Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ho Ho Ho, JCO

Holiday tidings to all from the Red Bulls, who rolled out former Metros and Man C assistant and Chicago Fire boss Juan Carlos Osorio as the 11th head coach in franchise history today. Why should JCO succeed when the ten others have failed? Good question. A parade of coaching legends have led the Metros since its founding in 1996, and only two; Octavio Zambrano (4 gms. over .500), and Bob Bradley (1 game) finished their terms at the helm with positive records.

Osorio noted at today's press conference that the team was solid up front (though the team only scored 4 goals in their last five '07 matches) and had trouble at the back (though NY held MLS Cup Finalist New England to a single goal in their two-match playoff series).

Does JCO have a safety net? RBNY honcho Marc deGrandpre noted that Osorio "doesn't have to win the championship" to keep his job, but MdG does believe that Osorio will get the Red Bulls to the playoffs. Of course, that's just what Bruce Arena did, which wasn't good enough. de Grandpre, through a bad poker face, noted that Arena resigned and wasn't let go after the team's failure to advance in the MLS Cup playoffs. Umm-hmm.

Osorio needs to have a quick 2008 start to get some attention for the marketing-starved team, though Arena's '07 Red Bulls went 3-0-1 before coming back to earth. Perhaps MLS will schedule Becks & LA early in the season to lift ticket sales early rather than late in the season.

Kansas City, Hello.
The woeful Wizards are a state vote away from landing their own soccer-specific stadium in a development similar to the Harrison, NJ Red Bull Park development (without the industrial waste). The 2010 "Three Trails" project will include 12 soccer fields, a 250-room hotel, retail, office, and residential space. Good luck to them. Not sure how they'll find 18,000 fans to attend, but here's to hoping.

Here's a quick snapshot of MLS stadia and status heading into the new year...

Eastern Conference
Chicago: Toyota Park (SSS)
Columbus: Crew Stadium (SSS)
DC United: RFK Stadium - plans for SSS stalled
Kansas City: Arrowhead (NFL) - SSS state vote from fruition ('10)
New England: Gillette (NFL) - early discussions for SSS
New York: Giants (NFL) - SSS in construction (tee hee) ('09)
Toronto: BMO Field (SSS)

Western Conference
Chivas USA: Home Depot Center (SSS)
Colorado: Dick's SG Park (SSS)
FC Dallas: Pizza Hut Park (SSS)
Houston: Robertson Stadium (NCAA) - SSS plans in discussion
Los Angeles: HDC (SSS)
Salt Lake: Rice-Eccles (NCAA) - Sandy SSS to open in '08
San Jose: Buck-Shaw (NCAA) - SSS plans in the works for '10
Seattle ('09 expansion): Qwest Field (NFL) - No SSS plans

Soccer-specific stadia in MLS
2008: 8 of 14 teams by year-end
2009: 9 of 15 teams by year-end
2010: 11 of 15 teams should KC and SJ open during the year

US on the road in WCQs
The WC 2010 CONCACAF Semifinal Round schedule puts the Yanks on the road on August 20th and September 6th before three at home; on September 10th, and October 11th and 15th. The final match in the four-team group is away on November 19th. If the US falls to Dominica or Barbados in the June two-leg tie then the semis are moot, but I've got a good feeling the Yanks'll go through. Probable Semifinal round opponents are Guatemala, Cuba, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Concacaf Champs Cup Draw Set
2-time defending MLS Cup champ Houston Dynamo will meet Municipal of Guatemala in the first round of the 2008 CCC in a two-leg tie in March. Supporters Shield winner DC United faces Harbour View of Jamaica on the other side of the bracket.

Should Houston advance, Mexico's Atlante should await in the semis. The Mexicans take on Costa Rica's Saprissa in round one. DC would likely face Pachuca in round two, who'll be favored over Motagua of Honduras in the opening round.

No MLS side has taken home the trophy since the Galaxy won it in 2000.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dynastic Dynamo and Other News

Did you really think DeRo would be kept from making an impact? Houston's big-time, big-game striker Dwayne DeRosario did what he usually does; score a huge goal, as the Dynamo rallied past the Buffalo Bill-like New England Revolution 2-1 in last Sunday's MLS Cup in DC. Houston not only became the first back-to-back MLS Cup champ since the Scum did it in 1996-97, but the core of this Dynamo team (which was the Earthquakes before their '06 move to Texas) has now won four MLS Cups together, matching DC United. SI's Grant Wahl has a great summary of the game here. Gotta feel for the Revs, who have now lost three straight title games.

Ok, I'm done feeling for them. Season 13 can't come soon enough.

Now the much too-long MLS off-season begins with today's Expansion Draft to stock the revived San Jose Earthquakes, who'll play at Santa Clara's Buck Shaw Stadium as they wait for a sweetheart stadium deal to coalesce. Current MLS sides were allowed to protect 11 players each. New York left the entire reserve squad plus Francis Doe, Mike Magee, Joe Vide, and John Wolyniec unprotected. Will any of them head West? My money's on Vide, who came on strong late in the season in the Red Bulls' midfield and ably helped New York push the Revs in the postseason.

Was all-time New York goal scoring champion Clint Mathis left unprotected? No, he was traded to FC Circus in Los Angeles for what Metrofanatic called "a ham sandwich." It actuality, Cleetus' $400K salary was the prime reason for the move, and the RBFO are looking to bring in younger high-priced talent. Watching Clint play for NY has been nothing short of a love affair. When he was on (which admittedly was not always), Mathis was the lethal striker that found a way to make the difference. A Soft spoken rebel, he's been a joy in a NY uniform. Wonder how he will fit in on the Galaxy's roster, but best of luck, pal.

Red Bull continues to invest in MLS and US Soccer with its' multi-million dollar buyout of AEG's half of the stalled Red Bull Park project in Harrison. Will this mean the construction will begin soon? Wake me when it happens. New projected opening: Summer '09. Sigh.

On Sunday the World Cup 2010 Preliminary Draw will be held in South Africa, and the Yanks will learn their path to a sixth-straight WC Finals. Will they pull Grenada again in the first round? Montserrat? Anguilla? Stay tuned.

Off soccer for a minute, the news this week that NY Jets fans routinely spend their halftime trying to get female fans to "go wild" is incredibly disturbing. That the NJ Sports & Entertainment Authority (which manages Giants Stadium) allows the behavior is absolutely unbelievable. We all know that there will always be a segment of pro sports fandom that goes to games simply to get drunk and act rowdy. As a season ticket holder of the Red Bulls, and partial plan holder of the Mets and Rangers, I've seen plenty of drunkness and fights in the stands in my day. However, these idiots should be identified and have their season tickets revoked immediately. Jets owner Woody Johnson should state unequivocally that such behavior will not be tolerated, and the NJSEA, which has been aware of the problem, should be fined.

As a soccer fan, I cringe everytime someone brings up "soccer riots." This degrading, adolescent behavior by Jets fans seems just as bad, and the NFL and the Jets should be called on it. On a lighter note, as a Giants fan, I'm not surprised. Jets fans rank just above DC United fans on the evolutionary scale, anyway.

Happy Turkey.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Garber Lays it Down as MLS Cup Weekend Begins

Here are highlights of MLS Commissioner Don Garber's State of the League Address today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC...

