It's not that I forgot to do this (okay, so maybe I forgot), it's that it just didn't seem all that important. Things have shaken out enough through six weeks of the MLS season that we're now seeing what we always see: parity. Parity makes it inherently hard to pick a favorite and a long shot; when results knock back the leader but don't provide a clear replacement, I'll end up with lukewarm choices.

This weeks long and short aren't quite lukewarm, but they're not exactly boiling either.

FC Dallas

I struggled with this one, but ultimately decided to drop FC Dallas back down to the long shot spot. I was actually tempted to put the Crew here, but I can't get rid of that nagging feeling that they'll eventually get back on track. They looked good for the most part against Chicago, though losing the lead and only getting a point is just plain depressing. FCD has made just a little progress, but it's still not enough to get them off of the bottom of the pile. The Galaxy managed a tie with what appears to be a relatively decent Colorado side, so they avoid the long shot spot this week.


Chivas USA

Despite a midweek loss to Toronto on the road, the Goats retain they're favorite status. A weekend home win over FC Dallas put them back on the right track. They also regained the services of Maykel Galindo, and still have the return of several other injured players to look forward to. Preki might be doing it with smoke and mirrors to a point, but it's hard to argue with a plus seven goal differential, best in the league. If the Toronto loss is any indication, consistency on the road could be an issue for Chivas; but until their form goes to hell and they drop from the top of the Supporters Shield standings, they remain one of the favorites to win it all.

RUNNER UP: Chicago Fire

By the way, you might see the favorite's odds get just a little longer as the season goes on; that's just how unpredictable MLS truly is.

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The USL-1 Project: The Final

Thursday, April 30, 2009 | View Comments

It's that time. After weeks of buildup, a lot of nonsense on my part, and passionate voices all around, I'm finally at the end of the journey.

Two teams left, and it's all down to this.

This last showdown will be a departure from the previous USL-1 Project entries, as I'm going to simply announce my new team, and then back it up with a brief summation of the process.

Announcement after the jump, of course.

Today, I'm proud to announce that I am the newest fan of the Puerto Rico Islanders. There was something about the Islanders, their story, and all of their fans that represented here just made the choice for me. This is nothing against, the Thunder, of course, as I have the utmost respect for their passionate fans. Some of them came here and made their case, and for that I am grateful.

I know that some will call me a front-runner or a fair-weather fan. I know that some will question my motives, wonder if the Islanders CONCACAF Champions League run played too large a role in my choice. Though I would be lying if I said that the CCL success didn't play some part in my interest in the club (hell, it was the reason for starting the project), I promise you that I came to this decision exactly the way I had hope I would; completely naturally.

I recently told someone that I wanted my new club to choose me rather than the other way around. As I'm not locally connected to any of the teams, I needed some kind of visceral reaction to organically happen for me to know I was making the right decision. It's even possible that I would have ended the project without choosing a club if I hadn't found myself truly pulling for one. In fact, it was almost as if I was subconsciously giving my heart to the Islanders without even realizing I was doing it.

I'm ecstatic with out the project turned out; I was true to my principals, refusing to artificially choose a club just so I could say I did (or to finally bring this project to an end).

So there you have it. A banner day for me. Now I just have to figure out how to get my hands on an Islanders jersey...

Before I go, let me give a final thank you to everyone that participated and helped in the course of this project; so many of you voted, emailed and commented that it's almost staggering. It just goes to show you how deep the passion in USL runs, and I hope, despite my newly minted allegiance, to highlight more of that passion from even more teams in the future.

GO ISLANDERS! (I'm obviously going to have to work on my Spanish)

United March Update

Thursday, April 30, 2009 | View Comments

Just a little more news on the "Keep United in DC" front.

I've spoken with an elder of the Barra Brava, and everything looks be a go for the march on May 9th. Permits are in hand and the group is meeting with the front office today ahead of printing up 15,000 fliers to be distributed at the FC Dallas match this weekend.

While the effort is being led by the Barra Brava, the march effort is all-inclusive. The group hopes to have as many participants as possible, and that includes families, youth teams, and anyone else who is sympathetic to the effort.

A lot of time and effort is going into the march, and those responsible should be applauded for getting it together so quickly.

The other aspect of the "Keep United in DC" campaign, the one that I suggested could include a gesture of solidarity from fans around league, has gotten some good run since I first posted the thought yesterday.

Bloggers around the country have picked up on the idea, and if the momentum continues to build, we could see something fairly special on May 9th.

If you are a fan of an MLS club, plan on attending your team's game on May 9th, and respect what the Barra Brava and United fans are doing, get involved. Spread the word and let Garber and Co. know that United calling anywhere but DC home will not stand.

Sorry about getting a little melodramatic.

If you don't care, don't plan on supporting the cause, or see any sign of camaraderie with another club's supporters as sacrilege, that's fine. I can respect that viewpoint. Please be aware that no one if forcing you to do anything, and if you prefer to stick to your guns on being for your club and your club only, I (and I'm sure most) certainly won't hold it against you. This also goes for for traveling TFC fans who will be in DC on May 9th; if you don't want to march, don't march. If you don't want to display a sign, or hang a banner, don't. But I don't think it's too much to ask for you to respect the effort. May 9th is not the time for antagonism (I'm not trying to insult TFC fans or imply anything would happen; I would be saying this no matter which club was in town on the day of the march).

I will have interviews with the Barra Brava leadership on Monday, and may soon try to do a roundup of those around the country that have promoted the cause.

Four teams standing, and only one will gain the loyalty of yours truly. This is the semi-finals, where four USL-1 clubs fight it out for the right to be my club.

I expect that when the winner is finally announced I'll receive phone calls of welcome from owners and chairmen, be feted in the streets, and be lavished with team-related paraphernalia to the point of overkill.

Okay, so maybe I won't get all of that. But I will have a new club to call my own, and for that I'm truly excited.

Let the semis begin. No detailed breakdown this time around, just a simple comparison of the clubs based on my impressions to this point in the project.

Montreal Impact v. Minnesota Thunder

MFUSA Vote: Advantage Minnesota (16% to 9%)
Passionate Comments/Emails: Advantage Minnesota (barely)
Cool YouTube videos of supporters: Advantage Montreal
MFUSA's Gut: Even (cop out, I know)

Winner: Minnesota Thunder

That was a nail-biter. If it was a soccer match, it would have come down the last penalty, which was apparently saved the Minnesota keeper.

Good showing, Montreal.

Austin Aztex v. Puerto Rico Islanders

MFUSA Vote: Advantage Puerto Rico (35% to 12%)
Passionate Comments/Emails: Even
Did That Ginge Didn't Choose: Advantage Puerto Rico
MFUSA's Gut: Advantage Puerto Rico (barely)

Winner: Puerto Rico Islanders

The Ginge thing is a joke of course, though I couldn't really choose the same team as him, now could I? Seriously thought, my gut said Puerto Rico, and the Islanders fans truly represented in the poll. Can't ignore that.

