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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Brit Supremacy

And then there were two. Two English teams, that is. The Champions League, undeniably the most coveted prize in all of Club Football (Club World Championship doesn't quite count just yet) will be fought out by the two highest placed teams in the English Premier League. So who's to deny that it is the best and most important league in the world? Down are the other giant leagues... No more Barcelonas nor Romas nor Bayern Munichs. It is important to note that among the final four stood Liverpool, Chelsea, and Man U. Arsenal was swept aside by none other than Liverpool in the quarter finals, hence their absence from the top four. And where is the English national team? Not in the Euros. Not this time. Not even when its club teams are the most important and most lucrative in the world. Blatter may squabble around alongside Platini to make national leagues more inclusive of its own country's players. Platini wants only actual champions in the Champions League. That's never going to fly. Not when so much money's at stake for the biggest teams in the world. So what? Let's enjoy the game. Here in the States most of us soccer fans wind up watching a lot of EPL games thanks to FSC, more so than any other league including the MLS (Mexico's league doesn't count here since it excludes non-Spanish speakers). So let's have a party with the teams Americans know best. It may not be Barcelona or Real Madrid to play against the world famous Manchester United. Instead we have the much-hated-by-true-EPL-fans team... Chelsea. To quote a prominent (humorously, that is) american football commentator: Two teams, both with head coaches, playing the game of football. This should prove to be a great game.

Uncalled for: Donovan's celebration

It has fallen upon me to bring this unfortunate event(s) to attention. Why is our most prolific goal scorer in the national team, overall best player for two years in a row, and without a doubt the American player most kids look up to, behaving like this? Landon Donovan has 8 goals in just 5 games and could become the highest scoring player in MLS history if this rate continues. But how does he celebrate this? On the video provided you'll see his reaction to the Houston defender after scoring: general shouting and taunting. Why? He just scored a beautiful goal from a sublime Beckham pass. LA's dynamic duo is finally working for them and yet what makes headlines in the soccer world is how immature Donovan is. Not only did he taunt the player in the Houston game... More significantly and flagrantly, in last weekend's game against arch-rivals Chivas, he celebrated and taunted the Chivas bench (which includes ex-national team member and now head coach Preki). Preki was disappointed by this event and had few words for Donovan. It was more of a "I'm so mad I'm not going to acknowledge you" kind of reaction. Rudd Gullit himself walked to the Chivas bench to apologize. I hope and daresay implore captain Becks and Gullit talk some sense into this young man. He should soon be leaving for Europe for a league like Spain or Italy (critics agree that Germany and England are no fit for his style). Surely he'll want to keep this kind of behavior in the past. But let's rewind... what really should have happened on Saturday? Red Card. That's right, even though he's my hero for scoring so many goals on Mexico I have to say it. Donovan already had a yellow for a flagrant handball a-la-Maradona that didn't quite pan out. Celebrating the way he did after those goals (it was a hat-trick against Chivas, by the way) would have earned him another yellow in most leagues around the world, and that includes other sports. You're not going to see that in the NFL without getting a nice fine to set you back a few thousand dollars. Lesser offenses have warranted such fines in the past. So whose fault is it really? The referee. Maybe the general atmosphere and a sense of keeping the game going got the better of him. Spectacular goals and full stadium aside, we must respect the game and the other players on the field. That's what separates the true stars from the plain goal-scorers. Let's hope the league learns this well by punishing this sort of behavior and let's hope Donovan doesn't disgrace his own scoring prowess.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

MLS cummulative stats Week 4

As promised. I've compiled my own analysis of the all important MLS attendance. I've been frustrated by the apparent lack of in-depth attendance figures for the league for those of us that wish for MLS to expand and gain more recognition. In other blogs I've seen plenty of numbers but not enough plots. Plots are an easier/prettier way to gauge numbers. I took it upon myself to devise different methods to analyze MLS attendance in relative terms. All figures were computed using public, official MLS attendance numbers. Note that these are cumulative numbers in the bar plots and pie plots (if provided). Individual team stats will be provided per week for all teams in line graphs as well as the effect of Beckham, Blanco, and the rest of the DP crew. I'll post those next month when more data is available.
  1. Plot 1: Computed using relative attendance (actual/MLS capacity). MLS capacity varies by venue and are the official figures of each one of the teams. Note that those teams in larger football stadiums shrink their capacity to reflect the smaller contingent of soccer fans.
  2. Plot 2: Actual attendance numbers
  • MLS stadium capacity and stadium per team
  • Chicago Fire: Toyota Park, 20,000
  • Chivas USA: Home Depot Center, 27,000
  • Colorado Rapids: Dick's Sporting Goods Park, 18,000
  • Columbus Crew: Crew Stadium, 22,500
  • DC United: RFK Stadium, 24,500
  • FC Dallas: Pizza Hut Park, 20,000
  • Kansas City Wizards: Community America Ballpark, 10,385
  • Houston Dynamo: Robertson Stadium, 32,000
  • LA Galaxy: Home Depot Center, 27,000
  • New England Revolution: Gillette Stadium, 20,000
  • New York Red Bulls: Giants Stadium, 25,576
  • Real Salt Lake: Rice Eccles Stadium, 25,562
  • San Jose Earthquakes: Buck Shaw Stadium, 10,500
  • Toronto FC: BMO Field, 20,000

