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.

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