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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Don't count them out yet: US U-20 trounces Cameroon

The US responded to their lackluster performance (0-3) against Germany with an equally (positively) impressive 4-1 win over African powerhouse Cameroon. First, I will not react to this prematurely. I saw patches of the match (30% of it, really), but what I saw today was a team vastly different from the one that played against Germany last Saturday. For all the doubters and non-believers, myself included, the team showed composed, dangerous and happy. Rookie mistakes abound and Opara's silly foul and conceded penalty is a reminder of this. They are under 20 after all.

Most notably in today's match against Cameroon was the inclusion of Bryan Arguez and Dily Duka (my favorite name right now). Both came on as substitutes versus Germany but emerged as starters today. And both showed why they should be on the pitch from now on for this team. Arguez plays his trade in Germany with Hertha Berlin, although he has been less than impressive with the Bavarian squad and mostly plays with the reserves. Duka is at Rutgers. Yes, as in New Jersey's university. I can see Arguez moving out of Hertha (perhaps on loan) and Duka also finding a good team (if he chooses to skip out on the next two years of college). Ownby and Taylor added to the score. Ownby was killed by the US soccer media and it's nice to see him respond with a goal.

In the end, they were all great goals and fun to watch. No highlights here but you can go to the FIFA site instead. Up next is difficult Korea, which tied Germany 1-1 today. Right now, as in the Olympics of last year, the US is in control of its own destiny. A win against Korea will send them through to the next round. The match should be about defense and avoiding mistakes. Korea will be looking for a win as well. It might be nice to see this modest American team shush its criticizers for once. Good luck.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

MLS 2009 Attendance stats weeks 28 & 29

Back to the stats. Figures are on the right column. Not going too much in depth this week. Most markets are up, including Chicago, New England and Columbus. It's hard to watch the games with the football lines still on the pitch, though. I'm enjoying the new soccer-specific venues. Up next year are the Red Bull's Red Bull Arena which is opening in Harrison, NJ, and the new soccer stadium in Chester, PA for the Philadelphia Union.

I read an interesting tidbit the other day regarding TV ratings for MLS... at least from the ESPN perspective. Looks like some of us out there were being entirely too negative about MLS on TV. It seems that the audience has gone up for the world-wide leader in sports by 7-10%. This is after the execs decided to scrub the "MLS Primetime Thursdays" slot for the "MLS Game of the Week." Smart. Also, ESPN's loss of the UEFA Champions League may be a blessing in disguise since the Spanish La Liga and the English EPL are during the weekend. This has opened up quality soccer for everyone that was at work or school on weekdays. A side effect? More MLS viewers.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Undermanned: US in the U20 world cup

They are under 20 and are undermanned. The US U-20 national team has started its U-20 World Cup adventure in Egypt with a 0-3 loss to powerhouse Germany. Why the negativity? This time around there aren't the Freddy Adus, Jozy Altidores and Michael Bradleys. They have grown up and are playing their trade in Europe. Added to their absence is the fact that most of the players on this U-20 side are collegiate players and not really club-based.

Indeed, some of the US soccer media have stated repeatedly that this year's batch of players lacks consistence due to the collapse of the MLS reserve league. I have to say I agree. When you have guys like Brek Shea (of FC Dallas and who hasn't scored) leading your attack, then you might be in trouble, especially considering the firepower of nations like Germany and Cameroon. For an in-depth look at the U-20 roster, check out this story from the SBI crew.

I guess my biggest worry is the lack of credibility and a potential slump in our youngsters' play. Mikkel Diskerud, Dilly Duka, and Bryan Arguez are not household names yet. Today's match versus Germany showed the lack of cohesiveness at the back, even with standouts like Ike Opara. The team had its share of chances but was nowhere near as impressive as the U-20s were in Canada when Adu and Altidore connected on so many impressive plays--including a win versus Brazil (which included Pato in its squad).

