Friday, July 27, 2007

"That Metro Look"

The US Soccer Players' Association's Ian Plenderleith wonders what the problem is with New York, after the Red Bulls were dropped 0-2 by Chivas last night. The only saving grace is that New York controlled much of the play, and have 16 days to get healthy for TFC on August 12th.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Red Bulls Preview: Game 18 vs. Goats

New York (8-6-3) is playing the middle match of a five-game homestand where they've lost to the Revs and beaten DC United by 1-0 scores. This will be the first Red Bulls match in a month when all three strikers (JPA, Woly, Jozy) are with the team, fit, and free of suspension.

Chivas USA (7-5-3) has lost only once in their last four outings, and are currently tied with DC United in the final MLS Cup playoff position. Star striker Cuban Maykel Galindo has yet to find the net in the month of July (three matches).

Recent Form:
New York: LLWLW

Here's a line-by-line look at what to expect:

The Chivas forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Ante Razov and Maykel Galindo vs. Hunter Freeman, Seth Stammler, Carlos Mendes, and Kevin Goldthwaite (and Ronald Wattereus). The Chivas strikers (the RaGa boys? Anyone?) have scored 12 of the Goats' 20 goals this season. Razov, the one-time Metro, has two goals in two matches with Chivas vs. New York. True, NY has posted two shutouts in its last three outings, but the Red Bulls will be missing Jeff Parke in the center-back position, and Wattereus hasn't exactly thrilled since his return from injury. Advantage: Chivas USA

New York's attackers vs. the Goats' defense:
Juan Pablo Angel and Jozy Altidore vs. Orlando Perez, Claudio Suarez, Shavar Thomas, and Lawson Vaughn (and Brad Guzan). Though Jozy is listed as the probable starter, don't be surprised if John Wolyniec starts alongside JPA tonight. Combined, the two have 12 goals for New York, and Woly has the last two game-winners. Chivas has only given up 16 goals in 15 outings, led by US keeper-of-the-future Guzan and ancient Mexican icon Suarez. Advantage: Push

The Midfields:
Dema Kovalenko, Claudio Reyna, Clint Mathis and Dane Richards vs. Jonathan Bornstein, Francisco Mendoza, Jesse Marsch, and Lawson Vaughn. Look for the fading Dave van den Burgh to go if Kovalenko isn't fully healed from injury. New York needs Dema's work rate and inspirational play to lift the team. Mathis hasn't scored since June 16th, five games ago. Chivas' young wingers are the future of the USMNT, and will run all day. The Chivas midfield only has scored twice all season. Advantage: New York

The Coaches:
Bruce Arena has hopefully begun to pull his team out of a horrible slump. The injury bug hasn't helped, but a win here, combined with Sunday's victory over DC, could help raise the club's confidence to where it was in May. Preki is doing a good job in his rookie coaching season, and the playoffs are well within Chivas' expectation. Advantage: New York

New York has yet to close to Chivas USA (2-0-2), but without Parke and possibly Kovalenko, the Red Bulls will have to lean on Reyna to take control of the game. As always with Chivas, Mexican fans may provide a large turnout to support the visitors Advantage: Push

Prediction: The strong Chivas defensive may neutralize Angel, but perhaps this is the night that Clint Mathis finally becomes the all-time leader in New York MLS scoring history. New York nemesis Razov finds a way as well. New York wins, 2-1.

MLS Remains Super

It's now four matches without a loss for MLS clubs (2-0-2) in the inaugural Superliga. Last night at RFK, DC United got an early goal off a free kick from Christian Gomez, but conceded a late score from a 10-man Monarchas Morelia squad to settle for a 1-1 draw. In Houston, Nate Jaqua scored the only goal of the match in a 1-nil victory over Club America. After one round, here are the Superliga standings:

Group A
LA Galaxy 3, +1
Chivas Guadalajara 1, 0
FC Dallas 1, 0
Pachuca 0, -1

Group B
Houston 3, +1
DC United 1, 0
Morelia 1, 0
Club America 0, -1

Next Matches:
7/28: FC Dallas-Pachuca, LA Galaxy-Chivas
7/29: DC United-America, Houston-Morelia

Andrea Canales, writing at Soccer 365, has a message for Superliga haters to give this tournament time to grow. As the MLS regular season winds down, the fight for next season's Superliga spots will give league's the top teams more to strive for once playoff berths are clinched. Also consider a Copa Libertadores spot to the Superliga champ may be a few years away.