It's too bad the Aztex went up against the Islanders in the semis; the might have otherwise made the finals.

One more round to go. Finals are now set:

Minnesota Thunder v. Puerto Rico Islanders

Stay tuned, the finals are coming soon. If you've got a horse in this race, if you're a fan/supporter of either club, step up and hype up your team just one more time.

"Keep United in D.C.": A Movement

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | View Comments
If you can't tell, I'm a little wrapped up in the "Keep United in DC" march efforts, planned for May 9th. I view the march as a perfect example of what makes soccer such an amazing sport; the passion of its fans is unrivaled.

If you missed it, Barra Brava has taken the lead on coordinating a show of support for the club's efforts to remain in DC. Washington is where United should be, and the recent setbacks the team has faced to find a proper home have many supporters, both of United and around the league, just a little worried.

In the spirit of the movement, I have a thought.

Despite the animosity that often comes with our club allegiances, there remains a certain amount of solidarity across the MLS spectrum. The league is young, the margins small, and to an extent, we're all in this together.

No matter how much you might hate United and their fans (I'm looking at you Red Bull), it would be impossible to argue that a relocated United would be a good thing. Who would New York fans have to hate if DC moved to say, St. Louis? It's just not the way things should be.

So why not make May 9th "Keep United in DC" Day across the league?

"Keep United in DC" Day would work like this: fans attending matches all over MLS, in that aforementioned spirit of solidarity, would display signs or banners showing their support for the march efforts in DC. No matter if you're attending a match in Columbus, Chicago, or Houston, show your support for Barra Brava and all of the other United fans as they rally for their club. If it was your club being threatened, wouldn't you feel better knowing that fans around the league have your back?

Maybe a chant or a song could even break out in those other stadiums...

Okay, so that's probably too much to ask. But a few signs sprinkled among the crowd at MLS stadiums across the country would be a fantastic sight.

Let's be clear: I realize that what people in other cities do will have no effect on DC and their stadium issues. Local politicians aren't really going to care if a few fans in Columbus wave around "Keep United in DC" signs.

But that's not the point. Attention needs to be paid to the United's plight, and the wider the message goes, the better. Don Garber has made statements indicating that the team could be moved, and while many people believe those statements were idle threats (for the time being), the fact remains that United supporters feel the need to rally in support of their club.

What do you guys think? Does the idea have legs? Should we start a campaign to get the "Keep United in DC" movement spread across the league?

If anyone else thinks this is a worthwhile idea and wants to help spread the word, don't hesitate to do so. I'm not necessarily worried about credit for me; it's the idea itself that important. If you want to link back to this post, I certainly won't stop you, but if you just want to let other bloggers and soccer people about the campaign, that's fine too.


I'm finally getting around to the last team in the USL-1 Project. I apologize for slacking, but things have just been a little crazy, and other concerns pushed themselves ahead of my profile of the Timbers.

Obviously the Timbers are the other team in USL-1 that won't be there in two years, since the club is "moving up" to MLS in 2011. Lots of history, great fans, and one of the few legacy names in American soccer should serve the Portland club well in the competition for my loyalty.

Scores after the jump.


Portland is a long, long way from the DC Metro. It if weren't for the Whitecaps, it would be father to PGE Park than to any other USL-1 stadium for yours truly. That's a strike against, though in the days of modern travel, it's not the end of the world. I also have a cousin in Portland (at least I did last time I checked; we're not particularly close), so that's a plus for the Timbers. I've heard plenty of good things about Portland, so I'm going take it easy on them for this category.

Score: 7


The Portland Timbers name has just about as rich a history as any in American soccer. Through NASL, two smaller regional league, USL and soon MLS, the Timbers names has been a relative constant. Portland has a strong reputation as a soccer town (dubbed Soccer City U.S.A), a moniker earned through the support of multiple generations. Everything about Portland's soccer history is good by American standards, and so this score is predictably good one.

Score: 9


I know I covered the name a bit already, but that was more about it's history than it's allure. It's hard to separate the two, of course, so I may be influenced by the historical resonance of the name as well as a more visceral gut feeling. The Timber colors are fine, and because they've been consistent through the years, I feel as though I have to give points for that as well. There's been no fluorescent colors, no wacky combinations, no efforts to "modernize" the look. The logo/badge is clean and classic. Another solid category for the Timbers. This is beginning to look like a rout.

Score: 9

Supporter Passion

Though Sounders and Whitecaps fans (god, I love rivalries) might argue, the Timbers Army has a strong reputation in American soccer circles. Passionate, loud, and organized (meaning they sing/chant/cheer together), Timbers fans give PGE Park a European feel that is hard to find in this country. Tradition applies here as well, with local legend Timber Jim adding a unique element to the atmosphere for many years. The Timbers Army has the of a group that would literally fight for their club, and that's something one has to respect. The rout continues.

Score: 9

Total Score: 34

The Timbers leapfrog the field and take over the points lead in stunning fashion; a strong indication that I could be following the Portland club very soon.

The final first round standings:

Portland Timbers--------34
Montreal Impact----------30
Austin Aztex-----------------29
Minnesota Thunder-----27
Puerto Rico Islanders---27
Vancouver Whitecaps---27
Rochester Rhinos--------26
Carolina RailHawks-----22
Cleveland City Stars-----20
Charleston Battery-------18
Miami FC---------------------18

With the first round down, let's move quickly into round two; I'm narrowing the field to the top four clubs, with the winner to be decided in head-to-head fashion. Two semi-finals and then the Grand Final.

First, a small matter to take care of, something which directly effects the competition:

After consulting with the judges (me), the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps are hereby eliminated from the competition.

I'm sorry, but that had to be done. With those two clubs moving to MLS in two years (still have faith the Timbers will get the stadium deal done), I can't in good conscious become a fan of either one. It just wouldn't be right, since I do already have a club that I nominally support in MLS.

With the Timbers and Whitecaps eliminated, that leaves these four clubs standing (oddly enough, these are also the four highest vote-getters in the USL-1 Project poll):

Montreal Impact
Austin Aztex
Minnesota Thunder
Puerto Rico Islanders

Because the Thunder and Islanders were tied on points, I'm setting the next round up like this:

Montreal Impact v. Minnesota Thunder

Austin Aztex v. Puerto Rico Islanders

First round points are thrown out for the next round. The head-to-head matchups will be based more on my gut, and how I've been influences through the course of this project.

Stay tuned for the USL-1 Project's dramatic climax.