It remains to be seen if collegiate players that are part of an alternative, sometimes alien type of soccer with its substitute rules and timeouts, can deliver on the pitch at a major tournament. Missing regular top level play as Altidore, Bradley and Adu were involved in during their stint in MLS's defunct reserve league will undoubtedly hurt the US's chances in Egypt. I think I'm more excited about the U-17 crew, but there are still two more games to play: Cameroon and Korea. And as we've learned from the Confederations Cup, you can never count out the United States.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Barcelona Sporting Club falls from grace

For those of you unfamiliar with South American soccer, there is another Barcelona soccer team. It's not Spain's FC Barcelona, it's Barcelona Sporting Club of Guayaquil, Ecuador. The "Idolo del Astillero" also happens to be the most popular team in the country and one with the most fame (until Liga won the Libertadores last year). It's the Manchester United, Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees, etc of Ecuador. So if the team is relegated to a lower division it has to be a big deal.

Indeed, Barcelona are very close to being mathematically and officially relegated to Ecuador's Serie B. I must admit I haven't been following the game in my birth country as much due to other things in life getting in the way. I can only watch so much soccer and usually I reserve my Ecuador time to the national squad and my club Emelec.

A little background info: The team was founded in 1925. Contrary to what one may think, the team is not modeled or based on FC Barcelona, but instead it is an homage to Spanish support for the founding of a multidisciplinary club and the city of Guayaquil. The team is currently tied with Club Deportivo El Nacional as the most successful team in the country in terms of national championships (13 titles). They were the first Ecuadorian team to make it to the Copa Libertadores finals, having done so twice in 1990 & 1998. Notable players include Ruben Insua, Manuel Uquillas, Agustin Delgado, Pablo Palacios, Jimmy Izquierdo, Ivan Kaviedes, Eduardo Hurtado, Marcelo Trobbiani, Jimmy Montanero, Byron Tenorio, Edwin Tenorio, Mario Saralegui, Ivan Hurtado.

Today things look ever-grimmer for this iconic club team. They could, with a mix of results, sneak back into safety. This predicament is not unlike what happened nine years ago, when the team had to go to Ambato in search of a positive result to avoid relegation. The team delivered and the relegated squad was Liga de Quito. That's right, the reigning champions and the 2008 Libertadores and 2009 Recopa champions. It took seven years after falling to the Serie B for Liga to bounce back and storm into the international scene.

Could we see a major turnaround from Barcelona? Why not. It happened with Liga. True, it's the governing body that is to blame for their errant ways for the past decade or so, as alluded to by important members of the Ecuador press. The great Mauro Velasquez has mentioned to me the weaknesses and ambivalence that the club management has continuously shown. I would welcome a stronger Barcelona team to give Emelec better competition and elevate the status of the game in the country due to the team's considerable following.

Am I happy that Emelec is much higher in the table and competing internationally? Of course. Am I happy to see Barcelona falter like this? Not really. I like competition (especially if Emelec always wins) and right now there just aren't any more teams in the city of Guayaquil. This is the clasico. This is the city derby. There can be no yin without the yang. Some of my earliest soccer memories are those of "el Clasico del Astillero," including those in the 1990 Libertadores. I've been to five of the games already and I can't wait to go to the next. So, good luck, Barcelona. Emelec is waiting for you to break your heart again.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Major switch: the new FIFA national team rule

It's simple. Any player of any age that has not played an official FIFA tournament game for their country (of residence, citizenship, parentage) can switch to a different national team as long as all the paperwork checks. It used to be a cutoff at the age 21. Such was the predicament with players like Neven Subotic, Jose Francisco Torres, Giusseppe Rossi, Arturo Alvarez, and even Freddy Adu. As we all know, Adu and Torres chose the US whilst Rossi, Subotic and Alvarez switched allegiances. The last, Alvarez, formerly a U-17 for the US, dressed and started for El Salvador on September 5th at Sandy, Utah, for the qualifier.

Some fans are still disgruntled by Rossi and Subotic's departures and I can't say I blame them. Both are exceptionally gifted and would have added certain value to the US squad. Until recently, however, only a few chose to stick with the US, Adu and Torres being prime examples. And all of this was mostly, although not entirely, due to the ascent of the US national team in international football. A great (at that point) standing in Concacaf and an appearance at the Confederations Cup. This last one, with the great heights gained by winning two crucial matches and losing to eternal favorites Brazil, surely raised a few eyebrows. Namely, Jermaine Jones and Edgar Castillo.

