Tuesday, December 08, 2009

'Tis the Season of Giving: Your Soccer Charity Guide

UPDATED BELOW. The old adage goes that it's better to give than to receive, and for American Soccer fans, there are many worthy soccer charities that try to make the world a better place through the beautiful game. 2009 has been a tough year for many, but if you have a few dollars to give (and receive a tax refund), please consider a donation (the best "nation" on earth!) to one or more of these footie-focused charities:

US Soccer Foundation: Beneficiary of profits for World Cup USA '94, The foundation's goal is simple: to enhance, assist and grow the sport of Soccer in the United States. Over the years, the USSF has provided grants to support field development in urban, suburban, and rural settings from coast to coast. The Foundation also manages the hugely successful "Passback" program, which encourages the soccer community to donate their lightly used soccer equipment and footwear. Today, the annual Foundation Holiday Auction launched, giving fans the opportunity to bid an autographed jerseys and soccer balls from MLS and around the world. Twitter

Grassroot Soccer: Launched by Survivor winning Ethan Zohn, Grassroot's missing is to use the power of soccer in the fight against HIV and AIDS, Grassroot Soccer provides youth worldwide with the knowledge, life skills and support to live healthier lives. With a focus on the African continent, Grassroot offers a "life-skillz curriculum" and empowers community role models to the tools to educate area youths. Twitter Facebook

Nothing But Nets: Another Africa-focused charity, Nothing But Nets provides inexpensive but lifesaving malaria nets to families across the continent. M.L.S. Works is a partner. Over the past three years, NBN has provided over 2.8 million nets, saving millions of young lives. Twitter Facebook

The Fugees Family: Coach Luma Mufleh and her amazing Fugees Family are helping to enrich the lives of countless new Americans. From Mufleh's home base of Clarkston, GA, the Fugees Family provides refugee children from around the globe focus on education, character, and of course, soccer. The team was the subject of Outcasts United by New York Times journalist Warren St. John. Twitter

Little Feet: Started by American Airlines pilot Trevor Slavick and Denver radio host Steffan Tubbs, Little Feet provides soccer balls to children in over 40 countries from around the world. LF also supports a community in Honduras by exchanging native coffee beans for new soccer equipment. Just in time for the World Cup, LF has partnered with Sam's Army and American Outlaws to produce a US Supporters' T-Shirt. For every shirt purchased, LF will donate a soccer ball to the children of South Africa. Twitter

AmericaScores: Serving over 6,000 urban youths in 14 American cities, AmericaScores provides literacy workshops that have generated nearly 20,000 literary works each year. Combined with a focus on soccer (of course), AmericaScores kids get 10x the amount of physical activity than the national average. Adidas is a national sponsor. Twitter

Soccer in the Streets
: SitS gives life skills with soccer skills and helps at-risk kids in the Atlanta, GA area thrive at school and at home through out-of-school programs, mentoring relationships, academic support and hands on experience. SitS boasts affiliates in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Pennsylania, South Carolina & Texas. Twitter Facebook

UPDATES:

PledgeMySeat: This UK-based charity offers soccer boots for underprivileged kids in Africa. In a nice touch, users, "buy" a seat in a virtual Soccer City Stadium, the site of the 2010 World Cup Final. Seats cost 15 pounds, with virtual luxury boxes available as well. Twitter

Soccer Without Borders
: This East Bay-based group uses soccer as a vehicle for positive change in the lives of marginalized youth. SWB projects have taken place in Oakland, NYC, Argentina, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Uganda, and El Salvador. Facebook

Please do your best this holiday season to give as much as you can to these great charities! You'll be glad you did!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Radio Radio

This week I had the distinct pleasure of joining Scott, Sarah, and Brian Zygo on this week's Winning Ugly Radio Episode 52: "Bluth's Frozen Banana Stand @ St. James' Park" It's a soccer show, with comedy. It's a comedy show about soccer. Do check it out, won't you?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Viva La Internet Radio


I'm fortunate enough to join The MLS Show once again to wrap up the Red Bulls' 5-0 season ending victory over Toronto FC. Give us a listen, won't you?

Friday, October 23, 2009

This is The End, My Friend

The 2009 New York Red Bulls season, and the team's 14-year stay at Giants Stadium, will end just after 9:30pm ET tomorrow night. It's fitting that tomorrow's match, versus playoff hopeful Toronto FC, will be played on a wet, slick, artificial surface covered with football lines.

While Giants Stadium has hosted plenty of meaningful soccer matches in its day, the third-class treatment that the NJ Stadium and Entertainment Authority has shown the MetroStars/Red Bulls since 1996 will be encapsulated in Saturday's 90 minutes. Parking customers will be gouged. Only a handful of concession stands will be open. Security will be surly.

The fans in attendance will hope that the Red Bulls that take the field will show some pride & fight in a season that got away early. New York started the 2009 campaign 0-1-1 in March, and 1-3-1 in both April & May. That pretty much was it. The '08 MLS Cup Finalist has been in 15th (last) position on the league table since June 20th, and is winless in five (0-3-2) since interim coach Richie Williams guided the club to two successive wins in late August.

While tomorrow is meaningless for New York, the match means everything to Toronto, which is trying to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in the team's three-year history. TFC has two victories over the Red Bulls this season, both at BMO Field, bizarrely played only nine days apart in June.

The fantastic TFC supporters travel well, and last season brought a large banner announcing "Ooh! The Red Bulls are Shite!" for the Giants Stadium fandom to cast their eyes on. Given the state of the 09 team, the Red Patch Boys' statement was prophetic.

So is it within the realm of reason to expect Red Bull to play spoiler tomorrow? Certainly an appearance by all-time leading scorer Juan Pablo Angel would be an advantage, considering F John Wolyniec is out with season-ending surgery. Hopefully, Toronto will have a case of the giggities and allow a relaxed New York side that's had 10 days off to finish off the season on a positive note.

