Thursday, December 14, 2006

Silly Season

Step right up! Step right up and guess who'll be on the Red Bulls' 2007 roster! Take a guess! It don't cost nothing!

We're only two weeks away from the opening of the European transfer window, when Sporting Director Bruce Arena will begin to spend Herr Mateshitz's dollars on talent designed to pack the swamp come tax day vs. the Moo Cows. Who'll be the lucky enlistee to the Taurine Army? If you believe anything you read, here are some of the names being bandied about (thanks to Metrofanatic):

Nedved (!)
de la Pena

With two Desginated Player slots available, Red Bull fans should expect nothing less than a BIG name. Two even. After all, since Arena arrived, all we've been hearing is "it's all about next year." Well next year is almost here, and after eleven mediocre seasons, a hefty chunk of salary cap to spend, and the trade of club MVP Guevara, New York fans should finally, FINALLY get a superstar (pardons to Mr. Matthaeus). Make our day.

Of course, adding a superstar won't create team chemistry. The current roster is without these ten 2006 Red Bulls:

*Edson Buddle (trade w/Toronto)
*Youri Djorkaeff (retired)
Jordan Cila (retired)

*Amado Guevara (trade w/Chivas)
*Chris Henderson (waived)
*Danny O'Rourke (Expansion Draft)
Peter Canero (waived)
Mark Lisi (retired)

Steve Jolley (waived)

*Tony Meola (waived)
*2006 starter

If history has proven anything, to be successful in the NY market, the Red Bulls must be quick out of the gate. Another 1-1-6 start won't provide much buzz in the market, so Arena must get his stars signed early, and have the majority of the roster complete when training camp starts in late January. Arena's strength is building a cohesive team, so here's to hoping he and his mighty band of UVA alums can get the job done.

RIP Lamar Hunt, and thanks for what you gave us.

Tee hee, Club America. The Red Bulls only lost to Barca by three goals!

Go get 'em, Bob Bradley. Here's to hoping you're on the bench in South Africa in 2010.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Fun in Frisco

Due to internet gremlins (It's not a dump truck, you know), MLS fans were unable to access Don Garber's State of the League Address live from Frisco, Texas, the site of MLS Cup 2006. That didn't stop MLS Radio from bringing us the highlights, courtesy of some BBC Sports hack who's stuck in North Texas covering Sunday's sold-out Revs-Dynamo clash.

The second-hand (now third-hand) news concerning MLS 2007:

-Toronto FC will play in the Eastern Conference
-8 clubs will still make the MLS Cup Playoffs, the top two clubs from each conference and the next best four clubs in the standings, regardless of conference
-Each club will play 30 league matches, down from 32
-A midweek MLS/MFL "Champions League" tournament will kickoff
-There will be "new international players"
-For the first time, a majority of MLS clubs (CHI, CHV, CMB, COL, FCD, LAG, TFC) will play in soccer-specific stadiums
-Expansion candidates include Atlanta, Cleveland, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, Rochester, San Diego, San Jose, St. Louis, and Seattle (I guess Des Moines and Walla Walla, Washington didn't make the cut)

Neither Landon Donovan or Chris Armas seemed too happy with the new playoff setup in interviews on MLS Radio today. I'm ambivalent. As long as 8 clubs make the playoffs, it's all the same to me.

Of course, the reason everyone's in Frisco is the match, pitting two-time loser New England vs. two-time champion (in a former life) Houston.

Here's New England's lineup:
Heaps, Parkhurst, John
Joseph, Larentowicz, Franchino, Dorman, Riley
Noonan, Twellman

Here's Houston's:
Barrett, Robinson, Cochrane, Waibel
Serioux, De Rosario, Davis, Mullan
Dalglish, Ching

I'm not going to dig in too deep on the individual matchups, but on a personal level (and as an Eastern guy) I'd like to see New England finally break through. It would be great to see Steve Ralston, Dempsey/Noonan/Twellman and BU grad Dorman pick up rings.

Orange-clad Houston fans should rock the Deep Dish, but the Dynamo will be hurting from the void left by suspended former Metro Rico Clark. Look for the Deuce to come on late to score the game-winner in a classic. The prediction: 3-2 Revs.

Red Bulls Postmortem
I could not have been prouder than the effort put forward by the Red Bulls in their season-ending 1-1 draw in DC on Sunday, October 29th. For most of the game, New York was clearly the better squad. Amado Guevara was on top of his game, and had Jozy Altidore's 61st minute post-job gone in, New York could have pulled up an historic upset. The match was an upbeat ending to a season gone completely insane. While most of the '06 squad won't return next season, the year did end on a hopeful note, and hope is something NY fans haven't had in a while.

Television Weekend
Enjoy your time in front of the tube (times ET). Enjoy MLS Cup!

9:30am: GER: Bayer Leverkusen-Bayern Munich, GOL
10:00am: ENG: Everton-Aston Villa, FSC
11:30am: GER: Hamburg-Moenchengladbach, GOL
Noon: ENG: Blackburn-Man Utd, FSC
2:00pm: ESP: Atl. Madrid-Villareal, GOL
2:15pm: ENG: Portsmouth-Fulham, FSC
4:00pm: ITA: AC Milan-Roma, GOL
6:00pm: ESP: Valenica-Atl. Bilbao, GOL
6:00pm: MEX: Monterrey-Toluca, GALA
8:00pm: HON: Marathon-Olimpia, GOL
8:00pm: MEX: Chivas-Chiapas, TELEF
10pm: MEX: Necaxa-Veracruz, GALA

SUNDAY, Nov. 12
9:00am: ITA: Lazio-Udinese, FSC
9:00am: ITA: Palermo-Torino, GOL
11:00am: ENG: Arsenal-Liverpool, FSC
11:00am: GER: Hannover-Stuttgart, GOL
1:00pm: ENG: FA Cup: Weymouth-Bury, FSC
1:00pm: ESP: Osasuna-Real Madrid, GOL
1:00pm: MEX: UNAM-Tigres, UNI
3:00pm: ARG: Indpendiente-Racing, FSC
3:00pm: ITA: Parma-Inter Milan, GOL
3:30pm: MLS CUP 2006: Houston-New England, ABC
5:00pm: COL: Ind. Medellin-Dep. Cali, GOL
5:00pm: ITA: Catania-Livorno, FSC
5:00pm: MEX: Club America-Morelia, TELEF
7:00pm: ESP: Racing-Sevilla, GOL

And how about those Rutgers Scarlet Knights! RIP, Ed Bradley.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Carnival of American Soccer #6: Sideshow

Ok, three submissions don't make a full carnival, but perhaps this Carnival of American Soccer can serve as a strong sideshow as we await MLS Cup. Here's the topic, and here are the answers:

First, DCSunDevil of An American's View...

Second, The Manly Ferry of My Very Brain...

and lastly, yours truly. Hope you find this installment fun and interesting, and thanks so for reading and for your comments.

Marketing League Soccer

The Challenge, as posted by yours truly, for the Carnival of American Soccer:

Your commissioner has said that your three target market groups are, in order of priority:

-Youth soccer players and families
-"Core soccer fans"

Without changes to the league structure or season (i.e. single table, no playoffs, etc. etc.), and with a reasonable but not unlimited marketing budget, what will you do to give MLS the "cool factor" that will ensure an attendance increase next season and beyond?

The Solution (MLS/SUM take note):

Yes, MLS will embark on its twelfth season in a scant five and a half months. Preseason camps will start even sooner, in mid-February. Here's my plan to drive more fannies in the seats come April...

On reaching the youth market:
Peter Wilt has the optimal situation with his nascent MLS Milwaukee effort, hard-wiring the local youth market into his new franchise. Of course, real-life MLS clubs can't turn back the clock, but there are many things that can be done.

1. Have local schools "adopt" players. Given the transient nature of MLS rosters, this can be tricky, but giving schools and school districts "ownership" over players create the oh-so-important connection that pushes junior to get Mom and Dad to drive them to the stadium. Substitute youth soccer teams for schools and double your fun. Send weekly updates during the season on how your player is doing. Schedule appearances by the player in gym classes/bake sales/HS and club matches.

2. Development schools. Many MLS clubs (RBNY, DC) do this very well, horning in on the local soccer camp scene and actually turning kids into members of the clubs.

3. Soccer Moms games. Bring your Mom to the game to play against the other soccer moms at halftime. Have some of the younger players serve as ref. Challenge the town next door. Watch the fun ensue.

On reaching the Hispanic market:
As we know, there are many, many groups within this market, although the love for football is nearly a given for all (save Dominicans, some Cubans, Venezuelans).