-Garber thanked the attending media for covering the league, noted the need for more media to provide more exposure for the league and its clubs

-Philly is clear favorite for club #16, but if there's no announcement by the end of January, MLS will go with 15 clubs when Seattle enters the league in 2009

-Atlanta, Las Vegas, Miami (!), Montreal, New York #2 (with the Mets' Wilpon), Portland, St. Louis, and Vancouver round out the expansion hopefuls after Philly for clubs #17 and 18.

-Red Bull Park will break ground soon (hah!) with a Summer '09 targeted opening

-TV ratings for the '07 SuperLiga Final between LA and Pachuca beat Super Bowl XLI on TeleFutura. SuperLiga will return in 2008 (MLS teams should be DC, Chivas, New England and Houston based on 2007 standings)

-Important '08 dates:
--Superdraft-January 18th in Baltimore
--Season 13 kicks off on March 29th
--All-Star '08 in Toronto (date TBD)
--MLS Cup (site TBD) on November 23rd

-A Pan-Pacific tournament with teams from Asia and Australia is close to a reality

-Salary cap will go up next year, amount to be determined

-Frustration over the DC stadium situation

-Qwest Field is a good choice of venue in Seattle (despite not being soccer-specific) because the MLS team ownership group owns the stadium, and will benefit from all revenue streams there.

Oh, and there's a game, too.
I won't be at RFK on Sunday for MLS Cup (Noon ET on ABC and Telefutura), but I believe Houston's loss of Brian Ching will be too much to overcome. Sharlie Joseph plays huge and serves goals by Twellman and late sub Adam Christman to deliver the Revs their first MLS Cup and an MLS-Open Cup double in a 2-0 New England victory. Viva Boston sports!

Pride of Jersey
Don't forget that the US National Team makes their final appearance of the year in Johannesburg vs. World Cup 2010 host South Africa tomorrow morning (9am ET on FSC and Galavision). Look for Bob Bradley to test many youngsters, including 18-yr old Red Bull Jozy Altidore! Go get 'em, kid!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Expansion-a-rama: "S" is for...

...Seattle, where a Monday announcement at a popular soccer pub looks like the forum for the Emerald City to form active club #15 in 2009. (Hattip: PZ). There's been lots of hand-wringing over the perceived waiver of the "soccer-specific stadium" proviso for Seattle (the club will play at the Seahawks' Quest Field), but accessing Paul Allen's big fat wallet comes with a price. What will happen to the USL1-champion Seattle Sounders in 2008? Perhaps we find out on Monday.

Another S interested in MLS is St. Louis, where the good folks at St. Louis Soccer United are jazzed about a plan for a suburban SSS in Collinsville, Illinois, ten miles to the East of downtown. Of course, St. Loo has a fantastic soccer history, and one would hope a instant fan base. Soccer celebrities supporting St. Louis include hometown boy Taylor Twellman and former US stars Tony Meola, Tab Ramos, and Marcelo Balboa.

If Nelly's hometown makes club #16 in '09, where does that leave the folks in Philly? Will another club step up to join them in 2010? Vancouver? New York #2? Paging Peter Wilt! The league should make every effort to avoid an odd number of clubs if possible.

Oh, and there's a game tonight as well. Enjoy.

Global Football Trafficking and other thoughts

For all you "ESPN hates soccer" folks comes a video by the WorldWide Leader's new E:60 investigative squad on the trafficking of young african players into the European club system.

Not sure if the story pitched in the video will make it to air, but based on the journalists' explanation of the problem, FIFA should be questioned about this very important issue.

The Times' venerable George Vescey takes a look a the goal that killed the Red Bulls' season, and the job of its former coach.

Don't you wish the attention paid by the mainstream media around the MLS coaching moves would be as frequent around the games played between the lines? I sure do. Yahoo News' Soccer feed has failed to include any game stories in the past few weeks. But I guess American sports writers "don't really know" how to write soccer game stories, now do they?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Lather. Fail. Repeat.

After one hundred and eighty minutes against New England without a goal, the New York Red Bulls find themselves in a familiar spot; without an MLS Cup. For the fifth straight year, New York was eliminated in the first round of the MLS playoffs, this time by New England, 1-0 on aggregate. As each NY team is different, each annual playoff failure illustrates a slightly different deficiency on New York's part.

This year's theme was lack of depth, as a concussion suffered by New York's star forward Juan Pablo Angel in the 57th minute led to a goal against the run of play for New England. Without Angel, or the injured Claudio Reyna (who left the game in the first half), a win just couldn't be conjured up at Gillette Stadium, where New York hasn't won in five years of trying.

Predictably, in true New York fashion, the club fired "sporting director" Bruce Arena today for his failure to move the club closer to a title. New York Sun soccer columnist and renowned crank Paul Gardner noted last week that Arena seemed to hate his job, to be almost disdaining the work he'd put in at RBNY. Well, now Arena won't have to worry about the plastic pitch at Giants Stadium for the next, and possibly more seasons.

The fans, however, must expect another high-profile "name" coach to come in, take at least half a season to "become acclimated" with MLS, and generally underperform. Such is life as a Red Bulls fan, where we're used to the cycle: Lather. Fail. Repeat.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Settling Up

Loyal readers of my blog might remember the friendly wager I offered to D of the terrific DC United fan blog The DCenters early this MLS season, when the Red Bulls looked unbeatable. The bet was simple. If New York finished above DC in the standings, D would wear a Red Bulls shirt to a DC match & post the photo. If slow-starting United finished above New York, I'd reciprocate. By now you should know how the season ended, and so the following should be no surprise.

Here, ESC member and all-around good guy Joe Tiernan shows me the love after I appeared at Saturday's Giants Stadium tailgate in Scum regalia. Not only do I obviously need to get going with the crunches already, but you clearly won't catch me in the black again. Nevertheless, a bet is a bet. Thanks to Corey Vezina for snapping the pic, then wisely telling me to cover up before the "Benedict Arnold" and "WTF" chants started.

Here's to a DC-NY Eastern final next Thursday. Will United hold up its end tonight at home?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Red Bulls Preview: Playoff Game #1 vs. Revs

It's tough to write your playoff preview on Friday afternoon, as everyone in the socca blogosphere and all the main-stream guys have already made their picks. Ne'ertheless, here's what to expect tomorrow when New York and NewEngland meet in the MLS Eastern Conference semis:

Much has been written about the lack of playoff success by New York over the last dozen years. The team is trying to avoid its fifth-straight first-round playoff exit, and win a series for only the second time in franchise history. The Revs has turned their franchise around over their 12 years in the league. From 1996-2001, New England qualified for postseason play only once. Since 2002, however, the Revs have made the playoffs every year, and have played in three MLS Cup finals. They've yet to taste the champagne, but have become one of MLS' most consistent winning teams. Of course, history is history.