Is it March 27th yet?

Below is a video from Red Bulls Reader from team practice. At least they're saying the right things...

New York Red Bulls Player Preview: Toronto FC regular season finale from Red Bulls Reader on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Podcast Trifecta

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of contributing to Jason Davis' excellent MatchfitUSA podcast, as well as the SoccerLens podcast. Tonight I join The MLS Show as the Red Bull New York correspondent. Here's a link to the episode.

Horrible News: Davies Injured in Car Accident

Whatever honeymoon the US Men's National Team was enjoying after clinching it's sixth-straight World Cup Finals appearance has ended abruptly.

Last night at 3:15am, forward Charlie Davies was in a car that crashed on the George Washington Parkway in DC. A 22-year old woman in the car was killed in the accident. Davies has been in surgery today for injuries that while not life-threatening, may end the promising forward's career.

Tomorrow night's match with Costa Rica, the final match of the Hexagonal, was to be a celebration of US Soccer's success. Today, a somber pall has fallen over US Soccer fandom. Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Charlie.

Monday, October 05, 2009

MLS Horse Race: Down the Stretch They Come!

There are only twenty days remaining in the 2009 MLS Regular Season, and after this weekend's results, there are only five playoff spots up for grabs. MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield holder Columbus have locked up a return trip to post-season, as has '06 & 07 Cup champ Houston Dynamo and the resurgent Los Angeles Galaxy, returning to the playoffs for the first time in four years.

Eleven tightly-packed clubs are in the running for the five available slots, and the higher up the table, the tighter it gets. Clubs in slots 4-9 (Seattle, Chicago, Chivas, Colorado, New England, And DC United) are separated by a mere six points. Clubs currently on the outside looking in, however (Toronto, Salt Lake, Dallas, and KC), all have three matches remaining to reach the top eight. Only one club, New York, has been eliminated.

A close look at the schedule exposes the sides with the easiest road to the playoffs...

Club (current points, position), Avg pts/remaining opponent, matches remaining, most possible points:
1. TFC (35, 11th), 30.3 pts/remaining opponent, 3 games remaining, 47 points possible
2. RSL (35, 10th), 31,0, 3 gr, 47 pts
3. SEA (41, 4th), 32.5, 3 gr, 50 pts
4. COL (40, 7th), 34.0, 2 gr, 46 pts
5. x-LA (44, 3rd), 35.5, 2 gr, 50 pts
t6. FCD (33, 13th), 36.3, 3 gr, 42 pts
t6. CHV (41, 6th), 36.3, 4 gr, 53 pts
8. x-CMB (46, 1st), 37.3, 3 gr, 55 pts
9. SJ (28, 14th), 38.3, 4 gr, 40 pts
10. DCU (26, 9th), 39.0, 2 gr, 42 pts
11. KC (32, 13th), 39.3, 3 gr, 41 pts
12. CHI (41, 5th), 39.5, 2 gr, 47 pts
13. x-HOU (44, 2nd), 42.5, 2 gr, 50 pts
14. NE (38, 8th), 44.3, 3 gr, 47 pts

Of course, in MLS, a strong stretch run can turn a poor regular season into a playoff success. Here's a look how many points each club has picked in since August 1st:

16 points: x-Columbus (5-2-1), x-Los Angeles (5-3-1), Dallas (5-3-1)
15 points: New England (4-4-3)
14 points: San Jose (4-2-2), Chivas USA (4-3-2)
13 points: Colorado (3-3-4)
12 points: x-Houston (3-3-3), Salt Lake (3-3-3), Seattle (3-4-3), Chicago (3-4-3)
11 points: Kansas City (3-5-2)
9 points: Toronto (2-4-3)
8 points: New York (2-3-2) DC United (2-5-2)

Based on the above analysis, Who will grab five those remaining spots? My prediction: Seattle, Chivas, Salt Lake, New England, and Colorado.

Key Remaining Matches:
Sat 10/17: NE-CHI, RSL-TFC, COL-FCD
Sat 10/24: KC-DC, CMB-NE, RSL-COL

Friday, August 21, 2009

Adios Osorio! Barca Buying New York?

So much for a slow summer Friday.

Earlier today, New York Red Bulls Head Coach Juan Carlos Osorio quit the team with eight matches remaining in the MLS season. Osorio, who joined the club in 2007, took New York to its highest point, the 2008 MLS Cup Final, and it's lowest, a current 16-match winless streak across all competitions.

Osorio went 12-27-13 with New York in his nearly two years with the club. Assistant Head Coach Richie Williams (aka AMBOD: the Ankle Biting Midget of Death) will take over the reigns for the remaning league games. Williams guided the Red Bulls to a 4-3-2 record the last time he was elevated to Head Coach, in 2006 between the Mo Johnston and Bruce Arena eras.

It had been reported that Red Bull management was to relieve Osorio and Sporting Director and US Soccer Hall of Famer Jeff Agoos of their positions when the season ends on Saturday, October 24th.

Barcelona Buying Bulls?

Michael Lewis of BigAppleSoccer.com reports today that famed FC Barcelona, who backed off entering MLS with a South Florida franchise earlier this year, may be interested in buying the Red Bulls from Red Bulls AG in Austria. says Lewis in his "Offside Remarks" column...
Earlier this season, I heard from a good source -- another source than the originating one for this story that the team was for sale. I could not get anyone else to verify it, so I was forced to let it die on the vine, so to speak. Word got out there and rumors surfaced that the team was for sale.

On Thursday night, I spoke to that damn, good impeccable source and he told me the news.

