Thursday, April 26, 2007

US Soccer Snob's - Bi-Weekly Update 4/26/07

MLS Week 3
Ah, week three, or as I like to refer to it, the week I officially give up on my fantasy team. The Revs and the Crew got the week of to a great start with a 2-2 draw that was salvaged at the last minute by the Crew’s Kei Camara. The match was played at a very high level and was a good showcase for the league. As some of my readers (not sure I should use a plural) may know, I’ve been working to establish a soccer bar in Chicago’s Loop. It was a good start to see a few folks show up for this match and for 30 glorious minutes, this was the only thing on TV. The regular crowd was checking out the game and didn’t ask for the channel to be changed, so I’ll take that as a small victory. Getting back to the match, a lowlight was Andy Herron’s blatant WWF elbow to the face of Jay Heaps. Strange to see this from Herron, because he was never a dirty player during his time with the Fire.
Now we get in to Saturday. The day I felt compelled to post my weekend predications just before the kickoffs. Unlike Jamie Trecker, I’ll actually leave my predictions up without editing them. Needless to say, I was a bit off. 0-3 on Saturday! First to Toyota Park, where two evenly matched teams fought it out and played an exciting, although offensively uncreative game for 90 minutes. Chris Armas, put a great pass onto the foot of Chad Barrett, who beat the offside trap and then the keeper to put Chicago up 1-0 in the 36th minute. Barrett did a great job of shielding defender Nick Garcia, before beating Kevin Hartman. For the second week in a row, Barrett justifies the Fire conviction in his abilities. The teams traded questionable penalty kicks in the second period and settled on a 2-1 score line as a final. More about the announced crowd of 11,717 later on.

Remember that teenager that arrived amid a bunch of fanfare and is expected to be the next big thing? Sorry Freddy, but Jozy is the young Man now! With all the acquisitions of older players, the youngsters are getting it done for RBNY. A great right side combination resulted in Hunter Freeman playing a ball on the ground to Jozy, who used a tremendous first touch to knock the ball into nearby space on his left. He then spun around and cracked a shot over Houston’s Pat Onstad on the underside of the crossbar for what turned out to be the winning goal and a goal of the week frontrunner. Jozy played a tremendous game considering he was the lone RBNY striker for a good portion of the match following the controversial ejection of Cletus for a high boot. Fox broadcasters were, of course, singling out Claudio Reyna after the match for his influence, which mainly consisted of passing the ball backwards. Regardless, things are coming together in NY and these developments should scare the rest of the surprisingly strong Eastern Conference.

Almost as humiliating as my 0-3 prediction record was RSL’s effort versus Chivas USA at the HDC on Saturday night. RSL’s previously sold defense was shredded by the speed of Maykel Galindo who netted two great goals during the first ten minutes of the match gave Chivas all they needed. The American Goats added a bit more history to the night with Ante Razov hitting the back of the net for the 100th time in the league. Congratulations to Ante. He has quietly been the most consistent and efficient striker in MLS. It is sad and funny that the career best American strikers that are currently part of the league, Jason Kreis, Jeff Cunningham, and Razov, have never really had an impact on our national team. Taylor Twellmann could soon be added to this overlooked group, although Taylor is more a victim of timing. Then think of some of the players who have gotten more of a fair shake: Jovan Kirovski and Connor Casey. It this it is clear to see Bruce’s opinion of MLS.

Wrapping up the weekend was a solid 3-1 kFCD victory over the previously undefeated Colorado Rapids. Ramon Nunez began his official coming out party by putting away the first two Dallas goals. Jovan Kirovski interrupted the Nunez show to display that his chipper was working fine as he beat Shaka Hislop to draw the Rapids even, but Dallas proved to be too much for the visitors. The “sellout” crowd of 20,500 went home happy.

Attendance Reporting 2007
As an avid attendance nut, I’ve been completely perplexed to see some of the attendance figures this year! Some seem pretty dead on and others seem to be complete fabrications. The Chicago Fire attendance this year has been very accurate. So much so, it seemed that the team has been underreporting attendance. The NYRB game on Saturday seemed to have spectacular attendance, but only a bit over 12K was announced. Fast forward to KFCD on Sunday, every section had people in it, but no section could really be described as packed. This was announced as a sellout. As was the Rapids opener, when it was very clear that some sections were not sold at all. So what is going on here? Are some teams adjusting their attendance for non-soccer related reasons? Are they just trying to make it challenging to be part of the Bigsoccer attendance prediction thread?

Zizu and the Deteriorization of MLS’ Safe and Sane Policy
Yes the rumor mill is about with Zizu to the Fire or LA! Let me preface my following comments by saying Zizu is my favorite footballer of all time and I would be the first person running out to by a “Zidane” Fire jersey. And then a week later, I'd by a second one when the new jersey sponsor is announced. But only for selfish reasons would I want to see Zizu on the Fire.
I just can't bring myself to see from a business standpoint how any of this Zidane in Chicago or LA stuff makes sense. The main point of contention amongst MLS supporters is about the nebulous buzz term, which has become like crack in MLS club front offices since Beck’s signing. Adding Zidane will create more buzz, they say. Creating buzz is exactly what Sr. Blanco is for in Chicago and Mr. Beckham is doing nationally. The mission has been accomplished to a much larger extent that I expected from the volume of questions I get about them from non-soccer fans (or maybe they just don't know they are fans yet). What is the marginal value of adding Zidane to either of these clubs? Many true soccer fans will be showing up to see them already. Zidane to either LA or Chicago is pointless because both will be near sell outs after July. The Galaxy will sell out (to stated MLS capacities) most if not all of their road games, while the Fire will sell out cities with large Mexican populations.
I'm sure that the Fire get some hefty revenues from Merch sales, but Designated Players or no Designated Players, I have to imagine that revenue generated off of games is an MLS teams’ primary source of income. As for a Chicago Zidane buzz, does anyone think really think Chicago sports writers like Rick Morrissey and Jay Mariotti will devote more than one column to a Zizu signing. Even that would likely be yet another platform for these idiots to craft lines that a hack writer like myself could come up with on the spot.

