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Oct 252013

mls 300x281 MLS Week 33 Preview


After 32 weeks of close games, major transfers, and the drama of all things Chivas USA there is still much to decide in the last week of the Major League Soccer season.  Although there is not one clear top team in MLS, there are plenty of quality MLS squads throughout the league which makes for a compelling two days of soccer this weekend.

So if you are at a match this weekend or watching one at home, here are a couple of storylines to follow:

#1 The Supporter’s Shield









Real Salt Lake







New York Red Bulls







Sporting Kansas City







Portland Timbers







Four teams are still in the running for the Supporters Shield, a trophy awarded at the end of each MLS Season to the team with the most points. The Supporters Shield is more than just a trophy, as it awards the team the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Should the Supporters Shield make the MLS Cup then they would also host the match. In MLS History, the team that won the Supporters Shield has gone on to win the MLS Cup 6 times (D.C. United- 1997 and 1999, the Kansas City Wizards- 2000, the Los Angeles Galaxy-2002 and 2011, and the Columbus Crew- 2008).

Real Salt Lake took the top spot Wednesday night after defeating Chivas USA 2-1. However, that was the last game of their season so they will have to play the waiting game.  The Red Bulls will face the Chicago Fire (Sunday 5pm UNi Mas) with the Fire still in contention for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Red Bulls Forward Tim Cahill has been on a tear recently, scoring three goals in his past three matches and leading the Red Bulls to an undefeated record in the past 7 matches (5-0-2).

Meanwhile, Sporting Kansas City will travel to PPL Park and face the Philadelphia Union (Saturday 3pm NBC Sports Network).  SKC  comes into the match in good form having drawn points in 6 of their last matches (5-1-1).Their last loss actually was against the Philadelphia Union 1-0 in September. Union Forward Conor Casey notched in the decisive goal in the 38th minute. They did win their opening game against the Union at PPL Park 3-1, but the young Union team has grown since then and could still make it into the playoffs. Will get back to that later.

Despite being behind the other teams by two points, Portland looks like they have the best chance to take the Supporters Shield. With the other two teams playing opponents who are still in the Eastern Conference playoff mix, neither New York nor Sporting Kansas City will have themselves an easy match. Portland, on the other hand, will be playing Chivas USA (Saturday 10:30 MLS Live) who will be without their starting goalkeeper Dan Kennedy and his magic ability to make sure Chivas never gets blown out.

Portland has also shown in the past few weeks that they are able to put teams away and earn points in “must-win”circumstances. In previous seasons, Portland has been known as the team with the awesome fanbase and cool mascot, but would break down at the end of the season. They could not win the difficult game, which is why they were unable to make the playoffs last season.  Coach Caleb Porter, Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, and Midfielder Will Johnson have changed the identity of this team and made them a very difficult squad to plan against. Their poise and confidence was evident in the pair of 1-0 victories that they earned against the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders earlier in the month.

The 15 draws may be the deciding factor on whether or not the Timbers win the Supporters Shield. But they should get 3 easy points against Chivas, and if nothing else, gain the top spot in the Western Conference.

#2 Eastern Conference Chaos









Montreal Impact







Chicago Fire







New England Revolution







Houston Dynamo







Philadelphia Union








Although the bottleneck for the last few playoff spots in the Eastern Conference was lessened last week when the New England Revolution eliminated the Columbus 3-2, there are still 5 teams playing for three spots. In addition to the previously mentioned Chicago Fire and Philadelphia Union, the Houston Dynamo, Montreal Impact, and New England all still have a possibility of making the playoffs this weekend should results work in their favor.

The popular consensus seems to be that the Montreal Impact will defeat Toronto F.C. (Saturday 4pm Univision Deportes, MLS Live,) that the Houston Dynamo will defeat D.C. United (Sunday 1:30pm NBC Sports Network,) and that either the Chicago Fire or the New England Revolution will do enough to make it through.

Two things to keep in mind that is being lost in this narrative. One, Montreal has been terrible since July going 6-8-5. Toronto has already secured a draw in Montreal earlier this season and is coming off of two 1-0 losses against Philadelphia and Chicago where they showed they are still trying to win. Second, Houston needs one of the three teams above them to lose because they are so far behind in goals scored, which is the tie breaker should teams be level on points. For example, if both the New England Revolution and Dynamo win, then the Dynamo would need to make up a nine goal difference against D.C. United. D.C. United is terrible, but they are not bad (D.C. better not lost 9-0 because I am taking my nephew to his first game this weekend.) Houston has had great difficulty scoring this year when they need a goal, so they are really going to need Forward Will Bruin to step up and give them that push.

It should also be mentioned that the Crew may be very angry after the 3-2 result that was leveled against them last week by the Revolution. Referee Mark Geiger gave a rather interesting yellow card against the Crew which led to Revolution defender A.J. Soares goal in the 39th minute. I would suspect that the Crew would like to return the favor to New England from last week and knock them out of the playoff contention (4pm MLS Live.)