"Barcelona is talking about buying the team," the source said, the team meaning the Red Bulls.
For the many New York fans who have issues cheering for an energy drink, the notion that the altruistic Catalonian Euro Club Champion could own the franchise represents a truly amazing development. Despite Red Bull's insistance that the club is not for sale, these two pieces of good news provides a welcome buzz around the worst summer (and season) in club history.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

DuNord'ing it

I've have the honor of guest blogging Brucio's wonderful Du Nord today. Check it out for coverage of yesterday's US loss at Mexico, a look at the remaining Hexagonal games, and this weekend's MLS sked as well. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer of Soccer Rewind (Part 3 of 3)

For the past two days, The Kin of Fish has recounted this Summer of Soccer, the greatest, most visible season the beautiful game has had in the US, perhaps ever. This week, we've looked at the US Confederations Cup run, and the buzz around David Beckham's return to MLS. Today, with just hours to go before the US Men's National Team tries to get its first win ever at Mexico's Azteca Stadium, we look at the amazing support of Euro Club friendies that ended just last week.

Part 3: Big Clubs, Big Crowds

Despite the rants of the few remaining soccer haters in the national sports media, America is and has been a soccer nation for years. The US is a nation of immigrants, and millions of soccer-loving Americans with digital cable or internet access can watch dozens of top-flight soccer matches from Europe and South America on a weekly basis.

It's those fans than MLS has been trying (mostly unsuccessfully) trying to convert, fans who ignore their local sides in favor of the top flight leagues from overseas. In July and August, those superclubs (Sorry Alexi) once again filled stadiums from coast to coast, putting MLS crowds to shame.

Jul 18th: Seattle WA, Seattle 0-2 Chelsea: 65,289 (sellout)
Jul 19th: Stanford CA, Club America pks 1-1 Chelsea: 31,026
Jul 19th: Carson CA, Los Angeles 2-2 Milan: 27,000 (sellout)
Jul 21st: Pasadena CA, Chelsea 2-0 Inter: 81,244
Jul 22nd: Atlanta, GA, Club America 2-1 Milan: 53,600
Jul 24th: Baltimore MD, Chelsea 2-1 Milan: 71,000 (sellout)
Jul 26th: Foxboro MA, Inter 2-1 Milan: 42,531
Jul 26th: Arlington TX, Chelsea 2-0 Club America: 57,229
Aug 1st: Pasadena CA: Los Angeles 1-2 Barcelona: 93,137
Aug 5th: Seattle WA, Seattle 0-4 Barcelona: 66,848 (sellout)
Aug 7th: Toronto ONT: Toronto FC 1-5 Real Madrid: 22,089 (sellout)
Aug 9th: Landover MD: DC United 0-3 Real Madrid: 72,368

No wonder a non-soccer pal of mine who follows me on Twitter asked, "Is there futbol on every single night?"

What do these sparkling attendances for top-flight soccer clubs tell us? Certainly there's an massive desire to see these sides in the US, regardless of what any mainstream media outlet will tell you. What's less clear is the appetite for supporting teams that many soccer fans view as less-than-major league, on a weekly basis.

Now some franchises (Seattle, Toronto, LA, DC, possibly Salt Lake) have seemingly found the magic formula to bind the teams to their communities and generate sizeable crowds even in adverse weather conditions. Clearly, many clubs like Dallas, New England, Colorado, and my horrendous New York Red Bulls have lost the scent, bordering on irrelevancy in their markets, in many cases ignored by the local sports media that "covers" them.

Now, MLS will never be the NFL. Never. But as the league is negotiating with its players' union over a new collective bargaining agreement, and with all the expansion fee money that's rolled in over the last few years (with more to come), now is the time to raise the salary cap. Signing some decent European or South American talent will be key to attract those... dare I say it... Eurosnobs to kick the MLS tires once again.

In the early days of the league, international stars like Valderrama and Etcheverry, along with the top American players of the day (Ramos, Wynalda, Harkes, Lalas) gave the league instant credibility. In 2009 there are many fewer international stars, and lots of young poorly-paid Yanks looking to impress and move to Europe. Only with an increased investment in the on-field product will MLS successfully leverage the Summer of Soccer league-wide in terms of generating attendance, growing television ratings, and signing more sponsors in this down economy.

And about that match...

Yes, the US has never won at the Azteca, or within Mexican borders. Yes, our boys should have lots of confidence after their Confed Cup performance. Yes, Landon Donovan is in TIP TOP FORM. Still, if you can't breathe, you can't breathe. I'm hoping for a point today, but won't be down if the Yanks lose to Mexico. Two winnable home games (v. El Salvador and Costa Rica) should mean six more points to add to the US' current ten. We're in great position to make our sixth straight World Cup Finals, win, lose, or draw at 4p ET. My prediction: a 1-1 draw, with Dos Santos and Davies finding the net.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer of Soccer Rewind (Part 2 of 3)

In a three-day series ahead of Wednesday's US-Mexico tilt, The Kin of Fish is looking back at this amazing Summer of Soccer. Yesterday we reviewed the US Men's National Team's run to the Confederations Cup Final. Today we look at the biggest story in American Soccer in July... the return of David Beckham to the LA Galaxy.

Part 2: Of Books and Boos: Beckham Returns

What soccer (and American soccer) in particular needs is a little drama, and Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Grant Wahl delivered that drama in spades last month with the release of The Beckham Experiment: How the World's Most Famous Athlete Tried to Conquer America.

The book is like no other in its examination of life inside an MLS club, with all the intrigue, surprise, and humor you'd expect from a television soap opera. Wahl deftly mixes interviews with former Galaxy GM Alexi Lalas, who comes off as a man of vision whose power gets usurped by Team Beckham; Alan Gordon, the embodiement of the struggling underpaid MLS journeyman, trying to stay afloat financially; and Galaxy star Landon Donovan, whose comments questioning Beckham's commitment to the Galaxy created as big a "media firestorm" as any event in MLS history.