Speaking from the New York region, the Metros/Red Bulls have usually held heritage nights for the larger Hispanic populations in the area. The national teams of Ecuador and Colombia play at Giants stadium at least once a year, usually drawing around 35,000 fans per game. These fans don't translate into MLS fans. How to convert them?

1. Roster spots. I know MLS rosters (in theory) are put together to win. However, look at the Raul Diaz Arce effect among Salvadorans in the DC area created. Early on in MLS, RDA was good for an extra grand or two in the stands. It has to work for each market and each team, but it certainly couldn't hurt.

2. Club competitions. Why shouldn't the Red Bulls host a quick quadrangular in a bye week each year? Colo Colo, Emelec, Olimpia, and RBNY for a week each summer should do extra to highlight the skill and quality of the MLS boys, and may win over a few to a demanding public. Yes, the schedule's crowded. Make it happen.

3. Passion. Reaching out to Hispanic fans through a special socio a la Chivas USA could go a long way toward building loyalty for the local side.

On the "core-soccer" market:
This has been traditionally been the toughest to reach. As we know, fans of the Euro or SA game have their pick of matches each weekend to watch, and stay away from MLS in droves. Here we go:

1. Bar Nights. Bring those Red Bull Girls (and players, those old enough to drink) out at least one night/week with some tickets & merch. Raffle off front-row seats, a visit to a training session, jerseys.

2. Live the Dream. Some MLS clubs are trying to sell in-season "fantasy camps" for four-digit prices. I'm not sure how these are doing, but reaching out to soccer hotbeds (park leagues) and giving these away, or raffling them off offers access to MLS clubs that are nothing like eurosnobs can get back home.

3. Meet the Marquee. I'm choosing to believe the hype about the big names heading to MLS in the next few years. Make sure that these guys earn their vacation in the US by getting them out in the soccer community, commando-style, popping up in places you wouldn't ordinarily see them. Attract crowds. Want to meet Figo? Buy tickets here!

Baby steps, yes, but with a little bit of effort, MLS can effectively raise the attendance bar. Go get 'em, kids.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Heaping Bowl of Pessimism

Friends, here are a Starting XI-ful of reasons why the roller-coaster Red Bulls' season will end at DCU this Sunday. (6pm, ESPN2)...

XI: The only playoff series win in Metro history was clinched on the road at Dallas (Mathis scored two to beat the Burn on 9/20/00). The Metros have been eliminated by DC United twice, in 1996 and in 2004.

X: The Red Bulls have a single road win this season, a 2-0 decision July 19th at Columbus. DC is a little better than the Crew.

IX: That win at Columbus was one of only two matches this season that RBNY won by more than one goal (the other was the 6-0 shellacking of RSL on August 26th).

VIII: DC had a +9 goal differential at RFK this season, NY had a -7 on the road.

VII: DC's two active leading scorers (Gomez, Moreno) had 25 tallies between them this season, NY's (Guevara, Stammler!) had 13.

VI: DC's Bobby Boswell just appeared in Cosmo. NY's Seth Stammler just appeared in Maxim. (Advantage NY, methinks).

V: DC has never lost a playoff series or championship game to a team not named the Chicago Fire.

IV: DC did not give their best effort of the season last week in NJ and still won. They'll be even tougher with a large home crowd behind them.

III: The NY Coaching Staff is chock full of former DC players and coaches: Arena, Harkes, Williams, and Agoos. The only United player with NY experience is Jaime Moreno, who spent one disappointing season in the Swamp.

II: NY needs a win. The Red Bulls had 9 in 32 matches this season. DC only needs a tie. United got at least a tie in 25 of 32 games this season.

I: DC is a club with Supporters Shields, MLS Cups, US Open Cups, InterAmerican Cups, etc. etc.. NY has that La Manga Cup from a few years' back. Hmm.

Prediction: DC 2, NY 1: DC wins series, 3-1 on aggregate.

Here are your soccer television selections for the weekend, times ET. Don't forget to change your clocks (and the batteries in your smoke alarms) on Saturday night before you hit the sack. Have a great weekend.

Saturday, October 28th:
9:30am: GER: Bayern Munich-Eintracht Frankfurt, GOL
10:00am: ENG: Liverpool-Aston Villa, FSC
12noon: ENG: Newcastle-Charlton, FSC
12noon: ITA: Udinese-Roma, GOL
2:15pm: ENG: Watford-Tottenham, FSC
2:30pm: ITA: AC Milan-Inter Milan, GOL
4:30pm: ESP: Gimnastic-Real Madrid, GOL
6:30pm: BRA: Fluminese-Gremio, GOL
7:30pm: MLS: New England-Chicago, DK, FSC, HDNet
8:00pm: MEX: Chivas-Atlas, TELEF
8:30pm: MLS: FC Dallas-Colorado, DK
8:30pm: COL: Millonarios-Bucramanga, GOL
10:00pm: MEX: Necaxa-Tigres, GALA
12mid: MEX: Monterrey-Veracruz, GALA

Sunday, October 29th
9:00am: ITA: Lazio-Reggina, FSC
9:00am: ITA: Fiorentina-Palermo, FSC
11:00pm: ENG: West Ham-Blackburn, FSC
11:00pm: GER: Stuttgart-Schalke, GOL
1:00pm: ITA: Cagliari-Sampdoria, FSC
1:00pm: MEX: UNAM-Morelia, UNI
3:00pm: ARG: Indpendiente-River Plate, FSC
3:00pm: ESP: Atletico Madrid-Real Zaragoza, GOL
5:00pm: GUA: Municipal-Comunicaciones, GOL
6:00pm: MLS: DC United-New York, ESPN2
7:00pm: COL: Quindio-Atletico Nacional, GOL
8:00pm: MLS: Houston-Chivas USA, DK, FSC, HDNet

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Scary Good

BASAs Chairman and MLS highlight video creator extraordinaire scaryice of Climbing the Ladder has created 2006 top-ten goal videos for each MLS club. Here's the Red Bulls version:

Scary is single-handedly helping MLS grow, providing league-oriented content that the league...well, doesn't. Way to go, ice.

Carnival of Soccer #6: Getting Butts in the Seats

Taking the reins from Jeff Bull over at It's a Simple Game, I'm here today to invite soccer bloggers one and all to take part in the Sixth and latest installment of the Carnival of American Soccer!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is as follows:

You've just been handed the plum position of MLS Marketing Director. MLS regular attendance (as I'm sure you know) reached its peak in the launch year of 1996. Since 2000, attendance has been relatively flat (thanks, Kenn):

2000: 13,756
2001: 14,961
2002: 15,821
2003: 14,898
2004: 15,559
2005: 15,108
2006: 15,502

Many of the tickets that your clubs sell or distribute go unused, creating unfilled stadiums that don't look so good during national TV broadcasts, which will increase next year with new ESPN and Univision contracts. The growing number of intimate, soccer-specific stadiums, has not produced a significant attendance boost.

Your commissioner has said that your three target market groups are, in order of priority:
-Youth soccer players and families
-"Core soccer fans"

Without changes to the league structure or season (i.e. single table, no playoffs, etc. etc.), and with a reasonable but not unlimited marketing budget, what will you do to give MLS the "cool factor" that will ensure an attendance increase next season and beyond?

Being the benevolent carny that I am, I'm giving you until Monday, November 6th to have your submission ready. Maybe a brave soul who'll be attending the Supporters Summit in Frisco can deliver our rantings to the MLS brass there. Can't wait to see what we come up with.

Monday, October 23, 2006

MLS Cup Ticket Info

Considering making the pilgrimage to Frisco for MLS Cup in three weeks' time?

Call Evan Mitz in the FCD front office. He'll attend to all your ticketing needs, and provide you priority seating, even.

You can reach him at 214-705-6752 or through the magic of the interweb at You'll be glad you did.

Information about this year's Supporters Summit, hosted by FC Dallas supporters' group The Inferno can be found here.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Playoff Preview: NY/DC Game 1

After the most turbulent season in Metros/Red Bulls history (and that's really saying something), New York is gearing up to face the foe of foes in DC United in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs starting tomorrow at Giants Stadium (2pm, FSNY, DK).

While Red Bulls' Head Coach Bruce Arena says plays down any notion of rivalry, DC is at the top of many NY fans' hate list. I mean, would NY fans get as torqued up for Columbus? Doubtful.

It's been a strange season for MLS' most successful franchise. United stampeded their way through the first twenty games of the season with a staggering 13-1-6 record, including a fourteen-match unbeaten streak and a six-match win streak. After building a hefty distance from their Eastern Conference rivals, however, United suffered from a significant lack of focus, finishing the regular season on a 2-6-4 streak and three straight losses since September 30th. DC's Coach Nowak faces a challenge similar to many regular-season champions... how to push the intensity button after a long stretch of meaningless games.