I think the Fire- Red Bulls match is a lot closer than many people seem to believe. Bear in mind that the Red Bulls have never won a major title in their entire history, and have quite a dubious track record in big games. The Fire have really hit their stride since they lost 3-0 Columbus in September and are a much different team than when they lost to the Red Bulls earlier in the season. They are currently on a 3 game unbeaten where they have outscored their opponents 9-0.  Perhaps New York can turn around their previous misfortunes, secure a playoff spot, and doom the Fire. But that seems like a tall task for a team that has only recently shown that they can consistently pull out quality performances.

#3 The Race for the Golden Boot is On







Mike Magee CHI




Marco di Vaio MON




Camilo Sanvezzo VAN





In addition to having so many teams still alive for the Supporters Shield and for playoff spots, there is a real battle being waged for the top goal scorer in MLS. The three-horse race between Montreal Forward Marco di Vaio, Chicago Fire Forward Mike Magee, and Vancouver Whitecaps Forward Camilo Sanvezzo has produced some truly amazing goals this season. Although I am not the biggest fan of saying the top goal scorer should always be the Most Valuable Player (Ricketts and Clint Irwin would have a few words about that,) it is true that all three of these players have kept their teams in contention because they were able to make miracles for their team.

I think Magee is going to end up taking the award. It is important to note that if there is a tie then the tiebreaker will be given to the player who has the most assists. Di Vaio almost never passes the ball and I can see Toronto F.C. pushing their defense up to draw him offsides which will limit his scoring opportunities. The Impact have also had difficulties scoring recently, going without a goal in 3 of their past four matches.

So for me it comes down to Magee and Camilo. Both players have come up huge for their team this year, but with Magee playing against a Red Bulls team that have committed the fifth highest number of fouls in MLS (425) he should have more opportunities off of free kicks and penalties. Colorado has also only given up 15 goals on the road this season and will still be looking to climb up in the Western Conference playoff standings.


Oct 212013

So Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman spent a whopping two minutes talking about promotion and relegation the other night during the broadcast for an LA Galaxy-San Jose Earthquakes game. Naturally, there was plenty of reaction the next day. Proponents of the system argued for it and opponents argued against it. Insults were hurled, names were called.

Life goes on.

There are a lot of objections for why it can’t work. Some say Americans just don’t understand it. Some say it won’t accomplish anything. Then there’s the biggest objection of all: the teams that get relegated won’t survive. I don’t believe this is the case, at least not for every team in MLS. I have my reasons and I’m going to attempt to state them as clearly and as objectively as possible. I do support the cause after all.

The theory goes something like this: MLS Team X gets relegated, fans stop showing up, the team loses its cut of MLS’s “lucrative” TV deal, the owners run out of money, and the team is forced to fold because they can’t make enough money to keep the lights turned on. Let’s take this one step at a time.

Step 1: Fans Would Stop Showing Up

I do not believe every team in the league would see its attendance suddenly plummet 90% because they started playing in the NASL. Portland and Seattle in particular have extremely loyal fan bases. Would their fans also be the most distraught at the reality of being relegated? Absolutely. But their loyalty to their team is also the strongest and they would still be able to bring 10,000-15,000 fans through the gates for each NASL game.

Not every team would bring that many fans through the gates though. The two most viable relegation candidates over the past couple seasons have been Chivas USA and Toronto FC. The former has averaged roughly 8,200 fans per game this season while the latter is approximately 18,400 (Source: here). Chivas USA probably would see such a drop off as to render themselves financially unstable. But then again, nobody seems to think they should continue to exist in their current form. Without relegation, they continue to be propped up by the sweat of other fan bases.

Now let’s say Toronto’s attendance drops by 50%. That’s still roughly 9,000 fans per game in the second division where the average attendance is about 3,000-4,000. They can afford to stay just competitive enough to win their promotion back into MLS a year later. Are the fans upset? Sure. But it only takes one season to get promoted and win them back.

The overall average in MLS is approximately 18,500 so that argument for Toronto should work for most of the middle-of-the-road teams. Again, you just need enough fans to get you through one season. If your favorite team can’t even pull that off, then perhaps soccer is not as popular in your area as you’ve been led to believe. Perhaps the sport hasn’t grown nearly as much as we’re constantly told.

Step 2: The Team Loses Its Cut Of The MLS TV Deal

This is actually true, but let’s put into perspective just how much money this amounts to if the deal is split evenly among the 19 teams. The three year deal signed in August of 2011 is reportedly worth $10 million per year. That’s a total of $30 million for 19 teams. That comes out to $1.58 million per team. The salary cap is approximately $3 million. So before you take into consideration the amount of income made from attendance, a jersey sponsor, a stadium sponsor, etc you can pay for half of your roster if you’re coming in under the cap. Assuming your favorite team is smart and has ironclad sponsorship deals for the jersey and stadium, you’ve still got a steady source of income and you only need to bank on about 8,000-9,000 fans in attendance to help keep things afloat for one year.

But what about DP salaries? Someone has to pay those right even if they don’t count against the cap, right? True. Plenty of relegated teams all over the world deal with selling off their star players to make ends meet. MLS teams can man up and do the same. Not only that, but you can make a legitimate argument that the LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls (your multi-DP powerhouses) will never be in danger of relegation. That’s how this whole thing works. You spend on good players, you win, and you don’t get relegated.