Here are the clubs' last five results:
New York: DDLWD
New England: DWLLD

Here's a line-by-line look at what to expect tomorrow:
The Revolution forwards vs. the New York defense:
Pat Noonan and Taylor Twellman vs. Hunter Freeman, Jeff Parke, Carlos Mendes, and Dave van den Bergh (and Ron Waterreus). All the ink this year in MLS has been about Luciano Emilio and Juan Pablo Angel, but Twellman had yet another solid season for the Revs, notching 16 goals in 26 appearances. Noonan has a reputation as a Metro-killer, and had 7 tallies of his own in the regular season. Christman off the bench is dangerous. New York's defense has been an adventure since the summer, and the soon-to-be-retired Wattereus offers little confidence in net. Dave van den Bergh can push the ball up the field quickly, but the key for NY is to contain Twellman, and handle the rest that the Revs serve up. Advantage: New England

The Red Bulls' attackers vs. the New England defense:
Jozy Altidore and Juan Pablo Angel vs. Avery John, Michael Parkhurst, and Jay Heaps (and Matt Reis). It's no surprise that as JPA goes in this series, so will the Red Bulls. While Angel will get the most attention from the NE defense, Jozy Altidore has the skills the breakdown opponents one-on-one and can be the difference-maker. New England waited until the end of the regular season before letting its usually strong defense droop. The Revs allowed seven goals in its last three matches and two+ goals in seven of its last eight. That letdown may continue. Advantage: New York

The Midfields:
Dane Richards. Claudio Reyna, Seth Stammler, and Dema Kovalenko vs. Khano Smith, Jeff Larentowicz, Steve Ralston, Sharie Joseph, and Wells Thompson. It's common knowledge that New York played better without Claudio Reyna on the field this year than when Captain America was ailing, but it's in these types of big matches that Reyna's calming influence will serve the Red Bulls well. Richards and Kovalenko add speed and opportunism on the flanks, but the name you don't see, Clint Mathis, will be a key late sub. New England's midfield in led by the league's all-time assist leader in Ralston (14 this year), and big, skilled Shalrie Joseph (4g, 5a). These two New England stalwarts won't be rattled should the Revs go down early, as the pair were a part the three-goal playoff comeback against NY in 2005. Slight Advantage: New England

The Coaches:
Both Steve Nicol and Bruce Arena have coached and won in the MLS playoffs, though Arena has yet to win with his NY crew. Slight Advantage: New England

With DC dropping their first leg match at Chicago last night, both clubs are eyeing home dates for the Eastern final. Though they didn't beat NE this year (0-2-1), New York can take solace in their strong play against the Revs this regular season. A rainy forecast will keep the crowd small, and the Revs usually bring a large and loud traveling contingent. Slight Advantage: New York

New York will gladly take the same 1-0 result they grabbed in the clubs'
2005 first-leg playoff match. With a energized duo up top, New York does even better this time out. Goals by JPA and Jozy give the Red Bulls a 2-0 lead heading to New England on November 3rd.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Finishing Smartly & Questioning the Iceman

Congrats to the Red Bulls for finishing up the regular season last night by taking a point on the road in a 1-1 draw at the HDC vs. the Gals. Jozy Altidore hit his ninth goal of the season with a snap header a minute after LA's Troy Roberts put the Galaxy in front with a header of his own.

For my money, the best part about last night's match was that the squad escaped injury, while holding MLS' hottest side from winning their sixth match in a row. New York finishes the season at 12-11-7, good enough for sixth place among MLS' 13 teams. The 43 points did mark New York's third-best finish in twelve MLS seasons, behind the Eastern Conference champion season of 2000 (54 pts.) and 2005's 47-point campaign.

Will NY's mini-spurt of decent play (1-0-1) generate any momentum into the playoff opener vs. New England next Saturday in the swamp? We'll see.

Ice Ice, Baby?
Scaryice, of Climbing the Ladder fame, is a one-man MLS content machine. His blog is full of amazing and insightful analysis of MLS stats. He creates weekly highlight videos of every goal scored in the league each week, and for the second straight season, he's created a "Top 10 Goals" for each team. Here's his 2007 Red Bulls collection:

Love the work, but not all of the choices. For my money, two terrific and meaningful goals were omitted, and both were scored in the epic 5-4 win over LA on August 18th at the Swamp.

First, is Juan Pablo Angel's pin-point free kick to open the scoring... and second is Clint Mathis' laser volley in first-half injury time (Find video of both here under 8/18). Not only did Mathis' strike knot the score at two, but the goal put Cleetus at the top of the all-time NY scoring list. C'mon Ice!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

You say Edu, I say Adu

MLS Rookie of the Year candidate and TFC midfielder Maurice Edu cracked coach Bob Bradley's lineup for today's US friendly match vs. Switzerland at St. Jakob's park in Basel. (FSC, 2:30p et).

The complete lineup:


A 4-5-1 on the road in Europe, where Bradley's boys will attempt to end a five-match losing streak. The Bench: Guzan, Califf, Pearce, DeMerit, Szetela, Adu, Findley. Will we see Edu and Adu on the field at the same time? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: In the 77th minute of a scoreless match, Adu was subbed on, making a Edu-Adu US midfield a reality! Can the two youngsters deliver a goal? We'll see!

FINAL UPDATE: While not affecting the play, both Edu and Adu were on the field when Michael Bradley scored his first-ever national-team goal in the 87th minute, giving the US a 1-0 victory on European soil! Well done!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rev'd Up for the Playoffs

Three points in a match! How novel! The Red Bulls' take down of KC on Saturday night sewed up third place in the East with a match to play. Considering the squad clinched berths in the seasons' final match in 2005 and 2006, this year's finish could be considered a step in the right direction. Just a step, though.

Juan Pablo Angel continues to amaze, as the Colombian notched goals 18 and 19 in the victory, setting up a first-round playoff tie with second-place New England. Series matches are Oct. 27 at the Swamp, and Nov. 3rd at the Big Razor. The Revs have lost their air of invincibility of late, dropping their last two matches v. Chicago and at Columbus.

Does New York have a reason to be optimistic? New England did own the Red Bulls this year with a 2-0-1 record over their I-95 rivals, though each victory was only by a single goal. The Red Bulls and Revs have met twice in playoff history; in 2003 when NE eliminated NY with a 3-1 aggregate score win, and 2005, where New York took a 2-0 agg. lead at New England in the second leg, only to blow the series by allowing three scores in the final 23 minutes. Currently the Red Bulls are on a seven-match losing streak at Gillette and haven't won in Foxboro since June 29, 2002 when Mamadou Diallo (!) and Mark Lisi led the way in a 2-0 win.

I'll have a full playoff preview after the regular season ends on Sunday. With one week to go, Supporters' Shield champion DC United can face either KC, Chicago, Colorado or LA in its first-round series as of today. Viva mediocrity! I mean... parity!

Friday, October 05, 2007


The Red Bulls took another step on the the club's well-worn road to mediocrity with a 2-1 loss at TFC last night, snapping the Canadian Club's 12-match losing streak. NY defender Chris Leitch's own goal allowed Toronto to record two tallies in a match for the first time since July 8th vs. league "powerhouse" RSL.

New York let in 2+ goals for the fifth straight match. The Red Bulls are 1-4-3 in their last eight games, providing zero confidence that they'll advance in the playoffs. Only the dundering Kansas City Wizards (1-4-1 in last 6) and awful Columbus Crew (1-5-3 in last 9) have kept NY from being overtaken in the standings.

The Red Bulls finish up with KC and a resurgent LA squad. At this point, the team needs to be put down quietly and retooled (yet again!) for '08. With the baseball playoffs, NFL, and NHL in full swing, only the small crowd of RBNY faithful fans will notice the team's season mercifully end in four weeks' time. Sigh.