New York's Arena has said that he views the two-game series as little more than "practice" for next season, which doesn't do much for fans that have watched their club win a single playoff series (vs. Dallas in 2000) since the league's inception. As you surely know the Red Bulls eked out a playoff berth in the season's final match for the second consecutive year. This year's NY team started out 0-1-5 before hitting the win column on May 20th vs. Chivas. Though NY finished the regular season on a three-match unbeaten streak, the Red Bulls played their best stretch in July under then-interim and current assistant coach Richie Willams (3-0-0 with three shutouts).

DC easily handled New York this season, finishing 2-0-2 with +4 goal difference. Here's a breakdown of tomorrow's key matchups.

The DC forwards vs. The Red Bulls' back line:
Jaime Moreno and Freddy Adu vs. Todd Dunivant, Carlos Mendes, Jeff Parke, and Marvell Wynne (and Jon Conway). It's hard to believe that Moreno, an 11-year MLS vet, is only 32 years old. Moreno's 11 goals puts him only behind midfielder Chrisitan Gomez on the club's '06 scoring chart. The Bolivian's 10 assists prove he's lethal: an unselfish goal scorer. While Adu started 29 of United's 32 matches this season, his two goals and eight assists note that the youngster still has a long way to go. The NY defense has been strong of late, though the Wizards made Conway & company look awful on KC's first goal last week. Still, they've allowed only one goal per game since allowing four at DC on September 23rd. Advantage: DC

New York's attackers vs. The United defense:
Youri Djorkaeff and Jozy Altidore vs. Brian Namoff, Bobby Boswell, and Facundo Erpen (and Troy Perkins). Youri certainly offered less in terms of on the field production (2G/4A) for the Red Bulls as the season moved along, certainly less than he did during the 2005 campaign. Tomorrow will hopefully be the first of many playoff games for Altidore, who has been the shining light of the Red Bulls this season. DC has allowed nine goals in its last four MLS matches, not the kind of momentum a team want heading into the playoffs. Erpen, with his silly name and three goals, is a scoring threat moving forward. Advantage: Push

The Midfielders:
New York's Chris Henderson, Amado Guevara, Danny O'Rourke, and Dema Kovalenko vs. DC's Josh Gros, Ben Olsen, Christian Gomez, Brian Carroll, and Matias Donnet. It can be argued that no two midfielders are as important to their respective teams' success that DC's Gomez and NY's Guevara (who is in top form with a hat trick last week). The two have combined for 22 goals and 16 assists this season. Assuming the two stars negate each other, the supporting casts offer lots of MLS experience (902 MLS regular-season appearances between them). DC's newcomer Donnet, however, may provide the difference. Expect lots of hard challenges on the Swamp's fieldturf, especially from Kovalenko and Carroll. Advantage: Push

The Coaches:
Bruce Arena vs. Peter Nowak. What a strange matchup. One coach needs to suddenly elevate his talented club's effort. The other has said publicly that these games are auditions for next year. Weird. Advantage: DC

The oddity that is the MLS playoff setup sends the higher-ranked club on the road for Game One. MLS playoff games are usually poorly attended, with so little advance warning to sell playoff tickets. Of course, the Eskandarian family of Montvale will be well represented, cheering as usual for their boy who'll start on the DC bench. I'm sure DC fans will be in healthy number and voice as usual. Advantage: (Sadly) leaning to DC

The Prediction:
To paraphrase Winston Zeddmore, DC "has the tools, has the talent," to beat the Red Bulls. They haven't lost to them all year. If Guevara displays the form he has this month, though, New York has a chance. Given the Red Bulls' sorry 1-8-7 road record, they must win tomorrow to have a shot at advancing. I don't see it. DC wins, 1-0.

Here what's on the tube this weekend. (times et).

9:30am: GER: Werder Bremen-Bayern Munich, GOL
10:00am: ENG: Everton-Sheffield Utd., FSC
11:30am: GER: Wolfsburg-Stuttgart, GOL
12noon: ENG: Aston Villa-Fulham, FSC
2:00pm: MLS: New York-DC United, FSNY, DK, HDNet
2:00pm: ESP: Real Zaragoza-Betis, GOL
2:30pm: ITA: Cagliari-Torino, FSC
4:00pm: MEX: San Luis, GALA
4:00pm: ESP: Dep. Coruna-Atl. Madrid, GOL
6:00pm: BRA: Santos-Figueirense, GOL
8:00pm: MEX: Tigres-Chivas, TELEF
8:30pm: COL: Ind. Santa Fe-Cucuta, GOL
9:00pm: MLS: Colorado-FC Dallas, FSC
10:00pm: MEX: Atlas-Monterrey, GALA
10:30pm: ITA: Messina-Empoli, GOL

SUNDAY, Oct. 28
9:00am: ITA: Catania-Lazio, FSC
9:00am: ITA: Udinese-Inter Milan, GOL
11:00am: ENG: Reading-Arsenal, FSC
11:00am: ESP: Valencia-Osasuna, GOL
1:00pm: MLS: Chicago-New England, ABC
1:00pm: ENG: Tottenham-West Ham, FSC
1:00pm: UNI: Toluca-Santos, UNI
3:00pm: ARG: Racing-Boca Juniors, FSC
3:00pm: ITA: AC Milan-Palermo, GOL
4:00pm: MLS: Chivas USA-Houston, ESPN2
5:00pm: MEX: Club America-Toluca, TELEF
7:00pm: COL: Atl. Nacional-Pasto, GOL

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Soft Sell

The time: Last evening

The place: The posh Hilton at Short Hills,NJ, approximately 20 miles from Manhattan

The occasion: A meet-and-greet between MLS, AEG, and Red Bulls brass and prospective Red Bull Park suite buyers and sponsors

In attendance: MLS Commissioner Don Garber, AEG President and CEO Tim Lieweke, AEG NY President Nick Sakiewicz, various SUM/MLS and AEG staffers...and yours truly

I had a chance to press the flesh last night with some of the big names around the league at an event used to get some of the monied NJ gentry to pony up for Red Bull Park luxury suites.

Here are some tasty learnings:

-Lieweke: "If Red Bull Park is ready on time (July 2008), Chelsea will help christen the stadium."
-Don't be surprised to see a single table next season
-Univision matches will be Sunday night affairs
-Don't be surprised to see Figo in an MLS uniform next season (as reported by the always wonderful Metrofanatic)
-The Rapids' stadium rights naming announcement is imminent
-Kraft may be getting serious about his own SSS for the Revs
-Team Services, which was a league-office group dedicated to helping clubs build promotions and sell tickets will soon be reinstated. The group was discontinued in the great contraction of 2001. This should be a huge boon to markets where ticket sales have been slumping.

Following up on Trecker's recent article concerning marketing to adult fans, I had a lengthy conversation with two SUM guys. I asked them, given Garber's three target markets (Youth, Hispanic, Core Soccer), what type of serious effort whould be given to attract the adult MLS fan, the fan that wants to go to the game with a bunch of buddies and knock back some beers. The response, which disheartened me was (paraphrasing) "It's easier to get families into the no-alcohol sections that it is the other way around." (Sigh).

UPDATE/ONE MORE THING: In light of the field quality problems at the HDC since the facility opened, I asked an AEG exec about the issue of "overuse" at Red Bull Park. I was told that the partnership with Red Bull, and the physical limitations of Harrison, should prevent events like the X-Games at RBP. There certainly will be a slate of non-soccer events, but they should take it easier on the playing surface (which will be heated) than those held at Carson.

I'll have thoughts on NY-DC tomorrow. Let's go Mets.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Un Partido Grande

The Rumble in East Rutherford. The Fight for the Right to Party. For All the Marbles. Loser Goes Home. One and Done, etc. etc. etc. Yes, tomorrow's night's Red Bulls-Kansas City Wizards regular season finale at a chilly Giants stadium is a de facto playoff game, though a draw puts KC through. For the second straight season, NY has waited for the season's final match to determine its playoff fate. Tomorrow night could also be Youri Djorkaeff's final MLS match, and inactive Eddie Johnson's last night as a Wizard.

FSNYs airing of the game on a 2 1/2 hr tape delay will hopefully prod New York-area soccer fans to get their butts to the swamp. To the winner, a first-round date with a talented but slumping DC United side that is 1-3-2 since September 1st.