Now, MLS has struggled mightily against lower division teams in the past during the US Open Cup, but I think it’s fair to say that if an MLS team was forced to hold onto what would essentially amount to its reserve team, they would still have enough talent to compete for their spot back into MLS a year later.

And of course, all of this assumes you’re getting zero TV dollars from the NASL because they technically don’t have a TV deal. But if your team has been relegated, then that means there must be promotion as well. The Championship over in England’s second division has a TV deal with BeInSport to show their games regularly in the US. Why? Because at the end of the season, there are promotion spots on the line and there’s nothing like watching teams battle for those precious few spots. I truly believe within a year or two of implementing promotion/relegation, the NASL would be attractive enough to earn a national TV deal.

Step 3: The Owners Run Out Of Money And Can’t Afford To Keep The Lights On

This is the big one. This is the one everyone likes to harp on.

“But if the team gets relegated, the owners will stop making money! This is why we can’t have relegation! It’s too much risk!”

It is true there is a risk of losing money as a result of being relegated. I’ve addressed that concern for the most part in the first two “steps”. But would the teams lose so much that the owners run out of money? Let’s recap who some of the current owners in MLS are…

Seattle: Hollywood Producer Joe Roth (Majority), Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen (Minority)

LA Galaxy: Anschutz Entertainment Group (Majority of LA, 50% of Houston Dynamo)

New York Red Bulls: Red Bull GmbH (Red Bull Energy Drink)

Toronto FC: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

Chivas USA: Jorge Vergara (Founder of Omnilife/Herbalife supplements and movie producer)

New England Revolution: Bob Kraft (Owner of the New England Patriots)

Portland Timbers: Merritt Paulson (Son of former Goldman Sachs CEO “Hank” Paulson)

FC Dallas: Hunt Sports Group (Owners of the Kansas City Chiefs)

Look closely at that group of people? Do these people/groups have their entire wealth tied up in an MLS team? No. They bought their respective teams with the change leftover from their actual sources of wealth and income. The same holds true for individual owners like new Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt, who, like most MLS owners, makes his fortune in venture capitalism.

None of these owners bought into MLS to make money. They bought into it because they wanted to buy something fun with the money they earned from the more profitable ventures they own and operate. We’ll never know for sure, but it’s very likely half the teams in MLS don’t actually turn a profit. That means some of these people/groups are losing money on their “investment” in their respective MLS teams. Yet the teams still exist and the players still collect their paychecks on time. That’s because they can dip into their other ventures for the money to sign the checks and keep the lights on. This is especially true for MLS owners who also own NFL teams. You don’t have to be a business major to see that someone like Bob Kraft could own nothing but the Patriots and the Revolution and still make enough from the former to keep the latter afloat for several years.

Now, do these rich men and women enjoy losing money on their MLS teams? Not at all. That’s why they set up MLS in its current closed, single entity format. If they’re going to lose money, they want help from their fellow millionaire/billionaire pals to recoup their losses. They can afford to take losses on their MLS teams, but why should they have to?

The point is they have the ability to, even if they don’t want to. They could easily see their MLS team get relegated to the NASL and start bleeding money. But most of them have enough to keep their current rosters intact for one season which, again, is all it takes to play your way back into the top if you’re good enough. If they choose not to do so and instantly decide to cut their losses they can sell their team to another wealthy person/group willing to buy the team on the cheap, invest just enough to play their way back into MLS in one season, and find themselves back in the black shortly.

Am I oversimplifying this? Yeah, I probably am. Does my theory work for every single soccer team in the US? No, it probably does not. But that doesn’t make it any less valid. Sports teams are backed by some of the wealthiest people/groups in the world. That’s how they’re able to exist. Then there’s teams like Nashville FC, who are simply owned by their most loyal fans. They’ll pay to see their team play no matter what division they’re in. We don’t need to worry about them either.

The implementation of promotion/relegation would open a whole new world for soccer in the United States. Promotion creates new investment opportunities for men and women looking to do something productive with their hard earned dollars. Relegation maintains the integrity of the competition being put on display before our eyes. It holds those same men and women accountable for the performance of their teams and their treatment of the local fans whose HARD earned money brings the sport to all corners of this vast, great nation of ours.

It is the key to realizing our dream of joining the ranks of the greatest soccer nations on Earth. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It can and, with a little luck and commitment from the right people, it will be done.


The Playoff Push

 Posted by on October 2, 2013 at 5:22 pm  Blogs/Media, MLS, United States
Oct 022013

MLS Cup 300x169 The Playoff Push

Robbie Keane’s face told the story. After heading in a Landon Donovan free kick in the 90th minute to put the Los Angeles Galaxy level with the Portland Timbers, his face went from incredible joy to sheer anguish as the referee raised his flag and called for an offsides on Keane. Keane looked disgusted, but he also looked slightly despondent. He knew how much that goal meant to the Galaxy and their season. The Galaxy had the chance to go level on points with the Timbers in the standings in the Western Conference. Instead, the club sees themselves four points behind the Timbers and only a point ahead of fifth-place Colorado and sixth-place Vancouver. On a weekend with so many exciting matches and so many different teams in playoff contention, Major League Soccer was able to show one of the true assets that it has over so many other soccer leagues: the playoff push.