Friday, September 14, 2007

DC and Chivas Taking All the Fun Away

Since August 1st, DC United and Chivas USA are a combined 14-0-2 in league play, vaulting each to the top of their respective division and 1-2 in the MLS standings. The only draws in that stretch came in the 2-2 deadlock the teams played in Carson on September 6th.

There's such a thing as peaking too early, but there's no reason to think that the squads won't meet at RFK for the MLS Cup on November 14th. DC has the easier road to the Supporters Shield, as United plays at Chicago, home vs. TFC, at Kansas City, and home vs. the Fire and Columbus to end the season. Chivas has two games at hand on DC and plays at Colorado, home vs. KC, at Chicago, at RSL, at Dallas, home vs. Colorado, and finishes at home versus division contender Houston.

Barring a late surge by Chicago or KC, the Red Bulls should qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs for the fifth straight year, and a win in Bridgeview on Saturday could go a long way to cement New York's standing as a playoff team. There's little expectation for advancement in the postseason unless the walking Red Bull wounded (Kovalenko, Altidore, Richards, Reyna) get back into form and play some inspired ball. I wouldn't bet on it.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Red Bulls Preview: Game 23 vs. Flamers

After a down-in-the-dumps week that saw New York lose at DC and New England, the Red Bulls (10-9-3) face another hot division rival, the Chicago Fire (7-9-5) at the Swamp on Saturday (7:30p ET, MSG). Tomorrow's Fire squad will look nothing like the team that New York blanked 3-0 on May 24th, however. Impressive roster addtions Temoc Blanco and Paulo Wanchope have lifted Chicago to within a single point of playoff position. Chicago's new coach Juan Carlos Osorio has the Fire playing with confidence, while the Red Bulls are once again looking to keep their season on a positive note. A loss will drop New York to .500, where they haven't been since Week 1 (0-0-1).

Recent Form/Playoff Position
New York: LWWLL/3d in East, would face DC in 1st rd.
Chicago: WDWLW/6th in East, 1 pt. from playoff pos.

Here's a line-by-line look at what to expect tomorrow:
The Fire forwards vs. the New York defense:
Calen Carr and Pablo Wanchope vs. Hunter Freeman, Jeff Parke, Seth Stammler, and Chris Leith (and Ron Waterreus). Carr (3g) has to be elated with the additions to his Fire squad. His Costa Rican strike partner (1g) has been terrorizing defenses for most of his storied career at EPL clubs like West Ham and Man City. While Wanchope is a little long in the tooth, he'll be dangerous against MLS defenses. The NY backline's three goals for tomorrow: 1) stop allowing keepers to get assists, 2) stop allowing own goals, and 3) provide confidence that they can help win some points. I guess after Conway's howler last week, the Walrus will be back in the NY net. Advantage: Chicago

The Red Bulls' attackers vs. the Chicago defense:
Jozy Altidore and Juan Pablo Angel vs. Dasan Robinson, Diego Gutierrez, and C.J. Brown (and Jon Busch). Not much more can be said about Jozy and the Angel. They score goals (21 of NY's 36 this season and 8 in the last five games). They have flair. They'll be playing at home. Hopefully they'll produce. Chicago has pitched a surprising four shutouts in their last five. Yes, their opponents included TFC, RSL, and Columbus, but they also shutout KC at home last week.Advantage: New York

The Midfields:
Dane Richards. Claudio Reyna, Joe Vide, and Clint Mathis vs. Ivan Guerrero, Chris Armas, Temoc Blanco, Bakary Soumare, and Logan Pause. Vide has been a steady sub, and has supplanted Dave van den Bergh in the starting lineup. Richards continues to have a fine rookie season. Key stat for New York: the Red Bulls are 5-6-3 in matches that Claudio Reyna plays, 5-3-0 in matches he does not. Chicago's midfield now runs through Blanco, who has two goals and four assists in his five matches in a Fire uniform. Armas will be steady as always at d-mid and Guerrero is always tough. Advantage: Push

The Coaches:
Rookie coach Osorio has to thank his lucky stars that Blanco and Wanchope are on the roster, because the Fire were woeful without them. He has his team jelling at just the right time, and has his team believing in themselves. Arena should start thinking about his next gig, because his present one might not be his much longer. Advantage: Chicago

One has to wonder how many of the 66,000+ that attended the Red Bulls' last match will return in the middle of a holiday weekend, though the appearance of Blanco may tip attendance to the support of the visitors. On the field, one club is making gains, while the other is accepting its fate. You guess which one is which. Advantage: Chicago

Blanco and Wanchope have punished the U.S. MNT for years. Tomorrow, they'll punish the Red Bulls in front of a group of happy Mexican fans at Giants Stadium. Chicago wins, 3-1.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Middle of the Road

Mediocre. Also-ran. Mid-table. These adjectives adequately describe the Red Bulls after their lost week on the road against the Eastern Conference leaders. New York is 2-3 over its last five matches, while DC United is 5-0 and New England is 3-2. Playing the way they are, there's little hope that NY will catch either foe, and a fifth-straight first-round playoff exit seems likely. One wonders whether Red Bull will allow Bruce Arena to keep his job without advancing in the playoffs, which would start the NY turnover parade for another year.... and so on... and so on...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Red Bulls Preview: Game 21 at Scum

Coming off Saturday's emotional win, the Red Bulls (10-7-3) start a challenging stretch of three divisional matches, the first at RFK tonight vs. a strong DC United squad (10-6-3). Discounting their SuperLiga semifinal loss at LA, DC has three straight MLS wins via shutout. Luciano Emilio has proven to be the signing of the year in the league (sorry, Alexi), as the Brazilian is on top of the league scoring list with 14 goals in 19 appearances.

New York is riding high as well, though wins in its last two games vs. subpar LA and Toronto sides give reason for pause. Tonight's match (7:30p, MSG) is a real test to see if the Red Bulls have shaken off the mid-season doldrums.

Tonight offers the final regular season match between the two clubs (they've split the first two), and is a potential playoff preview as the teams would face each other should the season end today.

Recent Form/Playoff Position:
DC United: DLWWW/2d in East, would face NY in 1st rd.
New York: LWLWW/3d in East, would face DC in 1st rd.

