Saturday, November 22, 2008

What I Learned At the Supporters Summit

50 or so supporters attended this morning's Supporters Summit at the Home Depot Center.

It's my first time at the HDC, and the facility is absolutely gorgeous.

Fans from LA, Chivas, San Jose, Houston, Phoenix (!), Columbus, DC and New York attended a sometimes lively discussion with Don Garber and deputy comisssioner Ivan Gadzidis. Greg Lalas and Shep Messing also took part, but had little to say after the opening remarks.


The supplement that got Conway & Parke the 10-match suspensions? "Jungle Warfare." I kid you not. Garber said the two should have brought the J.W. to the RBNY trainers for testing before taking it. He made the case sound simple. It is.

Garber played a bit to the crowd noting that the league must build around fans that are the most passionate. He said he'd like to see 5,000 fans attend the summit in the future.

He deftly parried with an LA supporter that claimed that the league didn't listen to hardcore fans. The Don noted that the listening and putting all suggestions into practice were two different things.

Garber noted the challenge of turning the final into a two-legged affair, saying the league is seeking that "winning moment" that would make "SportsCenter," a moment all would remember. If the visitng team won the first match 3-0, the second leg would be a bore, which is not what the league is looking for.

Gadzidis gave a lengthy, lengthy response to questions about officiating, noting that all MLS matches are reviewed by both the league and US Soccer, and that folks complain about referreeing all over the world.

Jack Bell's Goal blog is the NY Times' most popular sports blog.

As for the effect of bloggers on the league, MLS employs a staffer whose entire function is to trawl BigSoccer and top soccer blogs for what the fans are saying about the league. If they read this..."Hi, League Office!"

Behold the 2009 Hexagonal Schedule

For the US, the final round of qualify for WC 2010 starts at home vs. Mexico, and finishes at home vs. Costa Rica. The Yanks alternate home and away matches until games 8 and 9, which will both be on the road, at Trinidad and at Honduras Here's the entire Hexagonal schedule:

Wednesday 11 February
Costa Rica-Honduras
El Salvador-Trinidad and Tobago

Saturday 28 March
Mexico-Costa Rica
Trinidad and Tobago-Honduras
El Salvador-USA

Wednesday 1 April
Costa Rica-El Salvador
USA-Trinidad and Tobago

Wednesday 3 June
Costa Rica-USA

Saturday 6 June
Trinidad and Tobago-Costa Rica
El Salvador-Mexico

Wednesday 10 June
Mexico-Trinidad and Tobago
Honduras-El Salvador

Wednesday 12 August
Honduras-Costa Rica
Trinidad and Tobago-El Salvador

Saturday 5 September
Costa Rica-Mexico
Honduras-Trinidad and Tobago
USA-El Salvador

Wednesday 9 September
El Salvador-Costa Rica
Trinidad and Tobago-USA

Saturday 10 October (*)
Costa Rica-Trinidad and Tobago
Mexico-El Salvador

Wednesday 14 October (*)
USA-Costa Rica
Trinidad and Tobago-Mexico
El Salvador-Honduras

* - simlutaneous kickoff

The Confederations Cup schedule will be released shortly.

Friday, November 21, 2008

MLS Doesn't Get It

Hello from American Airlines Flight 21 from New York to LA. That's right, I'm on the internet, on a plane. Hooray for gogo inflight internet!

I've been following Don Garber's MLS State of the League address via Twitter from MLS Rumors and American Soccer News (and MLS Insider) which is pretty cool, but I haven't loved everything I've heard.

A summary:

-30-match season for 2009, each of the 15 teams play the others home and away, with 2 extra matches... I assume "rivalry" matches
-Seattle Sounders FC has sold 18,000 season tickets...Wow!
-The two expansion teams for 2011 will be announced before the 2009 season begins, though Montreal has dropped out due to the global credit crunch. That leaves Atlanta, Miami, Portland, Ottawa, St. Louis, and Vancouver going for the two slots
-Teams 1-4 qualify for the Concacaf Champions Cup, 5-8 for Superliga
-The reserve division will be discontinued, with senior rosters increased, BUT,
-There will be no increase in the salary cap

Considering that two ownership groups are about to pump $80 million into the league coffers, the idea that the salary cap won't be increased is unbelievably short-sighted. More teams=more pressure to get better players into the league. Cutting developmental players (like Danny Cepero and his $12,900 salary) means that won't be able to afford teams more global talent, but instead will give MLS vets a well deserved raise ahead of the CBA expiration at the end of '09.

