greg Berhalter, who gifted a German goal with a horrible miscue as the last line of defense in front of Kasey Keller. Berhalter has had a snakebitten tenure with the Nats, as his goal effort vs. the same Germans in the 2002 WC Quarterfinals was stopped by Torsten Frings’ hand. Berhalter was also whistled for a phantom handball in the final moments of a WCQ at Costa Rica in 2000. The resulting PK gave the Ticos a 2-1 win and made things tough for the US in that qualifying round. Does Arena leave Berhalter off the squad? Here are my eight defenders for the World Cup: Bocanegra, Cherundolo, Conrad, Gibbs, Lewis, Oneywu, Pope… and yes… Berhalter. What other choices does Bruce have? Albright? Olsen? Shudder the thought.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Busy Day

Lots going on today. The Yank’s B+ team takes on a hungry, desperate German side in Dortmund. Without Donovan, Reyna, Beasley, O’Brien, and Dempsey, Marc Connolly has the midfield in the hands of Mastro, Klein, and Zavagnin. Yikes. If the US loses by less than two goals, it’ll be a moral victory for The Bruce, who suffers considerably less pressure than his pal Jurgen Klinsmann.

I’ve sent a note to the tech department at USSoccer.com, asking them if they’ve made any server upgrades since the Poland friendly, when limited bandwidth of the website’s Matchtracker kept many from following the game live at work. If I get a response, I’ll post here. UPDATE: Here's the web team's promising response:
Thank you for writing. We have made some changes to the hosting of MatchTracker(to be separate from the rest of the site) in effort to improve performance. Please let us know if you experience any issues with today's match so that we may look into them, however we expect performance to be dramatically better than it was for the Poland match.

Good show, guys.

Tonight’s the second round of the Carolina Challenge Cup at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, where RBNY will take on the host Battery, and DC United will play Dinamo Houston. Red cards to Red Bulls Djorkaeff and Graham won’t carry over from the team’s loss to DC on Saturday.

About those Bulls, Alexi Lalas made a good number of friends last week when he offered free tickets to anyone that wanted to make the trip to DC next Sunday for the home opener. A staggering 750 fans wanted in, which should make the group the largest traveling fan contingent outside of an MLS Cup. A wedding will keep me from making the trip, which should be a great time.

Alexi then made many RB/Metro fans scratch their heads when an offer popped up on the Revs’ site for season ticket holders: a free ticket & bus ride to the Swamp for the 4/8 RBNY home opener. Helping your own fans to travel is one thing, but busing away fans into your house? I’m not so sure. From a business standpoint, the move is solid – giving Rev fans a reason to sign up for season tickets to get the free trip will endear RBNY to the Krafts. From a home-field advantage standpoint, however, bringing in significant Revs fan presence won’t exactly help RBNY on the field.

Tonight, the MLS-less Concacaf Champions’ Cup semis get going, with LDA hosting Club America, and Saprissa visiting Toluca. One of these clubs will be heading to Tokyo this December to represent the region in the World Club Championship. Hopefully the winner will do us as proud at Saprissa did last time, picking up 3rd place.

And as for MLS Glassboro? Let’s talk again in 120 days.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Steaks of Cheese

I, like so many others, raised an eyebrow after reading the Daily Record report of an impending MLS franchise in the South Jersey suburb of Glassboro. The league has been salivating over the Philly market for years now, but the lack of an owner or a location for a soccer-specific stadium on the PA side of the Delaware River has prevented MLS Philly from becoming a reality in the past. Glassboro isn’t as convenient to the well-heeled and soccer-mad West Philly suburbs as is “Center City.” For instance, famed youth club FC Delco in Downingtown, PA, is forty-five miles from the proposed site, an 80-minute trip one-way, as per Google maps. Then, of course, is the whole franchise name thing. I guess we’ll all learn more on Monday. To say it’s been quite an off-season is a massive understatement.

