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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.


Mar 162013

Venue: Olympic Stadium, Montreal, ON, Canada

When: Saturday March 16th, 2013 4:00 PM Eastern

TV Coverage: TSN

Competition: League Match (MLS)

Comments: Twitter Stream

Game Day Travel: Red Patch Boys



Although there will be some players that I can see starting this game to give other guys a break a lot of them are coming off injury and may be used as subs.  Also, we seem to be getting a settled back four and starting XI so there is a lot to be said for consistency.  This will be a very important game for us, for the longest time we have had Montreal’s number in CL qualification and the local Canadian championship but now they are quite a gifted team with tons of talent as well as coming off an away win.  If we can get something out of this game it would be huge for us.  However, I’m going to say that this will be a draw.



(Last update: Mar. 14)


Toronto FC:

  • Danny Koevermans (L ACL repair)
  • D. Henry (R Hamstring strain)
  • Luis Silva (R Hamstring strain) **Questionable**
  • Julio Cesar (L Calf strain)
  • T. Morgan (R ankle sprain)
  • Matt Stinson (L Hamstring strain) **Questionable**
  • Justin Braun (Concussion)

Montreal Impact:

  • Nelson Rivas (L knee surgery)
  • Sinisa Ubiparipovic (R calf strain)


Predicted Starting XI:

abEqZaman4 Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC 03162013







MLS Injury Report

Reds Face Impact at Big O

Mar 092013

628x471 Sporting KC falls 2 1 at Toronto FC

Sporting Kansas City fell 2-1 to Toronto FC on Saturday at the Rogers Centre, suffering the team’s first defeat in 14 MLS regular season games dating back to last August. Designated Player Claudio Bieler scored his second goal in as many games for the club off of a volley in the 77th minute, but a pair of first half goals from Toronto FC forward Robert Earnshaw earned the full three points for Toronto FC in their first home match of 2013.

Toronto FC started the match strong, notching a goal in the third minute of play when Earnshaw intercepted a pass in the defensive third and capitalized on the chance with a well-taken shot from the right side of the penalty area for his first MLS goal. Check out our friends over at for the best sports betting and online casino bonuses, site reviews and much more.

Sporting KC responded four minutes later when Chance Myers made an overlapping run and cut the ball to Benny Feilhaber, who chipped it just wide of the goal.

Earnshaw doubled Toronto’s lead in the 20th minute from the penalty mark after Paulo Nagamura was judged to have fouled newly-acquired midfielder John Bostock inside the box.  With Nielsen guessing to his left, Earnshaw slotted his shot to the opposite side for the eventual match-winner.

Toronto FC nearly claimed a third goal in the 31st minute when Reggie Lambe sent in a swinging shot from the top of the box that was just wide of the far post. Sporting KC got in one last look at goal before the end of the half when Collin was on the receiving end of a free kick, but his glancing header was just wide of the near post.

Myers gave Sporting KC their first scoring opportunity of the second half in the 52nd minute when his glancing header was just wide of the left post. Nine minutes later, halftime substitute C.J. Sapong nearly netted a goal for Sporting Kansas City when he won a header from a Graham Zusi free kick only to see it rattle off the crossbar.

Claudio Bieler provided a much-needed lifeline to Sporting Kansas City with under 15 minutes remaining. Sapong flicked on a long service from Jimmy Nielsen and the Argentinian striker  took a shot from distance that blazed past Joseph Bendik.

The 89th minute nearly saw an equalizer for Sporting Kansas City when a long throw-in from Besler bounced around the box and fell to Bieler at top the top of the area, but his right-footed volley was punched out by Bendik.

Six minutes into stoppage time, Sporting KC came close again when Zusi sent in a free kick that Collin headed just wide of the goal on a last gasp attempt at salvaging a road result.

Sporting Kansas City will return to KC for their first home match of the year at 2 p.m. CT on Saturday, March 16 at Sporting Park against the Chicago Fire. The match will be broadcast nationally on NBC Sports.


Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

Thoughts on today’s game…
I thought Toronto came out flying. It was their home opener, the crowd was good for them.  They pushed the game and they made the most of their opportunities. We made a big mistake early on to get them into the game that gave them some confidence. Getting the second goal early on put us behind the eight ball pretty early. Two goals is a big deficit to come back from.  I thought they closed the half out well, they slowed the game down and didn’t give us much to get into the rhythm or anything. The second half I thought our guys did a very good job of changing the pace of the game and pushing the tempo a little bit. We created quite a few opportunities, maybe a little unlucky here or there, but at the end of the day they did well in the first half we did well in the second half, they got two and we got one. It was a good one.

Did you say anything to your team at half?
Quite a few things. The biggest thing was that our movement off the ball wasn’t good enough.  We were letting them dictate the tempo.  They guys did a good job in the second half so that was a good thing.

Was the substitution made at the half intended to give your team more size and speed up front?
We definitely needed to change something, I don’t know if whether it was a change for a different mentality or it was the difference in the way everyone was playing, but it wasn’t just one guy. C.J. (Sapong) was a good spark for us at half, kind of changed a lot of the game for us so it was good to see.

Is it difficult to scout a team with players that you haven’t seen before?
Yeah, you don’t really know what their tendencies were as a group so you don’t know coming into the game who is going to play where.  I would say that regardless of that you still have to be able to play your game and you should still have good fight and intensity in you and I think in the first half they had it a little more than we did.

Sporting KC captain Jimmy Nielsen

Thoughts on today’s game…
I thought we didn’t play very well in the first 45 minutes.  We lost it in the first 45.  I think we played a very good second half.  I hope that will be a lesson for us, everybody would have that in their minds, what to do and what not to do.  It’s definitely not what to do what we did in the first half.  Absolutely a great performance by our side in the second half but unfortunately not enough, we gave it away in the first half with a very, very unacceptable and sloppy 45 minutes.  It’s very disappointing.

Did coach say anything during the half to get the team going in the second half?
It was not a question about tactical, about the quality of what we did, it was our attitude on the field that was wrong.  We were not ready to battle; we were not ready to fight.  That surprised me a lot because that is what we talked about just before we went on the field.  We should be ready right from the first whistle but it took us 45 minutes to get ready.

What is the difference in the Toronto team from last year to this year?
We got to give them some credit too.  It’s not just bad stuff from us in the first half.  It was their home opener, coming out full of energy and we gave them a lot more energy.  They were all over us at one point and we didn’t have any response to that.

Was it something that Toronto’s defense or the lack of finish from your players that kept the team to one goal?
It was a mix.  I think the second half we created a lot of good chances, we created enough opportunities to get a point, unfortunately we didn’t get that equalizer.  But again, this should be a lesson for us.

Toronto FC Head Coach Ryan Nelsen

Thoughts on the game?
We’re still a long way away from where we want to be. More importantly it was a step forward. I think there was improvement in Vancouver, there is improvement today and we got to take baby step to become a very good team. This will help in a lot of ways but we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We need to improve the team. We need to improve everything and we will still be working very hard to do it.

Did the team press as much as you wanted after the first twenty minutes?
It’s something that naturally happens when you are up two nil sometimes you kind of sit back on it. They weren’t really breaking us down in open play. Corners and set pieces were obviously a major factor, but they weren’t really breaking us down. It’s a very good Kansas City team, Peter (Vermes) has done a fantastic job with them and they’ll be there about the top this season. You can’t get too greedy.

What vibe did you get from the fans?
It was an amazing turn out. Considering what has happened in the past for them to come out in those number the whole team can’t thank them enough. I think it really helped to see them over the finish line. I know a lot of the guys were saying at half time and afterwards how much they wanted to do it for the fans because they have been with them through thick and thin. I’m pleased in that they can have a good night on the town with a win behind them.