The only point of view missing is David Beckham's of course. Wahl states that Beckham's people wanted to be paid for Goldenballs' participation in the project, which may be standard practice in the UK. Beckham himself called the book "unauthorized" during his press conference before his first 2009 MLS match. All in all, The Beckham Experience is a must-read for any fan of MLS, of American Soccer, or of David Beckham. It's the first real major-media look behind the scenes of the hush-hush single-entity league, and Wahl's portrayal of the day-to-day life of MLS players is both enlightening and entertaining.

Of course, the book brought more attention to American soccer and MLS, though Beckham and LA (and a woeful NY squad) drew only 23,000 fans to Giants Stadium on July 16th, his first stateside match. The 2007 and 2008 NY-LA matches drew 66,000 and 44,000 respectively. Beckham-mania certainly seemed reduced in his third MLS go-around, though LA has drawn decent crowds in Kansas City and New England.

It was on July 19th, though, that Becks' relationship with American fandom hit its nadir. Playing in his first home match of the year, Beckham, incensed by the fan group LA Riot Squad's needling, Becks challenged a fan to come down and take him on. When one jumped from the stands to the field, Beckham tried to play it off as if he wanted to shake the fans' hand. The ugly incident made sports television around the world, and exposed the huge rift between the Becks and American fandom. Most fans believe that #23 will only be here until the end of the season before heading back to Europe, no matter how "committed" he says he is to LA for now.

Becks wants desperately to make the 2010 England World Cup Squad, and coach Fabio Capello has stated that Beckham needs to be back playing in Europe by December to even be considered. Sadly, if Becks had waited until after WC 2010 to join MLS, he'd be more authentic in his claim to want to grow American Soccer. He just headed over the pond three years too soon.

What makes Beckham's 2009 run with the Galaxy different, of course, it that for the first time in three seasons the club is actually winning. The Gals had won three straight before Beckham's arrival, and is 2-0-1 in MLS since Becks has been with the squad. In fact, LA is the hottest team in the league right now, and is challenging Houston for the top spot in the West. The Galaxy in great shape to end the club's three-year playoff drought, and could make a run at the title. That'd be the send off Becks, and LA fans, could only dream of.

Tomorrow, I'll take a look at the successful European club friendlies that have taken the US by storm over the past few weeks, and share thoughts on the ultimate match of the Summer of Soccer, the US visiting the Azteca in tomorrow's World Cup Qualifier with Mexico.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer of Soccer Rewind (Part 1 of 3)

By any standards, the Summer of 2009 will go down as one of the most memorable seasons in American Soccer history. Between the US Men's National Team's improbable run to the Confederations' Cup Final, the release of Grant Wahl's The Beckham Experiment" and the re-entry of David Beckham to the LA Galaxy, The Gold Cup, and the massive crowds that have attended top-notch Euro club friendlies, there was more buzz, more visibilty, and more soccer in America in the last few months than any other time is recent memory.

Over the next three days, I'll recap the season that brought soccer highlights and talk to the forefront of America's sports consciousness, which will culminate on Wednesday's afternoon, when Mexico and the US meet in a World Cup Qualifier at the Azteca in Mexico City.

Part 1: The US Makes its Mark on the World Stage

Pundits call the FIFA Confederations Cup the "world's third most important national team tournament" after the World Cup, of course, and the European Championships. For the US Men's National Team, the Confed Cup started horribly, with losses to Italy and Brazil that caused many to wonder if the Yanks truly belonged in a tournament of the Confed Cup's caliber, and whether Bob Bradley was fit to be the US coach.

The June 15th group stage opener vs. defending World Cup champion Italy started reasonably well for the US. The Yanks carried much of the play and had some quality chances before Ricardo Clark was ejected on a straight red card in the 33rd minute. A Donovan pk before halftime gave the US a surprising lead, but NJ native and burgeoning Italian star Giuseppi Rossi took over the match upon entering in the 57th minute. Rossi's two goals added insult to injury as the Yanks folded in the 2nd half and lost 1-3.

The Brazil match three days later did little to instill belief that the Yanks would extend their stay in South Africa past the group statge. The US played frightened and intimidated, and a horrendous giveaway by DeMarcus Beasley led to an end-to-end counterattack and goal by Robinho which put the Yanks in a 2-0 hole. Add another red card by Sacha Kljestan and a second half goal by Brazil, and the US had its collective head down, ready to head home with zero points and a -5 goal differential. Stateside, American pundits and fans had the pitchforks and torches out for Bob Bradley's head.

Say what you want about Bradley, but the US coach was able to remove any negativity from his squad's psyche ahead the Yanks' final group match with African Champ Egypt on June 21st. Needing help from the other group match, The US got goals from Charlie Davies, Michael Bradley, and the struggling Clint Dempsey... and NO red cards. The 3-0 win shocked Egypt, raised eyebrows across the soccer world, and when Brazil routed Italy, advanced the US to the tournament semifinals on the goals-scored tiebreaker.

Tournament broadcaster ESPN began to turn on its hype machine ahead of the US' David v Goliath matchup with European Champion Spain in the semis on June 24th, and with good reason. Spain hadn't lost a match in its last 35 outings, and was on a 14-match win streak. The newly invigorated Bradley created a masterful game plan, with teen phenom Jozy Altidore up top. Altidore's amazing goal off Casillas in the 27th minute not only won him a trip to the EPL, but gave the US the confidence to defend with gusto. Dempsey's punishing goal in the 72nd gave the US the unlikliest of victories against the number one team in the world, and the American Sports press took notice, comparing the win to the 1980 US Hockey "Miracle on Ice."

