Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Haven't disappeared ...
I haven't disappeared though work has lately made it feel that way. Combine it with a well-timed Thanksgiving holiday and it's been lack of updates for me.

To be truthful, since I don't have a seriously favorite team like D or Kali, I don't follow the day-to-day team actions as much as they do. Nor do I have as many thoughts on those matters.

I do care about Bob Bradley at Chivas USA and the Super Club on Made on MTV. More details on those tomorrow.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
The offseason of my discontent ...
First off, congratulations to the Galaxy. I think they were one of the most talented teams this entire year and they're built to be cruelly effective in the postseason MLS tournament. So, kudos to them.

The other thing I don't understand (okay, so I don't understand a lot of things, namely how McDonald's burgers can be made out of stuff that's probably not natural to planet Earth yet still be crackaliciously delicious) is why people are upset with a #8 seed winning the whole shebang.

In other sports, Cinderellas are celebrated, not derided. No one said baseball's playoffs were less than legitimate because the Wild Card-winning Astros, who had one of baseball's worst records in May, made it to the World Series, no one continiously castigated UW-Milwaukee for reaching the Great Eight last year and I've yet to hear wailing and gnashing of teeth that the Patriots winning the Super Bowl as a Wild Card makes gridiron football obsolete.

Yeah, the game wasn't the most beautifully played game. Championships usually aren't. And, as an aside, why is a 0-0 or 1-1 hockey game that goes to seven overtimes thrilling but a defensive soccer battle isn't? I'm just curious about that.

But in the end a team that couldn't put it together in the regular season came together when it mattered. If the Patriots put it together in the playoffs this year and win the Super Bowl, no one will remember that they were 5-4 at one point. It doesn't make them less of a champion.

No, the reason people hate the way it shook down this year is because it's Landon Donovan and the Galaxy that won. If the Metros had done the Cinderella act, I think you would have heard more stories championing their leader's fortitude (he made them eat haggis before the game) or Djorkaeff's calming influence in these pressure packed games.

But because it's Donovan, the American soccer press' favorite whipping boy, the 'hired gun' (who really is too good for this league right now) de-legitimizes the championship. And Sampson being the coach, who his own team's fans can't stand, didn't help matters. It's really a no-win situation for FC Entertainment (except, of course, they will add another star above the badge next season).

In the future this won't matter as much because there'll be more teams to separate the wheat and chaff during the season. There won't be two absolutely dreadful expansion teams to negatively influence the season. And we won't have this argument.

Ideally I'd like to see the playoffs be a home and home in both the first and second round to reward the higher seed by having the second game at home each time and then a one game final. But the way it is now, though not the perfect answer everyone will love, isn't that bad.

Also, bring back the Golden Goal. That's good stuff right there.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
MLS Pictures ...
This is Fan-Fucking-Tastic. If they could do this as an HBO: Inside the NFL kind of thing every week on Monday instead of MLS Wrap on Saturday night ... that'd be just huge for MLS.

Just, unbelievable. Way to go MLS and adidas. If you haven't seen it, make sure to see it.
Get out the red pens ...
I grade the U.S. - Scotland match:

Goalkeepers
----
Kasey Keller - 7 - Did what he needed to do. Couldn't have done anything about the goal but was never really tested. He's the number one ... I'd like to see Howard or Hannehman get a shot to get some PT.

Defenders
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Jonathan Spector - 8 - I was very impressed by Spector and thought he got forward very well and once he got used to the speed and intensity after the first 15 minutes that he got involved and physical when needed. That elbow to the chest he gave late in the game will get him a red card in the World Cup so he's gotta be careful about that.

Carlos Bocanegra - 7 - Did what he needed to do.

Gregg Berhalter - 7 - Didn't hear much about him. I guess that's a good thing when you're on defense.

Steve Cherundolo - 8 - Glad to see him back in the lineup. Really is an impressive player, holds down his side and does an excellent job getting forward, something that's very important in Il Bruce's philosophy.

Heath Pearce - 7 - Had to play out of the position but didn't wet the bed so he gets an average grade for this one.

Jimmy Conrad - n/a - Wasn't on long enough to make much of a difference.

Midfielders
----
DaMarcus Beasley - 8 - Easily the U.S.'s most dangerous player. Looked great with the ball at his feet but it's obvious he doesn't like the right foot. To make the leap as a player, he's going to need to get better moving to his right. All over the field today. Scotland couldn't match his speed (though, really, aside from USC, who can?).

Kerry Zavagnin - 6 - Il Bruce is looking for someone to replace Chris Armas if he isn't ready to go by the time the World Cup comes around. KZ didn't help himself. Maybe Bruce is trying to get him enough caps to play in England or something.

Brian Carroll - 7 - I thought he played really well early on but sort of disappeared later in the game. Controlled the ball well and distributed well. Stayed deep.

Eddie Gaven - 5 - Did he touch the ball in the first half? Bruce moved him to the left trying to get him some touches. He's just not a wing player and there's not a whole lot of room in the middle of the park. Not sure what's going to happen to Gaven ... I think he needs to go to Europe if he's going to make a leap as a player.

Ben Olsen - 8 - Well done, Bennie. He played the Armas role perfectly and is exactly what the U.S. needed when he came in. Raised his stock greatly in this game.

Santino Quaranta - 6 - We really need to develop someone to play wide right. Quaranta wasn't really bad, he just didn't really do anything positive. Sort of a ho-hum performance.