Toronto FC defender Danny Califf

On the second-half pressure from Sporting KC…
I would have rather had a clean sheet and not had the stress at the end. I think that says a lot about the character of the group of the guys. We talked about culture change and the first step in that process is not to lose and I think we’ve shown through preseason and especially tonight that we took a step in the right direction. The quality of the group and the personalities of the group are such that we just need a few of these and build up the confidence and feel that we can go anywhere and win.

On the physical nature of the game…
Yes a little bit, they were whining a little bit which is standard when things aren’t going your way. I think we did a good job standing up for ourselves and not feeling intimidated.

Toronto FC forward Robert Earnshaw

On the victory…
We needed to step it up. We said before the game to forget about last weekend, we worked hard did well and lost so we just needed to step it up today.

On the penalty kick…
I was very happy about it because I changed my mind right at the last minute because I just saw the goalie take a step and it was nice because I was thinking of going to that side and I just changes my mind the last minutes. Overall I think it’s just a day I think we can all celebrate because there was a lot of hard work there, a full team effort.

Mar 082013

Sporting KC Getty Images1 Sporting KC takes on Toronto FC on Saturday

Sporting Kansas City will play on the road for the second consecutive match of the 2013 MLS regular season when the club takes on Toronto FC at 12:30 p.m. CT on Saturday at the Rogers Centre.

Saturday marks the first of three meetings between the clubs during the 2013 MLS regular season. The teams last met during the preseason in both club’s final match of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic when Sporting Kansas City earned a 1-0 victory on a goal from Designated Player Claudio Bieler.  Make sure to utilize this great information for football betting.

Sporting Kansas City and Toronto FC played three times during the 2012 season, twice at Sporting Park and once at BMO Field. Sporting Kansas City was victorious in all three meetings in 2012, including a 1-0 victory in the last match-up on Canadian soil, and currently has a seven-game unbeaten streak against Toronto FC that began in 2010.

Saturday’s match, the first match of Toronto FC’s 2013 home schedule, marks the first time that an MLS regular season match will be played at the Rogers Centre. The previous seven contests in Toronto were held at BMO Field, where Sporting Kansas City holds a 2-2-3 record including a victory in the first ever MLS match at the stadium.

Sporting Kansas City will return eight starters, to Toronto FC’s seven, from the last time the two teams met in 2012, including both goal scorers from the 2-1 victory at Sporting Park in Paulo Nagamura and Oriol Rosell.

Coming off a 3-1 victory in their season opener at Philadelphia, Sporting Kansas City is now undefeated in 13 straight MLS regular season matches dating back to the 2012 season, one shy of the all-time club record.

Toronto FC continues their 2013 campaign with head coach Ryan Nelsen making his home coaching debut on Saturday. Nelsen acquired former Sporting Kansas City midfielder Julio Cesar during an active offseason, though Cesar is one four players questionable for tomorrow’s contest due to injury along with Luis Silva, Stefan Frei and Taylor Morgan.

Nelsen also acquired MLS veteran defender Danny Califf in the Re-Entry Draft Stage 2 and midfielder Hogan Ephraim on loan from Queens Park Rangers. Joe Bendik, picked up in an offseason trade with the Portland Timbers, started in net for Toronto FC in their season-opening 1-0 loss at Vancouver last weekend.

>Sporting Kansas City supporters can follow the match online via @SKCGameday on Twitter and the MatchCenter, or on mobile devices with the MLS MatchDay app. Additionally, fans outside the local viewing area can watch live on Direct Kick (free preview on March 9-10) and MLS LIVE.

Chivas USA: The Future Of MLS…?

 Posted by on November 15, 2012 at 9:16 am  GFT Special, MLS, United States
Nov 152012

Earlier this week Jorge Vergara held his first press conference as owner of Chivas USA. He took the opportunity to lay out a grand plan for the future of his latest investment. There was talk of a vast search for a new coach, a new stadium in downtown Los Angeles, and a new style of play for the team overall.