The Confed Cup final, against Brazil, had the benefit of being scheduled on a Sunday afternoon devoid of other sizeable sporting events in the US. ESPN was relentless in its promotion of the match, using all of its media forms (TV, radio, mobile, web) to attract viewership. On the field, the match was a dream start for the US, with Dempsey scoring early, and Charlie Davies and Landon Donovan executing a picture perfect counterattack to give the Yanks an early 2-0 lead. It'd be hard to imagine the tongue-lashing that the Brazil squad received by coach Dunga at halftime, and the 5-time World Cup champs started the 2nd half on fire, taking less than a minute to halve the US' lead. Brazil poured it on as the game wore on, getting the winner from Lucio just six minutes from time.

In addition to the Yanks' silver medals, Clint Dempsey took home the Bronze Ball awards for his three goals, and Tim Howard won the Gold Gloves award for his stellar play in the Egypt, Spain, and Brazil matches.

Despite the loss, the US' grit earned tons of respect around the soccer world, and viewers, too. the final against Brazil drew a 2.6 rating, translating into nearly 4 million viewers and made the match the most-watched non-World Cup match in ESPN history. SportsCenter presented the match as the number one story of the day, spending 7-8 minutes on match coverage.

The mainstream sports media picked up the story as well. Despite the obligatory "what does it mean?" articles and columns, some of the soccer-hatingest cronies begrudgingly gave US Soccer its props, and noted that perhaps the US was slowly turning on to soccer.

The US team's Confederation Cup performance elevated awareness of the sport among the general sports fan, but getting to the next level took one of the most famous names and faces in the world today.

Tomorrow I'll review Wahl's The Beckham Experiment, and look at the good, the bad, and the ugly (and very ugly) of David Beckham's return to MLS.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Nothing Left to Play For

It's come to this. With last night's humiliating 2-1 home loss to Trinidadian club W Connection, the New York Red Bulls have shot the rest of this horrible 2009 season to smithereens. With nine meaningless league matches to play, the worst season in MLS history will come to a merciful end on Saturday, October 24th against visiting Toronto FC.

To date this year, the Red Bulls have stumbled and bumbled their way to a collective 3-17-5 overall mark, with a 2-15-4 record in league play. The club is currently on a 14-match winless streak, dating back to a 4-1 home win vs. Western Conference cellar-dweller San Jose on May 8th. In fact, two of New York's three wins have come vs. the not-as-bad-as-NY Earthquakes. The other victory came at home vs. RSL in April.

Despite dead-man-walking coach Juan Carlos Osorio's reputation as a defensive coach, the 2009 Red Bulls have given up 2+ goals 52% of the time, and 3+ goals in 30% of matches. Up front, though, the team has been spectactularly woeful. New York has been shut out in almost half of its outings (11 of 25 games), and scored a single goal only seven times as well. That's almost three out of four games with no or one goal. Atrocious.

Who's to blame? Certainly Agoos and Osorio, but for my money the departure of left wing midfielder Dave van den Bergh is most responsible for the team's offensive demise. in 2008, vDB provided quality service to Juan Pablo Angel, was an imposing presence in the box, and started many scoring plays, recording 5 assists. van den Bergh complemented speedy right winger Dane Richards, and helped the club score 42 goals in 30 matches. This year, with two-thirds of the season gone, NY has scored just 24 times in 25 games.

So where does the club go from here? Much has been made about New York's long history of coaching changes (11 in nearly 14 seasons). A recent trip to Austria didn't generate the dismissal of Osorio and Agoos. With a gorgeous new stadium ready for an April 2010 opening, and dwindling attendance in a lost season, what can be done to save this franchise from its' wretchedness? A new coach and GM for sure, but who? New players, but who? Another DP? One thing's for sure. The 2009 Red Bulls have been a failure unlike any its poor fan base have ever seen.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Soccer Media Challenge #342,859

One of the challenges of following the Red Bulls in New York is the mainstream sports media's lack of team coverage. In a down year like this one, compounded with shrinking staffs at the city's daily papers, regular news about NYRB is scarce, and getting scarcer. The New York Times has stopped sending reporters to home matches years ago, choosing to pick up wire reports instead.

Last night's visit by Los Angeles, however, prompted the Gray Lady to send Joshua Robinson, a writer who clearly has no idea about how to write about soccer, to the Stade du Swamp.

In Adam Spangler's recent interview with Grant Wahl, author of The Beckham Experiment, Wahl states:
So often as a journalist covering American soccer, I feel like a business writer. That’s something that is important, but sometimes you really feel like that is more important than just about anything, especially what is taking place on the field. I think the people who read this book will see that it’s about the soccer. It’s about what goes on in the Galaxy locker room and the management of the team from a soccer perspective. The business stuff is important, and it has been tremendously successful, but sometimes we lose sight that it has to be about the sport at some point, you know?
Robinson's story of last night's 3-1 LA victory illustrates Wahl point fantastically. Only one of Robinson's 10-paragraph story mentions any part of the game action. He writes about the Donovan-Beckham kerfluffle. He writes about the boos that Beckham recieved on set pieces and when leaving the match. Robinson does not mention a single Red Bull player, New York's woeful record, or how three of the matches' four goals were scored.

Robinson did mention the attendance for the match: 23,238, and called the number "thin," without mentioning that the 23k represented the largest home crowd the Red Bulls have drawn this miserable season.

In order for this woeful franchise to be visible in New York's crowded sports marketplace, real soccer reporters, like the NY Post's Brian Lewis, have to be given the column inches to describe matches and game play, not just the "business" that happens outside the lines.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cross-Continental Chat

The fantastic folks at SoccerLens invited me to take part in their weekly podcast. Click here to listen to me ramble with host Stephen Darwin on the differences (and they are many) between MLS and the EPL, soccer media in the US and future of the US game...