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

The United forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Luciano Emilio and Jaime Moreno vs. Hunter Freeman, Jeff Parke, Seth Stammler, and Chris Leitch (and Jon Conway). What more can be said about Emilio? He's been everything DC has hoped for, with five goals in his last seven matches. Throw in NY-killer Moreno's three strikes, and you've got almost half of DC's MLS goals coming from its front line. All deference to the amazing free-kick ability of David Beckham, but unless New York figures out how to defend set-pieces, the Red Bulls will go nowhere come playoff time. Ron Wattereus is scheduled to start, but after giving up some questionable goals last week, I give Conway the starting nod. Advantage: DC

New York's attackers vs. the DC defense:
Juan Pablo Angel and Jozy Altidore vs. Brian Namoff, Devon McTavish, Greg Vanney, and Marc Burch (and Troy Perkins). MLS Player of the Week Jozy Altidore is on fire for New York (7 goals), and has taken pressure off of Angel (12 g) to carry the entire scoring load. While DC is known for its firepower up front, the backline hasn't allowed a goal in MLS play since John Wolyniec scored against them on July 22nd, a scoreless streak of 341 minutes. Most impressive was the 3-0 beatdown DC laid at New England on August 5th. Advantage: Push

The Midfields:
Fred, Christian Gomez, Domenic Mediate, and Clyde Simms vs.
Dave van den Bergh, Joe Vide, Clint Mathis and Dane Richards. All members of the New York midfield impressed last Saturday, especially Mathis, who finally set the franchise all-time scoring mark, and Richards, whose speed gave the Galaxy fits. Fred is heating up for DC, with two goals in his last five MLS matches, and Gomez is of course always dangerous. Newbies Mediate and Vide cancel each other out. Slight Advantage: DC

The Coaches:
Tom Soehn is certainly having the last laugh over his early-season detractors. After an 0-3-1 start, DC is 10-3-2 and looks to be in championship form once again. Bruce Arena is hoping the high of last week's win can provide the confidence necessary to win on the road. NY is 4-2 is its last six outings. Advantage: Push

DC has won the maximum points in six of nine home matches this season (6-1-2) and will have its regular rowdy supportive crowd behind the club tonight. New York has played decently on the road (3-4-2) but has only gone 1-2 in road games after home wins this season. Advantage: DC

While New York has certainly played better without the injured Claudio Reyna, the speed and skill of DC calls for his unique brand of field leadership. Mathis does ok to run the team in Reyna's stead, but on paper United is just too strong to beat at home. Emilio and Gomez score in a 2-0 DC victory.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Just How Many Red Bulls Fans Are There?

Walking through the Giants Stadium parking lot before Saturday's Red Bulls-Galaxy match, I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of Red Bulls regalia worn by the tailgating fans. While less than half the crowd had their Red Bulls jerseys and shirts on, definitely more than a quarter did. Given the much-reported, pre-Beckham home attendance mark (11K+ per game), I wondered where all these Red Bull-clad fans were each week, because they certainly weren't at Giants Stadium, cheering on the team. Were they watching on TV?

Maybe not. Today's NY Times has a story by sports business/media columnist Richard Sandomir on the varied channel line-up that will get Beckham games (ESPN, FSC, Telefutura, HDNet, local cable stations, etc.) this season. The piece also notes that Red Bulls games on MSG and FSNY, the New York local cable sports stations, draw an average of...1,031 households.

That's mind-bogglingly low, even considering folks watching matches in bars (not measured) , and those watching over the internet. One thousand households. The story notes that ratings are up 40% over last year's 736-HH average. I know it's been reported in the past that the Metros/Red Bulls regularly outdraw the Islanders and Devils on TV, but with numbers that low, one wonders just how much more invisible the club can get.

Perhaps Saturday orgasmically-good win over LA will kick-start the ratings and attendance pumps, but for RBNY to make a dent in the local sports scene, the marketing dollars have to start flowing, and quickly.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Amazing Night in Giants Stadium

I have first-hand knowledge that last night's game converted at least two soccer fans into MLS fans. Which is exactly what it was supposed to do. What an electric atmosphere. Hopefully the RB FO can create some momentum for the Red Bulls' final four home games. One will be played on Labor Day weekend, and another on Yom Kippur, but if there was an advertisement for the league, it was last night.

I'll be on vacation this week, so expect few posts, but I'll be back with more after the 27th. Have a great week.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Red Bulls Preview: Game 20 vs. Team Hollywood

Well, the traveling circus has finally arrived in the Metro Area. Look for an avalanche of Beckham media before, during, and after tomorrow night's match at the house the Caricola destroyed. The report on newsradio this morning led off with, "The Red Bulls usually have problems attracting 10,000 fans to Giants Stadium, but tomorrow..." (sigh).

The Red Bulls (9-7-3) have won two of three and three of five, and are still glowing from last week's walkover vs. TFC. The Jozy Altidore hype machine is in full gear, and the 17-year star even posted on Jack Bell's NY Times GOAL blog to feed it. Claudio Reyna may not play tomorrow, but that might not be the worst thing for New York, who seem to be better without Captain America on the field.

The Gals (3-7-5) are surely riding high since their SuperLiga win on Wednesday. With players like Xavier, Pavon, Alan Gordon, and Landon Donovan in addition to Goldenballs, LA looks to be heading in the right direction. If LA wants to make the playoffs, however, the need points in a hurry.

Recent Form/Playoff Position:
New York: WLWLW/3rd in East, would face DC United in 1st round
Los Angeles: WDLLW (all competitions)/5th in West, 10 pts. from playoff position

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

The Los Angeles forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Alan Gordon and Carlos Pavon vs. Hunter Freeman, Jeff Parke, Seth Stammler, and Chris Leitch (and Ronald Wattereus). Gordon has yet to score in MLS play this season, but the former A-League Golden Boot winner did pump in three goals during the first round of the SuperLiga. Pavon, the dangerous Honduran striker, has yet to score since joining the Galaxy, but with Donovan and Beckham there to pick up the scoring slack, he should relax and let the goals come to him. The NY defense has allowed only three goals in its last five matches, a feat even more impressive since they've done it without centerback stalwart Carlos Mendes, who's still not 100% fit. If Ron Wattereus is back in form in net, another shutout is a possibilty. Advantage: New York

New York's attackers vs. the Galaxy defense:
Juan Pablo Angel and Jozy Altidore vs. Ante Jazic, Abel Xavier, Ty Harden, and Chris Klein (and Joe Cannon). Yes, last week's match was against the Weak Sisters of the Poor, but it's hard to deny that the JPA and Jozy show is for real. Jozy's second marker of the TFC game earned him MLS Goal of the Week. On the big stage, the two could win some fans for the team. LA has allowed 20 goals in 17 matches, but recently held New England to a single strike and shut out DC United. Abel Xavier has been a revelation in the back for the Gals. Advantage: Push

The Midfields:
Dave van den Bergh, Joe Vide, Clint Mathis and Dane Richards vs. David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Kyle Martino, and Kevin Harmse. There's not much more to be said about Becks' blast on Wednesday vs. DC. Even at 3/4 speed, Beckham may be the most skilled player in the league. Throw in Metro-killer Landcakes, and you've got a tough assignment for anyone to handle. Harmse is a bruiser. New York will miss pit-bull Dema Kovalenko for another week, but Joe Vide has done a yeoman's job in his stead. Without Reyna, Mathis will play quarterback. Here's to hoping he's up for the assignment. Advantage: Los Angeles

The Coaches:
Bruce Arena is finally getting the club moving in the right direction after a few months of bad form while Frank Yallop, who has also won MLS Cups in his day, is still trying to figure out how to get his talented squad to mesh. Advantage: Push

Without a Barcelona or Manchester United barnstorming the country this year, tomorrow's match is THE night for soccer in New York this summer. Most of the 60,000+ attending will not care one whit whether the Red Bulls will win or not, which sucks, frankly. Hopefully, New York won't underachieve yet again in front of a large crowd, which has been the club's M.O. over the years. Beckham's aversion to the plastic pitch may be the Red Bulls' saving grace. Weather will be ideal. Advantage: Push

Traditionally, New York gacks it up when playing in front of more the 25k at home. My guess is that Arena will hype his boys up by telling them that the vast majority of the crowd will be rooting against them. Maybe it'll work. Goals for Beckham, Donovan, JPA, and Jozy tomorrow in a super entertaining 2-2 draw.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Becks' Blast to Allay Appearance Anxiety?