One interesting wrinkle to the strong MLS start of the tourney is the possibility that MLS clubs could be three or all four of the semifinalists. MLS would certainly win some respect down South, but the possibility could kill TV ratings for the semis and finals. As with the US National Team's rivalry with Mexico... this is only going to be a rivalry if the FMF sides start getting some results.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Look for Revs to Shoot Ahead in the East

Steve Nicol's New England Revolution squad should break the logjam in the tightly-packed MLS East over the next few weeks, benefiting from a positive schedule in comparison to their divisional rivals.

The incredibly tight Eastern Standings as of today:

1. NE, 27, +9
2. NY, 27, +5
3. KC, 26, +5
4. CMB, 25, 0
5. DCU, 24, +4
6. TFC 19, -8
7. CHI 16, -13

Between tomorrow (July 26th) and August 19th, the Revs fit the field six times (at RSL, vs. KC, vs. DCU, vs. LA, at COL, and at KC). Over the same span, The Red Bulls, Kansas City, Columbus, and DC United have only three league matches on each of their calendars. The Revs, in fact, are the busiest team in the league over the next three weeks.

Should New England win their home matches and take points on the road at RSL and at COL, the standings on 8/19 could look like:

1. NE, 38
2. NY, 31
3. KC, 30
4. CMB, 28
5. DCU, 25

Thanks to the schedule-maker, Revs fans should be excited about their team's prospects through the end of the summer.

A Night of Positive Results

Two matches into the first ever "Superliga" between MLS and FMF clubs yielded two very positive results last night. First, FC Cows took a second half lead over storied Chivas Guadalajara before giving up the equalizer on a questionable hand ball and settling for a 1-1 draw in front of 12,000 + at the Deep Dish.

The bigger story was in Carson, however, as the jelling Galaxy beat Pachuca 2-1 on goals by Alan Gordon and Landon Donovan. Joe Cannon was huge in the net for the Gals with six saves (Pachuca took 23 shots!). Even without Beckham, the new stars of the Galaxy, Xavier and Pavon, are making an impact on LA. Although the team has many more road games ahead of them, don't count out LA as a playoff team.

Whither Nick Sakiewicz?
As reported on, it appears as if the Red Bulls' Austrian overlords are buying out AEG for their half of Red Bull Park, and will be building the $100 million stadium on their own. This is terrific news for Red Bulls fans for a number of reasons:

A. AEG is first and foremost an entertainment company. Removing AEG from the picture takes the end-zone stage out of RBP plans (see Toyota Park, Pizza Hut Park) and will allow the Red Bulls to play in a dedicated sports facility.

B. The purchase further commits Red Bull to the team's well being. Must has been written about Red Bull's displeasure concerning attendance. By ponying up more big bucks, any fears that RB is souring on MLS should be allayed.

C. Perhaps the project can actually move forward. We've been fed lines about contaminated soil causing construction delays when in fact its been RB and AEG's bickering over stadium designs that has held everything up. Boys... LET'S GO ALREADY!

One has to feel for Nick Sakiewicz, though, whose company will no longer will be involved with the project. Nick has spend the entire decade trying to see the stadium come to life, and now his bosses won't be taking part now that the thing will finally (finally, finally) happen. Perhaps Herr Mateshitz is hiring?

Spreading the Faith
The always excellent Sideline Views, by West Coast soccer journalists Andrea Canales and Luis Bueno, posted this great clip of soccer evangelist and Bob Barker wanna-be Drew Carey pumping up soccer on Letterman the other night.

Well done, sir.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Optimism Concerning Red Bulls Attendance Prospects

After seven of fifteen home matches, the Red Bulls have drawn an average of 11,170 fans per game. A close examination of those matches, and of the remaining schedule, leaves lots of room for optimism that New York could see a major lift at the gate before the end of the year.

What's happened so far
Call it the national TV curse. New York has played three of its home matches this season on Telefutura or ESPN2 in time slots that haven't proven super fan-friendly:

-SUN APR 15 @ 3p vs. FCD (played in a monsoon): 8,865
-SUN MAY 13 @ 3p vs. COL: 7,805
-THU MAY 24 @ 7p vs. CHI: 9,357
Average: 8,675

The Red Bulls' four other home matches were held in the traditional Saturday night, 7:30 slot:
-SAT APR 21 vs HOU: 12,481
-SAT MAY 19 vs. CMB: 10,321
-SAT JUN 16 vs. KCW: 15,546
-SAT JUL 14 vs. NER: 13,819
Average: 13,042

So New York is drawing 50% higher on Saturday nights than on other nights. Nice.