Idle Klinsmann Speculation

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 | View Comments

Jurgen Klinsmann is a man without a country. Fired from Bayern Munich with only a few matches remaining in the Bundesliga season, Klinsmann's "American" ideas always made him slightly distasteful to a demanding German public. Despite leading his country to a somewhat surprising third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup, Klinsmann has simply spent too much time in the good old U. S. of A. for his countrymen to consider him properly German.

And yet, he's not really American either.

Many American soccer have a soft spot for Klinsmann, and on more than one occasion, I've heard staunch "the National Team should have an American coach" proponents back down from that stance when Jurgen's name comes up. Sunil Gulati's courtship with Klinsmann came to naught the first time around, and Bob Bradley stepped in. Bradley's done a good job to this point, through he naturally has detractors. Could we see USSF flirt with Klinsmann again?

My feeling? Maybe, and probably, but not yet. How's that for taking a position?

Let me explain myself. I certainly think that Gulati is desperate to hire Klinsmann. But as long as Bradley continues to have success, and as long Gulati lacks just-cause, the USSF's hands are tied. Bradley, as of yet, has given the federation no reason to let him go; as callous as the powers-that-be can act in this type of situation, I can't conceive of a legitimate reason to shake things up at this point at time.

Does that mean it won't happen? Of course not. Gulati will continue to drool over the only man on the planet with a significant pedigree and a solid managerial background that splits the difference between "foreign" and "American".

That's the draw. That's what makes Klinsmann's potential leadership of the Nats so intriguing. The man lives in California, has eagerly embraces American techniques, and has a good understanding of American players. What's not to like?

I don't know if Klinsmann will try to get back into management immediately, or if he plans to go back to California and chill his heels for a bit. I don't know if he has actual interest in any job, much less one in the United States. Conceivably, he could even be seen as a candidate for a Major League Soccer job if things continue to go poorly for certain clubs (LA Galaxy spring to mind). But let's pretend for a moment that he would take the USMNT job if offered: what's to say that Gulati doesn't give Klinsmann a handshake deal, one that will have the German replacing Bradley when the timing is right for a change?

A run of poor results, a bad showing at the Confed (or Gold) Cup, or just the conclusion of World Cup qualifying could all be used as excuses to make a change. I don't want to say that it's a foregone conclusion, and I could very well be made to look like an idiot when the Nats head to South Africa with Bradley still at the helm; I don't claim to know anything, it's just idle speculation.

But does any of it sound unreasonable?

First Ever MFUSA Contest

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 | View Comments
Step right up and win a prize...

Introducing the first ever MFUSA contest: an opportunity for you to win a jersey of your choice.

Content, and quality content at that, is always at a premium around here. There's only so much I can do, although I wish I could do so much more.

In that spirit, I'm asking for writing submissions; if you've ever thought about blogging and want a chance to share your thoughts without doing the tedious work of building an audience from scratch, now is your chance. Subject matter needs to be in the spirit of MFUSA, meaning that it should be American-focused on some level.

Beyond that, it's completely up to you. Be creative, make it interesting. The business of writing something people might actually want to read is tough, so bring all of your skills to bear.

I'll also be more than happy to offer the winner a regular spot on the MFUSA team, if he or she is up for it.

Soccer uniforms and soccer jerseys

Please feel free to spread this around; if you know someone who can write a little and loves soccer, point them in this direction.

Submissions can be sent to Please put "MFUSA Contest" in the subject line. Deadline for submissions will be Sunday, May 3rd at midnight, with the winner to be announced on Monday, May 4th.

Making sure this is clear:

There's no obligation to write regularly for MFUSA if you win. If you just want to write a one off post for the contest, that's certainly fine. Oh, and it doesn't have to be an opus, just something interesting around 500 words. IT'S A FREE JERSEY OF YOUR CHOICE PEOPLE!

Just wanted to quickly share an interesting tidbit from a Timbers related article I came across today.

The stadium drama continues in Portland, and NewsChannel 8 is reporting some contention over the potential site of a Portland Beavers baseball stadium. If you're unaware, the deal to renovate PGE Park for the Timbers hinges on the building of a new stadium for the AAA baseball team also owned by Merritt Paulson.

More after the jump.

Paulson has stated that he won't personally guarantee revenues for the Beavers if it's built in an area of the city other than the originally proposed Rose Quarter. The plans to build in the Rose Quarter are on hold at the moment due to resistance from the community; the historical Memorial Stadium sits in that section of the city, and would need to be demolished before construction could begin on the baseball facility. Veterans groups have voiced their displeasure, and the city is currently reevaluating the deal. Paulson's statement that he won't guarantee the revenues for a stadium built somewhere other than the Rose Quarter has City Commissioner Randy Leonard perplexed, as he believes Paulson must do so for the plan to move forward.

If the situation comes to a head over the disagreement, it will only draw out an already protracted situation. Apparently that's an issue according to NewsChannel 8, since a September 1st deadline has been set for the MLS expansion to happen.

Though it's difficult to lend credibility to the report, since the last sentence of the story reads thus:

"If the location of the stadium is not agreed upon by then (September 1st), the deal to bring pro soccer to Portland is reportedly off."

Besides the obvious concern that the mentioned date will give MLS fans who want to see Portland in the league (not to mention Timber fans and the league itself), NewsChannel 8 seems oblivious to the fact that, MLS or not, the Timbers are already pro soccer. Ugh.

Here it is, people. The Match Fit USA Soccer Show, formerly know as the Match Fit USA Podcast.

I have to thank Scott and Zach again for not only guesting on the show, but also helping me get a show together at all in light of my home computer issues.

Because of the way the show was recorded, there are a few issues with the levels; for that I apologize in advance.

Download the show here.

I'm having issues with the embedded player on the right side of the site, for the time being I'm going to put it here.

A little while back, I mentioned the possibility of DC United fans organizing a march in support of the team remaining in the District. United's stadium plan issues are well-documented and well-publicized, and the march would be a grassroots example of soccer fans uniting behind their beloved club.

I have a brief update on the matter, after the jump.

Desperate times call for a show of force, and that's exactly what the march is intended to be. DC United'a prominent supporters groups have taken the lead on the idea, and are currently in the process of obtaining the proper permits from the District of Columbia. I've been assured that those permits are forthcoming, and that it's just a matter of the process running its course.

Originally, discussion revolved around two DC United home dates: May 2nd, when United faces FC Dallas, and May 9th, when the DC club hosts Toronto FC. Each date has it's benefits. The May 2nd match provides a national television forum, as FSC will broadcast the game. May 9th comes with it the possible aid of traveling TFC fans, who United supporters might ask to join the cause. The thought that TFC fans could get along with another team's fans might elicit a chuckle from some, but the feeling is that all MLS fans should join together to help keep United where they belong.

Neither date has been announced, and I'm unable to pin down which date is currently being targeted. May 2nd is obviously only a few short days away, and without time to properly publicize the event, that date makes little sense. My feeling, and it's only a feeling, is that those involved are planning on May 9th.