One of the major criticisms that Major League Soccer receives from fans, ex-players, officials, and pundits is the supposedly awkward arrangement that it has between their regular season and the playoffs. Supposedly, the existence of the playoffs cheapens the regular season and devalues the merit of winning the supporter’s shield. Most experts in professional football will tell you that the best system is a single table system where each team plays every other team twice. Never mind that the United States is about 2-3 times as large as most European countries and has twice as many time zones. And never mind that that the English League Championship has a playoff system to determine who will be promoted to the Premier League. Or that the Champions League has a playoff system based off of seeding.  It is supposedly important that we implement this square peg of a “traditional” system into the round hole that is American geography. We have to be exactly like everyone else. Or at least the way the Europeans sometimes play.

Although it sounds tempting to once again follow the Europeans and do exactly everything that they do (sometimes,) let’s do some thinking outside of the traditional box of soccer. Although there are some flaws with the current Major League Soccer system (playing on international dates and too many international matches with foreign clubs come to mind,) the current playoff system does provide for tons of intrigue and can allow for many exciting games as the season winds down. If you look at this weekend’s slate of games, only one match did not include at least one team that has a shot at making the playoffs (Toronto- D.C. United.) In every other match, each team has a decent chance at winning a spot in their respective Conferences playoff spot.

Major League Soccer is just a very different league than many other professional leagues throughout the world, and that is not a bad thing. Variety is good. It makes things interesting and gives fans plenty to talk about. Although I wonder what a Premier playoff would look like, I do understand that the last few weeks of a Premier League season can be quite dramatic. It was like that two years ago, when Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero scored against Queen’s Park Rangers in the last game of the season to claim their first Premier League title while Manchester United was still on the pitch hoping a result in their match would keep them alive.

If the Europeans would like to have a single table system with no playoffs, then go ahead. But given the relative age of Major League Soccer and how most clubs outside of the Northwest are still growing their fanbases it makes more sense right now to have a playoff system. Our country loves playoffs and we love the drama that leads up to it, even if the team we support has no shot of winning it all. It is why the NCAA tournament so huge. People in this country want to believe that their club has a chance. They don’t want to be complacent with mid-table.  And it is good for the teams to use situations like the playoffs to build support for their team. It is good for a team like the New England Revolution who has not been a relevant team for 4-5 years to show their fans that they are respectable again because they have a shot at the playoffs.

Having this many teams with a chance for a playoff spot spurs interest in not only the players, but the fans as well. Due to the parity of the league, any team has the chance to knock off any other team at any venue. This why you were able to see the Philadelphia Union shock Sporting Kansas City 1-0 on Friday night at Live Strong Park. It’s why the Columbus Crew was able to go down Dallas Park and eliminate their Pioneer Cup rivals F.C. Dallas. And it’s why a team like the Portland Timbers was able to step up in a rainy mess at Jeld-Wenn field in Portland and pull out an important 1-0 victory. In each of these matches, because other games were going on at the same time, you would see fans pulling out their iPhones to check updates on other games, to see where their teams would be in the standings, and to try and cheer their fellow fans up who feel like all hope is lost. As sad as it sounds, one of the true signs that I have seen all season of the attachment that has grown for Major League Soccer with the supporters was when Tim Cahill scored to even it up for the New York Red Bulls against the Seattle Sounder. There is nothing like seeing and hearing an arena of 50,000 supporters completely deflated.

I had the pleasure of watching last year’s slugfest between D.C. United and the Columbus Crew and seeing the playoff push firsthand. Both clubs were tied on points for the fifth and final playoff spot. In a match where the game was 2-1 throughout the majority of the match, members of the Barra Brava the D.C. United Supporters groups seemed to lose interest as it dawned on them that they would have to go to Bridgeview and get a result against the Chicago Fire. Fans were routinely checking their iPhones for the latest results from the Houston Dynamo match or waiting for any information from RFK Stadiums decrepit scoreboard. Although any fan would be happy with clinching a playoff spot anywhere, there is something special about doing it at home. United ended up scoring the tying goal in the 59th minute, which then led to Lewis Neal scoring a game-winning goal in the 91st minute to send D.C. United into the playoffs. Although the club has won three MLS titles, if you ask any member of Barra Brava what their favorite moment in D.C. United history is, I would imagine that Neal’s goal is up there.

Although this weekend did not provide any playoff-clinching goals, there was no short of theatrics. The San Jose Earthquakes continued their Cinderella run by beating Chivas U.S.A. 1-0 on a goal by Forward Chris Wondlowski in the 87th minute (And yes, you even got to see Steven Lenhart get sent off.) Houston- New England played to a draw keeping both of their playoff hopes alive. Real Salt Lake, playing a mostly reserve team in preparation for Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup final with D.C. United, managed to shock Vancouver away from home and further tighten their lead on first-place in the Western Conference. Chicago blew a two goal lead to the Montreal Impact and nearly could have won the match had Mike Magee, one of the league’s leading candidates MVP, hit a penalty kick off of the crossbar dooming his team to a draw and possibly a 7th place finish in the Eastern Conference.

Even the D.C. United- Toronto F.C. match featured a beautiful volley by D.C. United forward Jared Jeffrey and even more amazing scissor kick goal by Toronto F.C. forward Daryl Russell. Whether you were watching a match at the park, the bar, NBC, or on whatever D.C. United is using for coverage now, you got to see two teams playing hard for nothing more than a spot on the team.