Under the new Fifa rule, Jones (27) is elligible to play for the US because his father is American and he clings to that status. He played for Germany U-21 and the senior team in 3 friendlies. He made his desire public before the Confederations Cup. Jones is a very talented player (Shalke 04) that has played in the Bundesliga for his entire career. He is a defensive midfielder and certainly within the pecking order if Bradley and Clark continue to struggle and even if Edu comes back into the picture. Jones is recovering from an injury and won't be able to suit up for the USA until at least November.

Then there is Edgar Castillo. The New Mexico-born, Mexican-American is a natural left back (the biggest weakness with the national team). He plays his trade south of the border with Tigers UANL and played previously for Santos and Club America. Castillo played for the Mexican national team on more than one occasion, but never for an official tournament. His decision to play for America over Mexico came at a curious point in time when the US had just played its first Fifa tournament final and when Mexico was ailing from poor form (which they have recovered from). Right now there are no vacancies within the deep Mexican squad. The US, however, needs help at left back.

Unlike Jermaine Jones, Edgar Castillo is not injured, has had his paperwork approved by Fifa, and is in great form in a competitive tournament. Many out there, myself included, are hoping he's called up for the remaining qualifiers. It's not inconceivable to see him suit up against Honduras and/or Costa Rica given the struggles by Bornstein, Bocanegra and Beasley at the left back spot. Castillo is great going forward and can score goals. He's not a Roberto Carlos at this position nor should he be elevated as such. He's a great option in a field that is weak and shallow for the US. It's a spot that may very well be his to lose come South Africa next year (assuming we qualify). He has yet to play for us, though, so any conjecture on the matter will have to wait until then. In any case, there's nothing better than excellent competition for a spot to elevate every player's game.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Titans clash: Champions League begins

I was hoping for an amazing game when I took time off to see Inter host Champions League title-holders Barcelona. Instead there was missed chances and too much defense. Well, actually mostly defense from Mourinho's side and lack of a finishing touch with Barca. Indeed, Samuel, Julio Cruz and Julio Cesar performed admirably by frustrating the Messi-Ibrahimovic-Henry attack. Inter also lacked commitment getting forward and a true #10 and possession. Eto'o looked lonely and Milito lived offsides. Aside from the finishing touch, Barcelona continues to look extremely dangerous and will be difficult to defeat as we move forward with the current version of the Champions League.

Elsewhere in Europe, Real Madrid looked like the kind of team they are supposed to be by beating Zurich 5-2 with Cristiano Ronaldo giving another scintillating performance. It would be a pity not to see him in next year's World Cup. Xabi Alonso and Arbeloa also seem to have improved by joining this Real Madrid team, not to mention Kaka.

Manchester United also looked powerful going forward with Nani, Valencia and Scholes. Pairing that midfield up with Rooney and Berbatov is pure dynamite. Even much-maligned AC Milan showed up at the Vellodrome to snatch all three points away from an impressive Marseille that now includes Gabriel Heinze, Lucho and Falcao.

Other teams like Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Lyon, Sevilla, Chelsea, and Wolfsburg maintained their dominance over smaller teams. Surprises are present too, however. Juventus and Atletico Madrid were unable to come away with wins. It's early in the process and there are many more top-tier soccer stories to be written. I'm holding Madrid, Barca, Man U and maybe Wolfsburg as the final 4 at this point. Things can always change.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Short term memory: Costa Rica fires coach and what it means to the US

Rodrigo Kenton, the coach for Costa Rica since the start of the second preliminary round of qualifiers was fired yesterday due to the team's poor form. Short term memory indeed. After the Ticos started the Hex (Hexagonal final round of Concacaf) with wins at home versus El Salvador, Honduras and the US as well as an away victory at Trinidad and Tobago, they were able to accrue 12 points and were poised for another World Cup appearance. Flash forward through a disappointing exit from the Gold Cup using an almost-full-strength Costa Rica against a half-strength Mexico in the semifinal, coupled with three straight losses and shutouts in the Hex, and you get an ailing soccer team in dire need of change.

Does this make sense and/or sound familiar? Examples are Mexico and the US. And while Mexico fired several coaches until Aguirre stepped in to rescue the team, US faltered on several occasions but Bob Bradley kept his job. Reasons for Kenton's firing abound: pressure from the media and the federation, poor string of results, etc. Common practice in soccer and many other sports. It seems to be working for Mexico, although they started the Aguirre cycle less than half-way through the Hex. Is it working for the US? Would Mexico or Costa Rica have fired their coach after losing the Confederations Cup and Gold Cup finals and also lost important road points in the hex? We will never know because that's not how the USSF works.