Friday, April 24, 2009

News Flash: Red Bulls are Not Good

Two goals scored in six matches. Two red cards by newly acquired D Carlos Johnson. Paltry home crowds. In MLS, playoff pushes can start as late as August, but the 2009 edition of the Red Bulls are stinking up the joint, plain and simple. Thankfully the Eastern Conference remains tightly bunched one month into the season. With rival DC coming to the Swamp on Sunday, New York has an opportunity to stop the dreary start to the season. Don't bet on it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sight and Sound

Viva la multimedia from the expanding Kin of Fish empire. First, the gracious MatchFit USA hosted yours truly on his weekly podcast. We shoot the breeze on the US outing vs. El Salvador, RBNY-New England, MLS Marketing, and the upcoming CBA negotiations. A great time and a super blog.

Next, here's a link to photos of my recent tour of Red Bull Arena, a work in progress. Take a gander...

Friday, March 27, 2009

US Soccer: Fishing for Minnows

Left, The Dude Abides, courtesy of the USMNT Blog

It's 2009, and unlike 1997 or 2001, the US is a stone-cold lock to qualify for the World Cup. In those years, the Yanks were maturing, and wins in Central America were something to dream about. Now, as the US guns for its sixth-straight World Cup finals appearance, the Yanks are massive favorites ahead of matches at El Salvador (Saturday, 9:30p et, ESPN2), and in Nashville vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Wednesday, 7:30p, ESPN2).

Should the US pick up wins in both matches, the Yanks' 9 points would put them halfway to clinching a berth with seven qualifying matches to play.

On Saturday, the US gets M Pablo Mastroeni back from suspension, but will be without G Tim Howard (yellow cards). Frankly though, with Guzan, Bocanegra, Oneywu, Ching, Altidore, Bradley, Dempsey, and Donovan, and Kljestan on the roster, our boys could shut out the hosts and put three or four past the Salvadorans, who had to rally to draw Honduras at home in their first Hexagonal match.

This qualifying slog is not about simply qualifying, but gunning for seed that will keep them away from one European power during next summer's finals. With wins in qualifying, and strong showings in this summer's Confederations Cup and Gold Cup, the US just might get there.

Red Bulls Preview: Match #2 vs. Revs

What's to make of New York's opening night crash and burn at Seattle? Is Seattle that good? Are the Red Bulls that awful? The prospects for New York will be brighter once the early-season reinforcements arrive, but tomorrow's prospects against the Revs (7:30p, FSC) seem dicey. New York will be missing six starters for the match: newly signed D Carlos Johnson (with Costa Rica), D Andrew Boyens (with New Zealand) and M Jorge Rojas (with Venezuela) will be on national team duty. M Seth Stammler is still rehabbing, and D Alberto Celades is still awaiting his visa. G Jon Conway continues to sit out his "Jungle Warfare" suspension, so NY will have to continue with backup Danny Cepero, who saved his team from losing by more than three goals last Thursday in Seattle.

Can New England, who won at San Jose last week, continue its strong road play without an injured Taylor Twellman? let's take a deep dive and see:

Position and Recent Form:
New York, 0 pts from 1 match, 7th East, L
New England, 3 pts from 1 match, 3rd East, W

Here's a line-by-line look at Saturday's match:

The New England forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Kenny Mansally and Kheli Dube vs. Kevin Goldthwaite, Mike Petke, Carlos Mendes and Jeremy Hall (and Danny Cepero). Dube got the lone goal in New England victory over the Quakes last week. Mansally is a burner, and will test rookie Hall on the Red Bulls' right side. Goldthwaite got a knock this week in practice, so look for the Revs to test him. Frankly, just about any performance would improve on the traffic-cone imitation that the Red Bulls showed last week. While Cepero had some quality saves vs. the Sounders, he was badly out of position on Fredy Montero's first goal last week. Advantage: New England

New York's attackers vs. the Revolution defense:
Juan Pablo Angel vs. Chris Tierney, Jay Heaps, Darrius Barnes, and Kevin Alston (and Matt Reis). It's no surprise to say that Angel will perform only on the quality of the service provided him. Last week, New York's Rojas couldn't spring Angel. While the largely no-name New England backline is green (Tierney, Barnes, and Alston have nine MLS caps combined), Reis is among the best in the league, and has stymied Angel during the Red Bull's MLS career (only one goal allowed in 317 minutes). Slight Advantage: New England

The Midfields:
Dane Richards, Luke Sassano, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Juan Pietravallo and Khano Smith, vs. Wells Thompson, Shalrie Joseph, Jeff Larentowicz, and Sainey Nyassi. New York will miss Rojas, but be bouyed by the addition of longtime Rev Smith, who will add speed and attempt to hold up Nyassi. Ubiparipovic was far too tentative in the Seattle loss, and will need to step up his agressiveness to succeed in the attacking-mid role. As usual for the Revs, Joseph will dictate the pace. If Pietravallo is unable to handle him, New England will generate plenty of chances. Look for Piet to pick up his first yellow, and maybe his first red of the season. Advantage: New England

The Coaches:
New York's Juan Carlos Osorio rightly told his squad to throw last week's result "in the garbage," but without six starters, even a miracle worker may be hard pressed to deliver a victory. New England's Steve Nicol is an annual Coach of the Year candidate. The challenge will be getting his young defense to play with confidence on Angel. Advantage: New England

Intangibles:
Ah, Red Bulls home openers. From the "Curse of Caricola" in '96 to the '05 monsoon, New York has had a history of poor weather and poorer results when opening the home campaign. Tomorrow's weather calls for a low of 45 degrees and a 90 percent chance of rain. So much for a sizeable crowd. Revs supporters always travel well and make lots of noise at the Swamp. Both these teams play on turf, so any home field advantage may be negated. Advantage: Push

Prediction: New York will be hard pressed to deliver a win at home, but hopefully will exert a significant effort in trying to hold the Revs to a draw. Angel opens his account, but Joseph and Dube score in a 2-1 New England win.