While no MLS match could feature players of the quality of the Premier League or any of the other top European leagues, each came with its own set of drama and flair. Having watched enough Premier League matches at the end of the season when players go at half pace and where things feel predetermined. I still remember being completely shocked last season when Queen’s Park Rangers were relegated and seeing the players laughing and feeling just terrible for their fans. Rather than seeing a team work hard and try to gut out a victory, they seemed like they did not care and were more interested in just collecting their paycheck. At least Chivas U.S.A., a club who may not exist next season, tried to keep up with the Earthquakes and put on a good show for their fans.

In the weeks ahead, the number of teams that are still eligible to make the playoffs will be trimmed. F.C. Dallas was knocked out this weekend and I would suspect that there will be a few more casualties this weekend. For some fans, the end of the season will just be another stepping stone towards the playoffs and hopefully towards an MLS Cup. For other fans, they will reflect upon missed opportunities in June and July, on injuries, and on player management. But until then if you are an MLS fan you should turn your television and watch the emotions  of October soccer.

Know Your MLS Teams: New York Red Bulls

 Posted by on May 26, 2013 at 5:57 pm  Blogs/Media
May 262013

970080 10151403444585264 479583300 n 300x241 Know Your MLS Teams: New York Red Bulls



Founded: 1996 (Was previously known as the New York/New Jersey Metrostars)

Where They Finished Last Season: 16-9-9 (Lost to D.C. United in the first round of the playoffs)

Pedigree: Runners-Up, 2008 MLS Cup (Lost to Columbus Crew)

Rivals: D.C. United, New England Revolution, and the Philadelphia Union.

Supporters: Empire Supporters Club, Raging Bull Nation, the GardenState Supporters, the Viking Army, and the Kearny Army.

Coach: Mike Petke

Top Returning Players: DEF Heath Pearce, DEF Roy Miller, MF Dax McCarty, MF Tim Cahill, FWD Theirry Henry

Key Additions: GK Luis Robles (Karlsruher SC-Germany,) DEF Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake,) MF Juninho (Vasco Da Gama,) MF Jonny Steele (Real Salt Lake,) FWD Fabian Espindola (Real Salt Lake.)

Key Departures: DEF Rafael Marquez (Liga MX,) MF Teemu Taino (HJK Helsinki –Finland,) MF Joel Lindpere (Chicago Fire,) MF Jan Gunnar Soli (Valerenga-Norway,) FWD Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas.)

Young Player to Watch: DEF Connor Lade, FWD Amando Moreno.


There are many great myths about MLS. That no one goes to the games (myth.) That the league puts out an inferior product relative to the rest of the world (myth- It puts out an inferior product relative to that of the top European leagues.) But one of the greatest myths about MLS is a media creation: that the New York Red Bulls are a franchise that wins major titles with big stars. It is the New  York presence, the glamour, Broadway, Madison Avenue, and all of the cropped photos that Joe Buck tells you what makes New York. There is only one problem with this: while many stars have come to New York Red Bulls (or previously the Metrostars,) the club has never won an MLS title. It has never won a Supporter’s Shield, never won the U.S. Open Cup, and has only once competed in the CONCACAF Champions  League. The club has always been a playoff contender, having made the playoffs in all but three years of its existence.  While that may be considered a success for any team, in New York (or in New Jersey for that matter) second best is not good enough. *Cue generic message about the New York Yankees, New York Rangers, Bruno Sammartino and the one time the Knicks won a title and how New York is a town of champions.* And with this week’s announcement that the New York Yankees and Manchester City are acquiring  an MLS franchise, one has to wonder what the future holds for the Red Bulls.

While it is difficult to predict what will happen to NYRB in 2015 when their brethren open their stadium in Queens, the Red Bulls have made some significant upgrades to their team for the 2013 campaign. It may sound odd to say, but even a club that features Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry needs to make improvements. While the 2012 Red Bulls team had probably more talent than any team in the league, other than Los Angeles Galaxy, their chemistry was awful. Much of this has to do with Rafa Marquez. Marquez is a classless buffoon, someone who takes cheap shots on players and does not care about the consequences. In two consecutive campaigns, he has cost his team the chance to finally live up to their hype. He is all of the things that give soccer/football a bad name and its detractors in the United States their ammo in their war to denigrate the sport.

If Marquez was culprit number one in the plight of the Red Bulls, then former coach Hans Baacke was number two.  Hans, to me, represented the worst of what MLS has been. A foreign coach who knows nothing of the game here in the United States and yet comes in expecting to impose a system that is foreign to his players. I am not going to criticize him for not showing up to U.S. Open Cup matches. Most MLS teams do not take the U.S. Open Cup seriously (Interestingly enough, the teams that do take it seriously Seattle, Portland, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Jose have some of the most loyal and dependable fans. Coincidence?) What I do take exception to is his refusal to play younger players, for not substituting out hot head Marquez in a playoff game, and not figuring out a system to work a natural combination of Henry and Kenny Cooper in a more efficient manner. I am not sure if Mike Petke is the answer as a coach right now. But what I do think is that he is someone that they respect, having seen his dedication on and off the pitch.

