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.