I have been assured that the front office fully supports the march. My concern prior to that confirmation was that United's ownership might consider the march counterproductive; if the fans demonstrating were vocally derogatory to the city's leadership, hurt feelings could hamper any remaining efforts to come to an understanding on a stadium. Obviously McFarland, Chang, and Payne have no such concerns, and it's great to see them encouraging their supporters groups to do what they do best.

I'll update further as events warrant. I hope to have confirmation of a date, as well as an interview with one or more of the parties responsible for the efforts, in the not-too-distant future.


I've received confirmation that the march is planned for May 9th. The following is a statement from the team provided by Doug Hicks directly to MFUSA:

'Supporters of D.C. United are planning a march on May 9. The group is in the process of planning an event fully sanctioned by local authorities that will result in a peaceful and meaningful demonstration. As the best fans in Major League Soccer, we look forward to a large group, representing the interests of United fans throughout the region, gathering in a positive show of support for a proper stadium solution for their club.'

Like MacArthur returning to the islands, Match Fit USA will soon make a glorious return to the audio format.

Re-branded as the Match Fit USA Soccer Show, the audio version this week covers all of the hottest American soccer news, including Don Garber and his mouth, MLS officiating, America's youngsters, and the U.S. World Cup bids.

My guests are Scott Bornstein and Zach Woosley of the Winning Ugly Radio Show and the Champions Soccer Radio Network.

Stay tuned for the Match Fit USA Soccer Show, coming soon!

Help Get USL on EA's FIFA

Sunday, April 26, 2009 | View Comments

The fine people over at Pasion Naranja have created a petition to help get the USL included in Electronic Arts' series of FIFA video games.

Please head here to sign the petition and get a worthwhile league included in the premier soccer video game.

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I've decided to do an impromptu live blog for the United-Red Bulls match today at 3 pm EDT. Join me then for in-match discussion

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Bloggers love to use clever devices to express their thoughts; while I often try to avoid them, sometimes it just makes sense to present things in a format that neatly categorizes what I'm trying to say. Today, I'm using one of those devices to tackle the issue of MLS match quality.

By "match quality", I essentially mean the "watchability" (which is not actually a word) of a given match. Because MLS is still a young league, rapidly expanding, and working on a budget, quality is a continuing concern. Not just for the players themselves, the teams individually, or the league collectively, but also for the entertainment value of each match.

This past week (with two games still to be played today) is MLS in microcosm: uneven, ugly, and mostly unwatchable matches juxtaposed against well played, engaging, and entertaining games.

Just to take my point one step further, I've chosen three matches from the past week to illustrate the range of quality that exists in Major League Soccer.


Kansas City Wizards 1, New York Red Bulls 0

This game was flat out plain ugly. An early red card given to New York's Carlos Johnson sucked all of the energy out of what could have been an entertaining match up.

After Kansas City converted the penalty that resulted from Johnson's transgression, the home side seemed content to sit on their lead, daring New York to attack. Unfortunately, the Red Bulls were never able to breakthrough, and the game bogged down. The next eighty-five minutes passed without so much as an intriguing moment (or so it seemed), an unfortunate circumstance made all the more disheartening because the game was ESPN's Game of the Week. Although extenuating factors abounded (the red card, Curt Onalfo's pregame accident) that could be responsible for the poorness of play, it doesn't make it any easier to swallow.


Real Salt Lake 6, New England Revolution 0

I suppose that New England fans would vehemently disagree that this was a "better" game. But I've chosen it for a reason; although completely one-sided (although that's really only true for the second half), the match produced quality chances on both sides. New England seemed to play well enough in the first half, and RSL looked dangerous on multiple occasions before the put six in the net. Attacking soccer is most often equated to quality soccer, so this game gets the seal of approval. Its entertainment value clearly vastly exceeded that of KC-NY, despite the blowout. It's unfortunate that all of the goals were scored by one side, but the quality of some of those goals (Mathis's volley was world-class) made the match a fun one to watch. "Wow" moments make for "better" match quality.


Columbus Crew 2, Chicago Fire 2

This match was the obvious choice for "best". Two strong teams (despite Columbus' early struggles) playing a highly contested, playoff type match in front of a passionate crowd. Columbus showed why they were MLS Cup winners last year, though Chicago always had the look of a team that just wouldn't go away. Even after the Crew's Gino Padula received a slightly controversial red card in the fifty-seventh minute (it didn't appear to me that he made contact with Blanco, and I don't know if the intent was there), Columbus was the better team. Chicago turned on the pressure, the tension ratcheted up, and the Fire finally broke though on a quality goal by Brian McBride. Columbus reeled, time ticked away, and the Fire continued to press for the equalizer. Chris Rolfe's determination and a beautiful shot by Gonzalo Segares sealed the draw, a result that seemed to do the match justice. The Crew and the Fire put on a show that exhibited the best MLS has to offer: an entertaining match that sits on the opposite end of the spectrum from Thursday's depressingly boring Kansas City victory over the Red Bulls.

So there you have it: three matches on three different levels, all in the same league and within just a few days of each other. Although it's admittedly a crap shoot, MLS needs more of the latter type of clash to appear on the national showcase that ESPN provides (FSC is fine, but it's no ESPN).

Give me your choices for bad, better, best.

On Friday, I wrote that perhaps the Columbus Crew missed Sigi Schmid more than they would like to admit. Early results have been disappointing, the club is certainly not performing on a level befitting a defending league champion.

Robert Warzycha may not be the reason for the slow start, but it's clear that his inexperience as the head man hasn't helped. Despite having a squad almost unchanged from last year's cup winner, the Crew have played inconsistent soccer. Good play is followed up by poor play, and the effects are clearly seen in the Eastern Conference standings.

Last night, the Crew were less than ten minutes away from what could be a turnaround victory.

Instead, the Crew's two goal evaporated, and Columbus could only manage a home draw with undefeated Chicago. Despite dominating play for most of the match, even after being reduced to ten men by a Gino Padula red card in the fifty-seventh minute, Columbus folded in the face of a furious attack by the Fire.

So how much blame for the lost victory should fall to Warzycha?

Hard to say. Columbus is still a good team, that much is clear. They still have ample time to turn around their season. They're still, despite the poor start, likely to make the playoffs (in my opinion). Warzycha's job seems safe for the time being, though he can't be entirely comfortable. MLS is not typically the place for rapid fire coaching changes, and the Crew's improvement this week should be enough for him to enjoy a stay of execution.

Still, four points from six matches is bordering on disaster; if the Crew go more than one or two more weeks without a win, Columbus may be looking for a new manager before long.

Good teams close out two goal leads at home with ten minutes to go. Good managers put their teams in position to hold on to that victory. Warzycha may yet become a good manager, but floundering with a team that has all of the necessary components to be successful makes it seems as though he doesn't yet grasp the job.