Thankfully this season Mr. Marquez and Mr. Baacke have left the Red Bulls and given the team the opportunity to grow for the better. While I am sure that Red Bulls management thought that their big signing of Juninho would be their crowning achievement of the offseason, it was their trade with Real Salt Lake that landed them the likes of Jamison Olave, Jonny Steele, and Fabian Espindola that has truly galvanized this team. Juninho will be a valuable part in the Red Bulls 2013 campaign, but he must adapt to the physical nature of MLS. The Brazilian style has never lent itself well to the physical nature of football, and in particular MLS. This is precisely why players from Argentina have fared better in MLS than Brazil.

Jonny Steele is a truly fascinating story. A product of the WolverhamptonWanderersAcademy, Steele has had sort of a journeyman career, working his way through the lower levels of U.S. Soccer (including playing for indoor legends the Baltimore Blast.) More of a defensive midfielder, Steele provides support for NYRB’s more attack minded mid-fielders like Juninho and Dax McCarty. Espindola has scored 3 goals in matches so far and has proven to be an excellent complement to Henry.  Olave, 2010 MLS Defender of the year has the ability to make excellent technical tackles and can distribute crisp passes from the back. The acquisition of Goalkeeper Luis Robles has also paid dividends. A seasoned veteran in the German Bundesliga, he seems to be very confident in commanding a team with the likes of Henry, Juninho, and Cahill. While I like Ryan Meara, it seems that he was forced into the starting role well before he was ready. He will be a fantastic goalkeeper in MLS and possibly abroad, but he needs to work on his fundamentals and his command of his defense.

While most people would say that the Red Bulls success is predicated on the work of Henry and Cahill, Red Bull history has proven this to not be true. The Red Bulls, and the Metrostars before them, have made countless flashy signings that have made little difference in the standings. Branco, Lothar Matthaus, Youri Djorkaeff, Eduardo Hurtado, Marcelo Vega, Claudio Reyna. All of these players were high priced signings. All of these players never lived up to their hype while with the Metrostars or the Red Bulls. In this league, foreign players have to understand that they are not bigger than the team. Los Angeles has shown how this can work. Thankfully for Red Bull fans they have two stars in Cahill and Henry who will make the extra effort and not just collect their paycheck. They have bought into Petke’s system and have worked very well with their new teammates.

With the cancers removed from their locker room, the Red Bulls have shown this season that they are a very dangerous team and a force to be reckoned with. Their window seems to be very small: Henry is 34, and Cahill is 33. Plus with the addition of the New   York City franchise in 2015, it is imperative that the Red Bulls win and win now. We may not know much, but with owners like the New York Yankees and Manchester City we know that this will be a team that will spend and have a development system unmatched by the rest of the league. The Red Bulls have all of the talent and chemistry to win the MLS Cup this year.

Beer of Choice: Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn Brewing Company

While I feel obliged to say that the best drink at a New York Red Bulls game is a Red Bull and Vodka, in honor of their ownership, I have to be completely honest: I absolutely hate Red Bull. It tastes like cough syrup and vodka makes me nauseous.  On the other hand, Brooklyn Brewing Company and Brooklyn is quite good. It tastes very similar to Sam Adams Black Lager in that it tastes like a porter at first, but finishes as a lager. I had my first Brooklyn Lager after working a long day. While flipping through the channels, I spotted the New York Red Bulls and watched as Jozy Altidore tore through an unsuspecting defense. While Altidore no longer plays for the team, Theirry Henry is a good second choice.


 Posted by on April 7, 2013 at 10:38 pm  Chicago Fire, Global Football Today, MLS, New York Red Bulls
Apr 072013

Early in this fixture it looked as if Chicago might lose again.  After going down 1-0 early though, Chicago battled back to a 3-1 win, taking three points away for a good New York Team.  With the win, the Fire are granted a massive confidence boost with lots of football still left to play in the season. With this win a collective sigh of relief may be taken by the Chicago faithful, players and coaches.

Chicago went down early but they had a chance to come even in the 24th minute. Veteran Chris Rolfe sent his potentially equalizing penalty kick wide to the left side and relief was definitely not the subtext of the sighs at Toyota Park.  After the game Chicago mid fielder Dan Paladini spoke aloud, what most Chicago fans were probably thinking when the ball came off of Rolfe’s foot. “When he missed that, it seemed like ‘that’s kind of our season right now.”

Chicago were lucky enough to equalize late in the first half and take some momentum into the locker room.  This goal came off the foot of Paladini, my man of the season so far for Chicago, he described the goal, “I made the run, but he hit a perfect ball and the wind caught it.  I knew I was going to get there before the goalie. So… home field advantage.”

Paladini was named man of the match after this week’s game, and rightfully so as he was involved in all three of Chicago’s goals.  Coach Klopas agreed saying, “Danny’s got quality and when we’ve called him to step in, he’s done it.”

Chicago had a bit of a scare in the 69th minute when New York’s Thierry Henry sent a wonder blast heavy off the woodwork.  This, however, seemed to be his only major chance as Chicago were able to keep him out of  dangerous areas for the rest of the game.