Bend it he did last night, knocking the DC Scum out of the SuperLiga and sending the Galaxy to the tournament final vs. Mexico's Pachuca on August 29th. MLS/SUM should be pleased that the first SuperLiga final will include a team from South of the border, 'cause an all-MLS final would be a hard sell to the Latino fans that the tournament was designed to reach.

In any case, Beckham's 63-minute, 1 goal, 1 assist performance should allay any fears that he'll be riding the pine on Saturday night at Giants Stadium, where at least 60,000 fans will await his arrival. Though he's publicly poo-pooed the notion of playing on an artificial surface, Becks will certainly play in his only '07 appearance in the nation's #1 media market. Saturday's weather will be absolutely perfect, and the walk-up crowd could sell out the joint. We know at least 15K will be pulling for the home side, and perhaps with a strong performance, the Red Bulls could actually win some fans. Perhaps.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

ESPN Overdoing Promotion of MLS?

Any sports fan with a pulse over the last few weeks is aware of the ESPN hype machine orgasm over David Beckham's MLS arrival. Of course, if Becks had been playing more (or at all) during his ESPN-televised games, the ubiquitous "Beckham-cam" would have been much less annoying.

While soccer-bashers out there continue to do their thing, Jason Chung of "The Situationalist" wonders if ESPN's behavior can "save" Major League Soccer. The notion that MLS needs "saving" is, of course, debatable, with the new ownership groups (and more on the way), new stadiums (ditto), new sponsors, and new television contracts in place all before Goldenballs' arrival.

Chung's piece delves into the idea that the ESPN family of products; print, radio, broadband, mobile, and of course, television, is spending more time on MLS that the league's ratings warrant. Much has been made in the sports business press about the "decline" of the National Hockey League coinciding with the NHL's contract with the Versus network, severely shrinking the viewing audience for its games (The lockout had an impact as well, no?).

This past season was Arena Football's first on ESPN, and the network did its best to promote the AFL on SportsCenter, on its' "Bottom Line" sports ticker, on ESPNNews, and other places. Now I'm ignorant to how the AFL did ratings-wise, but I'm guessing the league drew similar ratings to MLS.

And it's those MLS ratings that are the crux of Chang's issue. Noting the league's microscopic 0.2 average rating on ESPN2 (LA-Chelsea did a 1.0), how long will ESPN put its' energy into promoting MLS? If the larger soccer-loving public continues to thumb its nose at the league (case in point: NYRB attendance) in favor of the top leagues of Europe, how long, despite the massive investment, will MLS sponsors and television networks support it? With Beckham's arrival a watershed moment for the league, how long does MLS have to show real growth in the form of increased attendances and television ratings?

Here's the link to Chung's piece. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Peach-Colored Society Rag Profiles the ESC

Never in a million years would I have thought that the New York Observer, that effete Upper East Side-focused society paper would spare an inch of space on the scruffy, clever, boozy group that supports the Red Bulls (yes, I'm a member) from section 101 at Giants Stadium, but here it is. Between coverage of Bill & Hillary in the Hamptons, and the Rex Reed (yes, he's still alive) review, the paper that hosted Candice Bushnell's Sex & The City column is slumming indeed. Enjoy.

FMF Fans' View of Superliga

MLS fans seem to be jazzed about the first Superliga as the tournament starts the semifinal stage tonight when Houston hosts Pachuca (10p ET, TF). What do Mexican league fans have to say? After all, this first tournament was played during the Apertura pre-season, and although the FMF clubs tried hard, perhaps they weren't at top strength.

Using Yahoo! Answers, I asked users in the Mexican league area: "Has the Superliga grabbed the attention and respect of FMF fans?"

The answers ran the gamut from: I think this tournament could grow into something," to "no they were just practice games for me." While I'm not sure the goal of the Superliga was to attract FMF fans, the majority were not surprisingly in the latter camp.

Jozy's Blast
If you didn't see the highlights of NY's 3-0 pasting of Toronto on Sunday, check out Jozy Altidore's amazing goal, then vote for it for Goal of the Week. If the Pride of Jersey keeps scoring goals like these, he may be headed to Europe before the MLS season ends.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Munching on the Maple Leafs

Nice to see the Red Bulls avoid playing down to the level of its opponent. New York dominated an injury-depleted last place Toronto FC squad 3-0 yesterday at Giants Stadium. The Red Bulls got a goal from Juan Pablo Angel and two scores from Jozy Altidore in the win, and held TFC, missing both starting forwards, without single shot on goal in the match.

Down the stretch, New York (9-7-3) will have more matches like this to overcome, as six of the club's 11 remaining matches are with the bottom four teams in MLS:

Team, Record, Matches vs. NY
RSL, 2-9-6, Sept. 29 at NY
LAG, 3-7-5, Aug. 18 at NY, Oct. 18 at LA
TFC, 5-10-5, Oct. 4 at TOR
CHI, 5-8-5, Sept. 1 at NY, Sept. 15 at CHI

Of course, it's not just the bottom-feeders on the NY schedule. The Red Bulls will face its key Eastern Conf. rivals and make an extra trip to LA on the way to the playoffs:

NE, 10-4-6, Aug. 25 at NE, Sept. 22 at NY
DCU, 9-6-3, Aug. 22 at DC
CHV, 8-6-3, Sept. 9 at LA
KC, 8-6-5, Oct. 13 at NY

New York can thank the schedule-maker for putting matches vs. Western Conference heavies Houston and Dallas early in the season, making the quest for a top-four finish and a Superliga 2008 berth a realistic goal.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Red Bulls Preview: Game 19 vs. Hosers

The Red Bulls (8-7-3) haven't played a match (other than standing around in Central Park this week) since an 0-2 home loss to Chivas on July 26th. New York has scored two goals in its last six outings, and has dropped from first place on July 8th to fourth place today.

Toronto FC (5-9-5) may be one of the few sides that New York may feel comfortable playing right now. The men from T.O. are on a five-match winless streak, and haven't scored in 372 minutes since #1 draft pick Maurice Edu scored at Chicago in a 1-1 draw on July 7th.

Recent Form/Playoff Position:
New York: LWLWL/4th in East, would face the Revs in 1st round
Toronto: DDLLD/7th in East, six points from playoff position

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

The Toronto forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Andrea Lombardo and Colin Samuel vs. Hunter Freeman, Jeff Parke, Carlos Mendes, and Kevin Goldthwaite (and Ronald Wattereus). Toronto, in their inaugural season, has scored only 18 goals in 19 matches, and will be without starting forwards Jeff Cunningham (3g) and Denny Dicho (5g). Sunday's starting forwards have only one goal between them this season. The big layoff should help New York's defense considerably if Jeff Parke has rounded back into shape and Ron Wattereus has returned to form. The Red Bulls have conceded only three goals in their last four matches. Advantage: New York

New York's attackers vs. the TFC defense:
Juan Pablo Angel and Jozy Altidore vs. Todd Dunivant, Jim Brennan, Tyrone Marshall, and Andrew Boyens (and Kenny Stamatopoulos). As foes have figured out how to stop Angel (double team him, don't let him turn), the Red Bulls scoring production has completely evaporated. Arena may choose to play a 4-3-3 including Wolyniec to add some punch. Despite the winless streak, TFC's defense has been strong, only giving up six goals in their last five outings, with two shutouts. Stamataopoulos, Toronto's Greek keeper, made his debut last Sunday with a shutout vs. Los Angeles. Advantage: Push

