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.