And now Costa Rica has to start from scratch at 80% of the way through the final round of qualifiers. Some names being mentioned for the job are Leo Beenhaker (T&T in 2006) and Jose Pekerman (Argentina in 2006). That spells trouble for the USA's final match against the Ticos on October 14. Remember that a Costa Rica win (assuming they take care of T&T at home) would leave the US out of the top 3 if the US loses against Honduras on October 10. New blood in the managerial department could change the fortunes for the Ticos. With a playoff against Argentina/Ecuador/Colombia/Uruguay in the horizon, nobody wants to be in 4th place.

It's too early to tell what might happen. It's a silly move by Costa Rica this late in the game but then again, they dropped a 0-3 decision at home versus direct rivals, Mexico. They followed this with an injury-time loss at El Salvador. The outcome of this is complicated. Ultimately, it's in the US's hands to get at least a tie at home in their game against Costa Rica. As Donovan remarked, if they can't come away with a point from that game then they don't belong in the World Cup. The US Soccer Federation lacks the pressure and sometimes even the drive to make important changes in the structure of its teams and management. It could be said that missing out on 2010 might actually incur some restructuring of the federation and act as a wake-up call to follow through on further developing the sport in this country. Let's hope that this is not the case. The players and the talent is there to be present in South Africa. The team just needs to win the big games and the last two certainly are.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

MLS 2009 Attendance stats week 26 & 27

And we're back from international play. Whilst some of our ambassadors abroad are struggling for playing time (Onyewu, Bradley, even Adu again), and others are making their mark (Torres and Orozco in Mexico), our own MLS is coming down to the wire. Arena's Galaxians are close to an automatic playoff berth as long as they don't implode as they did versus Dallas this past weekend. So, are people coming to the games? With the NFL and college football in full swing, it would be hard to see many full MLS games. And yet some manage.

Chivas has lost some of its attendance impetus but places like DC, Columbus and Salt Lake City are making up ground and/or exceeding it. A look below at difference between 2009 and 2007 shows how the fall of Beckham has strongly affected their attendance numbers. Also notice, however, that places Chivas has actually seen an increase and Toronto, Houston and RSL (strong markets) have remained about the same. Clearly, ground for improvement but also nice positives as well. Hopefully some of the weaker markets can learn to emulate the stronger ones.

Friday, September 11, 2009

CONCACAF Revolution 3: The Empires Strike Back

Maybe we all were in denial. Maybe things could still change. But one look at the Concacaf table right now might have you saying "no, Cocacaf is still ruled by the two powers: Mexico and USA." The US and Mexico are at the top of the Concacaf Hexagonal table once more. If we rewind a little bit we are reminded why we thought things could be different in the conference this time around: Honduras had impressive international players, Costa Rica wasn't losing, T&T was in the Hex again and Mexico was crumbling. Even the US started showing signs of not being invincible when they lost 1-3 at the Saprissa.

Fast forward to the Confederations Cup and the Gold Cup and we see that things are... just what they should be. The Gold Cup final was reserved for the US and Mexico. US made it to the final of the Confederations Cup. Mexico went to Costa Rica and snatched all three points plus three goals. USA dispatched Honduras three times this year.

So what made the difference? Depth, coaches, fans and history. Maybe those nouns are more reserved for the Aztecas, but the US has shown why it's still at the top of the table, even if they look less than convincing on the pitch. Javier Aguirre was able to turn a Mexico team into a dominant squad once more after the Sanchez debacle happened and the Eriksson experiment failed. USA defended its turf and is close to a sixth straight world cup appearance. Barring a huge upset (always a possibility) next month, a tie versus Costa Rica at RFK stadium or an improbable win at Honduras will see them join the likes of Brazil England, Spain and others at next year's ecumenical tournament.