Between March Madness and the US-less World Baseball Classic final four, here’s what’s on the tube this weekend (all times ET):

Saturday, March 18th
7:30am: ENG: Everton – Aston Villa, FSC
10:00am: GER: Wolfsburg-Hamburg, FSC
Noon: ENG: Birmingham-Tottenham, FSC
2:00pm: ESP: Real Sociedad-Barcelona, GOL
3:00pm: ENG: Arsenal-Charlton, FSC
4:00pm: ESP: Villareal-Atletico Madria, GOL
6:00pm: ITA: Livorno-Juventus, GOL
6:00pm: MEX: Atlante-Atlas, GALA
8:00pm: COL: Independiente-America de Cali, GOL
8:00pm: MEX: Chivas-Cruz Azul, TELEF
10:00pm: GUA: Municipal-Marquense, GOL
10:00pm: MEX: Necaxa-Veracruz, TELEF
Midnight: MEX: Tigres-Monarcas, GALA

Sunday, March 19th:
9:00am: ITA: Inter-Lazio, GOL
11:00pm: ESP: Santander-Valencia, GOL
11:00am: ITA: Treviso-Cagliari, FSC
1:00pm: ITA: Real Madrid-Real Betis, GOL
1:00pm: ENG: Newcastle-Liverpool, FSC
1:00pm: MEX: Pumas-Tecos, UNI
3:00pm: ECU: Deportivo Quito-Emelec, GOL
3:00pm: FRA: Paris SG-Auxerre, FSC
5:30pm: COL: Millonarios-Once Caldas, GOL
6:00pm; MEX: San Luis-America, GALA
7:30pm: ELS: Aguila-Isidro Metapan, GOL
9:30pm: ITA: Roma-Messina, GOL
11:00pm: ARG: Tiro Federal-Boca Juniors, FSC

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Mo & Alexi Show

Over 50 current, former, and new members of the ESC gathered last night at Stout Pub in New York City for the Annual “Meet the GM/Coach” event, and those in attendance were treated to a friendly exchange with Mo Johnston and Alexi Lalas in a great setting. The downstairs room of the pub should prove to be a great new location for viewing away RBNY matches and will offer a lot more room than the former Nathan Hale’s space for US matches this summer. Thanks to Corey & team for pulling together another great event.

Here are some frantically scribbled highlights:

Mo Johnston:
-Has been to Poland, Czech Republic, Scotland and England looking for players
-There still “some cash left” for another player, and with Guevara’s green card a formality at this point, it’s fair to expect a foreign signing
-The biggest hole in the current lineup is up front
-Plans on playing 3 or 4 in the back – RBNY will be versatile enough to play a 3-4-3, a 3-5-2, or 4-4-2
-The starting lineup is not yet set… don’t put too much into pre-season results
-On Josie Altidore: “a tremendous goal scorer"
-On David Arvizu: “at first, he wanted to return to LA, but we’re not doing [Chivas or LAG] any favors in terms of giving him up… he was the most important player on the U-17s, and he’s liking it more here every day"
-On Blake Camp: “Gives us a lot of depth”
-On Mike Magee: He “grew up a lot during the offseason”
-On Eddie Gaven: “I told him we wanted to trade him”
-On Ante Razov: “We had to trade him to save some $$”
-On Abbie Ibrahim: “He’s still in Togo. We’ve been on the phone in the middle of the night with the embassy in order to get him back. Hope to have him in Charleston.”
-On Amado Guevara: “He wants to play in NY… he’ll play hard every game this year… but if guys aren’t pulling their weight, they’ll be changes made… if [anyone] wants to sulk, they can do it by themselves"
-On Chris Henderson: “He’ll play all over the field… on the wings, behind the forwards… etc."
-On Mark Lisi: “He’s a little in between… he’s been on the bench for some games"
Jeff Parke and Seth Stammler have "stood out in preseason”

Alexi Lalas:
-Led off with a classy toast to Doug Hamilton
-The club sale “will make a tremendous long-term impact” to the league
-“We [management] have a responsibility to prove to fans that the sale will be a positive”
-Red Bull Park “will be different and better than the stadiums currently in place in MLS”
-On the club name flap: “The hypocrisy of the NJ politicians is astounding”
-Apparently, a lone fan (not in attendance) has taken up Alexi’s offer to tell the RBNY players that he won’t be supporting the team in light of the name change. Said fan will be visiting the practice bubble today to share his reasoning with the team.
-Offered no specifics on marketing, but noted that efforts “will be different” than in the past.
-Bus trip for DC is a go & signups will be available on the official site today
-Trying to get all games on TV
-Trying for English-language radio for the first time ever
-Has “no plans to leave” and “it’s up to RB to decide how long” he’ll stay