Here's how I see things breaking down:

The Kansas City forwards vs. The Red Bulls' back line:
Scott Sealy, Josh Wolff, and Dave van den Bergh vs. Jeff Parke, Marvell Wynne, Carlos Mendes, and Todd Dunivant (and Jon Conway). Sealy has paced the Wizards this season with nine of the club's forty-one goals. Dutchman van den Bergh has two goals in his first twelve MLS matches. Wolff has had a sub-par year. KC's offense has been clicking of late, scoring ten goals in the club's last four matches. New York relied a little too much on keeper Conway late in Colorado last week, though the mile high air played against the Red Bulls. The NY defense has been stingy down the stretch, with just seven goals allowed in the team's last five games, including two shutouts. Advantage: Push

New York's attackers vs. The Wizards' defense:
John Wolyniec and Jozy Altidore vs. Ryan Raybould, Jimmy Conrad, Nick Garcia, and Jose Burciaga, Jr. (and Bo Oshoniyi). Woly and Jozy didn't hit the net last week in Denver, but a home crowd may pump up the ebony and ivory scoring tandem. Arena may consider starting Mike Magee and bringing Wolyniec in late in the game if New York needs a goal. KC has solid veteran defenders, including national teamer Conrad, whose broken jaw is still healing. Rookie Raybould is the one to take advantage of. Advantage: Kansas City

The Midfielders:
New York's Youri Djorkaeff, Amado Guevara, Danny O'Rourke, and Dema Kovalenko vs. Kansas City's Jack Jewsbury, Davy Arnaud, and Sasha Victorine. The midfields will be the difference-makers tomorrow night. Amado is playing extremely well lately, but traditionally has trouble meshing with Djorkaeff, who'll want to do something special in his possibly last night as a Red Bull. Kovalenko provides the X-factor. The Wizard side of the ball offers three skilled veterans that can both start the attack and score. Advantage: New York

The Coaches:
Bruce Arena vs. Brian Bliss. If, as Bruce says, he wants to pass up the allocation and win this game, he should be able to push his team's buttons. Bliss is still learning, but his squad is 2-1-2 in its last five. Advantage: Push

Many NY players know that this could be their final outing with the club. Hopefully fans will brave the cool weather and turn out. Bliss knows new ownership won't look kindly on missing the playoffs. Red Bull knows next year is when the fun really starts. Advantage: Push

The Prediction:
The first goal will be critical. If KC gets scores in the game's first ten minutes, New York will fold. If the Red Bulls score first, it'll be a nail-biter until the end. Aw, heck, the team did it last year on the road. At home, it'll be that much easier. New York wins, 3-1

Here are your television selections for the weekend (times et). Enjoy.

9:30am: GER: Bayern Munich, Hertha Berlin, GOL
10:00am: ENG: Arsenal-Watford, FSC
12noon: ENG: Reading-Chelsea, FSC
2:15pm: ENG: Middlesbrough-Everton, FSC
6:00pm: BRA: Sao Paulo-Juventude, GOL
6:00pm: MEX: Monterrey-Tigres, GALA
7:30pm: MLS: New England-Columbus, DK
: MLS: New York-Kansas City, DK (10pm TD on FSNY)
8:00pm: MEX: Chivas-San Juis, TELEF
8:30pm: MLS: Houston-Colorado, HDNet
8:30pm: COL: Millonarios-Atletico Nacional, GOL
10:00pm: MEX: Necaxa-Morelia, GALA
10:30pm: MLS: Los Angeles-FC Dallas, FSC, DK
12mid: MEX: Atlante-Toluca, GALA

SUNDAY, Oct. 15
9:00am: ITA: Torino-Chievo, FSC
9:00am: ITA: Inter Milan-Catania, GOL
11:00am: ENG: Newcastle-Bolton, FSC
11:00am: ESP: Celta de Vigo-Valencia, GOL
1:00pm: MEX: UNAM-UAG, UNI
3:00pm: ARG: Banfield-River Plate, FSC
5:00pm: MLS: DC United-Chicago, ESPN2
: MLS: Chivas USA-Real Salt Lake, FSC, DK
: COL:
Independiente Medellin vs Deportes Tolima, GOL

Thursday, October 12, 2006

New Colorado Rapids Logo

Shadowy MLS insider Not Doug Logan has produced the new logo and color scheme that the Colorado Rapids will sport next year when they open their new Commerce City stadium. The new "claret and blue" Rapids will nicely mirror KSE's NHL club, the Colorado Avalanche. Note the "SC" for soccer club at the bottom of the logo. Or is it a "96" to denote the team's founding year? Hmm.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What NY Sports Fans Watched 10/7/06

The Red Bulls-Colorado match on MSG pulled a 0.2 in the New York DMA on Saturday, doubling the television rating for NJ Devils and NY Islanders matches on the same day. Here's a sampling of sports ratings, courtesy of the Newark Star-Ledger. In the NY DMA, each ratings point represents 74,000 households.

Saturday, October 7th:
Mets-Dodgers: 14.9
Yankees-Tigers: 12.6
Padres-Cardinals: 2.7
Stanford-Notre Dame: 1.9
Arkansas-Auburn: 1.4
LSU-Florida: 1.1
Texas-Oklahoma: 1.0
Tennessee-Georgia: 1.0
Clemson-Wake Forest: 0.9
Michigan-Michigan State: 0.5
Rangers-Flyers: 0.5
South Carolina-Kentucky: 0.4
NTRA Horse Racing: 0.4
Oregon-California: 0.3
Red Bulls-Rapids: 0.2
Pittsburgh-Syracuse: 0.2
Devils-Stars: 0.1
Islanders-Sharks: 0.1

Some observations:
  • Even though the Mets were in prime time, I'm floored that they drew more than the Yankees
  • I guess horse racing still has an audience
  • There's A LOT of college football on television
  • RBNY should feel good about the interest in the club, now the front office has to get folks off their couches & into the stadium. Harrison can't get here soon enough

Red Bull PR Earns a Brownie Point

Metro is a free daily newspaper hawked on the streets of NYC, Boston, and Philadelphia. Boasting a NY circulation of 300,000, Metro is mean to be read over the course of a subway ride, then dumped (or recycled). In depth it ain't, and its sports section is far from expansive.

So imagine my surprise today to find a nice two-column story and photo on Saturday's key Red Bulls' match vs. Kansas City. Although the piece does identify KC as "the Wiz" and New York's potential first-round playoff opponent as "the DC United," the small story does do a good job framing the team's situation.

If you're so inclined, please write Metro sports editor Dave Kraska at and thank him for the coverage. I did.

Baby steps, people.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sad Day

The entire US Soccer community is saddened today by the loss of former US Assistant and Colorado Rapids Head Coach Glenn "Mooch" Myernick. To learn about the incredible impact that the New Jersey native had on the US game, visit BigAppleSoccer.

On a lighter note, Kristian Dyer and Jason Endres have a terrific interview up on MetroFanatic with former Metro GM and current AEG NY honcho Nick Sakiewicz. Say what you want about Nick, but one wonders if his Metro legacy would have had more shine if the Harrison stadium project became a reality years ago instead of weeks ago.

On a much, much lighter note, the Red Bulls followed my prediction to a T on Saturday in Denver, making Saturday's swamp battle vs. the Wiz a defacto playoff game. Hopefully New York fans will show up for what may be the Red Bulls' season finale, and the return of Marvell Wynne will push NY into the postseason.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Mile High Goodbye

The Red Bulls really showed the 15K+ and the few thousand watching on HDNet something special last week when they upset Chicago to move into playoff position for the first time since August 26th. The fact that I had to wait for days to see Jozy Altidore's game winner on "Red Bulls Insider" on the official team web site was truly asinine, however. By giving HDNet an exclusive broadcast, does the league think that fans will rush out to finally make that HD set purchase just to see the game? Really.