For those who don’t know, I am a die hard Columbus Crew supporter. I do not care about any other team outside the league nor do I care about MLS as a whole. I do not like the way MLS is run, but as long as they give me Columbus I am placated.

Despite all of that, I am absolutely fascinated by Vergara’s vision for his club’s future.

I first started paying attention to Chivas USA on Sunday night when I saw a random tweet saying the team would use Vergara’s press conference to announce Marco Van Basten as their new head coach. This did not turn out to be the case. Instead Vergara announced that Johan Cruyff is heading up the search for the new coach as an adviser to the club. Despite a less than stellar track record (Van Basten failed to guide his native Netherlands to success while constantly feuding with its more high profile players), the fact that such a name appeared in the rumor mill says a lot about Vergara’s ambition. MLS has seen a lot of foreign coaches in its rank, many of whom have failed, but Van Basten is by far the most high profile in terms of his ability as a player. Van Basten was a truly world class player in his prime. His technical ability was phenomenal. MLS has never brought such a talented player into its rank.  While Vergara says the search spans the US, Italy, Mexico, and the Netherlands it will still be fascinating to see if Van Basten is in fact named head coach. Someone of Van Basten’s skill level coaching up MLS players would truly be something the likes of which the league has not yet seen.

Vergara also spoke of a future where Chivas USA is truly an extension of its Mexican predecessor. He talked about wanting to capitalize on the multi-cultural resources that America offers. Mexicans. Salvadorans. Hondurans. Panamanians. Colombians; a truly Hispanic club both in terms of the players it employs and the fans who support it. MLS has always searched for a way to grab the support of Hispanic immigrants as a means to boost its profile. But would the league be cool with a club wanting a 100% Hispanic identity?

Along a similar note, Vergara talked about how Chivas USA has tried to match the physical style of MLS and failed miserably. This is where I started to become intrigued. Vergara spoke about wanting future Chivas USA teams to use the speed and technical ability that Hispanic players seem to develop so much more naturally than non-Hispanic (aka white American) players. Having perhaps the greatest Dutch footballer of all team advising on all personnel decisions would certainly suggest he is serious about such a transformation. Personally, I find MLS games to be incredibly boring most of the time. MLS players, both Hispanic and non-Hispanic, tend to try to overpower one another rather than beat them off the dribble or with a spectacular pass. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a team came along and shattered that norm?

Then Vergara mentioned wanting to get out of the Home Depot Center. He talked about wanting a new stadium in downtown Los Angeles. Clearly he wants to get out of the shadow of the LA Galaxy; as he should. Chivas USA is very often overshadowed by their glorified landlords. Vergara even went so far as to say that an unnamed city in Texas offered him “the moon and the stars” to move to the Lone Star State. But Vergara says he is committed to finding a new home for his team in downtown LA. Too bad for Vergara, MLS is currently putting a very large amount of its resources towards finding a downtown stadium in New York for a second New York franchise.

This is where the plot thickens and I start wanting to get behind Vergara’s vision. In order to achieve his ambitions Vergara will need to fight MLS and its single entity structure tooth and nail. I hope he does. I am very much opposed not only to the single entity structure of MLS but also their quest for a new stadium and team in New York. I find it fascinating that Vergara basically wants to do what MLS is doing in New York; only he wants to do it 3,000 miles on the other side of the country. New York may be more cosmopolitan, but there is a steep tradition of soccer excellence rooted in Southern California. And yes, a large part of that excellence comes from across the border in Mexico.

I’m not sure if Vergara realizes the fight he is in for against all the rules and regulations MLS clings to in order to preserve its bottom line. But I hope he fights it kicking and screaming. Several weeks ago a story came out that Toronto FC ran into difficulties with the league in trying to sign Swedish center back Olof Mellberg back in July. Toronto executives were furious and their defense suffered dramatically without the addition of a player whom they genuinely could have used to get better. It is entirely possible (and likely) that Vergara will run into this type of situation in his efforts to re-make Chivas USA into a powerhouse uniquely bound by Hispanic and Dutch technical influence. Let us hope that he is outspoken if and when the league decides it cannot “afford” such a team. Let us hope Vergara raises a huge stink when he is met with resistance by the league office in New York.