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Hornless in Jersey

Big, BIG ups to RBNY (Ribknee?) honcho Alexi Lalas for banning those godforsaken plastic horns at Giants Stadium for the upcoming season. You have to love Lalas’ tongue-in-cheek attitude in his announcement. For too long, Metro games have sounded more like a cow pasture than a soccer match. I’m sure parents of six year-olds may take issue, but for anyone that’s suffered sitting in front of a pack of youth soccer players blowing into those horns for ninety minutes, the change is most welcome.

Combined with the addition of the Pride & Passion Pub, which will live on despite the ownership change, RBNY has taken steps to make the game experience more attractive to adult soccer fans, a target that the club has ignored in the past. Well done.

High Five

Brazil, the Czech Republic, Holland, and Argentina are the only nations in the world ranked higher than the US this morning in the latest FIFA rankings. The Mexicans, so sadly, have dropped to seventh. Not only is the five-spot the highest ranking for the Yanks ever, but the US is ranked above Mexico for only the second time since the rankings began in 1993 (In June of 2003, the US was 9th, Mexico 11th). Barring a slip vs. the Krauts next week, the US should finish its pre-World Cup slate without a loss, as non-qualifier opponents Jamaica, Morocco, Venezuela, and Latvia shouldn’t give the Yanks too much trouble. Much has been said about the lack of attention to give the FIFA rankings, but maintaining a strong ranking will be important for the US to receive a top seed for South Africa 2010.

Meetup

The venerable (if not expanding) Empire Soccer Club will hold their annual “Meet the GM/Coach” event tonight in NYC at the Stout Pub on 33rd Street (b. 6th/7th) at 8pm. Given Alexi’s offer to take dissatisfied fans into the team locker room to tell the players why they’re giving up on the club, it should be an enjoyable evening. Events like this should make MLS fans appreciate the lengths that the clubs go to in order to reach out to fans. It’d be hard to imagine Joe Torre or Omar Minaya taking the time to meet their teams’ fans in a public setting to discuss team issues. Even if you're not planning on joining the ESC, If you’re an MLS in the Metro area, please try to attend.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Western Soccer League?


Perhaps those with a grasp of German can help me. This ad has been running opposite the sports page in the NYC edition of Metro, the free daily newspaper with editions in most major cities around the world. As you can see, it’s an ad for LTU airlines, promoting non-stop flights from the US to “the biggest soccer event.” The spokesperson for LTU is Kasey Keller, who is noted here as the “Western Soccer League Player of the Year.” Huh? I’m not sure what the Keller’s Q rating is these days, but I’d imagine it’s higher in Germany than here, especially among the general subway-riding public. Hmm. Reminds me a bid of those bizzarely catchy Mentos’ ads. “It doesn’t matter what comes/fresh goes better in life…”

George Zoffinger is an Angry, Angry Man

After raping MLS and the Metros for years, and doing everything he can to prevent the Harrison project from moving forward, The G-Zizza is making a fuss about RBNY’s N and Y, insisting on the silly slash or an NJ in the team’s moniker. In my mind, adding New York to the club’s name properly represents the media market that the club plays in. The “NY” will turn off far fewer NJ fans than an “NJ”-named club will for New Yorkers. All this civic posturing is a bit silly, though there is a rub. The Red Bull lease agreement at Giants Stadium expires after this season. Harrison, once said to be ready for the ’07 season, won’t be in place until 2008. In fact, groundbreaking has yet to occur – as there’s a bit to be done before that can happen. Zoffinger has said that RBNY won’t be able to play in the Swamp with its current name in place. Won’t this be fun to watch? Probably not.