So tomorrow night's match at Denver can provide some breathing room for NY in the playoff quest. A win against the Rapids, combined with a KC home loss to Chivas, would set up a tie-and-in scenario for New York in the season ender vs. the Wizards in the Swamp a week from tomorrow. Here are the current Eastern standings:

Team, Pts, GD, (matches to play)
1. Y - DC United, 55 +16 (2h)
2. X - Chicago, 44, +4 (1h/1a)
3. X - New England, 42, +2 (1h/1a)
4. New York, 35, +0 (1h/1a)
5. Kansas City, 32, -2 (1h/1a)
6. Z -Columbus, 30, -14 (1h/1a)

Here's a breakdown for tomorrow final MLS match at Invesco field:

The Colorado forwards vs. The Red Bulls' back line:
Thiago and Nico vs. Jeff Parke, Seth Stammler, Carlos Mendes, and Todd Dunivant (and Jon Conway). Journeyman Thiago Martins is on his ninth MLS squad (or something). He has a single goal this season. Nico, though, is the real deal up top for Colorado, with seven goals and five assists. The Argentinian is on a five-match scoring drought, though, and Colorado has scored only three goals in its last five games. New York will be missing Marvell Wynne as a result of his two yellows vs. Chicago last week. Utility man Seth Stammler should pick up the slack. The Red Bulls' goalkeeper controversy will only last until the season's end, when future hall-of-famer Tony Meola hangs it up. Advantage: New York

New York's attackers vs. The Rapids' defense:
John Wolyniec and Jozy Altidore vs. Dan Gargan, Aitor Karanka, Mike Petke, and Hunter Freeman (and Joe Cannon). Jozy has become a terrific story in the rollercoaster Red Bulls' season. His teenage legs may prove meaningful in the mile-high air late in the game. Woly hasn't scored since September 3rd. Can't imagine he'll go the full 90. Colorado's D has three shutouts in its last six outings. Mike Petke will always find love in the NY area. I have never heard of Gargan or Karanka, but they sound like Klingons. Yes, I'm a geek. Advantage: Push

The Midfielders:
New York's Chris Henderson, Amado Guevara, Danny O'Rourke, and Dema Kovalenko vs. Colorado's Terry Cooke, Kyle Beckerman, Pablo Mastroeni, and Jacob Peterson. Youth national-teamer Beckerman is tied with Nico for the team league in goals, and first-round draft-pick Peterson has had a good rookie campaign, with two goals and three assists. Cooke has dished out ten assists from his wing position, and Mastro is Mastro. Looking at their midfield, you'd think that the Rapids would have a better record. For NY, Youri is back with the club, but is out with bursitis (the old man). Henderson will attempt to fill in on the wing, but in the end will be an achilles heel for the Red Bulls. Advantage: Colorado.

The Coaches:
Bruce Arena vs. Fernando Clavijo. Last week, the Bruce was able to coax a win from his team last week against an opponent that had nothing to play for. With the Rapids also fighting for a playoff spot, Arena won't have the same luxury two weeks in a row. I have absolutely no opinion of Fernando Clavijo as a coach, just as I have little opinion of the Rapids' team personality. Advantage: Push

The Rapids will say goodbye to its current home ground tomorrow night, which may generate a home crowd... or not. Colorado attracted a whopping 3,800 fans to its last home match on September 13th, which is pathetic, even for their standards. Colorado won't have Clint Mathis, and New York won't have Wynne or Djorkaeff. Advantage: New York

The Prediction:
The Red Bulls don't have to win this game. They can make it easier on themselves by winning, which means of course that they won't. A 1-1 draw.

On The Tube
Euro 2008 quallies cut into league play this weekend... (all times ET):

2:00pm: EURO '08: Denmark - Northern Ireland, FSC
2:00pm: URU: Nacional-Cerrito, GOL
4:00pm: EURO '08: Serbia - Belgium, FSC
4:00pm: EURO '08: Italy-Ukraine, TELEM
4:00pm: MEX: San Luis-Monterrey, GALA
5:00pm: BRA: Fluminese-Sao Paulo, GOL
7:30pm: MLS: DC United - New England, DK
8:00pm: MEX: Tigres-Cruz Azul, GALA
8:30pm: MLS: Kansas City - Chivas USA, DK
8:30pm: MLS: Chicago - Columbus, FSC, DK

8:30pm: MLS: FC Dallas - Los Angeles, HDNet

8:30pm: COL: Junior-Cucta, GOL
9:30pm: MLS: Colorado - New York, DK
10:00pm: MEX: Atlas-Pachuca, TELEF
10:30pm: HON: Marathon-Universidad, GOL

SUNDAY, Oct. 8

1:00pm: MEX: UNAM-Atlante, UNI
1:55pm: USA: WNT vs. Iceland, ESPN2
2:00pm: URU: River-Penarol, GOL
3:00pm: ARG: River Plate-Boca Juniors, FSC
4:00pm: BRA: Goias-Corinthians, GOL
5:00pm: MEX: Club America-Necaxa, TELEF
6:30pm: COL: Ind. Sante Fe-Ind. Medellin, GOL

Godspeed, Mooch.

ESPN's Skipper: "They'll Bring In Some Stars"

I work on the business side of the media industry. This morning I had the good fortune of attending an industry breakfast with John Skipper, EVP, Content for ESPN (pictured).

John is responsible for the creation, programming, and production of ESPN and ABC sports content across all media platforms.

Skipper recently signed the ESPN contract delivering MLS its first rights fee. As part of the deal, ESPN will take over production of MLS broadcasts on the Disney networks starting next year, saving the league millions of dollars.

Here's a summary of Skipper's comments:

  • "I have the best job in America... to walk into bars and impress men... not that that's my intention." (Got big laughs)
  • Ingrained in the ESPN culture is the notion that "we serve fans. Fans decide what content is available, we don't."
  • "Our intention is to be the leader in every area, print, web, TV, radio, Spanish...the goal is to make the other guys in front worry about us"
  • "We're getting back to what people care about: games. In the last year, we've built our portfolio of properties, including:
    • NASCAR (Feb .07)
    • Big Ten
    • Big East
    • World Cup through 2014"
  • "Eventually, soccer will work. Some folks don't believe it, but they don't have the assets that we have."
  • "We'll be creating content to support our properties. For instance, we'll have 10 hours of NASCAR documentaries in Feb '07, to be shown each weeknight in primetime the week preceding ESPN's first NASCAR race on Saturday night. The documentaries will populate a "100 Greatest Moments of NASCAR" property to be:
    • Counted down on SportsCenter
    • Turned into a feature in the magazine
    • Rolled out on and ESPN 360 Broadband service
    • Turned into a coffee table book
  • Q: "Do the NFL and NBA TV networks create a concern for you?"
    • "No, most sports fans are fans of more than one sport... also, we can report on tough league issues that they won't."
    • "For instance the NHL is talking of starting a network. They're having trouble getting half a million people to watch for two hours... what are they going to do for 24 hours a day?"
    • "We will continue to co-exist with these networks... until they go out of business."

On the recently failed ESPN Mobile service...

  • "Mobile was the opportunity to make the most money in the wireless space."
  • "We thought that phone number portability was the key to get folks to move to our service... we didn't count on wireless companies' aggressive retention programs... they give away $300 pieces of hardware to keep customers... If you think Sports Illustrated in tough, Verizon is a mother. That said, we intend to be #1 in wireless sports content distribution."

I approached Skipper afterwards and thanked him for supporting soccer and MLS. He said that he was at the Red Bulls-Chicago match on Saturday night. He said that next year "the league will bring in some stars... we'll have some original content around MLS... Thursday night MLS matches will get the TNT-NBA treatment."

Friday, September 29, 2006

Desperation In the Red Bull Nation

For the second straight season, New York will need a late-season push to get into the MLS Cup playoffs. There are plenty out there that feel that missing the playoffs will do more good than harm for the long-term prospects for the Red Bulls, considering a first-round matchup with Eastern Conference Champion DC United would await in the post-season. Here are the current standings...

Team, Pts, GD, (matches to play)
1. Y - DC United, 55 +17 (2h/1a)
2. X - Chicago, 44, + (1h/2a)
3. New England, 39, +0 (2h/1a)
4. Kansas City, 34, -2 (2h/1a)
5. New York, 32, -1 (2h/1a)
6. Columbus, 27, -16 (2h/1a)

The 10/14 KC at NY match looms, but a Wizards win over RSL and a Red Bulls loss at home to Chicago on Saturday would all but extinguish New York's hopes. Here's how I see things matching up for tomorrow's tilt with the US Open Cup champs.

The Chicago forwards vs. The Red Bulls' back line:
Chris Rolfe and Andy Herron vs. Jeff Parke, Marvell Wynne, Carlos Mendes, and Todd Dunivant (and Jon Conway). Herron (8 goals) and Rolfe (6) account for over a third of the Fire's 39 goals. Chicago's offense has been on... well, has been really strong of late, hitting for 13 goals in the club's last 10 games, including USOC matches. Herron has four game-winners on the year, but has yet to find the net against New York in three matches this season. The Red Bulls have given up seven goals in the last three games. Advantage: Chicago

New York's attackers vs. The Fire defense:
John Wolyniec and Youri Djorkaeff vs. C.J. Brown, Tony Sanneh, and Dasan Robinson (and Matt Pickens). Three goals against DC last week were nice, but none came from New York's starting forwards. Woly has cooled off significantly since the 6-0 RSL game. Youri looks like he's ready to head back to Paris. Chicago, despite its graying back line, has allowed only five goals in its last seven matches. Advantage: Chicago

The Midfielders:
New York's Markus Schopp, Amado Guevara, Danny O'Rourke, and Dema Kovalenko vs. Chicago's Justin Mapp, Chris Armas, Diego Gutierrez, Gonzalo Segares, and Thiago. While Guevara is in terrific form after his two goal, one assist perfomance in DC, and Schopp will be more comfortable with his mates, the Fire's mix of up-and-comers and veterans have stronger help both in front and behind them. Advantage: Chicago.