Props to the Top

Despite the team's poor onfield performance vs. Seattle, RBNY Managing Director Erik Stover deserves huge props for publicly answering questions from his small but rabid fan base. Stover dispassionately dispatches those that would criticize the goofy "running of the bulls" street team promotion, while sharing the club's advertising plan for the year. Stover is engaged, respectful, and competent, something New York has missed in this role over the years (see A. Lalas).

Monday, March 23, 2009

RBNY at The Zone

Though they weren't "in the zone" last Thursday in Seattle, Red Bulls G Danny Cepero, D Mike Petke, and M Khano Smith will meet fans & sign autographs at the ESPNZone in Times Square tonight from 6:30-8p. Last year, Jozy Altidore arrived an hour late for his autograph session. Hopefully these guys will show up tonight, though they didn't at Qwest Field...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pacific Northwest Represent, Represent

With today's announcement that Vancouver, and soon Portland, Oregon will be joining MLS in 2011, the Pacific coast clubs will soon be majority in the league. In two years' time, one-third of the league's 18 teams will be in the Pacific Time zone: Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Chivas USA. Fans in the East can anticipate many a late night watching their clubs play out West.

What will an 18-team MLS look like?

Consider FC Dallas heading Eastward for two nine-team conferences:

East
Chicago
Columbus
DC United
FC Dallas
Kansas City
New England
New York
Philadelphia
Toronto FC

West
Colorado
Chivas USA
Houston
Los Angeles
Portland
Real Salt Lake
San Jose
Seattle
Vancouver

Pity St. Louis, who had tried valiantly to shore up their finances over the last year, including added Albert Pujols and Anhueser-Busch to the fold. One would think St. Loo will be a lock for club #19, should that happen for 2012, as Don Garber hinted in today's Vancouver press conference.

Friday, February 13, 2009

ESPN Hates Soccer?

One has to wonder after this thoughtful look at the challenges and efforts behind integrating Hispanics into the US National Team and MLS. Is that Lockhart Stadium I see?:



Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dos A Cero, Un Otra Vez

Michael Bradley, only 21 years old, was the star of the US effort last night in yet another 2-0 victory against Mexico in Columbus. After one round of CONCACAF Qualifying, the US is tied with Costa Rica, a 2-0 winner over Honduras. El Salvador and Trinidad are tied with a single point after the two nations played to a 2-2 draw.

Here's some post-game reaction from Bradley, Landon Donovan, Carlos Bocanegra, and Tim Howard:

Friday, February 06, 2009

La Guerra Not-So-Fria and Other News

With five days to go before the US-Mexico World Cup Qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, Old Man Winter looks to be a fan of El Tri. The forecast low for the day is a spring-like 47 degrees, which would make the so-called "cold war" a downright balmy. With a fifty percent chance of rain, the match won't look anything like the Yanks' 2-0 win v. Mexico on Feb 18, 2001, a bone-dry winter night in the same venue when the kickoff temperature was chilling 29.

Without right back Steve Cherundolo, Bob Bradley will likely trot out ageless wonder and hometown Crew favorite Frankie Hejduk. With Hejduk, the US will gain tireless runner and a threat to join the attack up the wing, but "dude" has a penchant for getting beaten, and giving up hurtful fouls around the box. Hejduk gives his thoughts on Mexico in this US Soccer video:



On the bench behind Hejduk will be the maturing former Metro Marvell Wynne and his superlative catch-up speed.

There's lots going on the US soccer universe besides the monumental tilt, though.

Beckham seems set to leave the Galaxy and MLS
It's hard to see any upside for MLS on this one. Becks has been playing extremely well on loan in the pressure-cooker environment of Milan, resurrecting his career after 18 so-so months with the Galaxy. The question is: Just how much downside will the league suffer? Certainly ticket sales will drop across MLS as the Beckham drew large crowds everywhere the Galaxy played. In New York, LA's 2007 visit drew 50,000 more than the Red Bulls' average attendance that year, the 2008 match drew 33,000 above New York's average crowd. Galaxy season ticket renewals and home attendance will certainly drop. National television ratings were minute even with Beckham, so expect little change there. National sports media pickup (read: SportsCenter) will remain close to the zero exposure MLS currently commands. This and other blogs noted that MLS didn't need to be "saved" by Beckham upon his arrival two years ago, and the league will be just fine without him. After all, it's not as if LA tore up MLS with Beckham on the field. Arrivaderci.

MLS Preseason in Full Swing
There's less than six weeks until New York kicks off the 2009 season vs. Seattle and Qwest Field. The Red Bulls are currently training in Bradenton, FL, though top scorer Juan Pablo Angel didn't make the trip. JPA got a free pass from the coaching staff to stay in the frigid northeast, but what will allowing the highest-paid Red Bull to skip training trips like this do for team unity? Playing with a squad of roster invitees, New York kicked off the preseason with an 0-1 loss to the US Under-17 team. Bleh.

MLS Extra Time's Lalas and Messing take a look at NY's 2009 outlook here:


Yanks to Play Trinidad in Nashville on April 1st
After the Mexico match, and a trip to El Salvador, the Fed has chosen LP Field in Nashville, TN, home of the NFL's Titans, as the site of the Yanks April 1st match against Trinidad. The decision has angered some, who see MLS' soccer-specific sites as the only venues that should host these important World Cup qualifiers. The fact is, over the last four qualifying cycles, reaching the World Cup through the CONCACAF region has proven a lock for the US. Save Mexico and Costa Rica, and bad luck or injuries, the Yanks won't be challenged in their quest to play in their sixth straight World Cup Finals.

Frankly, the savvy midwestern, northeastern, and west coast soccer crowds just can't get jacked up for Trinidad, which lost to the US 0-3 in the Semifinal round at a half-filled Toyota Park outside Chicago. The Nashville match will draw US fans from Atlanta, the Carolinas, St. Louis an even Chicago for the Wednesday night match. Will the locals gets excited for some futbol in SEC country? We'll see.