Chicago substitute Maicon Santos wasted no time when only 20 minutes after taking the field, he took the lead for Chicago.  In the 83rd minute, he put Chicago on top with a beautiful piece of footwork followed by a devilish piece of finishing sliding in the game winning goal.  He also tucked home a goal off a set piece 5 minutes later to secure the three points for Chicago.

“It feels nice, not just for me but the whole team,” Santos said, “It feels nice to get three points at home and do that for the win. The two goals are a bonus for me. The team winning is the most important.”

A win like this can often get a team delusional, celebrating and thinking that everything is fixed.  Coach Klopas won’t let hat happen.

“It was great and important, but we have to be even keel. When things weren’t going our way, we never changed. There was a lot of panic by a lot of people, but we won our game and its fantastic. Now it gives us the energy to work even harder.”

The team looks to the return of it still missing players.  They hope to see the likes of Nyarko, Degares, Duka and Friedrich back as they head to Houston To take on the Dynamo this coming Sunday, April 14th.

Apr 062013

The Chicago Fire look to claw their way up off the bottom of the table when they take on the seventh place New York Red Bulls tomorrow April 6th  at Toyota Park.

They Men in Red had the week off last week to rest up their injured players and try to figure out what has been going wrong so far this season.  The time off has truly come as a gift to the Fire as they will see the return of many key players.  Logan Pause will be back on the pitch for Chicago.  “I’ve strung along, for about a week now, some really good days with my health.  Hopefully I’m on the other side of it.  I think I’ll be available, ready to go on Sunday,” he told the Fire a few days ago. This game may also mark the return of defensive leader Arne Friedrich.   He recently returned from Germany where he was receiving treatment from a therapist who he has been working with for over 10 years.  When asked about the treatment on the training pitch Arne said, “We have very good therapists here with the Fire but this guy knows my body best, he did a great job, my body feels great and I don’t have any pain so far.”

Along with the many returning players, Chicago will look to draw on past success against New York at home as the Red Bulls have never won a game at Toyota Park.  Assistant Coach Mike Matkovich says, “There are certain teams you feel like you’ve got a way with” referring to Sporting KC, “and I feel like New York is another one of these teams that we do well against.”

Chicago has been lackluster defensively in the last several games and the Red Bulls are a dynamic team playing forward.  Chicago will have to play tight defensively and rely on the space that will open up in the New York defense in order to posture for goals on the counter attack.  When asked about taking on football legend Thierry Henry, Chicago Midfielder Logan Pause said, “His resume speaks for itself. He’s a guy that you really have to keep your eye on at all times, he doesn’t need many chances to score.”  He went on to say that Chicago needs to work hard to eliminate his touches and confine him to less dangerous parts of the field.

New York are coming off of their first win of the season and look to carry that momentum into Toyota Park and take their first win away from there.  Hopefully Chicago can lean on its returning leaders and put up a strong showing in this game.

My Prediction

NY 3 – 2 Chicago (The third goal coming late for New York)

This prediction makes me sad.  Because I think Chicago will hold control of this game for the most part but won’t be able to tally their first win on the season, even with the return of some key players.

Feb 272013

mlscup celebration 2012 Major League Soccer to Kick Off 18th Season This Weekend
Major League Soccer’s 18th season begins this weekend – just 90 days after the LA Galaxy captured their second consecutive MLS Cup. Nine clubs have won the championship of the League that many call the most competitive, top-to-bottom, in the world. Returning MLS stars such as Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), and Federico Higuain (Columbus Crew) will join their teammates to take on exciting new young players like Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers), Rafael (D.C. United) and top SuperDraft pick Andrew Farrell (New England Revolution).

Again in 2013, the schedule will consist of 34 regular season games with the top 10 teams (five from each conference) advancing to the playoffs. An added emphasis on winning games has been instituted this season as the first tiebreaker among teams with equal points in 2013 will be Number of Wins, followed by Goals For.

Portland Timbers vs. New York Red Bulls: Two First-Year Coaches Square Off Sunday on ESPN2
When the New York Red Bulls and new head coach Mike Petke face off against Caleb Porter’s Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field on Sunday, March 3rd (7:30pm ET, ESPN2), the two first-year coaches hope to begin their MLS careers with a positive result.

After the Timbers Army once again sing the national anthem to kick off the game, Red Bulls Designated Player Thierry Henry will have the share the spotlight as all eyes will be on the Timbers’ new DP signing, 26-year-old Argentinean midfielder Diego Valeri who is expected to be the centerpiece of the Portland attack this season.

Dynamo vs. D.C. United: Eastern Conference Championship Rematch Saturday on NBC Sports Network
In a rematch of the 2012 Eastern Conference Championship, D.C. United travel to BBVA Compass Stadium to square off against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, March 2nd (8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network). Houston has not lost at home since they started playing in the stadium in 2012, currently riding a 25-game regular season home unbeaten streak.

D.C. captain Dwayne De Rosario will return to Houston after missing United’s 3-1 Conference Final (first leg) loss due to injury last season. A two time MLS Cup champion with Houston (2006, 2007), De Ro and D.C. hope to stop the dynamic attack of Dynamo veteran Brad Davis and third-year player Will Bruin in their season opener.