The Coaches:
Bruce Arena vs. Dave Sarachan. The "master" in this relationship was able to motivate his team to a competitive match last week against a better team. Sarachan "the student" is riding high after beating LA for another piece of hardware for the Fire. Advantage: Push

In my mind, the only way the Red Bulls win this game is if Chicago, realizing they have little to play for, and still in celebration mode from their USOC win on Wednesday, decides to take the night off. If Arena can get his forwards motivated, there is a chance, however small, for an upset. Advantage: New York

The Prediction: Chicago is 4-1 in it's last 5 league games. Over the same span, NY is 1-4. Chicago wins, 2-0.

Television Weekend
Lots, lots, lots on the tube this weekend (all times ET):

SATURDAY, Sept. 30
9:30pm: GER: Wolfsburg-Bayern Munich, GOL
10:00am: ENG: Chelsea-Aston Villa, FSC
12noon: ENG: Sheffield United-Middlesbrough, FSC
12noon: ITA: Atalanta-Reggina, GOL
2:00pm: GER: Werder Bremen-Moenchengladbach, GOL
2:15pm: ENG: Everton-Manchester City, FSC
4:00pm: ESP: Atletico Bilbao-Barcelona, GOL
5:00pm: ITA: Torino-Lazio, FSC
6:00pm: MEX: Atlante-Chiapas, GALA
6:00pm: BRA: Paranaenese-Sao Paulo, GOL
7:00pm: USL1: Championship: Rochester-Vancouver, FSC
7:30pm: MLS: New York - Chicago, MSG, HDNet
7:30pm: MLS: New England-Colorado, DK
8:00pm; MEX: Chivas-Club America, TELEF
8:30pm: MLS: Houston-DC United, DK
8:30pm: MLS: Kansas City-Real Salt Lake, DK
8:30pm: COL: Ind. Medellin-Once Caldas, GOL
10:00pm: MEX: Necaxa-UAG, GALA
10:30pm: MLS: Los Angeles-Chivas USA, DK

SUNDAY, Oct. 1
9:00am: ITA: Cagliari-Inter Milan, FSC
9:00am: ITA: AC Milan-Siena, GOL
11:00am: ENG: Tottenham-Portsmouth, FSC
12noon: ESP: Real Madrid-Atletico Madrid, GOL
1:00pm: MEX: Toluca-Veracruz, UNI
2:00pm: GER: Hertha Berlin-Stuttgart, GOL
2:00pm: NCAAW: Texas vs. Oklahoma, ESPNU
3:00pm: ARG: Boca Juniors-Velez Sarsfield, FSC
4:00pm: ESP: Valencia-Gimnastic, GOL
4:00pm: USA: WNT-Chinese Taipei, ESPN2
6:30pm: COL: Millonarios-Chico, GOL
9:30pm: ITA: Roma-Empoli, GOL

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Carny #5: Metaphor League Soccer

Jeff Bull of It's a Simple Game is hosting the fifth installment of the Carnival of American Soccer.

The question at hand from an MLS noob...
"I need to get into MLS to understand who all the teams are and the relative hierarchy..."
Well, MLS fan-to-be, here's one man's attempt at putting it in perspective for you, in alphabetical order...

Chicago Fire = Colorado Avalanche (NHL)
They showed up on the scene and won, quickly. The 'Lanche's title in their first season nicely mirrors the Fire's 1998 inaugural season championship. Chicago has frequently challenged for the MLS Cup, and has a bitter rival in FC Dallas just as the NHL's Denver club has intense games with the Detroit Red Wings.

Chivas USA = Memphis Grizzlies (NBA)
Here's a relatively new club (discounting Memphis' tenure in Vancouver) that is in its second season, is making all the right moves, and appears headed for a playoff berth. I doubt the Grizzlies draw a huge Mexican crowd in NBA cities as Chivas does, but I believe that "The Chivas Way" will deliver a championship to the LA-based club in the next three years.

Colorado Rapids = Toronto Blue Jays (MLB)
Um, they're ok, but just as Toronto has finished in the middle of the AL East for the last five seasons or so, the Rapids have a similar track record of playing bland seasons which aren't awful, but aren't good enough to contend for a title. A true vanilla team with little personality.

Columbus Crew = Tampa Bay Devil Rays (MLB)
Ecch. Here's a team in a small market that has a stupid name, draws few fans, has little history of success, no stars, and a small payroll. The Crew does have the first soccer-specific stadium in the US, which gets it exactly one brownie point. When the US plays Mexico in Columbus Crew stadium, it's a big deal. As of late, however, there's nothing to be excited about this Crew.

DC United = Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL)
A recent return to championship form for MLS' most successful franchise. A franchise player in Freddy Adu a la Pittsburgh's Big Ben (though Freddy doesn't ride motorcycles). Both clubs are lethal when in form, have iconic coaches, and strong fan followings. Both are usually the teams to beat. DC is currently seeking "one for the thumb."

FC Dallas = Anaheim Ducks (NHL)
Both have silly names. Both are quality teams. Both have distinctive uniforms. Neither have won a championship. Both have relatively new arenas outside of more populous cities. FCD will be trying to reach the league final in its own house for the second straight year. They could just do it.

Houston Dynamo = Tennessee Titans (NFL)
Forgetting the NFL club's poor start to the season, the Dynamo is a good club with a history of success that left town for greener pastures. The Steve McNair/Eddie George era Titans are a nice mirror to the Dynamo's Dwayne DeRosario and Brian Ching. Houston/San Jose has two league titles to the Tennessee/Houston's none.

Kansas City Wizards = the 1985 Chicago Bears (NFL)
The 2000 Wizards and the Super Bowl Shuffle Bears each won their lone titles with stifling defenses. Though Da Bears have been on an upswing of late in their re-made Soldier Field, the Wizards, currently hoping for a new home of their own, have taken a downturn of late. KC is in danger of missing the MLS playoffs for the second straight year... which is hard to do in MLS.

Los Angeles Galaxy = San Francisco Giants (MLB)
Both clubs have a superstar that people even love or hate. Sure, Landon Donovan hasn't been accused of taking steroids a la Barry Bonds, but Donovan's lack of desire to push himself in a top European league stunts the US National Team star's development as a player, hurting the US' chances in future World Cups. This in turn pisses a lot of people off. The Galaxy have won two recent league titles, something SF can't boast.

New York Red Bulls = Arizona Cardinals (NFL)
Yecch. Both of these teams have histories of being miserable both on and off the field. The former MetroStars have had 10 head coaches in 11 seasons. They've never advanced to the league title match. However, as with the Cardinals, a new infusion of cash and a new home (for NY, to open in 2008) portend better days ahead.

New England Revolution = Indianapolis Colts (NFL)
The Revs have recently improved against their history of bad form to become one of MLS' top clubs. New England has reached two MLS Cup Finals in the past five seasons, but have been unable to win the big one. While the Revs don't have a transcendent player a la Peyton Manning, the club does have a cadre of stars (Clint Dempsey, Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan) that can score at any time.

Real Salt Lake = Houston Texans (NFL)
RSL is a new club in its second season. They haven't had success on the field with a roster full of aging stars, but they have attracted large crowds. As with the NFL, however, clubs can radically re-tool from season to season and may be a force in years to come.

Red Bulls Tonight: Opportunity Knocks

Without playmaker Amado Guevara, the Red Bulls didn't look all that great during Saturday's 1-0 win versus Columbus. Guevara and newly-signed midfielder Markus Schopp will be on the field tonight in the Toro Rossos' key match vs. New England at the Swamp (7:30pm on FSNY and FSNE). Here's how the Eastern Conference currently stands:

Team, Pts, GD, (matches to play)
1. X - DC United, 51 +16 (3h/1a)
2. Chicago, 41, +4 (2h/2a)
3. New England, 35, -2 (3h/2a)
4. Kansas City, 33, -2 (2h/2a)
5. New York, 32, +2 (3h/2a)
6. Columbus, 26, -16 (3h/1a)

With a win, New York can leap frog over idle Kansas City and the Revs into third place in the Eastern standings. Here's a breakdown of tonight's key matchups:

The New England forwards vs. The Red Bulls' back line:
Jose Manuel Abundis and Taylor Twellman vs. Jeff Parke, Marvell Wynne, Seth Stammler, and Todd Dunivant (and Jon Conway). Former Mexican NT player Abundis should get his first start for the Revs. New England's Dempsey and Twellman (14 goals between them) have not been as productive as in past years due to Dempsey's absence for World Cup duty. Much has been made about Dempsey's desire to leave MLS for Europe, and while Deuce did hit the net in the Revs' last match vs. DC, it was only his first MLS goal since July 4th. The Revs have only scored three goals in their last six league games. The Red Bulls have been decent on defense of late, allowing only six goals in the club's last seven matches. Dunivant's return from an injury should lift the club. New York's Carlos Mendes is out with yellow card points. Advantage: New York