So is the rebellion over? Possibly. Are the empires back? Almost. Two more rounds remain in the Hex, and this time the tables have surely turned.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Strength and honor: US beats Trinidad and Tobago

I admit to being wrong on my last post. The defense looked stout despite a few Bornstein mishaps and Spector's injury at the end of the game. It was Ricardo Clark, the Livorno-bound man, that broke the stalemate and catapulted the US to the top of the Concacaf table after El Salvador and Mexico won their respective games. The score of 1-0 was telling of the hard-fought, physical match that we had expected.

Altidore did not repeat his hat trick this time around, and there was no "stanky leg" for Davies but they showed up and played the game. Donovan missed a few opportunities but remained the #1 man for the US. Holden again showed his supersub status as well as Feilhaber. I would rather have this starting line-up from now on.

I can't say too much more about this game since I had to DVR it due to prior commitments and basically fast-forwarded through most of the game. Cheers, USA. We can breathe a little easier now. Things are still tight, however, and it looks like it may come to the last day of qualifying for the US to advance. They will, however, only need a tie at that point to qualify if Honduras (vs USA) and Costa Rica (vs T&T) win their respective games.

No ratings today as I did not watch the game in its entirety.

Rico's blast:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Truth be told: Why the US won't beat Trinidad tomorrow

At the danger of sounding pessimistic, I'm simply stating this: the US lacks the arguments to beat Trinindad and Tobago at Port of Spain. Why? Lack of communication in the defense. With DeMerrit out, it will be interesting to see what Bob Bradley does with the back line. Pearce is very far from the left back position at this point. Bornstein showed he can't quite cut it internationally and showed that vs El Salvador. Beasley was atrocious at the Confederations Cup. Bocanegra is needed to pair up with Onyewu in the center. Castillo has just been cleared to play for the US but too late for this match. Of the above, we know that Pearce, Castillo, and Beasley weren't even called up.

There is the possibility of switching Spector to the left as he's used in West Ham, but that would introduce Cherundolo on the right, where he showed difficulties in Mexico. Putting Bocanegra out wide and inserting Marshall reintroduces some of the miscommunication seen last Saturday. There's no clear winning solution here against a fast-paced and physical T&T side.

In the middle of the pitch, it might advisable to reintroduce Clark as a holding midfielder with Bradley. If he can regain his form things might fare better. Bradley needs to keep composed also. Dempsey requires more impetus from the defense in order to work as a valid option in the attack. He showed glimpses of that in the last game. Up front, barring injuries, Davies and Altidore should be the starters.

It will be a difficult match. T&T is likely to take advantage of the US early-score-by-the-other-team bug and the stars and stripes will go down 0-1 at the half. Some heroics are possible in the second half with Donovan as the orchestrator. We should also take note on the fact that a good majority of the players are carrying yellow cards and may be unavailable for the Honduras match in October, were they to get another yellow. Prediction: 1-1.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

US vs El Salvador: Lessons learned?

Wow. that was not supposed to happen. Or was it? El Salvador has not lost in the hex by a score greater than 1 goal. Today they showed up defensively but were given the upper hand in the attack with a faltering US defense. Yes, the US went down on the scoreboard at home (again) early in the first half. I want to stay that Onyewu's absence was felt today, but in truth it was much more than that. The Americans lost their composure, strength in the air, their players, and even their spirit at times.

It wasn't all bad, no. USA got the win and the three points they needed. Altidore and Dempsey showed why they play in the EPL. Davies was a nightmare for the Salvadoran defense and Spector showed why he should always be the starter at right back. Holden cemented his place as a national team regular and Torres finally got a second chance, and excelled.

The score should have been different, right? Yes. The referee corps for this game was atrocious. Flagrant handballs, sketchy calls for both teams and, most importantly, an Altidore goal that was unbelievably disallowed. Wow. And it was a beauty, too. Oh, and despite the Salvadoran goal, Howard proved why he's one of the top goalkeepers in the world.

Then again, El Salvador could have tied or won this game. That's right. Bornstein was repeatedly overtaken by Castillo, Zelaya and company. His lousy mistouch led to to Castillo's goal. Marshall, Feilhaber and Bocanegra constantly lacked communication, which led to important attacks from the central americans. There were large voids in the midfield so often when El Salvador attacked that I no doubt sounded like a disgruntled commentator to my viewing party.