Oh, and one last thing:

The MLS Cup page has Seth Stammler, the NY midfielder that had season-ending surgery before the playoffsas a possible starter. Um, no.

Will try to post an MLS Cup Preview tomorrow.

From somewhere over Cleveland, have a good night!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

USMNT: 2008 in Stats

The USMNT closed out their 2008 schedule with a 2-0 World Cup Qualifying win over Guatemala at DSG Park outside Denver. The Yanks won on second-half goals from Kenny Cooper and Freddy Adu. Adu's first senior-team tally came on a sweet free kick.

The US finished the year with an impressive 9-3-2 mark, including a 7-1-0 record in World Cup Qualifying matches. The Yanks scored 30 goals across 11 of the their 14 matches (2.14 GPG), though was shut out three successive matches in the Spring: at England, at Spain, and vs. Argentina (a scoreless draw). Nearly half of the team's 30 goals came in two matches: the June 11th 8-0 win vs. Barbados to open Qualifying, and the October 11th 6-1 victory vs. Cuba. The US won by a 1-0 score three times, a 2-0 score twice, and a 3-0 score twice.

Goal scorers for the US in 2008:
4 goals: Brian Ching, Clint Dempsey
3 goals: Landon Donovan, Ogucji Onyewu
2 goals: Jozy Altidore, DeMarcus Beasley Carlos Bocanegra, Michael Bradley, Eddie Lewis
1 goal: Freddy Adu, Kenny Cooper, Charie Davies, Eddie Johnson, Eddie Robinson, and 1 own goal

On the other side of the ball, the Yanks conceded only 8 goals in 14 games (0.57 GAA), pitching 9 clean sheets. At one point in the year, the US pitched six consectutive shutouts, a team record. The US allowed 1 goal twice: at Spain on June 4th, and vs. Cuba on Oct. 11th. Our boys allowed 2 goals three times; the 2-2 draw vs. Mexico on Feb. 6th, the 0-2 loss at England on May 28th, and the 1-2 loss at Trinidad on Oct. 15th after the US had clinched passage to the Hexagonal.

Doing the Continental
In 2008, The MNT went 2-2 vs. UEFA teams, 0-0-1 vs. Conmebol (S. America), and 7-1-1 vs. CONCACAF nations.

Looking Ahead
In 2009, The US will face three major challenges:
First and foremost, the Yanks will play 10 qualifying matches in attempt to reach its sixth consecutive World Cup. The draw for the Hexagonal, or CONCACAF Final Round, will be held this Saturday in South Africa. The US will face Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Trinidad in the round.

In addition, the US visit South Africa for the FIFA Confederations Cup from June 14-28. In the 8-nation "mini World Cup," the Yanks may face Brazil, Iraq, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, as well as the hosts. The Confed Cup draw will also take place this Saturday.

Finally, the MNT will attempt to win its third straight CONCACAF Gold Cup, the continental championship, in July of '09, with sites yet to be announced.

Throw in a few warm-up friendlies, 2009 looks to be a fantastic year for US Soccer. Can't wait!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Father and Son for Photo of the Year

What do you know? A photo of yours truly and his boy has made the finals for U.S. Soccer's Fan Photo of the year!

Won't you be so kind as to give us a click, then click on the "Best Fan Photo" button. Vote for the guy with the "Fish" in his last name.

Much obliged!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fan Video: RSL 0-1 NY

Video from Nevada Smith's on Saturday night, where 200+ raving lunatics (yours truly included) go nuts at the final whistle (1:45 in).

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Fifth in the East, Champs of the West, First in our Hearts!

The New York Red Bulls, behind a 28th minute goal from Dave van den Bergh, won the 2008 Western Conference Championship 1-0 at Real Salt Lake. RSL hit the post not once or twice, but three times in the match.

With the victory, New York travels to LA next Sunday to take on Columbus in the MLS Cup. The Red Bulls also qualify for the 2009-10 Concacaf Champions Cup.

What a night! What a run! Unbelievable!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Western Conference Final Preview: NY at RSL

New York's shocking 3-0 playoff win at Houston on Sunday was nothing short of miraculous.

Not only was Houston:
-The two-time defending league MLS champion
-and had never lost a home playoff game
-and had lost only once at home all season...

And not only had New York:
-suffered five straight playoff series defeats
-had won only once on the road this season
-was starting its backup keeper Danny Cepero (salary: $12,900).

But the Red Bulls, thanks to play of the MLS Player of the Week Dane Richards and that underpaid keeper, delivered the playoff surprise of the league's 13-year history.