And now let us imagine the future if Vergara is successful in achieving his wildest ambitions.

Imagine an MLS with no salary cap. Imagine Jorge Vergara wants to spend unlimited resources trying to build his club up to be the ‘Barcelona’ of MLS. He would not be limited to just three “designated players”, but rather he could buy as many as he wanted. He could create a team the likes of which MLS (and America as a nation) have never seen before. Now doesn’t that sound like fun? Doesn’t that sound like a team everyone can all enjoy?

Let’s just hope MLS and its single entity, salary capped structure don’t get in the way. And if they do, let’s hope Vergara fights it with the same passion he is displaying for his vision for the future of Chivas USA.


Kamara Leads Sporting KC 1-0 over Toronto FC

 Posted by on August 19, 2012 at 12:34 am  MLS, Sporting KC
Aug 192012

Ever since Paul Mariner took over at Toronto FC the team has been a difficult side to get the better of in comparison to the team under Aron Winter. And when Sporting KC hosted Toronto they saw still a mostly Winter team and completely destroyed them.

Well they seem to have their number as Sporting Kansas City was able to take it to Toronto as they constantly peppered the opposing goal before Kei Kamara scored from a free kick late in the second half to secure the win and make the position of top dog in the Eastern Conference, a now five point lead, and within one point of Supporters Shield leading San Jose.

Thing is Sporting has now earned the full nine points in their last three league fixtures, with a cup final triumph added in. This stretch/run that they are in is excellent and in the long run of the season is key as they now need only focus on one game a week for the remainder of the season.

My excitement for what the team is doing is palpable and with their next three league fixtures at home one can only think that Sporting can get full points there and will be out of reach for most of the East and Sporting can dream of finishing in first in the race for the Supporters Shield whose reward for the winner is the privilage of hosting the 2012 MLS Cup Final.

Two cup finals at Livestrong….

It is a mouth watering idea. And not beyond the realm of possibility

Aug 162012

A draw on the road in MLS should be enough cause for satisfaction. I know I should be glad to see the Timbers get a draw on the road (their first point on the road since May 15th). Let’s look at both sides of this and I’ll show you why I’m not satisfied with only one point.

Why last night’s match is not a good result.

It’s been a season long, maybe even arguably a MLS franchise problem, but The Timbers aren’t making in-game adjustments and aren’t learning from their mistakes. Where does one even start? Set piece defense?  Man marking? Poor pitch vision and hesitation to make an aggressive offensive play? The bottom line: any consistent viewer of the Timbers saw Toronto’s equalizer coming. Paul Mariner made adjustments and started playing a higher line to start the second half. The Timbers didn’t make any noticeable changes and the inevitable happened.

On the first goal, two men (Jewsbury and Wallace) were “marking” Luis Silva. Well, at least they were supposed to be.  Again, call it weak, lazy, even incompetent, but at this point in a season set-piece defense shouldn’t be so consistently inconsistent.

On the second goal, Toronto FC’s Ashtone Morgan beat Kosuke Kimura like the proverbial rented mule and fired in a beauty of a cross to an unmarked Hassli (Horst, where art thou?) which was then flicked to Silva for the goal. I love Kimura’s dedication to the PTFC badge and all, but a veteran MLS player has to do better there. Again, it’s something else happening way too frequently.

Why last night’s match is a good result.

Win-loss records are sometimes deceiving. On the surface, it definitely appeared that the Timbers were taking on one of the worst teams in MLS. The overall W-L-T records certainly indicate that, but Toronto was 4-4-4 going into the game since Mariner took over. Over their last 12 matches, the Timbers record is 2-7-3. As a comparison, fellow Western Conference rival Colorado is 2-10-0 over their last 12 matches.