"With the signing of Zidane the Fire are trying to wrest attention away from the Cubs and Sox. As if the public will be swayed by threat of head butt? Did they really think a Frenchman would convince us that soccer is a sport for Americans? He may be viewed as talented in Europe, but in Bridgeview he is a glorified kickball player with a big contract."
(Please don't forward this to the Chicago Sun Times, they may have it ready to go like a famous person's obituary)
What sense does it make to load LA, NY, and CHI and leave the rest of the league fending for itself with three teams devoid of even their DP slots? I'm a very strong believer in slow and steady growth and I was also in favor of the DP rule, but for this league to say that they've learned the lessons of NASL and then start concentrating all the DP slots in the major markets is a complete joke!
I don't think the Zidane move is going to happen, but if it does, I'd like to see a player that "moves the needle" go to a team that has some seating capacity. Zidane to New England, Chivas or Salt Lake I could see. However, I think given the AEG involvement, Zidane to Houston would be the most likely move (although the playing surface could affect that).
As for attracting the long sought Euro snobs, signing Zidane would actually lend less credibility to the league! What it does lend credence to is the widely held world view that MLS is a retirement league. Prior to this year, that claim was easily defended. Even the Beckham signing could be defended. Beckham has plenty of gas in the tank as he's shown since Capello tucked his tail. Angel will turn out to be a decent signing too. However, once you move beyond those to signings what do you have? Reyna should be retired, Guillermo (not a DP but pricey) is on his last legs, Blanco close to that and Zidane is in retirement! These are the only six names that the Euro-folks know. Mo Johnston today was saying that many players on his team don't even know who Eddie Johnson is! The secret about the Euro-snobs is that unless you move Manchester United, Inter Milan and Real Madrid intact to US cities, nothing will be good enough for them. You get Ronaldo, they'll want Ronaldhino. You get Del Piero, they'll want Christiano Ronaldo. Anything else would be a pale comparison to them, and they'd be correct.

Do we really want a Zizu USA retirement tour to detract from the progress of a Justin Mapp, Chris Rolfe or even Chad Barrett? These three players could be major forces on our national team for years to come. It is highly debatable that adding these so-called World Stars will help American MLS players a great deal. Where are Valderrama's, Etcheverry's, Nowak's and Cienfuegos' protégés? The US National team should be awash in attacking and slick passing mids! There have not been any clear reign-passing from these highly successful foreign stars. The closest thing is the Beasley-Stoitchkov relationship. Is it any wonder that as the league took a decisive path away from high-priced aging stars and focused more on Americans and up and coming Central American talents, that the overall quality of the league has rocketed up? Look at the on-field progress of this league since 2002. It is nothing short of stunning. My overriding concern, is that MLS is on the verge of halting this continuing progress for the sake of "buzz".

Only in MLS story of the Week
Upset with smoke bombs, flares and other disturbances (i.e. a real football environment), Chicago Fire planned to crack down on all Section 8 ticket holders by forcing them, and them only, through metal detectors and giving them pat downs. Let’s just say that the relationship between Fire management and Section 8 has been, um, rocky throughout John Guppy era. Perhaps the Gupster was looking for a measure of revenge for the demonstrations against him following the ouster of his beloved predecessor, Peter Wilt. With the situation looking bleak, Section 8 found a savior in Bridgeview Mayor Steve Landek. The mayor demanded that the Fire not go through with these measures because of its similarities to profiling. Section 8 also correctly argued that the league was sending a mixed message because league produced commercials featured fan generated smoke and pyrotechnics. Section 8 has been at capacity all season and is beginning to spread into nearby sections.. For a league that is struggling to inject passion into its fanbase to even think about taking actions like this against its most ardent supporters is reprehensible.

Toronto FC Lights Up Canadian Immigration and Reunification Bliss Abounds
I think Mo’s ran through three Blackberry’s last week. See if you can follow this. Expendable in NYC, Marvell Wynne was shipped over the border to TFC to play for the man that drafted him number one overall. In the airport, Wynne likely bumped into Danny Dichio who Mo ordered up from Preston North End. Dichio’s arrival in Toronto meant the departure of Connor Casey to his hometown Rapids. Unhappy in Toronto, Richard Mulrooney was reunited with his former teammates at the Dynamo Clash Quakes, who only had to part with a seldom used defender, Kevin “Bobcat” Goldthwait, and a first round draft choice. Perhaps Mo could use his phone to contact some of the 100,000 viewers that tuned in for the first TFC match and tuned out for the second.

RBNY – kFCD – Dallas salvages a draw against a surprising RBNY side.
Season Record: (2-3)

PODCAST (Glenn Interviews Fire coach Dave Sarachan):
The Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis

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