US and Nike Encourage Fans to Wear Red at Mexico Match
Since its formation in the mid-1990's Sam's Army, the unofficial US Soccer fan club, has worn red to matches to: a) distinguish itself from more casual fans of the team, b) foster a sense of unity among its members, and c) attempt to provide a more rabid atmosphere for the US team. Over the years, though, the folks behind Sam's Army have been less visible in their attempt to unify fan support. US Soccer and Nike have jumped on the red bandwagon, asking it all of its fans to wear red to the Mexico match.

Recently other fan groups have formed, favoring other colors. These groups are no less fervent than Sam's Army in their desire to support the team, but are clear in their desire to establish a different identity. Fan support takes all kinds of people, efforts, and colors. However, to truly create an imposing fan presence and atmophere, all US supporters in Columbus should sport their red to the match. As the motto reads: E Pluribus Unum: Out of many, one.

Du Nord Takes A Much-deserved Break
Come back soon, old friend.

Friday, January 23, 2009

So, How Was Your Offseason?

The opening of rookie training camps this week marks the end of the MLS offseason, one of the shortest in pro sports. It was only November 23 when Columbus ended New York's dream postseason run in the MLS Cup, and it was yesterday (January 22nd) when members of the Red Bulls took to the Giants Stadium practice bubble.

Not that the two-month break was without news both positive and negative within and outside the American soccer world...

Landon es en Fuego: Donovan, on loan with German giants Bayern Munich, has ripped four goals in five pre-season appearances.

The Skinny: We all know than when Landon is engaged, he's the most gifted player the US has ever produced. His desire for new challenges has ignited the fire within him, and Donovan hopes to make his stift to the Bundesliga permanent by making a loaded "original" FC Hollywood squad. Given his torrid pace, look for BM boss Jurgen Klinsmann to shell out millions to MLS for a permanent transfer. Where that leaves Donovan's LA Galaxy team is out of the playoffs for a third straight season... even if Beckham returns from Milan.

Red Bull Arena opening pushed to 2010: RBNY honcho Erik Stover announced yesterday that the long awaited Red Bull Arena won't open this season as hoped.

The Skinny: Despite the threat of mass suicide from the Red Bull faithful, the delay will benefit the project in the long run. The town of Harrison still has massive improvements to make to the area surrounding the stadium, which is coming together at a good pace. By pegging an opening day to the calendar in fourteen months' time, Red Bull is removing the drama surrounding a possible Fall '09 opening date. By April 2010, the stadium, the parking deck, and a lot of the Riverbend District will be ready to handle 25,000 screaming soccer fans. Rushing the completion would have let to countless complaints from long-suffering fans that have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting since 2000 for a home for the team.

Seattle Taking Shape: Seattle Sounders FC selected lethal college striker Steve Zakuani with the first pick of the Superdraft, and has Seattle buzzing.

The Skinny: Much has been written about the pall over Seattle's sports scene, but the Sounders, with their 19,000 member season ticket base, championship coach (Sigi Schmid), hometown hero (Kasey Keller), European vet (Freddie Ljungberg), and celebrity owner (Drew Carey), are ready to be the story of the 2009 season.

US vs. Sweden: A largely untested Yank squad will face Sweden this Saturday (8:30p ET, FSC, Home Depot Center), only two weeks before the Hexagonal begins vs. Mexico.

The Skinny: Will any of this Saturday's starters take the pitch against El Tri on February 11th? Brian Ching, our "non-scoring forward" will certainly get playing time, and Kenny Cooper will hope to push himself towards a bench option for 2/11, but the match is key for Rico Clark, Sascha Kljestan, and Robbie Rogers to show they're ready for full-time National Team status. Clark is key as Pablo Mastroeni must miss the Mexico match due to red cards. Bornstein and Wynne are hoping to raise their stock as well. The unheralded keepers for Sunday are playing for spot #3 behind Howard and Guzan.

Mexico Ailing as Guerra Fria II Looms : El Tri will be without Andres Guardado of Deportivo La Coruna (ruptured tendon), Carlos Vela of Arsenal (red cards) and possibly iconic defender Rafa Marquez of Barcelona (leg) for the big match in Columbus in three weeks' time.

The Skinny: Will the roster omissions make Mexico more or less dangerous? The stats bely the truth: the US hasn't lost to Mexico at home this decade. With a relatively healthy roster, an in-form Donovan and Howard, it's hard to imagine Mexico taking three points on what will be a chilly night in a raucous Crew Stadium. If this rivalry is to be a true one, however, the bad guys will have to win one of these sometime. Dos a Cero por la EEUU, anyone?

Expansion 2011 is Down to Five Cities: After Montreal backpedaled out the expansion race on MLS Cup weekend, Arthur Blank has halted Atlanta's bid, leaving five cities for two teams.

The Skinny: With only Miami, Portland, Ottawa, St. Louis, and Vancouver remaining in the race for clubs 17 and 18, Barcelona's South Florida bid looks the best, as the Catlalonians may be immune from the global economic downturn. Portland and St. Louis will battle for the final spot, though St. Loo still needs to shore up its cash position. Vancouver's stadium situation is still iffy, and Ottawa is the long shot. Apparently, the Canadian Capital's presentation "blew the MLS brass away," but is Ottawa a big enough market for the league?

ESPN2 Drops "Primetime MLS Thursday" in favor of a "Game of the Week" approach on various days

The Skinny: Thursday nights weren't the best night for appointment viewing for MLS fans, and shots of half-empty stadiums on weeknights didn't help the league's image. With almost half the 2009 MLS Primetime matches to be scheduled for Friday or Saturday nights, the fan passion on nationally televised games will shine a little brighter.