Monday, April 21, 2008

Enter Toronto

Toronto FC, that is. What a crowd. Added is a video of their home opener against RSL. As I stated on a previous email this is the best fan base in the league. Always a sellout of 20,000+ with talks of expanding the stadium in the next three to five years while other stadiums are shrinking in size to make space for a concert stage (i.e. Columbus). In the horizon, a designated player. Dutch legend Patrick Kluivert has been linked with TFC by the Footy Show blog, mls-rumors., and even Wikipedia. Kluivert is a former member of Barcelona, PSV, AC Milan, Ajax, and Valencia. He currently plays for Lille in France having scored 4 goals in 11 days. Kluivert is a reliable striker, albeit prone to injury, that would add a certain degree of pedigree to an already technically enriched Canadian side. I add "technically" for two reasons: For one the addition of French international Laurent Robert (scored the goal in the video) was a brilliant move to a squad that accounts with the presence of striker Danny Dichio, and an Amado Guevara in the midfield that provides a good deal of experience and good treatment of the ball while the younger and outstanding defenders US international Maurice Edu (can't see him staying in the league much longer) and Marvel Wynne anchor the team at the back. Second, we must remember that regardless of the pedigree and style of play, the experienced members of this squad are already in the latter stages of their career. This seems to be a recurring theme for TFC. The latest is Scotsman Paul Dickov, currently in England's second division and 35 years old. So what's the prognosis? A lot of potential--more so than last season. The older players should be able to inject their experience and style to the younger generation. I say bring back DeRosario to this Canadian side and give it a real Canadian feel. Some home grown talent up top would also be nice. This team has the makings of one of the MLS giants in the next 5 to 10 years. Adding a second or even third team in Canada (Montreal is high up in the expansion talks) would elevate the team even more.
Some stats:
  • This season TFC is at 101% with 20,219 at home
  • In its relative average (ratio of attendance to actual seats available) as compared with the other 6 teams in the eastern conference, TFC has 20% of the total attendance.
  • Its average home attendance makes up 21% of the eastern conference attendance rate
  • Currently constituting 11% of the total attendance in the east (1 home game)
(all stats are based on MLS figures)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Futbol USA goes worldwide!!!!

Thanks for all the hits from inside and outside the US. This blog will be a center for reports on major commentary from the Spanish and English speaking soccer planet along with my personal takes on major soccer issues facing the MLS, US Soccer, Ecuador futbol, as well as other important stories from around the world. Please feel free to leave your comments and/or questions. I'm a correspondent for the mls-rumors.net website and will expand on some of their material on this page. I'm currently updating my take on the n new MLS season so come back and check the new stats I have for each team. Enjoy!!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

MLS returns

Okay, so a couple of weeks went by without additions to my blog. Been busy but also very involved in all things MLS at the moment. From a friendly I went to between the New York Red Bulls and the Carolina Railhawks to joining the mlsrumors.net team to watching nearly 100% of the MLS games offered via cable (thanks, DVR!) minus HDNet to starting up my own statistical analysis of league attendance, I've had plenty to ingest and process. So where does the league stand? Tough to say just yet. Let's take it one team at a time. (All stats are based on official MLS numbers plus my own statistical analysis for the percentage)