New York's attackers vs. The Revs' defense:
John Wolyniec and Edson Buddle vs. Avery John, Michael Parkhurst, and Jay Heaps (and Matt Reis). Despite Wolyniec's tenacity and Buddle's skill, Red Bull fans know that striker is one position that Coach Bruce Arena will be looking to improve for next season. Mike Magee is out serving a suspension, so look to last week's teen hero, Jozy Altidore, to come off the bench to deliver a late spark. Remove New England's embarrassing 0-3 loss at Columbus on September 2nd, and the Revs have allowed two goals in their last five games. Note that only I may find interesting: Jay Heaps has appeared in 226 league matches. Amazing. Advantage: New England

The Midfielders:
New York's Markus Schopp, Dema Kovalenko, Amado Guevara, and Youri Djorkaeff vs. New England's Troll Franchino, Andy Dorman, Clint Dempsey, Jeff Larentowicz, and Steve Ralston. With the UN General Assembly gathered in New York, it's appropriate that the Red Bulls go with all-international midfield. The 6'2" Schopp certainly won't be at 100% in d-mid in his first MLS game (Danny O'Rourke may play depending on Schopp's fitness). Dempsey moves to midfield for the injured Shalrie Joseph. The Revs midfield (short of Larentowicz) is a veteran solid group that's played as a unit all season long. Advantage: New England

The Coaches:
Bruce Arena vs. Steve Nicol. After watching and listening to Il Bruce these last few weeks, one surmises that NY is mailing in this season ahead of a major retooling in 2007. Still, it has been an historic week in Red Bulls history, and perhaps Arena will push his team hard. Nicol is Scottish, yes, but his team is only 2-2-5 in its last nine MLS games. Advantage: Push

New York has a two-year reprieve on hearing "60-90 days"... until inevitable weather delays hold up the opening of Red Bull Park in the Summer of 2008. At least the Revs will be playing in front of thousands of empty seats instead of a massive blue tarp. Advantage: New York

The Prediction: The lack of cohesion between the Red Bull midfielders will give the Revs the advantage. New England wins, 1-0.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

First Hand Account: Red Bull Park Groundbreaking

A link to photos of today's event can be found at the bottom of this post.

Politicians, soccer executives, media members and hundreds of Red Bull fans gathered in Harrison, NJ today to celebrate the groundbreaking to Red Bull Park, the first component of a $1 billion redevelopment of the Hudson County town across the Passaic River from Newark.

The trip from midtown Manhattan took about 35 minutes to get to Harrison on the PATH train with a change of trains in Journal Square. The Harrison station, which is to undergo a $50 million facelift, left little to be desired, and the ten-minute walk to the stadium site took fans past energy substations and construction parking lots. A decades-old brick wall down the left side of the street gave way to a four-story abandoned warehouse, where signs and red and yellow balloons directed visitors around the corner to a full-on construction site where bulldozers sat at the ready and construction workers surveyed the land.

A "Welcome to the Site of Red Bull Park" sign greeted visitors, and a samba drummer and two bikini-clad samba dancers entertained fans waiting for the program to begin. A bulldozer and soccer goal with Red Bull park signs on them awaited the golden ceremonial shovels. Longtime Metro and Red Bulls fans mingled with Shep Messing, Bogie of the Cosmos, and Nick Sakiewicz, to whom the day clearly belonged.

Three large tents kept most the crowd out of the hot midday sun. Fernando Fiero of Univison's Republica Deportiva had made the trip from Miami to emcee the program. Fiero professed to being a "Jersey Boy," who arrived in the US from Argentina in 1980 with little English, and settled in Hoboken before his success in the Hispanic media world. He told the crowd that MLS was his favorite soccer league, and added that he missed his beloved Miami Fusion. His love of the league may more to do with Univision's new MLS contract, however, than his passion for American futbol.

Nick Sakiewicz was next to speak, and he noted the trials and tribulations he'd experienced since launching the stadium effort in 2000. Love him or hate him, Sakiewicz has stuck with the project through the days that it seemed unlikely to materialize. Sakiewicz noted that Red Bull's infusion of cash made it possible for the project to move forward. One wonders if Uncle Phil would have made the project a reality if Red Bull had not stepped up in March to purchase the team.

Numerous NJ politicos got their moment in the sun, including former Governor Richard Codey, who kicked off with a few off-color jabs at his disgraced predecessor Jim McGreevey.

MLS Commissioner Garber noted the day's importance for the future of MLS and American Soccer, and confirmed that the league would have 16 teams by the 2010 season.

Sadly, it was time to head back to work before I could see the shovels hit the dirt, but camera crews from SNY, NJN, and channels 7 and 47 were on hand to record the event and surely will have coverage tonight, as well as the major print media for tomorrow's papers.

It's a new era for Red Bull. Here's to hoping the investment of the field will be matched by an investment on the field.

Click here to see photos of today's event.

Friday, August 11, 2006

9/19/06: When the Shovels Hit the Ground

Since 2000, the team formerly known as the MetroStars have been trying to build a home of their own. Six years after stating their intentions, AEG and Red Bull say they will begin construction of Red Bull Park in Harrison, NJ, on September 19th which, I must note, is only 38 days (not 60, not 90) from today. Given the delays that the Harrison project have endured since the turn of the century, fans of the team have learned to take such proclamations from former Metro GM Nick Sakiewicz as... well... untruths. However, the involvement of Red Bull seems to have pushed the project into the land of reality. The latest stadium rendering is nothing short of beautiful. The timing of the release, late on the day before the Red Bulls take on Barcelona, should provide some powerful press for the Saturday newspapers. Have a nice weekend, indeed.

Eurosnobs and MLS Fans: Happy Together?

Ives Galarcep has a terrific piece on Soccernet today about the need to unite American soccer fans of both the Euro and domestic game. It's a must read. So read it, please.

What a Week We're Having

Massive crowds in LA, Seattle, and Houston. A sellout in Chicago. MLS squads standing toe-to-toe with the top teams of Europe. The past week has been a nice transition from the World Cup back into the European season, while at the same time letting the public know that MLS clubs still have a few months left to play.

Huge props to Seattle Sounders owner Adrian Hanuer for driving 60,000+ fans to Qwest field for the DC-Real Madrid match in with only two weeks advance notice. Shame there isn't more support for the hometown Sounders, but it seems that savvy Seattle soccer fans will come out for a quality product, and they don't perceive the USL1 as providing that quality.

More than 70,000 tickets have been sold for New York-Barca tomorrow night at Giants Stadium, and walk-up sales could make the match a sell-0ut. Here's hoping that NY doesn't completely stink up the joint, as they're so prone to doing in front of large crowds.

Nice photo op yesterday when NBA MVP Steve Nash took part in the Red Bulls practice. You'd think it'd be just as easy for Nash to practice with Barcelona instead.

Down the Stretch
With two months to go in the MLS regular season, the five Eastern clubs behind DC United will be fighting for three playoff spots. Here's how the standings look, including remaining games:

Team, Pts, GD, (matches to play)
1. DC United, 45, +19 (6h/5a)
2. New England, 28, +0 (7h/3a)
3. New York, 24, -3 (6h/6a)
4. Chicago, 22, -2 (8h/5a)
5. Kansas City, 22, -6 (6h/5a)
6. Columbus, 20, -12 (7h/4a)

Who's hot: NY, 3-0-1 in last 4 matches
Who's um, lukewarm: NE, 0-0-4 in last 4 matches (NE now has 10 draws, tops in MLS)

Due to the lightning storm which cancelled the Fire/Wizards Open Cup match on Aug. 2nd, the two clubs will play the 4th Round match Monday, August 14th in Bridgeview, then play a league match Wednesday, August 16th... in Bridgeview. Hmm...