Metro Fan Club

Pissed-off Metro fans are in the process of applying for a PDL club under the name of AFC Metro. The club would be the first owned exclusively by fans of MLS. Best of luck to them.

RIP Doug Hamilton.

Your Weekend TV Listings (all times et):

SATURDAY, March 11
7:30am: ENG: Chelsea-Spurs, FSC
10:00am: GER: Wolfsburg-Bayern Munich, FSC
Noon: ENG: Blackburn-Aston Villa, FSC
2:00pm: URU: Penarol-Cerro, GOL
3:00pm: ENG: Everton-Fulham, FSC
4:00pm: ESP: Valencia-Real Madrid, GOL
4:00pm: MEX: Toluca, UAG, GALA
6:00pm: ITA: Inter Milan-Sampdoria, GOL
6:00pm: MEX: Atlante-Pachuca, GALA
8:00pm: BRA: Poruguesa-Palmeiras, GOL
8:00pm: MEX: Chivas-San Luis, TELEF
10:00pm: MEX: Necaxa-Club America, TELEF

SUNDAY, March 12
9:00am: ITA: Cagliari-Fiorentina, FSC
9:00am: ITA: Ascoli-Roma, GOL
11:00am: ESP: Mallorca-Villareal, GOL
11:00am: ITA: Lazio-Reggina, FSC
1:00pm: ENG: Man. Utd.-Newcastle, FSC
1:00pm: MEX: UNAM-Morelia, UNI
2:30pm: ITA: Juventus-AC Milan, GOL
3:00pm: FRA: Marseille-St. Etienne, FSC
4:30pm: ESP : Osasuna-Barcelona, GOL
6:00pm: MEX: Tigres-Monterrey, GALA
6:30pm: GUA: Municipal-Heredia, GOL
9:30pm: BRA: Corinthians-Sao Paulo, GOL
11:00pm: ARG: Independiente-River Plate, FSC

Thursday, March 09, 2006

More RBNY Thoughts


Wow! We made the Yahoo! home page! You may call it drinking the Kool-aid, but a chat with my sales rep earlier today help put things in focus for me.

He said that the Metros were AEG's fifth priority, after LA, Chicago, DC, and Houston. Now, under Red Bull, the team will be the top priority of its owners, who are experts in sports marketing AND are willing to spend to promote their products. I can't tell you the last time that I saw a MetroStars advertisement in a major newspaper in the NY area, on any billboard, or on TV (other than on MSG). With RB's marketing prowess, we may see an attempt at a real-live campaign designed to make folks aware of the team and get them to the Meadowlands. I see ticket offers on cans of Red Bull, posters in bodegas & supermarkets that sell the stuff. Maybe a Red Bull Bus to get NYC-based fans to the swamp. Am I dismayed over the loss of the MetroStars name? Yes. However as the minutes pass I have no choice but to be optimistic about the future of RBNY.

With the sale, Uncle Phil and Lamar Hunt's combined share of MLS clubs is down to 58%, and will be 50% next year if you read Not Doug Logan's note about Cleveland today. Is a loosening of the purse strings an inevitability? We'll see.

UPDATE: Kristian Dyer at NYNJSoccer.com has a great interview with Alexi Lalas. The highlight:

KD:What role will Giorgio Chinaglia and Franz Beckenbauer play in the franchise?
AL: Franz has been an advisor to Red Bull Salzburg for some time and I hope he is involved with Red Bull New York. From what I've read, Giorgio seems to think that we should fire the front office staff, the players and the coaches, so he can kiss my ass.

Running from... The Continental

Ah, won't you come in and sit down? I've been expecting you. Can I interest you in a little champange? No... wait... wait... where are you going??

For the fourth straight year, MLS clubs will not reach the finals (thanks, David) of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup, our continental championship. Sometimes, the failures have been outright blowouts, like DC's whupping at the hands of Pumas last year, or Morelia and Necaxa's tattoos of Columbus and LA, respectively, in 2003. Sometimes, like KC's extra time loss at Saprissa last year and matches played last night, the losses are more painful. In Costa Rica, the Galaxy let a two-nil halftime lead evaporate in the first 12 minutes of the second half before falling at Saprissa in extra time. Up the road, the Revs allowed a 90th minute goal, the only goal scored in the two-leg series, to lose at LDA. Say what you want about the timing being bad and the harsh road environments that MLS teams must face in the tourney, but let's face it; MLS clubs aren't helping the stature of the league by continuing to stumble in the CCC.