Perhaps the club would be better served by a more experience coach.

I can't help it, it just keeps popping into my head:

What would Sigi do?

It's not often that my news reader fills up with soccer related news that doesn't come from a soccer focused site. Generally, I hear about happenings in the soccer world through various keywords that I hope will pull anything and everything related to American soccer that is floating around the interweb.

Blogs are the largest source, though I certainly get stories through soccernet, ESPN proper, CNN and the like (especially if the name "Beckham" is involved). Today, though, the web blew up.

Every sports site in the country posted a story on Don Garber's verbal beat-down by Yankees' president Randy Levine over The Don's recent comments about the baseball club's attendance "woes".

I don't quite get what all the fuss is about. First, I think it's very possible that Levine took Garber's comments out of context. Second, Levine is clearly guilty of overreacting. Third, even if Garber meant what he said, so what? Why is Randy Levine so sensitive that he felt it necessary to respond? Especially in light of his obvious disdain for Major League Soccer?

"Don Garber discussing Yankee attendance must be a joke," Levine told the AP today. "We draw more people in a year than his entire league does in a year. If he ever gets Major League Soccer into the same time zone as the Yankees, we might take him seriously.

Come on now, Randy. If MLS isn't even in the "same time zone" as the Yankees (what does that even mean?), why bother wasting your breath? Someone once told me that "eagles don't hunt flies". If the Yankees are the eagle and Garber/MLS is the fly, then all Levine has done is lower himself.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a staunch supporter of MLS, and I'm no Yankee-lover either; but the fact remain that the New York Yankees are one of the world's biggest sports brands, and Major League Soccer is one step removed from fly-by-night.

This little shot shows just how petty Randy Levine truly is:

"Hey Don, worry about Beckham, not the Yankees. Even he wants out of your league.''

There are two ways to look at this little overblown episode. Either Levine's comments have given the soccer-hating public (and they're falling over themselves to comment on the story wherever they can) license to bash the sport (again) and the league takes another P.R. hit, or the attention MLS is getting from the mainstream media over what amounts to a misunderstanding is a good thing, something that will actually be a positive in the long run.

What do you think? Is this another hit for MLS and American soccer, or is there a silver lining to all of the attention?

What Would Sigi Do?

Friday, April 24, 2009 | View Comments

Those of you that are regular readers of MFUSA know that I contribute a regular column to MLS Daily every Friday. As the owner of that site is currently on vacation in Seattle, I've decided to post my column here instead. As always, comments are appreciated.

Take a look at the MLS standings. Specifically, look at the Eastern Conference table, where Kansas City now sits on top thanks to a victory over the New York Red Bulls last night. Scan down the page, making sure to take note of the mediocrity that seems to reign early in the 2009 season.

See that team at the bottom? The one that plays in a town that starts with "C" and ends in "S"? The one that just last November hoisted a shiny new trophy over their heads after a rousing triumph in the MLS Cup final? The one that most of us were sure would make the playoffs, make another run, and possibly repeat as champions of Major League Soccer (don't lie and say you didn't)?

What's up with that?

The obvious question, both for Crew fans looking for answers and for MLS fans around the country noting the slow start of the Columbus club, is whether Sigi Schmid's departure for Rave green pastures is the reason for the disappointing start. Nothing seems to be going right for the Crew, and new head man Robert Warzycha has yet to find any answers. Three points from five matches isn't exactly a death sentence in the highly competitive MLS, and a top four finish is all it will take for the Crew to have a chance in the playoffs. If they get hot at the right time, the poor early form will just fade into oblivion, an unpleasant memory forgotten by July.

An out of form Eddie Gaven. An injured Robbie Rogers. An ineffective Alejandro Moreno. Usually solid Will Hesmer has struggled, captain Frankie Hejduk has missed time while away on national team duty, and promising youngster (and Olympic silver-medalist) Emmanuel Ekpo has failed to impress. Only 2008 MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto has continued the championship form, and he can't carry the club alone. Reason upon reason jumps to mind for the Crew's ills. Each is valid. Each, by itself, might hamstring a club. Together, they become a perfect storm of handicaps, working together to hold the club down. They also might all just be temporary. Columbus might turn it around before you know it, and be back where we all expected them to be by the time we realize what has happened. Still, there's one large piece missing from the Crew puzzle that makes you wonder if a turnaround is likely, or even possible.

He's accomplished, he's rotund, and he likes to wear a scarf. Sigi!

It's times like these that Crew fans just might be asking themselves: What would Sigi do?

WWSD Crew fans. WWSD.

With Warzycha struggling in his first head coaching job, and Schmid working more magic with the expansion Sounders, it's a truly relevant question. Sounders fans might ask it with a exultant smile, Crew fans with a painful grimace. Just how important is the man in charge anyway? Can a change at the top be so important that 2008's best team, winners of the double, rightful and deserving champions, become a last place disappointment in the course of one off-season?

Parity reigns in the frugal MLS. Any team is capable of beating any other, and on any given day. The gap between the best and the worst teams is fingernail thin. Matches turn on things like tactics and substitutes. The ability to properly manage shallow rosters and inexperienced contributors comes at a premium, and can make or break a club's fortunes. Good managers, ones that have the ability to consistently put their sides in a position to win, are worth their weight in gold.

Columbus is finding that out quickly. Schmid's departure, a contentious event that left bitter feelings on all sides, seems to be have serious ramifications for the defending champs. Crew fans will continue to believe that the turnaround is shortly coming (and rightfully so), and fans of their rivals will continue to hope for the opposite. But is doesn't seem a stretch to think that the reversal might not be coming, at least not anytime soon. The pressure's building for Warzycha, the fans are becoming restless, and the playoffs are getting just a little farther away with every lost point.

Of course, it's not about Sigi for Crew fans. Sigi's gone, if not forgotten, and there's nothing that can be done about that now. It's all in the Polish Rifle's hands, and there certainly is ample talent for him to mold back into a top club. Good teams don't turn bad overnight, and the faithful have every reason to believe that things will get better.

I certainly expect them to, just as I expect Columbus to be there at the end, fighting it out in the playoffs for the right to raise that shiny trophy over their heads once again.

But right now, it's just so hard not to ask the obvious question.

What would Sigi do?

Getting close to the end of the USL-1 Project (first round). The Rochester Rhinos are up next, and it may be tough for the New York club to break into the top half of the project standings.

Rochester happens to be the club I was most familiar with back in my non-soccer days, although I couldn't possibly tell you why that might be. Perhaps it was their success in the U.S. Open Cup, the dedicated soccer stadium they play in, or just the snazzy nickname. No matter the reason, I don't get the feeling that my previous awareness of the Rhinos will help them at all in this competition.

On to the scores...