If you take any MLS team with a .500 record and play them on the road, any away team should be happy with a 2-2 draw. Get the point on the road  and win all three at home is the formula for making the playoffs in MLS.

The bottom line.

Unfortunately, last night’s 2-2 draw against Toronto FC just isn’t a good enough result. Sure the Timbers got two goals on the road (1st time since joining MLS) and came from behind in the 82nd minute (another 1st for the Timbers since joining MLS), but they did this against an absolutely depleted Toronto FC side. Missing from last night’s match were 2nd leading scorer Ryan Johnson (international duty), leading scorer Danny Koevermans (season-ending injury), starting center back Doneil Henry (international duty) and many others. Getting that 1-0 lead should have really been enough last night. Instead, one six minute stretch basically did the Timbers in. How many complete matches has this team played since joining MLS? Too few in my opinion and while there’s positive points to take from last night’s match, it’s definitely not good enough.

Here’s game stats from last night:

Portland Timbers (5-12-6, 21pts) at Toronto FC (5-13-5, 20pts)
Aug. 15, 2012 – BMO Field

Goals by Half 1 2 F
Portland Timbers 1 1 2
Toronto FC 0 2 2

Scoring Summary
POR: Zizzo, 21
TFC: Hassli, 57
TFC: Silva (Hassli, Morgan), 63
POR: Nagbe (Smith, Alexander), 82

Misconduct Summary
POR: Mosquera (Caution), 85

Lineups & Stats
POR: GK Ricketts, D Kimura, D Mosquera, D Horst, D Smith, M Nagbe, M Jewsbury ©, M Chara, F Zizzo (Fucito, 66), F Boyd, F Wallace (Alexander, 77)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Bendik, D Danso, F Dike, F Mwanga, F Richards

TOTAL SHOTS: 10 (Four players, 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Zizzo, 2); FOULS: 12 (Five players, 2); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 6; SAVES: 4

TOR: GK Kocic, D Harden, D Eckersley, D Cann, D Morgan, M Lambe (Weideman, 46), M Frings ©, M Maund, M Avila (Amarikwa, 59), F Silva, F Hassli (Makubuya, 80)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Hall, F., M Cordon

TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (Frings, Hassli, Silva, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Hassli, Silva, 2); FOULS: 9 (Hassli, 3); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 6; SAVES: 3

Referee: Geoff Gamble
Assistant Referees: Claudio Badea, Kevin Klinger
4th Official: Abbey Okulaja
Attendance: 18,773
Time of Game: 1:52
Weather: Overcast, 73 degrees

Match highlights:

Aug 152012

torontotimbers 300x174 Timbers looking for respect on the road in TorontoAfter a weekend off, the Portland Timbers (5-12-5, 20 points) will play the first of two road games this week as they take on Toronto FC (5-13-4, 19 points) Wednesday (4:30 PT) at BMO Field.

Here’s a few thoughts going into the match on Wednesday:

* Who’s the laughingstock now in MLS?

Over the course of 2011 and the early part of the 2012 season, Toronto FC could easily have been labeled as a laughingstock by many MLS fans. Starting the season 1-9 led to the firing of Aron Winter, and Paul Mariner took over as coach of Toronto FC on June 7th. Since then, Toronto has turned things around under Mariner and have gone 4-4-4 since his hiring.

The Timbers made their own coaching change on July 9th, firing John Spencer, and naming Gavin Wilkinson as interim coach. Since adding coaching duties to his workload (he’s also the Timbers General Manager), the Timbers have gone 0-4-1; have scored only one goal since July 14; and have traded two of their most popular players in Troy Perkins and Michael Chabala.

Needless to say but things just aren’t that rosy in the Rose City. For further proof how far the Timbers have fallen, the MLS Power Rankings had the Timbers 19th in this week’s listings. Maybe it’s just me, but I detect a hint of sarcasm in this:

5e918e3283809931b8bfb3a3aaac4c42 Timbers looking for respect on the road in Toronto

* The swap.

