Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Early Line on MLS Expansion '11

Today's announcement by MLS honcho Marc Abbott on the magnificent seven cities that presented expansion bids for the league's 2011 expansion round is notable for many reasons; the foreign interest in MLS, the three bids from North of the border, and one glaring omission: a bid by the Wilpon family, who were reportedly interested in adding a team and building a stadium in Queens, New York. Had the credit crunch bitten the Wilpons? We'll soon find out, but for now, feel bad for the Borough Boys, the startup supporters' group that won't have a club until 2013 at the earliest.

So which cities will be joining the ever-growing MLS? Here's a one man's opinion:

Atlanta: Financial support from the NFL Falcons' owner Arthur Blank notwithstanding, Hot'lanta is horrendous sports town. Fans may turn out to support the Falcons (if they're winning), but as the Braves, Hawks, and Thrashers can attest, the many transplants in the area provide little home field advantage. No.

Ottawa: Although there's an outdoor stadium in place, the Canadian capital is too small a market to support a club. Ottawa falls behind Montreal and Vancouver, despite nice Loonies from the Sens' owners. No.

St. Louis: Lack of a firm stadium plan and questionable financing allowed Phiily to leapfrog the great soccer town to land a club for 2010. Given the current financial situation, I'm unconvinced that MLS will go here. Perhaps the Wizards move across Missouri? No to expansion.

Vancouver: The USL Champion Whitecaps' ownership group has been unsuccessful in building a downtown, waterfront stadium here for a few years now. Despite adding Steve Nash to the ownership group, Vancouver remains a dark horse.

Portland: There's a great affinity among hard-core MLS fandom for the Timbers Army, the superlative supporters club of the USL-1 Timbers. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's son is the prime mover here, but Beaver Stadium, which the club current shares with the city's AAA baseball club, needs a load of work. Sentimental favorite here, but I think PDX is the last cut.

Montreal: A superb ownership team with the Impact-and stadium-owning Saptuo family in combination with the NHL Canadiens and Liverpool owning Gillett family. The team's spanking new stadium is ready for a build-out, and the current USL club is well supported. What's not to like? Welcome to MLS. Road trip!

Miami: A last-minute surprise, with FC Barcelona ready to front for a US club. Just as Dave Checketts shocked MLS with his Salt Lake franchise, Barca Miami will play at Florida International University's new stadium. The league gets a great partnership with the most storied of great clubs, entry back into the Southeast, and an MLS Cup near South Beach. How could this be a bad thing? Welcome to MLS, Miami!

My 2011 MLS Alignment:

DC United
New England
New York

FC Dallas
Kansas City
Los Angeles
Salt Lake
San Jose

Monday, October 06, 2008


It wasn't Chad Barrett's chip of Red Bulls' keeper Jon Conway that was the most embarrassing, and it wasn't the TFC 80-yard fast-break goal off a poorly executed NY free kick. The most embarrassing part of Saturday night's 1-3 Red Bulls' home loss to league doormat Toronto was the banner unfurled by the visiting Red Patch Boys in the second deck which spelled out the truth: "Oooh, the Red Bulls are Shite!!!" is what the banner said, in six-foot letters for all of Giants Stadium to see.

After an unbeaten August that had New York dreaming of challenging Columbus for the Supporters' Shield, the Red Bulls have gone into a dreadful late-season swoon. The club is currently on an three-match losing streak and has secured only three of the fifteen points available since Labor Day.

Somehow, with only three matches remaining, the Red Bulls find themsleves in fourth place in the East and in playoff position. MLS parity, however, finds the league's bottom NINE teams within six points of each other with twenty days left in the regular season. only three of the nine will make the postseason. Here's a look at who should make it, and each team's October road...

Real Salt Lake, 35 pts, -1 GD, 3rd place in West: vs. NY, vs. FCD, at COL
RSL is currently in playoff position, and has only lost once in its last six outings. The club will get a huge boost playing its last two home matches in brand new Rio Tinto stadium. Win its home games, and RSL will make the MLS playoffs for the first time.

New York Red Bulls, 35 pts, -5 GD, 4th place in East: at RSL, vs. CMB, at CHI
New York currently holds the first of two MLS wild card spots, but faces the toughest road, starting with the first match at RSL's new stadium on Thursday. Unless the Crew clinches the Supporters' Shield this week, look for the league leaders to start their first team at Giants Stadium on 10/18, which should spell doom for NY. The Fire would like nothing more than to slam the door in Juan Carlos Osorio's face in the season finale.

FC Dallas, 34 pts, +6 GD, 4th place in West: vs. TFC, at RSL, at LA
Dallas in currently in the second and last wild-card spot. FCD is unbeaten in four (2-0-2) and with Kenny Cooper pumping in the goals, should make the postseason. Finishing at LA makes Dallas' road at easy one.

Colorado Rapids, 34 pts, -1 GD, 5th place in West: at LA, at CHV, vs. RSL
The Rapids took a step backwards this week, losing at Houston after a 3-0-1 run. Colorado showed they can win on the road in the 5-4 victory at NY a week ago, and should the club win at Chivas, will be in good shape for the final playoff spot.

Kansas City Wizards, 33 pts, -6 GD, 5th place in East: vs. NE, vs. SJ, at NE
The fate of the Wizards rests mostly with engagment level of New England, as the two clubs will spend 180 minutes together down the stretch. Should the Revs feel the need to push themselves as they did getting two late goals to tie RSL this weekend, KC's fate will be sealed.

DC United, 33 pts, -8 GD, 6th in East: at HOU, vs. NE, at CMB
Boy has United taken a nose dive this season. DC is winless in six (0-4-2) and the club has two more CCL matches to play. The extra-curriculars and injuries have destroyed what could have been a promising season for DC. The schedule down the stretch doesn't help. Stick fork in.

Toronto FC, 31 pts, -8 GD, 7th in East: at FCD, vs. CHI, at SJ
The Reds played well enough to beat a poor NY team on Saturday, but unless TFC can win in Dallas this week, getting to the postseason will be a difficult task.

San Jose Earthquakes, 30 pts, -5 GD, 6th in West: vs. CHV, at HOU, at KC, vs. TFC
Did you know that SJ has lost only ONCE since August 2nd? It's true. The expansion Quakes are 4-1-3 down the stretch and will benefit from having an extra match on its remaining schedule. Sadly, the club faces two stiff tests before easing out the schedule. A home victory vs. Chivas this Saturday, and the Quakes just might make it.

Los Angeles Galaxy, 29 pts, -5 GD, 7th in West: vs. COL, at HOU, vs. FCD
The idea that a club with Beckham and Donovan might finish dead last was laughable in April, but LA may do just that. Of course, Bruce Arena wasn't brought in to be a miracle worker this season, but to rebuild for 2009. Only running the table will get LA in. Don't bet on it.

Predicted first-round match-ups: East: CMB vs. COL, NE vs. CHI, West: HOU vs. FCD, CHV vs. RSL

Thanks, Bob!

Let's hear it for Bob Bradley, for realizing that bringing his young'uns to the next World Cup Qualifier may pay dividends. For Saturday US match vs. Cuba in DC, Bob has called in Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies, and Danny Szetela. Will the kids be alright? A US win will clinch passage to next year's Hexagonal. We'll see.