Such a bad idea to include this category. I really should have thought it through just a little more. New York's not too far from my home base I guess, though upstate New York is a complete mystery to me. Rochester isn't exactly burning up the list of placed I'd like to visit, so this has to be a bit of a wash. Down the middle. I suppose if anyone would like to step forward and plead Rochester's case, I might be willing to add a few bonus points in the future.

Score: 5


The Rhinos (Raging Rhinos back then) were founded in 1996, AS an A-League club, and eventually made the move through the various stages of second tier soccer to the modern day USL First Division. They're success is extremely impressive: playoffs every season of their existence, three league titles, and the only U.S. Open Cup won by a team outside of MLS since that league started. While the Rhinos' history doesn't reach back as far as some other USL-1 clubs, all that success has to count for something.

Score: 8


I'm a big fan of stripes, especially the vertical kind. I like the new logo (revised in 2008 I believe), and I like the colors. I don't particularly like the nickname (that dreaded "minor league" thing again), though I have to give credit to the new owners for dropping the "Raging" adverb. I think my previous knowledge (such as it was) is coming to bear in this category; but for the mediocre nickname, I like almost all of the aspects in this category.

Score: 7

Supporter Passion

The Rhinos play in a soccer specific park venue called PAETEC Park, and while financial issues surrounding the club have but a damper on enthusiasm, it's still a pretty impressive place by American standards. Capacity is 13,000, which is right up there with Montreal for largest stadium in the league. While I don't believe the Rhinos do as well as the Impact for attendance (I don't have my reference guide with me, maybe I'll update that later), they're certainly in the top two or three clubs in USL-1. I know absolutely nothing about the club's main supporters group, The Stampede, though I was able to find a few videos online of the group exhibiting their passion. Here's one:

Now, I'm not normally a fan of videos with music instead of the group making their own noise, but this looked to be a pretty solid representation of the Rhinos' supporters. I'm reasonably impressed.

Score: 6

Total Score: 26

Mid-table result for the Rhinos. They're not out of it yet, but there are a lot of clubs ahead of them.

Current standings:

Montreal Impact----------30
Austin Aztex-----------------29
Minnesota Thunder-----27
Puerto Rico Islanders---27
Vancouver Whitecaps---27
Rochester Rhinos--------26
Carolina RailHawks-----22
Cleveland City Stars-----20
Charleston Battery-------18
Miami FC---------------------18

Remaining clubs:

Portland Timbers

Just one club to go. Almost done with Round 1. Get your pleas in now, it's not too late!

A Friday USL Recommendation

Friday, April 24, 2009 | View Comments

The weekend is officially here, and I couldn't be more relieved. It's been one hell of a week, and it's about time I kick back with a nice beer (I recommend Smithwick's), my HDTV, and a little televised soccer action.

Luckily, I won't have to wait until tomorrow to get my fix. There's some proper soccer on Fox Soccer Channel tonight, and I'm exhorting you to check it out.

Saved from the executioner's ax for 2009, the Miami FC Blues opened their season with a resounding 3-1 victory over the Cleveland City Stars last week. Diego Serna scored two, and the Blues are off to a flying start. If nothing else, Miami is intriguing because of how close they came to not playing this season. I'm anxious to see them play. I'm also curious to see what kind of crowd Miami gets at FIU Stadium.

Montreal is the biggest club in USL (apologies to Vancouver and Portland; you can't be too mad, you're moving up soon). The UCL run, the 50,000 at Olympic Stadium, the passionate supporters and big attendance (by USL standards); it all has me intrigued.

I highly suggest you watch, as I know I'll be. Hell, if enough people comment on this post that they'll be watching, I might even step up and do an impromptu live blog.


Jeffery Marcus at the always interesting New York Times Goal blog has some interesting comments from Don Garber on the American soccer market.

There's some interesting stuff there, not the least of which is Garber's admission that MLS isn't doing quite enough to draw existing American soccer fans. This is something observers of the league have been saying for some time, and it's good to hear the boss own up to Major League Soccer's failing.

“Fans want to see stars. They want more games on TV and they want an increased quality of play. That’s good for us. We’re in the soccer business.”

A finger on the pulse of his or her target audience is crucial for any commissioner of a major sports league, and I think it's safe to say that Garber has at least that. His calling fan sophistication "good for us (MLS)" might be a bit of spin, though it's certainly better than the alternative. An uninformed public might quickly become a disinterested public; star power alone isn't enough to keep 'em coming back.

The beef most of us have with Garber isn't his intelligence (he has some) or his recognition of the idiosyncrasies of the market (he seems to have that); our beef, and the thing we grouse about most, is how the plan is being implemented. We all have our opinions on how MLS should move forward, and as the head of the beast, Garber is the easy target for all of our complaints.

A perfect example is the issue of expansion, and the resulting effect on the American talent pool; many of us worry that the league is overextending itself in that area, with possible dire consequences ahead. Not so fast, the Commish says.

“I don’t think we’re near the realm of over-expansion. When is enough? Probably 20 teams in four to six to eight to 10 years.”

It's clear that the league is going to go ahead with it's expansion agenda (the strike while the iron is hot model), and that's got more than a few people nervous. Recent issues with Portland (stadium) and Philadelphia (owner's worth) have some questioning the policy altogether, and things won't quiet down until those new teams hit the field in their new (or remodeled) stadiums. Despite all of that, we certainly shouldn't expect the league to wait another ten years to get to twenty teams. That first or second number seems more likely.

Marcus also reports that the league is considering changes to its rules to help increase quality by bringing in more foreign players; mentioned almost in passing is the idea of adding a DP slot. I'm not going to get too excited about that nugget, mostly because it's clearly just one of many ideas on the table for the Board of Governors meeting. A bunch of rich guys talking about it doesn't mean it's actually close to happening. Besides, it wasn't presented as a quote from Garber, so it's hard to tell if he addressed directly.

This is the kicker, the thing that leads me to have a certain amount of faith in the Don (despite lingering questions):

“We’re not trying to create soccer fans. We’re trying to convert soccer fans into fans of MLS.”

That's what it boils down to for MLS. There are plenty of soccer fans in this country, and Garber recognizes that not enough of them are interested in his league. Let's hope Don keeps the league on a path that brings more of them into the fold.

I know none of this is groundbreaking, but what are your thoughts? Does any of this effect your opinion (good or bad) of the job Garber is doing?

Lucas Oil Stadium

When the United States Soccer Federation put out its list of possible World Cup venues to be included in the 2018/2022 bids, seventy different stadiums made the cut.

Immediately thereafter, my soccer-specific newsreader became flooded with stories from around the country about each specific venue and their inclusion. I ignored those items for the most part, as each represented local interests and local pride and really added nothing to the overall story. Despite the thrill of being originally included, only a fraction of those seventy stadiums would actually have a chance to host World Cup matches. The list was really just an effort on the part of the USSF to illustrate to FIFA how truly staggering the options are in this country; no other nation in the world can boast so many 70,000+ venues to showcase the beautiful game.