Just as our teams rejoice at drawing the lone carribean entrant in the tourney's first round (DC over Harbour View in '05, Chicago over San Juan Jabloteh in '04, KC over W Connection in '02), the Costa Rica clubs look forward to playing MLS clubs just the same (This year's results, Saprissa over Kansas City in '05 and Chicago in '04, LDA over New England in '03). Hopefully the proposed mid-season tussle with Mexican clubs will give MLS teams a change to prove themselves on the international stage.

TTFKATM (The team formerly known as the MetroStars)

News today on the Red Bull sale from the NY Times , North Jersey Herald, and Big Apple Soccer.

Other tidbits:
  • Andy Mead has posted the official press release here. MLSNet has been updated as well.
  • Du Nord has some exclusive insight from the NY Times' Jack Bell.
  • My ticket rep has informed me that Don Garber played a huge role in RB keeping Alexi & Mo in place with the club, an keeping the Metro history intact.

I have to say, seeing the words "New York" on the MLSNet header and standings page brings some relief to an otherwise challenging situation. Bucking tradition with a team name without a location was cool in the early days of MLS. I'm glad, though, that sports fans will know, without a doubt, which market the team represents. There are those on the West side of the Hudson which have huge issues with naming the club New York, but I really don't think it's a big deal. New York IS the name of the media market, and is a lot more inclusive than naming the club after Jersey. Hopefully we'll start to see some marketing muscle promoting the team's home opener and beyond. Maybe, by tomorrow, I'll be able to call the club by name.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bull Run

Metrofanatic is reporting that a noon ET news conference has been scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday) to deliver the bull. In an email exchange earlier today, Metro GM Alexi Lalas told me that he "[hasn't] been fired...yet."

Assuming the Position

Big Apple Soccer is reporting that the sale of the MetroStars is complete. The MLS Board of Governors will meet today in New York to end the 10-year run of the team and hand the franchise's keys over to Red Bull and former NY Cosmo, ChampionsWorld hanger-on, and on-screen mumbler Giorgio Chinaglia. As reported in today's New York Times, Chinaglia clearly is taking on his new assignment without a shred of humility. Chinaglia told Jack Bell:

"...I'm the only person who can change things in New York and I mean change everything — the front office, the coach and the team. And I can do it fast."

My heart goes out to Alexi Lalas, Mo Johnston, VP Ticket Sales Steve Powell, Ticket Rep Ben Parry, and the Metros players that may soon be out of a job. Perhaps in time this move will be good for the league. Today, however, I feel like I've been kicked in the stomach. I've convinced my company to purchase a private party for 100 clients at the Stadium Club for the Metros' home opener on April 8th. I have no idea what to expect when we get there. All hail the almighty dollar.

UPDATE: Logan's Revenge says that the deal hinges on some key sticking points, and still may not come to fruition.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Questions Waiting to be Answered

So the Metro nation sits and waits…waits to hear about the fate of its team. Michael Lewis seems to be only journalist with the contacts that will comment on the supposedly impending sale of the Metro to the marketing powerhouse Red Bull. Today comes word that a few high-profile former NY Cosmos are pushing the deal and may soon be in charge of the club. But where would Alexi Lalas and his staff find themselves in that scenario? Out of work? Like him or hate him, Alexi has put a visible face on the organization, and Mo Johnston has been a breath of fresh air in terms of his willingness to speak to the press and fans about how the team is coming together. And about the team… where would the sale leave the mixture of youth and experience on the roster that seems so promising this preseason? What of the emerging success of the Metro youth system, which won a Super Y-League championship last season, and the club’s entry into the new Super 20 League? What of Johnny Exantus?