Your Weekend Television Schedule (ET):

Saturday, August 12th

9:30am: GER: Schalke 04-Eintracht Frankfurt, GOL

11:30am: GER: Hamburg-Armenia Bielefeld, GOL

5:00pm: BRA: Corinthians-Figueirense, GOL

6:00pm: MEX: Monterrey-Pachuca, GALA

7:30pm: EXH: New York-Barcelona, FSC, DK

8:00pm: COL: Nacional-Tolima, GOL

8:00pm: MEX: Chivas-Santos, TELEF

8:30pm: MLS: Chicago-Chivas USA, DK

8:30pm: MLS: Kansas City-Columbus, DK

9:00pm: MLS: Colorado-Los Angeles, HDNet, DK

9:30pm: EXH: Salt Lake-Real Madrid, FSC

10:00pm: HON: Marathon-Hispano, GOL

10:00pm: MEX: Necaxa-Toluca, GALA

11:30pm: PDL: Final: Laredo-Michigan (delay), FSC

12mid: MLS: Houston-FC Dallas (delay), ESPN2

Sunday, August 13th

10:00am: ENG: Chelsea-Liverpool, FA Community Shield, FSC

11:00am: GER: Hannover-Werder Bremen, GOL

1:00pm: ECU: Aucas-El Nacional, GOL

1:00pm: MEX: UNAM-Veracruz, UNI

3:00pm: ARG: Velez Sarsfield-Racing, FSC

3:00pm: BRA: Cruzeiro-Fluminense, GOL

5:00pm: MEX: Club America-Tigres, TELEF

5:30pm: ELS: L.A.Firpo-Vista Hermosa, GOL

7:30pm: COL: Millonarios-America, GOL

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Hank Evans...

The Kin of Fish will be away for a few weeks. Having a beautiful baby girl will do that to a guy.

Friday, July 21, 2006

All Aboard the Red Bull Train

Two wins in a row and there's some real momentum around the Red Bulls heading into Saturday's home match vs. The Wiz, under new head coach (and former Metro) Brian Bliss. With a win and help, New York can solidify their renaissance under interim head coach Richie Williams. Here's a preview...

The Kansas City forwards vs. The Red Bulls' back line:
Eddie Johnson and Josh Wolff vs. Jeff Parke, Carlos Mendes, Marvell Wynne and Seth Stammler (and Jon Conway). KC's two national-team forwards should be melding together, though the two each have only two goals in their nine MLS games to date this season. Even with the World Cup assignment, defender Jose Burciaga should be the leading scorer on this club. The Red Bulls have posted back to back shutouts for the first time in three years, albeit against the league's bottom feeders. It's hard to imagine a shutout against such talented strikers, but NY has the hot hand here, even moreso if Todd Dunivant gets on the field. Advantage: New York

New York's attackers vs. The Wizards defense:
Jean Philippe Peguero and Edson Buddle vs. Tyson Wahl, Nick Garcia, Jimmy Conrad, and Jose Burciaga (and Bo Oshoniyi). The JPP scoring drought is now seven games long. Perhaps opposing defenses are keying on him. Buddle had a beautiful diagonal pass to set up NY's first goal on Wednesday in Columbus, but neither NY striker is in stellar form right now. The Wizards have a veteran defense anchored by World Cup vet Jimmy Conrad, though KC has let in 26 goals in 18 games, 2nd worst in the league. Advantage: Push

The Midfielders:
New York's Danny O'Rourke, Chris Henderson, Amado Guevara, and Mike Magee vs. Kansas City's Alex Zotinca, Sasha Victorine, Kerry Zavagnin, and Lance Watson. Yes, Chris Henderson is old. Yes, he did score a fantastic goal from a crazy angle in Columbus on Wednesday. No, he can't seem to serve crosses of any quality whatsoever. Amado continues to heat up like Vinny(The Microwave) Johnson. For KC's veteran midfield, the coaching change may be wake-up call to get them going. I don't think so. Advantage: New York

The Coaches:
Richie Williams vs. Brian Bliss. ABMOD has his side believing they can win. Bliss will be trying to ignite a moribund team that has only one win in its last seven games... in the Open Cup vs. the not-so-terrifying Des Moines Menace of the PDL. Advantage: New York

NY is gunning for its first three-game winning streak this season. Will the new optimism around the team translate to fans in the stands? KC should get a boost from its new head coach, but Red Bulls may just be for real. Advantage: New York.

The Prediction: A blissful night in the swamp eludes KC. New York wins 2-1.

Television Man
Here's the best soccah on the tube this weekend (all times et)...

Saturday, July 22
4:00pm: MLS: Colorado-Los Angeles, ESPN2
5:00pm: BRA: Fluminense-Sao Caetano, GOL
7:30pm: MLS: New York-Kansas City, FSNY, HDNet, DK
8:00pm: COL: Independiente Santa Fe-Chico, GOL
8:30pm: MLS: Chicago-DC United, CSN, DK
8:30pm: MLS: Houston-New England, FSH, WLVI, DK
10:00pm: MLS: Real Salt Lake-FC Dallas, FSSW, DK

Sunday, July 23
1:00pm: ECU: Deportivo Quito-LDU, GOL
3:00pm: BRA: Ponte Preta, Sao Paulo, GOL
7:00pm: COL: America-Bucaramanga, GOL

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Arena Football, Game One

Ok, so Bruce Arena will watch tonight’s Red Bulls-Crew match on a very expensive flat-screen TV somewhere in NYC or Virginia. Still, it’s not wrong to say that the Arena era begins this evening in Cow-town. Here’s a brief preview.

The Columbus forwards vs. The Red Bulls’ back line:
Kei Kamara, Jacob Thomas, and Eddie Gaven vs. Jeff Parke, Carlos Mendes, Marvell Wynne and Seth Stammler (and Jon Conway). Kamara, the Crew’s scoring leader with three goals, has had a strong rookie season. Thomas is spending his first season in MLS after eight years in the lower German leagues. Gaven (I’d imagine) wants to play well vs. his former club. The NY defense posted a shutout last time out against a poor Colorado team. Look for Conway to have another good performance. Advantage: New York

New York’s attackers vs. The Crew’s defense:
Jean Philippe Peguero and Edson Buddle vs. Ritchie Kotschau, Chad Marshall, and Chris Leitch (and Noah Palmer). After a torrid start to his Red Bull tenure, JPP is suddenly immune to goal scoring, having failed to hit the net in his last six matches. Buddle continues to be a mild disappointment. For the Crew, Kotschau is in his 43rd season in the league, Marshall’s a real USMNT prospect down the road, and Leitch will do his pit bull routine all night. Palmer has had a solid 1.22 GAA. Advantage: Push

The Midfielders:
New York’s Danny O’Rourke, Chris Henderson, Amado Guevara, and Mike Magee vs. Columbus’ Ezra Hendrickson, Leonard Bisaku, Jose Retiz, and Tim Ward. I have never heard of Bisaku or Retiz, but they did turn out a positive effort against DC over the weekend. As for the Red Bull boys, Magee has come on over the last few weeks, and while Youri is still AWOL, Amado gets to run the show like the old days. Advantage: New York

The Coaches:
Sigi Schmid vs. Richie Williams. It’s got to be a little strange for ABMOD tonight, but he certainly wants to build a little momentum ahead of the future Arena era. Sigi is building for the future, and should have his young charges ready to go. Experience points push the ad into his column. Advantage: Columbus

The Red Bulls will all be putting their best foot forward for their future coach, watching from 800 miles away. For the first time in months, they won’t be wondering if their head coach will be sticking around. He will be. He’ll just be demoted. Advantage: New York.

The Prediction:
Optimism reigns! New York wins 2-0.

That’s Amore!

First Italy wins the World Cup, then the Red Bulls hire an Italian coach. In between, the Italian karma was working big time in Santa Barbara, CA, last Wednesday, when amateur Dallas side Roma FC took the biggest scalp in US Open Cup history, knocking off Chivas USA of MLS in pks after a scoreless draw. While Roma (the club) is overjoyed, Chivas coach Bob Bradley has got to have big-time egg on his face. While the USOC suffers from a lack of attention among US soccer fans, the loss is a huge smack in the face of MLS… which is what makes the Cup such a great tournament. Roma is back in LA to face the Galaxy in the fourth round on August 1st.

USOC Third Round Results on July 12th:
Michigan Bucks (IV) 1:4 Columbus Crew (I)
Wilmington Hammerheads (III) 2:1 Atlanta Silverbacks (II)
Chivas USA (I) 0:0 (4-2 pks) Dallas Roma FC (Amateur)
Carolina Dynamo (IV) 3:2 Seattle Sounders (II)
Kansas City Wizards (I) 2:1 Des Moines Menace (IV)
Rochester Rhinos (II) 5:1 New Hampshire Phantoms (III)
Real Salt Lake (I) 2:1 Virginia Beach Mariners (II)
Charleston Battery (I) 3:1 Portland Timbers (I)

USOC Fourth Round Matches on August 1st-2nd:
DC United – Columbus
LA Galaxy-Roma FC (Amateur)
Wilmington Hammerheads (III)-New York
Rochester Rhinos (II)-New England
Houston-Carolina Dynamo (IV)… Go, um, Dynamo!
Chicago-Kansas City
Real Salt Lake-Colorado
Portland (II)-FC Dallas