Forwards
----
Josh Wolff - 7 - Wolff's pass to Beasley which set up the penalty kick which Wolff converted which in most matches would have gotten him an 8 rating was brilliant. The finish was nice, too. He was also buzzing around and getting active. However, he flopped too easily and never really seemed to have his feet today. A better performance than I'm used to, though.

Brian Ching - 6 - Bruce seems to want him to be a Brian McBride forward but I'm not sure if that's really teh role he's suited for. Ching missed a couple of good header opportunities and couldn't stay on his feet long enough to do stuff. Didn't really win the long headers up front, either.

Chris Rolfe - 7 - I don't know if he's ready for the World Cup this summer but he's going to be very, very effective in our offense. He is Landon Donovan part 2 without the intimidation yet and can play the same withdrawn striker role that Donovan has perfected for the national team. I don't know if Bruce has room for him this summer but Chris is going to make it impossible to leave him off the roster at some point. I don't know how much longer he's going to stay in MLS but it just goes to show that Chicago has the best scouting department in the league. Beasley, Bocanegra, Ralph and now Rolfe? That's really impressive.

Overall
----
It's great for us to get a match like this in a hostile environment that we can honestly be disappointed to not win with our B team. Would have liked to see more offense from the Americans but it was a great match for the environment we should expect to see next summer. Overall, we got what we needed out of that match.
Wow!
Look at that new Fox Soccer Channel studio! Snazzy!

And Max and Harksey are in Glasgow? Y'know, actually at the game? Could it be that FSC is becoming a real studio and they're going to spend some real money on this?

That'd be huge.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Perhaps we're doing it all wrong ...
Sure, Los Angeles and New England are in MLS Cup and I should spend some time breaking down the game. I'm sure I will. But that's not really why I started this blog in the first place.

Let's look at a thought: how to build attendance at games and interest in the league in the U.S. There are two common thoughts which we've discussed here: build through team loyalty or through interest in league operations.

Apparently, there's a third way that I never considered: have team cheerleaders gain national notoriety for having sex in a public bathroom and then punching out the people that tattled on them.

From the ESPN report:

In the police report, witnesses claimed Thomas and Keathley were having sex with each other in a stall when other patrons grew angry that the two were taking so long in the bathroom.

Another woman waiting to use the bathroom got into an argument with the two, and Thomas hit that person in the face, according to details of the report posted on TampaBay10.com, the CBS TV affiliate's Web site.
I didn't realize that was even possible but there was so much traffic to Panthers.com this morning that the site crashed. It's on the front page of ESPN.com.

Basically, what I'm saying is that the ChivaGirls and Metrogirls really have to step it up.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
The second most important MLS event ... ever.
Watching a sports league grow up is similar to watching a human being grow up. At the age of 10, you're really looking to see if the kid you're raising starts to make firm decisions that will be the foundation of their beliefs going forward.

In the first ten years, we've seen Major League Soccer go from the newborn with whom everyone was infatuated to the ten year old who people tend to forget about. Entering the stage where we go through awkward changes trying to figure out who we are will require formulating the basic structures of what will define us as a league.

One of the main foundations of the structure of the league has been the creation of Soccer Specific Stadiums, something that's absolutely required for the league to reach solvency and maintain an appearance of legitimacy in a marketing culture constantly looking for "the next big thing." D.C. United seems to be the next team to have their own home and it's something that MLS is absolutely correct to be purusing.

The second crux of the foundation of MLS is something that has come out in the last week and I am shocked at how little press it's received:

MLS will be receiving a rights fee for the first time in league history. Stadiums are absolutely important but of all the things I didn't expect to see, this is tops of the list.

Here's why this is important: at the current time, at 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon, when the primary demographic is out playing soccer, with no promotion, MLS games receive approximately a .2 share on ESPN2. That's 200,000 households in the United States that are watching the game live because they care about soccer and want to see what's happening.

And that's with no effort on the part of ESPN/ABC. Now, with ABC/ESPN acquiring the English-language rights to the 2010/2014 World Cup rights, MLS will receive a rights fee from ESPN as part of the package. It's not official yet, but ESPN will be paying MLS money in order to broadcast the games.

Ok, so this isn't the $2B that the NFL gets every year, but let's say it's $10 million a year. First off, the pays for half of the league's player salaries. Secondly, instead of SUM/MLS paying ESPN and taking care of all the broadcast details, ESPN will handle all that.

Why's that important? Now, ESPN is putting forward the money to produce this and the money for the right to broadcast it. SUM's deal previously allowed SUM to garner the advertising revenue (hence the Side by Side advertising this year) but now ESPN is the one making money off advertising. How do you make more money? Higher ratings. How do you get higher ratings? More advertising. If ESPN is on the hook, they're going to be the ones doing the advertising.

And that's the reason why this is so important. The reason you can't escape the NFL in America isn't because the NFL is doing a lot of advertising, it's because Coors and Tostitos and Visa are shoving the NFL down your throat because they've invested a lot of money for the right to do that. It's a compounding effect. The more companies that will take up the banner of something, the higher the ratings accrue and the more companies that sign up.

This is the first step for MLS and I give huge credit to the MLS brass and the Don for their leadership in this matter. Lots of people thought this deal was dead about two months ago and this group brought it back from the flatline.

I cannot overstate how important this is for MLS. The more people MLS sign up to carry the water for the league, and even better if they're willing to pay money to do it, the better the league will be in the future. This is the first step and it's the most important thing that will happen to MLS this year and makes any bad news easier to accept.

Even if Chicago and Colorado are in MLS Cup.