More importantly, why is this all happening 26 days before the Metros’ season-opener? Couldn’t this deal have come together at the end of last season, or wait until the end of this season? There’s enough confusion in the marketplace about the team to begin with, and unless the Toro Rossos are going to spend big $$ in the next two weeks to tell the public about the name change, what kind of caffeinated buzz does Red Bull think it can generate?

For the small number of rabid Metro faithful, it’s a strange time. They’re no denying that the club’s record has not been pretty since the 2-1 loss in LA in April 13, 1996 and Caricola’s own goal with 12 seconds remaining the week later, but that doesn’t mean the erasure of the club name will be welcomed. Over the club’s ten seasons I’ve collected plenty of Metro memorabilia, from the Clint Mathis bobblehead that sits on my desk to the Season 10 scarf on the back of my chair. Renaming the team after a soft drink just seems odd. If the Mets were suddenly renamed the New York Ford F-150 Trucks, with no avowal that the Mets ever existed, I’d feel just as cold and bewildered. Here's how fans of SV Austria Salzburg felt after Red Bull descended on them. The always excellent Ives Galarcep outlines the Metro Nation's challenge in today's Bergen Record.

Clueless in Jersey

BigAppleSoccer’s coverage of the sale is making the Newark Star-Ledger’s Frank Giase look hopelessly out of touch (and not like George Clooney). Today’s weekly “On Soccer” report surmises that New Jersey politics are forcing the hand of Phil Anschutz, who Giase believes has tired of trying to get the Harrison stadium built. Giase adds that Anschutz is “not well-liked in New Jersey.” What a bunch of hooey. Lewis’ report today notes a sweetheart deal for rent and naming rights for the Harrison stadium as a part of the Red Bull sale, which may top $30 million, a record sale for an MLS club. Giase’s column is usually no more than a collection of wire reports, and for the supposed “home paper” of the Metros, Giase’s readers deserve more.

Bueno Suerte

Best of luck to New England and LA ahead of their tough tasks Wednesday night in the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup. It’s a shame that the away goals rule isn’t in place for the competition, as both teams played home scoreless draws in the first legs of their quarterfinal ties. The Galaxy will be on the artificial surface of the Saprissa (9pm, FSC), while the Revs will be up the road at Alajuelense (11pm, FSC). Let’s hope for at least one victory on the tough, rough Costa Rican road.

Friday, March 03, 2006

A Load of What?

This morning Michael Lewis reported that AEG/MLS HQ has received a call from the Austrian owners of Red Bull Energy drink who seem to want to buy the MetroStars. Last year, Red Bull acquired the former Austrian club team SV W├╝stenrot Salzburg and rebranded them as Red Bull Salzburg, to the dismay of the team's hard core fandom. Lewis' report noted that the Bullies wanted to purchase and possibly rebrand the team before the 2006 season opener, in 30 days.

My first reaction to this bit of news was a Lil' Jon-style "Whattt?" Would of a lot of folks in the tri-state area cry in their milk if the team was re-branded? Perhaps a thousand or two at most. After all, it's not that the Superclub on the Passaic has done a superb job of brand-building since its inception. There are even some snapperheads calling for the team to buy out Pepe Pinton and resurrect the Cosmos name. However, a club named after an energy drink (Red Bull Jersey?) doesn't exactly roll of the tongue, either. Metro has had only two shirt sponsors in the club's decade on the pitch: Fujifilm and New York Life, and I'd much rather see Red Bull market their bevvies in that manner before re-naming the team. I have no idea how much cash the Austrians are dangling in front of AEG to take the Metro off their hands, but I can't imagine Uncle Phil would let go of the New York market so easily. Perhaps we should tell the Osterreichers that MLS is no cash cow. Sorry.