Today, the news is that fifty-eight of those seventy venues responded to USSF expressing their interest in hosting World Cup matches.

Perhaps it's the day I'm having, or a general restlessness brought on by other news floating around the interweb (MLS Board of Governors meetings, attendance issues, etc.), but I'm feeling a little cynical about the "impressive response" that the USSF is so pleased about.

Those fifty-eight positive responses represent forty-nine metropolitan markets, so says the USSF, and three markets not even included in the original list (because they don't currently possess adequate stadia) have also come forward.

Think about that fact for just a moment. Forty-nine metropolitan areas. Forty-nine cities, represented by stadium facility managers, Chamber of Commerce presidents, city managers or whoever else might be responsible for responding positively, all anxious to bring the world's game to their hometowns. And why might that be, exactly? Should we believe that each of those forty-nine cities and their powers-that-be are jumping on board the soccer bandwagon because they recognize the worth of the game?

Of course not.

And that, in a nutshell is why I'm just a tad bitter about the news.

Each of those original seventy venues received correspondence from Chicago asking if they would like to be considered to host World Cup competition. While twelve politely declined (which is fairly staggering when you think about it; twelve stadiums decided the world's biggest sporting event just wasn't their cup of tea), fifty-eight reacted with something that probably went just a little bit like this:

"The World Cup, huh? I don't know a damn thing about soccer, but that sounds like a money-maker right there!"

Hence, my frustration. Forty-nine cities (okay, I'm admittedly generalizing) where soccer can't get a sniff otherwise have jumped up, shouting "ME! ME! ME!" with their hands brazenly out, because the World Cup means gobs of cash for their coffers.

That should make any soccer fan just a little testy.

Talk me off the ledge people. Tell me how I'm wrong, how this is a good thing, and how it illustrates that some kind of progress is being made. Tell me that each of those forty-nine cities believes that soccer has a future in the United States, and are not just trying to suckle at the teat of the beautiful game.

U.S. Open Cup Love

Thursday, April 23, 2009 | View Comments
I've banged the drum for the U.S. Open Cup to get more attention, so it only makes sense to heap a little love on the most recent play-in match.

DC United beat FC Dallas 2-0 at RFK last night, on goals from Fred and Brandon Barkladge. Attendance at the ancient stadium was reported to be 5,163 (source: Goff), and while that's nothing to write home about, it's really not that shabby for a under-promoted cup match on a Wednesday night.

Video highlights:

On a chilly night BMO Field, Toronto FC defeated league leaders Chivas USA 1-0 to earn their first home win of the young MLS season.

Chivas USA had the better of early play, including a close-call chance for Alecko Eskandarian in the opening minutes. The striker was unable to get on the end of a low cross, however, and an offside flag negated his efforts completely. Unfortunately for the Goats, the inability to take advantage of that early push would prove fatal.

Toronto took back the game almost immediately, and appeared to have a legitimate claim for a penalty in the 17th minute when Danny Dichio had his legs swept out from underneath him in the corner of the box. No call was made, and the home standing Reds continued on with their push for goal.

Toronto would get the breakthrough in the 36th minute, when a poor clearance attempt by Chivas' fell perfectly to the head of striker Danny Dichio. Dichio's flick caught Amado Guevara perfectly in stride, and after fighting off two defenders, the former MLS MVP calmly hit the ball past Chivas goalkeeper Zach Thornton. Toronto was off and running at home, a lead in their pocket heading into the closing minutes of the first half.

Danny Dichio followed up his excellent offensive efforts with a poorly timed tackle in the 38th minute, which earned him the games first card. The color was yellow, though the tackle was rash enough that it could have easily earned a straight red.

The half had a bit more to offer, with Toronto's Chad Barrett getting through the Chivas defense in the 45th minute. The mercurial striker's low hit shot was not enough to beat Thornton, however, and Chivas remained only a goal down going to the second half.

The second half opened with neither team asserting themselves, though Toronto eventually settled things enough to gain the majority of possession. Action remained at premium until the 57th minute, when Chivas' Eskandarian earned a yellow card for a rash tackle. Eskandarian was taken off shortly thereafter, as Chivas manager Preki inserted Michel Lahmoud, a clear sign of frustration with his anemic attack.

TFC began to assert themselves after the first fifteen minutes, finding ample room on the wings through runs by outside backs Wynne and Brennan. Chivas looked listless, never truly threatening a solid Toronto back line. Strong play from Adrian Serioux led the Reds defense, and Chivas found it difficult to penetrate. Attempting to play through midfield, the Goats were stymied by an interchanging TFC formation that enabled the Canadian club to keep constant pressure on the ball.

The last fifteen minutes saw the leaders pull back, as Chivas searched for the equalizer. Frustration boiled over in the 79th minute when Chivas midfielder Sacha Kljestan earned the third card of the match, a yellow for rough play. Toronto dropped more men behind the ball, throwing up a defensive wall in front of the visitors. Pablo Nagamura created created Chivas' best late chance, a run to the end line that ultimately ended with a weak shot that TFC keeper Stephan Frei handled easily.

A final salvo from Chivas came to naught when veteran midfielder Jesse Marsch hit a long shot high and wide. More strong work from Adrian Serioux closed out the match, frustrating the Goats once again.

The referee blew the final whistle, and Toronto FC's first home victory of the season was in the book. The win vaults Toronto to second place in the Eastern Conference on eight points, while Chivas remains on thirteen, still four points clear of second place Seattle out west.

TOR -- Amado Guevara 3 (unassisted) 36

TOR -- Danny Dichio (caution; Reckless Tackle) 38
CHV -- Alecko Eskandarian (caution; Reckless Tackle) 57
CHV -- Sacha Kljestan (caution; Reckless Foul) 79

MFUSA's Man of the Match: Amado Guevara

This was my first attempt at a fairly straight match report; seeing as it's my first, please feel free to critique the quality. I have many more thoughts on this match that I may espouse later, specifically on the differences between TFC's attack with DeRosario and without DeRosario (and the problems it may cause if TFC continues to play well until he comes back).

Wednesday night soccer anyone?

Chivas USA travels to BMO Field tonight, to take on a reeling TFC club in front what is sure to be the customary rowdy Canadian crowd (no mid-week attendance excuses for the Reds).

The game is not being televised, so I'll be watching via the magic of the internet. As Chivas is the early season pacesetter and TFC is, well, TFC (a.k.a. intriguing because people up there really care), I've decided to preview the match. I'll also be attempting my first true match report after the game, so look for that as well.

On to the preview after the jump.