What's next? Another must win at Trinidad and Tobago. As I alluded to on my last post, Concacaf is way too tight right now to let any points slip away. Honduras is looking as strong as ever and Mexico is peaking now that it remembered that they are the top dog in the region. Their goleada over Costa Rica at the Saprissa stadium reiterated that. Right now, the US is in second place behind Honduras due to their ample goal differential (let's hope Jozy's goal doesn't hurt us when things are set and done next month). A home game versus Costa Rica and the final game at Honduras is not an easy schedule after the T&T game. Much soul searching remains. Let us hope the boys show up again in Port of Spain on Wednesday. Kudos to Davies and I hope his injury isn't serious.

Player ratings:

Subs: Holden (6.5), Beckerman (3), Torres (6)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

This Is It tour: September qualifiers

Yes, I'm alluding to the King of Pop's ill-fated final tour. He never made it, and as of right now, some countries might be on-the-outside-looking-in come the October qualifiers for South Africa 2010. So the allusion has more than one connotation here. If you thought the Confederations Cup was awesome, just wait till this weekend to find out why international soccer is the best type of soccer in the world. Marquee matchups, lots of stars, huge implications, you name it.

Let's start with our home planet of USA and our home galaxy of Concacaf. We saw how the US faltered at the hands of mighty Mexico and in the shadows of the majestic Azteca. Will the boys that beat Egypt and Spain in the Confederations Cup show up this weekend (vs El Salvador) and next Wednesday (@ Trinidad)? I sure hope so. Three points are acceptable. Four points are a minimum. Six points are a must. Why? Because right now the US is sitting in third place (10 pts) behind Costa Rica (12 pts) and Honduras (10 pts, better goal differential). Getting six points means they go to Honduras in October to snatch away points and then home vs Costa Rica to keep all three. And Mexico? They go up against Costa Rica at the so-far impenetrable Saprissa stadium; then home vs Honduras. We have to hope they stay with only three points. Why all the fuss, though? Because the fourth place goes up against fifth-placed South American. Right now that could even be Argentina.

Down to the land of Andes and Amazon we go. Ecuador should hope to get at least four points from visits to Colombia and Venezuela if they have any hope of landing a fifth play-off spot at least. But the most interesting situation is Diego Maradona's Argentina. In fourth place at the moment, the "gauchos" have a home game against first place Brazil and then a visit to difficult Paraguay. Argentina-Brazil game is at 8:30PM ET and you can catch it here or here. Just follow links to the "sports" sections of those websites.

And Europe? Holland is already in. On the verge are Germany, Spain, and England. In danger are Italy, Portugal, Sweden, France, Denmark, Greece, and Switzerland. All could qualify. All could be out, especially CR9's Portugal. Good matches to watch (online if you can or ESPN or FSC) are Denmark-Portugal, Switzerland-Greece, and France-Romania.

Asia is almost set. The Koreas are in; surprisingly Kim Jong-il's team is finally back in the competition after three decades of absence. Japan and newly Asian-conference-switched Australia. A playoff between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will decide who plays against New Zealand for the last spot. No Iran this time around.

Africa is looking interesting with Gabon ahead of Togo, Morocco and Cameroon (personal faves). Tunisia and Nigeria are fighting it out, as are Algeria and Egypt. Ghana (my lab mate's country), and Cote d'Ivoire are almost in.

Are you excited yet? I sure am, and so are the 200+ nations that make up the Fifa family.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

MLS 2009 Attendance stats week 24 & 25

Quick update. Becks not making much of a change thus far. With some saying that the problem now lies more with TV ratings for MLS matches, I almost feel like I should be getting my hands on that sort of data. In a forum on the matter, I suggested that nationally televised shows on ESPN be limited to good rivalries with decent turnouts in order to get people excited about watching the games. Places like Toronto, LA, Seattle, and sometimes DC are prime for this sort of TV coverage. It's not a bad idea to follow Beckham around since it attracts more people to games. It's sad to see empty stadiums for playoffs in places like New England. Keep in mind that these games happen at the cavernous Gillette stadium.

What's another television-friendly venue? Really small stadiums like Buck Shaw and Community America Ballpark. Back to attendance. I always like to do the relative attendance since it shows how full any given stadium is relative to their MLS capacity. Note that MLS capacity may be smaller than the actual stadium capacity (Invesco, Gillette, Giants, etc.). A good relationship between the mean and relative is shown below.