I don’t think I can really say much more than what others have said on Troy Perkins (see The AxeOctober Thoughts and Slide Rule Pass for some excellent analysis and thoughts). Needless to say, I wasn’t pleased with the trade and for all of Wilkinson’s talk on how this move is an “upgrade” and how Donovan Ricketts is a better leader on the pitch, he still never explained how Ricketts can play attacking center midfielder. Because honestly, that’s the kind of move that needed to be made here. The Timbers weren’t languishing in 9th place in the Western Conference because of lackluster goalkeeping. That -17 goal differential certainly does rest solely on the goalkeeper’s shoulders either.

Let’s just say hypothetically that the Ricketts-Perkins trade is a wash, how many matches does that win for Portland? Most fans understand that while Perkins was no Petr Cech, he saved many a game for Portland, especially last season. I said it many times in this blog last season that without Troy Perkins, the Timbers wouldn’t have even had a sniff at the playoffs in 2011.

I hope Donovan Ricketts is a tremendous success in Portland but don’t let Gavin fool you. This trade had nothing to do with “upgrades” or “leadership.” While maybe not the most vocal of players on the pitch, Perkins wasn’t afraid to speak his mind off of it. He was looked up to by his teammates and was adored by the Timbers Army, even named the 2011 Supporter’s Player of the Year. All in all, I think it will be very interesting to see how this team responds on the pitch against Toronto.

Game Notes:


TORONTO FC – OUT: GK Stefan Frei (L lower leg); FW Danny Koevermans (L knee ACL tear); DF Matt Stinson (R quadriceps strain); DF Jeremy Hall (L ankle sprain)

PORTLAND TIMBERS – OUT: DF Chris Taylor (R hip surgery)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: TOR: Terry Dunfield, Doniel Henry (Canada); Dicoy Williams, Ryan Johnson (Jamaica) … POR: Lovel Palmer (Jamaica); Steve Purdy (El Salvador)

SUSPENDED: TOR: Logan Emory (through Aug. 15) … POR: Franck Songo’o (caution accumulation; through Aug. 15)


SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: TOR: Richard Eckersley … POR: Diego Chara, Lovel Palmer
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: TOR: Ryan Johnson, Torsten Frings. Reggie Lambe, Terry Dunfield, Ashtone Morgan, Doneil Henry … POR: Kris Boyd, Jack Jewsbury, Steven Smith, Kosuke Kimura


Toronto FC is missing lots of key players for tomorrow’s match as starters Terry Dunfield, Doniel Henry and Ryan Johnson are all on international duty. They’re also missing Logan Emery to a suspension, who has started the last four matches at the back. I don’t think it will make a difference though. The Timbers haven’t shown much of anything positive over the last five matches, and none of the recent roster changes (Ricketts and signing of New Zealand international Ian Hogg), are likely to make that much of an impact. One of the Timbers most positive players of late has been Franck Songo’o and he’s out due to yellow card accumulation as well.

Take all of what you’ve seen lately from the Timbers and then remember they still haven’t won on the road this year and you have all the ingredients for disappointment. Toronto wins 2-1.


Finally Some Recognition

 Posted by on April 17, 2012 at 1:26 am  Chivas USA, MLS
Apr 172012

dankennedy Finally Some Recognition

Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy was named MLS Player of the Week following his shutout of Toronto FC this past weekend. Kennedy made four saves, including one in the 89th minute when he blocked Danny Koevermans’close range shot giving the Rojiblancos a 1-0 victory, and their third consecutive win on the road.

Kennedy is tied with FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman for the most saves in the league with a total of 23, and this past weekend’s clean sheet was also his second of the season.

I’m glad Kennedy is finally getting noticed he is a rock at the back and is continuing the success he had last season where he made 32 appearances and kept nine clean sheets making him among the top five goalkeepers last season and was named Chivas USA’s Most Valuable Player.

Well done Dan you deserve it.