The West
  • The LA Beckhams (a.k.a Galaxy): Ruud Gullit will have a difficult time building a team from the midfield down to the goalie since almost 2/3 of the team capital is spent on the top third of the group. What good is Landon Donovan's wonder goals or Carlos "el pescadito" Ruiz's sneaky goal intrusions or even Beck's amazing services if at the back the defense looks less efficient at stopping attackers than traffic cones. Colorado tore them up 4-0 in the first game. Game 2 against expansion San Jose doesn't count... and just when you thought it was safe in Beckhamland, boom! ... in comes Jeff Cunningham at the 88th minute to give the one-year-old TFC franchise its second ever away victory. Yikes! (Mean attendance so far this season: 23,713 or 88%)
  • Houston Dynamo: It's often said in MLS soccer that one shouldn't trust the first month's action as a prelude to the playoffs. Houston sure hopes so. The reigning champs haven't won a game yet and their international play in the Concacaf Champion's Cup yielded a scoreless home tie and a thrashing at Saprissa that saw the Costa Rican side victorious by the score of 3-0. With Onstad and Holden and a couple of other starters still nursing injuries, we'll see how well they fare when they visit the Beckham circus. (Mean attendance so far this season: 20,102 or 63%)
  • San Jose: It will be a tough year for Frank Yalllop's expansion team. Expansion? Yes, they were one of the originals but the franchise moved to Houston and won 2 MLS cups. SJ already had 2 MLS cups won with basically the same team (DeRosario, Ching, and co.). Not much to say here except good luck and hopefully they'll be able to secure their own stadium soon. (Mean attendance so far this season: 20,038 or 191% since they played in a bigger stadium for their first game due to Blanco's presence)
  • Chivas: The goats are awesome. Be it coach Preki or the crafty play of Sacha Kljestan, Maykel Galindo and Brad Guzan, it doesn't matter. The team is clicking. They've got berths in the Champions League (not UEFA) and the SuperLiga (I don't really like this tourney but more on that later). They beat their opponents with style and hopefully they'll be able to get a designated player soon. Bofo, your new team is waiting. (Mean attendance so far this season: 17,982 or 67%)
  • Real Salt Lake: So the name's a little weird. Who cares? They have an awesome fanbase and a great stadium that will open this year that looks to be the envy of many. Beckerman is showing his prowess and the new influx of talent is lighting things up as well. Esky is a welcome sight and Findley should be able to build on his experience and perhaps evolve into a more complete player. Bring it on, salties! (Mean attendance so far this season: 16,733 or 65%)
  • Colorado Rapids: This team is always a toss-up. Yes, they beat LA with a vengeance and a win at New England is also impressing. Still, the attack needs help. Cooke is showing his age and Cristian Gomez can only do so much. Potential, yes. Let's see how the crowds respond when Beckham's not the main attraction. Their new stadium is one of the nicest new additions to the league's arsenal of soccer-specific venues. I've heard nothing but praise for their facility from the spanish-peaking media. (Mean attendance so far this season: 18,713 or 103%)
  • FC Dallas: Dulio Davino may not be the ultimate answer to the empty stands at Pizza Hut Park, but it's a start. It's certainly nice to see Kenny Cooper back to his old form and Arturo Alvarez making things interesting on the pitch. Juan Carlos Toja certainly makes things more fluid in the midfield. After the sad failure of former World Cup veteran Denilson last season I can't blame FCD managers being a bit uneasy in hiring a new Designated Player. Hopefully it won't take long and hopefully they'll pick a prominent Mexican player to capitalize on the border state's demographics. (Mean attendance so far this season: 14,552 or 73%)
The East
  • DC United: 4 time champs. Overall best team in the 2007 season and winners of the supporter's shield. If this were England, DC would be champs, but since MLS operates in a cup system all bets are off if a team makes the playoffs. That said, this year DCU looks even more impressive on paper than any other team in the league. The addition of 31-year-old Marcelo Gallardo, Argentina veteran of World Cups 1998 and 2002, upgrades in the attack with Franco Niell and a resigned Santino Qaranta, the 2007 top goal scorer Emilio, Fred and McTavish mixing it up in the midfield and a back line that boasts Peralta and Martinez, this should be a hard team to contain. Yes, they've dropped 3 of their first 4 MLS games. The last was hard fought against the Crew but a couple of mishaps in the defense and lack of a finish touch up top got the better of them. Also, they've managed to play 5 games in just 2 weeks. That's enough to stretch even the deepest of European teams. As the dust settles from this early season batch of games that include the now defunct Champions Cup, we should see a dominant DCU that will remain as one of the bona fide contenders to raise the cup. (Mean attendance so far this season: 16,745 or 68%)
  • New England Revolution: A couple of losses early on are never hard to swallow--especially one at home to a middle-of-the-table team like the Rapids, but things look bright for NE if they can get Ralston and Twellman to good health soon. Their Gambian acquisitions have proved phenomenal in the attack and should make up for Pat Noonan leaving for Norway. Still, a DP is necessary if NE is hoping to retap into their previously raucous crowds that are running well below the average. (Mean attendance so far this season: 9,713 or 49%)
  • New York: What to say about this team? This is a team reminiscent of LA in terms of attack. They still have Angel and Reyna and Altidore. Van Der Berg is still in the midfield and Echeverry is a nice option for when Altidore leaves (most probably) for Europe in the summer. Coach Osorio's defensive-minded protocol should help the team in that sector but some extra work in the defensive midfield will require further player signings. This, according to sources, should come in the summer transfer window. (Mean attendance so far this season: 17,119 or 67%)
  • Chicago: Enter Cuauhtemoc Blanco. In my humble opinion and soccer-wise a much better signing for the league than captain Becks. Here's why: last year Chicago was sinking in the table with as few as 4 games into the middle of the season. Once Blanco joined and Osorio took over as head coach the team gave a complete 180 and became dominant in the east trailing only DCU and a feisty New England team that went on to the MLS Cup final. This year the Fire is already a force to be reckoned with: unbeaten in three games and with a resounding victory over New England in their home opener. Frankowski and Barret up top look impressive. Blanco right behind them make them nothing less than formidable. Does the Fire get their second MLS Cup star this year? Signs point to yes. (Mean attendance so far this season: 15,553 or 78%)
  • Kansas City: The former "Wiz" of 1996 became the "Wizards" in 1997 due to copyright infringement. Then again there's also the NBA Wizards but I don't do basketball so no hard feelings there. Finally removing that conspicuously cheesy rainbow from their logo was a step in the right direction. In terms of their game... a revamped and reinvigorated offense after losing Eddie Johnson to Premier League relegation-bound Fulham is already playing well for them. Adding an aging, albeit still dominant player, Claudio "el piojo" Lopez as their DP should make things more interesting for them. Playing in a much smaller venue that sits a little over 10,000 was genius since they attract only as many fans to their games each week. Now their home games are almost always full and much more intimate. Good move for a team centered in an american football dominated region. (Mean attendance so far this season: 9,200 or 89%)
  • Columbus: The "Crew" return to the big soccer scene with a young but nonetheless talented lineup. Eddi Gaven and Robbie Rogers highlight their young contingent while veterans Frankie Hejduk and former Boca Juniors star Gillermo Carlos Schellotto anchor the team and provide leadership in the back line as well as midfield. Alenjandro Moreno up top is another bright star. A win at DCU this past Thursday shows what they are capable of. Beating Houston on their home turf next week should consolidate them as playoff contenders. Now only if they could get their attendance numbers up. Speaking of that, I think bringing home 1996 rookie of the year, biggest US star outside of the country, and World Cup veteran Brian McBride for a sendoff season would surely bring people back to the stands. (Mean attendance so far this season: 10,288 or 46%)
  • Toronto FC: Last but certainly not least is Canada's only team in MLS. In a brilliant move by the league and FIFA, TFC was allowed to be a part of the league even though it's not in US soil simply by having a majority of Canadian players in the team. Last season was a flop on the field due to their being an expansion side. Sellout crowds for every game in their brand new stadium was nothing short of impressive. Surely these are the biggest fans of the game in the league, although DCU supporters might find that insulting. In any case, DCU is not exactly selling out their venue (not even their MLS attendance). Dichio, Lombardo, and Cunningham up top look great. New signings in the form of former MLS MVP Amado Guevara, 32-year-old and former French international Robert as well as Championship side Barnsley midfielder add leadership to the team. Wynne and Edu in the back form a great defense even if other teams tend to exploit the other 2 defenders' weaknesses. A DP signing looms near. Watch out for this team if not late in the season then certainly in 2009. (Mean attendance so far this season: 20,219 or 101%)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The money trail