What's to come
Luckily, The Red Bulls' last five home matches all fall on Saturday nights at 7:30p:

-SAT AUG 18 vs. LAG
-SAT SEP 1 vs. CHI
-SAT SEP 22 vs. NER
-SAT SEP 29 vs. RSL
-SAT OCT 13 vs. KCW

One of those matches (you guess which) may entice as many as 60,000 fans to Giants Stadium.

Here are the others:
-SUN JUL 22 @3p vs. DCU
-THU JUL 26 @ 7p vs. CHV
-SUN AUG 11 @ 5p vs. TFC

Given that Sunday is DC's only visit this season, the 26th may bring Chivas fans, and 8/11 will be New York's first look at Toronto, I'm going to assume that attendance for these matches may bring a higher non-Saturday crowd. Also to be considered is the multi-game packs that the FO built into Beckham packages.

Assuming Goldenballs' appearance attracts 50k (they're at 40K today), the Saturday nights pull the average number to date, and the three others bring in 10K each, the remaining eight matches would generate an average audience of 16,521. That'd make the full-year attendance 14,024, only a 3.7% attendance drop from 2006.

If 60K show up for Beckham, the full-year number jumps to 14,691, a 0.8% increase over last year. If 60K show for Becks and 15K come for the DC game on Sunday, the number jumps to 15,024.

My point is that the sky is not falling. Now should this team be pulling at least 20K per game in this huge and extremely savvy soccer market?


However, consider the lack of Red Bull marketing spend. Consider the lack of local market sponsorships driving awareness. Consider 11 years of mostly crappy soccer. Consider that the NY print, television, and radio outlets all but deny the team's existence.

The Beckham wave will lift all boats, and may have a positive effect even after HRH heads back West. Make no mistake, attendance should be higher. There is, however, room for optimism.

Will New York Embrace These Red Bulls?

They have a former Captain of the US Team, a living franchise legend about to become the club's leading scorer, and the season scoring leader and All-Star Game MVP. Will a competitive Red Bulls side put butts in seats? Metro's Kristian Dyer asks that very question of Red Bull's Managing Director Marc deGrandpre in today's print edition. Poorer New York sides have drawn many more fans to Giants Stadium over the years (avg. '07 attendance: 11,170), but for some reason fans aren't flocking to the Swamp this season. The Beckham game (over 40,000 tix sold) will certainly help the final numbers, but with eight home games left, starting with Sunday's tilt vs. DC United (5p, FSNY), a little more marketing would help, wouldn't it?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

What a Week We're Having!

Had your fill yet? The US Soccer world is exploding where ever you look!

Look North to Toronto where a gritty, gutty US U20 squad survived vs. a talented Uruguay squad after extra time last night to advance to the World Cup quarters. Former Metro Michael Bradley tallied the winning goal in the 107th minute. The boys won despite missing #1 keeper Chris Seitz for the whole match and Red Bull Jozy Altidore for the second half. Hopefully these two key cogs will be ready to go in Saturday's quarterfinal vs. Austria (2p ET, ESPN2 & Galavision).

Look West to LA, where Goldenballs will officially be introduced to the US public tomorrow at a press conference at the HDC (1p ET, Becks is on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, and the Mister and Missus are gracing the cover of fashion mag W as well. Like the new Gals logo? I don't.

Look East to Landisville, PA, (pop 4,785), where someone named Steve Fisher (not the former UM hoops coach) scored for the USL2's Harrisburg City Islanders to beat high and mighty DC United 1-0 in a US Open Cup third round match last night. No, the Red Bulls didn't qualify for the proper tourney this year, but... HAWH-HAWH!

A Royal Time In Montreal
Had a blast two weeks ago for the opening doublheader of the U20 World Cup (US 1-1 KOR, POL 1-0 BRA). Montreal is a fantastic city with a walkable downtown and a great metro system.
Highlights for me (at the game):

-clap clap, clap clap clap, clap clap clap clap, U! S! eh?
-The cheer "J t'aime Montreal!" did wonders to endear us to the local fans, but I don't think they anticipated us to stand and sing for 90 minutes. When Korea tied the game, the cheers were deafening, which prompted my second-favorite cheer: "Nobody likes us, we don't care!"
-Chris Seitz, clearly the US man of the match, caught my U20s scarf and wore it off the field
-Dancing in the Metro with Freddy Adu's Mom..."Sacre Bleu! Freddy Adu!"
-Brazil fans (see below):
Highlights for me (other than the game):
-Jazz Fest: tons of free music in a terrific outside venue
-Climbing Mount Royal and the amazing view at the top
-Crescent street, closed to auto traffic for a block-long Brahma beer party
-Old Town

The Red Bulls are in first place in the East, but it just doesn't feel so good, know what I mean?