The Midfields:
Seth Stammler, Claudio Reyna, Clint Mathis and Dane Richards vs. Andy Welsh, Carl Robinson, Chris Pozniak, and Joey Melo. There's been a APB out for Clint Mathis since early May. At a time when New York is hurting for goals, New York needs Mathis to regain his form, and fast. Without the re-injured Dema Kovalenko, the Red Bulls need the fire to come from somewhere. Melo has two MLS starts for TFC. Advantage: New York

The Coaches:
Bruce Arena hasn't been able to pull New York out of its midseason funk (2-4-1 in last seven). The club is finally mostly healthy, but Bruce may be starting to feel some heat from management after last week's home loss. Mo Johnston is suffering through an avalanche of injuries in his first season, but the great crowds in Toronto have given him a free pass this season. TFC has nothing to lose. Advantage: Push

The Red Bull FO has bundled tickets to Sunday's match with next week's Beckham game, so a large turnout (20k+) is possible if the weather's good. Rested and healthy, New York has no excuses. Toronto will be without many top players (K Sutton, Fs Cunningham, Dichio, M O'Brien, D Wynne), so even with a modest effort, New York should come out on top. Advantage: New York

Prediction: While it's hard to imagine the Red Bulls losing this match, New York must attack early and often to put the game out of reach in the first half. There's not much good feeling around the club right now, but Toronto may be visiting at just the right time New York wins, 2-0.

Television Guide
The new EPL Season highlights this week's TV lineup (times ET):

Saturday, August 11th:
9:25a: GER: Bayern Munich-Hansa Rostock, GOL
9:55a: EPL: West Ham-Manchester City, FSC
11:30a: GER: Bochum-Werder Bremen, GOL
12noon: EPL: Aston Villa-Liverpool, FSC
2:15p: EPL: Derby County-Portsmouth, FSC
4:00p: INTL: Friendly, Yokohama-Barcelona, TM
6:00p: MEX: San Luis-Necaxa, GALA
7:00p: COL: Cucuta-Millonarios, GOL
8:00p: MEX: Chivas-Tecos, TF
8:30p: MLS: Dallas-Columbus, FSC
9:00p: MLS: Colorado-Houston, HDNet
10:00p: MEX: Atlante-Pumas, GALA
11:00p: USL: PDL Final, Michigan-Laredo, FSC
12mid: MEX: Monterrey-Puebla, GALA

Sunday, August 12th:
7:00a: EPL: Arsenal-Fulham, FSC
10:55a: GER: Nuremberg-Karlsruhe, GOL
11:00a: EPL: Manchester United-Reading, FSC
1:00p: MEX: Toluca-Santos, UNI
1:00p: GUA: Comunicaciones-Jalapa, GOL
1:00p: INTL: Friendly, Hong Kong XI-Barcelona, TM
1:00p: INTL: USWNT-New Zealand, ESPN2
3:00p: ARG: River Plate-Newell's Old Boys, FSC
4:00p: ESP: SuperCopa, Sevilla-Real Madrid, TM
5:00p: MLS: New York-Toronto, FSNY
5:00p: MLS: New England-Los Angeles, GALA
5:00p: MEX: Club America-Jaguares, TF
6:15p: COL: Dep. Cali-Tolima, GOL

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

RBFO: Not So Smart

Ah, those boys in Secaucus just can't seem to get it right. The Red Bull FO must have some egg on its face after trying to stage an "impromptu" match in Central Park yesterday between the NY boys and a side led by NBA superstar Steve Nash. Adam Spangler covers the, um, non-event here. Even when trying to pull together a little exposure on the cheap, the FO couldn't get the job done, as they thought the draconian rules regarding team sports on the Sheep Meadow didn't apply to professional teams. Hmm. Big ups to Spangler mentioning ESC'er Joe Tiernan by name. You go on Joe, with your bad self.

The Sound of Defeat
Yes, USL clubs provide a quality product. Yes, USL teams have proven they can play with MLS sides in exhibitions and in US Open Cup play. No one, however, expected the hurt that the Seattle Sounders put on the Colorado Rapids last night at Qwest Field in the USOC Quarters. Former Red Bull Taylor Graham kicked off the scoring for the Sounders in a five-nil whitewash of Colorado, the biggest loss by an MLS club in modern US Open Cup history. The Rapids lined up with a strong team to take on Seattle, but trailed 0-3 at half. Colorado has won all of four MLS matches this season, and one has to wonder when coach Fernando Clavijo will walk the plank. My guess: real soon.

In other USOC play last night, Carolina beat Richmond 1-0 and FC Dallas got by Charleston 2-1 in extra time on a goal by Arturo Alvarez. Tonight, the Revs host the teeny-weeny Harrisburg City Islanders at the Big Razor. Methinks New England in a walk.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Building Blocks: RBNY Takes More Baby Steps

As originally reported here way back in April, the Red Bulls announced today that Hanover, New Jersey, will be the site of the team's permanent training facility. The club has practiced all over Northern New Jersey since its inception in 1996, and has called Montclair State University its training site this season.

The announcement should allay any fears that Red Bull isn't committed to the success of the franchise, and will finally give the club a place to call their own.

Former Metro GM Nick Sakiewicz tried to get a training center built in more distant Pequannock in the late '90s, but NIMBY-minded voters nixed the deal.

Yesterday, BigAppleSoccer reported that Red Bull Park (to be built in Harrison, NJ) won't be ready until the 2009 season. Much has been written about Red Bull's desire to buy former Metro owner AEG out of its 50% of the stadium project, but the sale has yet to be announced. Harrison Mayor Ray McDonough said that construction at RPB will begin in mid-September. As we've been saying for almost a decade... stay tuned.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Three of Four in Superliga Semis

So what did we learn from the group stage of the first Superliga? We learned that in-form MLS sides can handle top Mexican clubs doing their preseason thing. We learned that fans will turn out to see the tourney (especially in LA, where Chivas de Guad. remains a strong draw). We learned that Alan Gordon can finish, and that the Galaxy (without Goldenballs) are jelling as a team. We learned that MLS clubs did well to adapt to the playing styles of the FMF team.

However, with three MLS team in the Superliga's Final Four, will the momentum continue? A healthy Becks will go a long way toward drawing a crowd for the 8/15 Gals-DCU semifinal. Will the Hispanic crowd the SUM and MLS are so trying to reach tune in for an all-MLS semi? The other semifinal pits Houston and Pachuca, albeit at 10p ET on the 14th, a start time which may keep fans and television viewers away. I can't imagine that the powers that be are rooting for an MLS v MLS final, but one can't deny how well the Creamsicles are playing.

Red Bull Mess
First there were stories about Red Bull buying out AEG's half of the officially stalled Red Bull Park project. Then there was a rumor that club GM Marc de Grandpre was sacked, to be replaced by an Austrian overlord. Then apparently the practice facility plans were nixed. The ESC is preparing a protest due to rough treatment from Giants Stadium security.