Only one obstacle remains preventing New York from reaching the MLS Cup for the first time, and that's Real Salt Lake. The Dave Checketts-owned club is in its' first ever playoffs, and will host the Western Confernce final in its spanking new Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday night at 9:30et on FSC.

Which team will move on to face Columbus in the 2008 MLS Cup on the 23rd? Here's a line-by-line preview.

Recent Form
RSL, 40 pts from 30 matches, 3rd West, TWTWT
New York, 39 pts from 30 matches, 5th East, TWLTW

The Salt Lake forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Yura Movsisyan and Clint Mathis vs. Kevin Goldthwaite, Andrew Boyens, Diego Jimenez, and Chris Leitch (and Danny Cepero). Movsisyan, a 2006 first-round draft pick, has become a folk hero to the RSL faithful, after scoring late winners to get RSL into the playoffs on the season's final weekend, and late in the club's first playoff leg vs. Chivas. A tireless worker, the 6-foot striker is extremely dangerous. Mathis may not go the full 90, but backup F Robbie Findley scored six for RSL this season. While the four-man New York backline allowed only a single goal to Houston over 180 minutes, the story of the Red Bulls' defense is Cepero. Thrust onto the field after Jon Conway's substance suspension, the Penn grad was nothing short of remarkable in making five superlative saves in Sunday's win. His play to deny Brian Ching a walk-in goal by hurdling the Houston striker to get the loose ball was amazing. Advantage: Push

New York's attackers vs. the RSL defense:
Juan Pablo Angel and John Wolyniec vs. Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, and Robbie Russell (and Nick Rimando). the idea that Angel would score vs. Houston was not a surprise. But Wolyniec with the dagger (and horrible Thriller dance)? That was a surprise. Fact is, since Jozy Altidore's departure, Woly, Mike Magee, and Mac Kandji have all had a shot up next to Angel, even if the role is to pull a defender or two away from the Colombian. What to make of the RSL defense? The team condeded 39 goals in 30 league games, putting RSL in the middle of the league in GA. Chivas scored two on the club in the first-round series. Olave hit the net twice this season. With some precision, the Red Bulls can shoot for the top corners, confounding the diminuative Rimando. Advantage: New York

The Midfields:
Dave van den Bergh, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Luke Sassano, and Dane Richards vs. Dema Kovalenko, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, and Will Johnson. The outside NY middies are among the class of the league, but the real (and Real) pressure will be felt on Ubiparipovic and Sassano, two bench players that confounded Houston's talented midfield over the past two matches. Kovalenko, despite the notion that he's a softie, is extremely dangerous, and Morales finished the regular season second in league assists (15) behind Columbus' Schelotto (19). Johnson has a Goal of the Year candidate (as does Cepero). Advantage: RSL

The Coaches:
Juan Carlos Osorio deserves all the credit for his club's dismantling of Houston. His pechant for tinkering worked to perfection (plus an outstanding performance by Cepero). Will JCO continue to keep his pricey summer acquisitions on the bench (where frankly they belong)? Jason Kreis has engineered a successful playoff run from his guys, who haven't lost in seven outings. Advantage: Push

How's this for a whopper? RSL has never beaten New York. The Red Bulls are 2-0-6 all-time vs. the Utahns. Short of that, there aren't too many other signs one way or another for these teams, one of which will be making their first MLS Cup appearance. A strong crowd is expected. Here's a telling stat, should the match go to penalites... Career MLS appearences: Rimando, RSL: 204. Cepero, NY: 4. RSL's playing at home, so... Advantage: RSL

New York does not have Jozy Altidore, Claudio Reyna, or Seth Stammler on its roster, but yet the club is one win away from it's first MLS Cup. RSL has it's brand new digs, but their fans really need a few more years of suffering before reaching the top. The title match has one original 1996 club taking part. There'll be two. Angel and Van den Bergh for NY, Andy Williams off the bench for RSL. New York WINS, 2-1.

Required reading before the match:

NY Times: Red Bulls Have Appeal in a Bearish Economy
NY Red Bulls Prepare for Next Turn in Unlikely Playoff Ride
NJ Herald News: These Fans are Running With the Bulls
American Soccer News: Can New York Do the Unthinkable?
Soccer America: Storybook Teams Clash in Splendid Setting
Salt Lake Tribune: RSL, NY Linked by Love, Hate
The Offside: How They Stack Up: RBNY@RSL A Load Of Bull

I'll be taking in the match at Nevada Smiths, 3rd Avenue between 11th/12th in Manhattan. Please join me. Hope to see you there.