Your Weekend TV Listings:

SATURDAY, March 4
7:30am: ENG: West Brom – Chelsea, FSC
10:00am: GER: Bayern Leverkusen-Werder Bremen, FSC
Noon: ENG: Liverpool-Charlton, FSC
Noon: ITA: AC Milan-Empoli, GOL
2:00pm: ESP: Villareal-Alaves, GOL
2:00pm: INT’L: Italy-Germany, TELEM
3:00pm: ENG: Newcastle-Bolton, FSC
4:00pm: ESP: Barcelona-Dep. Coruna, GOL
4:00pm: INT’L: Netherlands-Ecuador, TELEM
6:00pm: ITA: Sampdoria-Juventus, GOL
6:00pm: MEX: Monterrey-Atlante, GALA
8:00pm: COL: America-Millonarious, GOL
8:00pm: MEX: Necaxa-Chivas, TELEF
10:00pm: INT’L: Italy-Germany, GOL
Midnight: BRA: Portuguesa Santista-Portugesa, GOL

SUNDAY, March 5
9:00am: ITA: Fiorentina-Siena, GOL
9:00am: ITA: Lecce-Palermo, FSC
11:00am: ESP: Celta de Vigo-Osasuna, GOL
1:00pm: ECU: Dep. Quito-El Nacional, GOL
1:00pm: ENG: Man. City-Sunderland, FSC
1:00pm: INT’L: Croatia-Argentina, TELEM
1:00pm: MEX: San Luis-Santos, UNI
3:00pm: ESP: Malaga-Valencia, GOL
3:00pm: FRA: Paris SG-Marseille, FSC
4:00pm: INT’L: Wales-Paraguay, TELEM
5:00pm: MEX: Club America-UAG, GALA
5:30pm: COL: Tolima-Atl. Nacional, GOL
7:30pm: ITA: Roma-Inter Milan, GOL
9:30pm: BRA: Santos-Palmeiras, GOL
10:00pm: MEX: Atlas-Toluca, GALA
11:00pm: ARG: Racing-Boca Juniors, FSC

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Demand = Supply?

Big ups to USSoccer.com for adding video & audio content to bring fans closer to the national team as they prepare for Germany. Users have been able to check out training sessions, interviews with players, pre- and post-game reactions, even video of a pre-Poland pep rally at the US Air Base near Kaiserslautern. However, the Fed and their web folks have clearly not prepared for the rush of users stampeding towards their site for the Matchtracker of today’s US-Poland match. Today’s match, taking place during the workday in the continental US, has clearly generated too much demand for USSoccer.com’s web servers. Just with the flood of faxed World Cup ticket requests that couldn’t get through, it appears that the Fed has once again become a victim of its own success. It can’t match the demand of its customers. Bad business, indeed.

PubThumping
A big thumbs-up to the Metro FO for tapping into its fans’ demand to connect to the team. On Saturday, Feb. 25th, the Superclub on the Passaic launched the “Pride and Passion Pub” next to the Stadium Club at Giants Stadium. The pub is a lounge decorated with MLS and international jerseys and scarves, as well as multiple video monitors which on Saturday showed a loop of old MLS promos. Many Metro players, including Amado Guevara, Chris Henderson, Mark Lisi, and Jeff Parke were mingling with the fans, as was Metro GM Alexi Lalas. The pub opening was a great draw, with more than 200 fans passing through over the course of the afternoon. Metro VP Ticket Sales Steve Powell told me that the pub was an effort to connect more with adult fans of the team. Powell said that the FO has a good grasp on how to reach the youth player, but in the past hasn’t reached out to adult fans so well. Hopefully the pub will become a destination for Metro fans before and after each game.

Vote for Woly
John Wolyniec's sudden-death game winning volley blast vs. Columbus in 2003 is among the final five nominees for MLS Goal of the Decade. Place your vote on this one, folks, because the goal, coming off a 45-yard Amado Guevara serve, is a one-in-a-lifetime tally.

Oh, Jack, Jack, Jack
Imagine you're Jack Bell, soccer columnist of the NY Times. The US is playing a key friendly today in preparation for the World Cup. In your column today, do you A) lead by noting the US-Poland match is the first of the year with our Euro-based players on the squad, or B) bury your mention of the match 12 paragraphs into the column, after noting the political intrigue behind Costa Rica's friendly with Iran. Well, B was the choice.

Jack, you don't have to be a cheerleader for the team, but building awareness of the US match is key to the growth of the sport in this country. Props for leading with a story on the Metro's Mike Magee, but the US makes a good story, as well. Shame for burying them.