Any and all momentum that the team had from it's strong start in May has plummeted. The dark cloud that has dogged this franchise for a dozen years has returned. Once again, it's no fun to be a Metro fan.

Friday, July 27, 2007

"That Metro Look"

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

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Red Bulls Preview: Game 18 vs. Goats

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

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

Recent Form:
New York: LLWLW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MLS Remains Super

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Look for Revs to Shoot Ahead in the East

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

The incredibly tight Eastern Standings as of today:

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

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

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

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

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

A Night of Positive Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well done, sir.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Optimism Concerning Red Bulls Attendance Prospects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Will New York Embrace These Red Bulls?

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

Thursday, July 12, 2007

What a Week We're Having!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Famous Jewish Soccer Legends

The word from Grant Wahl in this week's Sports Illustrated that US Gold Cup hero Benny Feilhaber is in fact a member of the tribe (Brazilian - Austrian, no less) got me thinking about other prolific US soccer players among the Chosen. I came up with a pretty strong list...

-Jeff Agoos of the 134 US caps and high profile own-goals against Jamaica (WC '98 Qualifying) and Portugal ('02 World Cup).

-Feilhaber's current US teammate and Chivas USA back Jonathan Bornstein

-Viva magazine pinup and former Cosmos keeper Shep Messing

-Survivor winner and founder of Grassroot Soccer Ethan Zohn

-US Women's team defender Sarah Whalen, who childed me at Nathan Hale's pub in NYC during the '02 World Cup for ordering a Diet Coke (instead of a beer, or a Manischewitz) at 3am, a few hours before reporting to work

-Becks, who is 1/4 Hebrew. We'll take him!

Heading to Montreal tomorrow for the U20s match vs. Korea. Will post photos/stories after the holiday. Enjoy the Copa and the U20 World Cup!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Gold Cup > Stanley Cup

Since the lockout of 2004-05, sports pundits have been deriding the NHL and its lack of relevancy in the American sports landscape. Today's news (HT: Jason E.) illustrates that point: 41 percent more television households tuned in to Sunday's Gold Cup Final than the June 6th Anaheim-Ottawa Stanley Cup clincher. The rating reflects the Spanish-language telecast on Univision (goalazo...azo....azo!) and not the English telecast on Fox Soccer Channel, but the message is clear: Soccer= Caliente! Hockey=Mucho Frio!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Drinking in the Gold Cup

They just can't beat us. Mexico fell to the US 2-1 yesterday on Benny Feilhaber's bomb of a goal...

...and a reflex save from former Metro Tim Howard. If the Mexies could for once lose with pride, though, it'd be a start. Soon-to-be ex-Mexico coach (perhaps) Hugo Sanchez once again took to the referees for the reasons for the loss, but hey, at least they found the net.

Said Sanchez: "I was surprised the penalty was whistled so quick in a final game. We were hoping the US would score on a brilliant play, plus there was one [penalty] on Omar Bravo. I would prefer that whoever wins is the better team and not the team that wins on a referee's call. Sometimes the best team doesn't win. But the US was maybe more practical and they deserved it."

Give me a break.

Congrats to the Gold Cup Champions, who saved its best outing of the tournament for the final. Did you see Frankie Hejduk hug FIFA boss Sepp Blatter on the podium? Awesome. Congrats for LD for tying Eric "Red Card" Wynalda for the all-time US goal mark. Soon Rob Stone will be introducing his partner as "US Hall Of Famer... Eric Wynalda" Priceless. The Yanks also have their tickets punched for the Confed Cup South Africa 2009, and Bob Bradley is now 10-0-1 as US coach. Great news all around.

Now it's on to Venezuela with a young, young side for Copa America. At this point, getting out of the group (Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia) should be considered a remarkable achievement, but even with three losses, the Copa will be a valuable experience for the whole squad.

Friday, June 22, 2007

USA-MEX: I Love the 00's

After last night's Gold Cup semis, two tense affairs featuring questionable calls that put CONCACAF big boys US and Mexico into the final (Sunday, 2pm et, FSC) , I thought it'd be worthwhile to take a look at the decade where the US absolutely owned the Tricolores. You know the story...since 2000, the Yanks have a 7-2-1 record vs. the Sombreros. In the US, the Yanks have a dominant 6-0-1 record. South of the border, Mexico is 2-0-0 (both in WC quallies), and on that neutral field in Jeonju, the score was dos a cero to the EEUU.

Here's a look at the matches:

Date, Classification, Location, Result, US Goals
6/11/00, US Cup, East Rutherford, 3-0, Hejduk, McBride, Razov
10/25/00, Friendly, Los Angeles, 2-0, Donovan, Wolff
2/21/01, WCQ, Columbus, 2-0, Wolff, Stewart
7/1/01, WCQ, Mexico City, 0-1
6/16/02, World Cup 2002, Jeonju, KOR, 2-0, McBride, Donovan
5/8/03, Friendly, Houston, 0-0
4/28/04, Friendly, Dallas, 1-0, Pope
3/27/05, WCQ, Mexico City, 1-2, Lewis
9/3/05, WCQ, Columbus, 2-0, Ralston, Beasley
2/7/07, Friendly, Glendale, AZ, 2-0, Conrad, Donovan

The US leads the goal parade 15-3 since the turn of the century, with Gringo Horrible Landon Donovan netting three in the series. Wolff and McBride have two, and Hejduk, Razov, Pope, Lewis, Ralston, Beasley, and Conrad have a single tally each.

Mexico has looked awful during the three-week tournament, with a 2-1 win over Cuba, a 2-1 loss to Honduras, a 1-0 win vs. Panama, a 1-0 OT win vs. an 8-man Costa Rica, and last night's 1-0 victory over regional powerhouse Guadeloupe.

While the US has gotten the results, the Yanks have been playing far from attractive football and have suffered from horrendous finishing. The Gold Cup for the Yanks: a 1-0 win vs. Guatemala, a 2-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago, the 4-0 thrashing of El Salvador, and 2-1 wins over Panama and Canada.

Sunday will won't have the cozy, US-friendly feel of Crew Stadium, but rather the Solider Field will be pulling 80/20 for the Mexicans. Can the domination by the US continue? In order for a real rivalry to exist, Mexico's going to have to win a match (hey, just score) on US soil sometime soon. Would I be shocked if that happened on Sunday? No. Will the either team deliver some attractive, proficient finishing? Perhaps. Let's just hope that the two great sides play a match worthy of a continental final. Enjoy.

Friday, June 15, 2007

ESPN Loves Soccer

Good to know Clint is doing well at the "Golf Cup."

The Kids Are Alright

This morning, Thomas Rongen named the US squad for the upcoming U20 World Cup in Canada. The Gnats kick off the tournament in Montreal on June 30th vs. South Korea. The roster includes some big names, and a few with NY-area roots:

-Freddy Adu

-Jozy Altidore (Newark's finest)

-Michael Bradley, who'll have quite a "how I spent my Summer vacation" story when he gets back to Heerenveen

-Gabriel Ferrari (NYC)

-Dax McCarty (FCD, who didn't take part in U20 qualifying)

-Johann Smith (Bloomfield, CT)

-Danny Szetela (Clifton, NJ)

-Tim Ward (former Metro)

Best of luck to the boys, who play Chile's U20 side next Saturday at Giants Stadium before the US Women face Brazil.