MLS Week One Schedule
Saturday, March 2
**all times ET
 Where to Watch
Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City
MLS Live
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Toronto FC
Houston Dynamo vs. D.C. United
NBC Sports Network
FC Dallas vs. Colorado Rapids
MLS Live
Chivas USA vs. Columbus Crew
MLS Live
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Montreal Impact
MLS Live
Sunday, March 3
LA Galaxy vs. Chicago Fire
Portland Timbers vs. New York Red Bulls
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake
MLS Live
Oct 202012
Sporting kc v opposition

Sporting kc v opposition Sporting Can Secure Eastern ConferenceFact is that against the Eastern Conference teams are more needing every point possible for the best possible spot for the playoffs, and that is where Sporting KC stand currently.

At the top of the Eastern Conference with only three points and a good goal difference is where Sporting Kansas City currently reside with the rival Chicago Fire with an outside chance of gaining the top of the East. Only one point needed and the East is theirs.

Once again Sporting face the New York Red Bulls who are on paper one of the most talented squads but one side that Sporting KC have had very good success against over the last few years.

While the pressure that Sporting is under is mostly self-implaced, the pressure on the opposition is what is really telling and will have a certain impact on this match.

With the glamor of the club playing in New York City and the heightened media presence surrounding the team and the fact that they have constantly failed to live up to expectations.

That will be a telling bit on how this act plays out as both teams look to cement their position in the Eastern Conference playoff scene.

Prediction: this could go either way, I predict a draw here

Gut Check Time (Crew 1-3 New York)

 Posted by on September 16, 2012 at 10:20 am  Blogs/Media, Columbus Crew, MLS, United States
Sep 162012

It took Columbus all of three minutes to get on the board against New York and regain the swagger they had played with for seven matches in 21 days back in August.

And then Thierry Henry put an end to it all.

Henry answered with an equalizer six minutes after Milovan Mirosevic opened the scoring for Columbus. The French DP forward got in behind Chad Marshall, trapped a long, lofted pass, and poked it past Andy Gruenebaum for the score. Henry would eventually seal the deal in stoppage time with a corner kick that needed no assistance from any other player on the field to find its way into the back of the net. About 15 minutes before that New York had taken the lead 2-1 off a corner kick goal that resulted in Gruenebaum smashing his face into the post and having to be substituted as a precaution.

It was a night where, aside from Milo’s goal, very little seemed to go right for Columbus and we saw their flaws truly exposed. In years past, a solid back line has been the foundation for success in Columbus. Now it seems even Chad Marshall is having his struggles and all is not well in defense for Columbus. Henry easily got inside the head of Julius James last night. James continues to disappoint and I wonder how long it will take for someone like Danny O’Rourke or even Eric Gehrig to take his spot. If Columbus are to make a run to the playoffs, the back line needs to be fixed ASAP.

And then there was the noticeable absence of Federico Higuain. The team has said he was kept out of the starting lineup due to an injection in his toe. While they didn’t look nearly as threatening without him, Columbus still created enough chances to keep former Crew goalkeeper Bill Gaudette active all night against his former team. Eddie Gaven continues to be the man everyone will look to in Higuain’s absence. Justin Meram created several chances out  of nothing with his dribbling skills off the bench. He replaced a very unhappy Dilly Duka who never quite got into the flow of things.

While the loss drops Columbus two points behind DC United (and only four behind Houston for fourth place) for the last playoff spot in the East, there are still plenty of opportunities to catch up. Although it’s a short turnaround, the Crew can look forward to welcoming a dreadful Chivas USA side into Crew Stadium on Wednesday night and next Saturday brings a trip to Chicago. The Crew also have matches against Eastern Conference foes Philadelphia, Kansas City, and DC United remaining on the schedule.

Saturday’s loss was bad, but all is not lost just yet. A win on Wednesday night against Chivas is very possible and as we saw in August all it takes is one little spark to get things going.



Sporting KC Fail to Put Away the Red Bulls

 Posted by on August 27, 2012 at 7:46 pm  MLS, Sporting KC
Aug 272012

Manager Peter Vermes look of disappointment was all to apparent as he tried to put a positive spin on the 1-1 result with the New York Red Bulls.

Little did those in the press room realize that the bomb had yet to be known. Teal Bunbury suffered a season ending knee injury in his collision with Red Bull keeper Bill Gaudette.

The full disclosure of his injury is a torn ACL.  Surgery will be happening quickly and recovery will take from 6-8 months.

Straight up this sucks. Teal being out will be a blow but it will just test the depth of Sporting KC even more.

With that said though I have ZERO trust in our first round draft pick Dom Dwyer as he definatly needs more experience at the MLS reserve league level or a loan spell at either NASL or USL Pro.

But I digress…back to the 1-1 draw.

Sporting KC showed a whole lot of vigor which is always good but the own goal really took the pep out of the team and they spent the remainder of the game trying to regain it to no avail.

In games like these it is the performance of certain players who are able to make the big plays at the big moments.  NYRB was playing without DP Theirry Henry but the work provided by new signing Tim Cahill was substantial.

With that said it is noted that a player such as this is what Sporting KC lacks and come the end of this year and into the next, with the CONCACAF Champions League in 2013, could surely need which tougher competition and a more expectant fan base.