So we have a new team (Seattle), another new team in two years (Philly), actual superstars (Becks, Blanco and Co.), actual revenue from smaller stadiums and Beckham crowds, and new international leagues. So where's all the money going? Not to our players, our younger, less experienced players that is. The so-called developmental player contract is a measly #12,900 with a few more earning $17,000. It gets more ridiculous when excellent players like Colorado's goalkeeper Condoul (from Ghana and in their national team) make only $33,000. This is per year! All this while Becks is earning 6.5 million with Blanco around 2 ro 3 million. Clearly there's a disparity here. Now I'm no commie and I love capitalism, but I would hope that salaries for some of the younger/less experienced guys would at least start at Condoul's salary. Even DC's new breakthrough (albeit only against Jamaican opposition) player McTavish makes $33,000! I know there's a salary cap (gulp) and other important factors such as team revenue, attendance, and so forth. But still, let's bump it up at least another 10K! This is especially true considering the upswing in team sponsorship through stadium naming and jersey sponsoring (Best Buy, Xango, Glidden, etc). Surely some of that revenue could go to our players. Another thing to consider is that this is the primary reason a lot of our youngsters or benchers tend to leave the league for second or even third rated teams in the UK, Norway, and even Austria because they simply pay more money. So let's make expansion and Beckhamania help out the true heart and soul of the game--our players.