Chivas USA comes into tonight's match riding high, leading the Western Conference and the Supporters Shield standings by an enormous early-season buffer of four points. Manager Preki has seemingly worked magic in the early weeks, getting strong performances out of lineups that are far from first choice. Injuries have kept out several players Chivas expects major contributions from, chief among them Ante Razov and Maykel Galindo. Neither has made an appearance yet in 2009, a fact which only serves to make more impressive the Goats fast start. Leaning on Sacha Kjlestan, Jesse March and a strong defense, Chivas has proven they have a recipe that works regardless of the crucial players missing.

Toronto has underwhelmed to this point, and after a disappointing (and controversial) loss to previously winless FC Dallas last week, the Reds will look to turn around their fortunes against the league leaders. That effort will be made all the more difficult by the absence of midfield maestro Dwayne DeRosario, who will miss tonight's match with a hamstring injury. The bulk of the creative responsibilities will then fall to former MLS MVP Amado Guevara, a fact that may actually help Toronto: To this point in 2009, DeRosario and Guevara have yet to find an understanding while playing together, and Toronto's attack has suffered for it.

Typically, road teams struggle in MLS, regardless of support; Chivas might normally be expected to sit back, absorb Toronto's pressure, and attempt to catch the Reds out through counterattacks. However, both Chivas head man Preki as well as Toronto boss John Carver could mix things up; the former because his team is riding a wave of confidence and the latter because a home victory is imperative to stop the bleeding. Without DeRosario pushing the attack, a slightly more defensive posture might carry the day for Toronto. Chivas will likely attack as the situation dictates, though it's unlikely they'll commit too much forward regardless of their recent form.

Tonight's is a crucial match for both side: Toronto desperately needs a home win to kick start their season, while Chivas needs to consolidate their early season success with a road win in a hostile environment. More than likely these competing elements will cancel each other out. It might be an ugly, if still entertaining, match at BMO Field.

Match Fit USA Prediction:

Toronto FC 1, Chivas USA 1

Just a vibe, but I think we're going to see a red card in tonight's match. I don't know which side, and I don't know if it will be a straight red or for a second yellow: it's just a gut feeling.

MLS Parity: A Question of Balance

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | View Comments

by Chris Nee of twofootedtackle

There may well come a time when either pressure or circumstance leads Major League Soccer to scrap the idea of parity in order to improve quality and make clubs more competitive on the international stage. But my advice, having watched the Premier League develop into a predictable and relatively dull beast, is enjoy it while you can. That's not to say I believe parity is the future of MLS, but that the internally competitive nature of the league is worth soaking up before it's removed.

A little while ago I posted to my own site about the domination of the Premier League's notorious "Big Four" in England. Their persistent presence in the top four spots in the table is, in my opinion, very damaging to English football. I'm a football addict and I'll watch any football, anywhere, anytime. I also just happen to support a Premier League club. And yet I have little time for the league itself. If my team were relegated, God forbid, I'd find it hard to justify watching it at all.

As always, it comes down to money and the long-term possession of money. Manchester United have a huge fan base and have brilliantly marketed the club over the last two decades. Liverpool have fans and history, both of which foster revenue streams. Arsenal and Chelsea are, perhaps, a little different. In recent years, the Gunners empire has been built on the back of a superb managerial appointment and some wonderful signings. Chelsea's success has resulted entirely from financial strength.

Of course, once a club of such strength reaches the top, it stays there. And that, along with the general obsession with cash, is why the Premier League is boring.

So it was with interest that I listened to Jason's discussion about parity on the Match Fit USA podcast. It's an interesting concept, and one defined by a number of methods which are often mentioned in philosophical arguments about how to make European football more exciting, but will never be feasible. We'll never have salary capping, drafts or central ownership. The status quo is too dominant, having grown over more than a century.

The situation is very different in the United States, for obvious reasons, and creating a league from scratch requires parity in the beginning - without it, the league just never gets off the ground. But the dichotomy between forced parity and the evolution of "quality" is an argument destined to haunt Major League Soccer for years to come. The idea that any team can win the league in any given season, based on college draft picks and salary capping, is a very American one.

I don't mean to be out of line here, but you guys are used to that way of working. You're comfortable with it, it's what you know.

But bubbling under the surface is a growing concern that Major League Soccer is hamstrung by its own policy. MLS fans, quite naturally, want the league to be a world player. Native supporters are used to MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL dominating their sporting worlds. Soccer is a different matter. The world powerhouse is European football, dominated currently by England and previously by Spain and Italy. Germany and France have strong leagues, and the Netherlands isn't far behind. Elsewhere, Argentina, Brazil have leagues which overshadow MLS globally.

That said, I don't think MLS should abandon parity - at least not yet. It's partly that I'm jealous. Betraying my loyalties, I'm far more likely to be celebrating a DC United win in MLS Cup than a Premier League win for Aston Villa, and that annoys me. It must be difficult, in a nation of sporting excellence and Eurosnobs, to accept Major League Soccer's place in the football pecking order and enjoy it for what it is, but trust me, a level playing field is something many English fans desire above all else.

One day, a Major League Soccer comprising 22 or 24 clubs might draw the crowds and have the stability to gamble on its place in world football. It might even be absolutely necessary to do so. With clubs in flux (by this I specifically mean FC Dallas, who struggle for attendances, and DCU who still have the stadium issue hanging over them), the league is purely and simply too young to abandon its model. It may happen, but until then make the most of parity. It's not all that bad.

Chris shares his views on all things football at twofootedtackle, and produces a weekly podcast of the highest quality with co-host Gary Andrews.

I was tempted to leave Vancouver till later, examining them as one of the last two clubs. The move to MLS for the club in 2011 certainly colors their candidacy for my affections, and at first, it only seemed right to make them wait.

But I just finished watching them play via the wonder that is USL Live, so perhaps the timing is right to check out the Whitecaps and what they're all about. One Canadian club has already faired well in the competition, so maybe the other will as well. Examining the Vancouver Whitecaps, after the jump.


Once again, I'm regretting the inclusion of this category; it matter not entirely too often, and while it would be nice to support a club from somewhere I know, it's really not that important. I've heard good things about Vancouver though, and that should count for something right? It's in Canada, which is like, a whole other country, and it's on the West Coast (which I'm not), so those might be strikes against. Conflicted as usual, I split the difference, with a point added because I truly want to visit Vancouver one day.

Score: 6


Not too many North American clubs north of the Rio Grande can boast as rich a soccer history as Vancouver. The Whitecaps have existed in various forms for over thirty-five years (minus a brief hiatus and a short-lived name change), an eternity for an American or Canadian club. Success is also part of the Whitecaps resume, and the club has more than a few trophies in their showcase. To call Vancouver the "shining-light" of Canadian soccer doesn't seem like too much of a stretch, though perhaps I've descended into hyperbole. On to the score already.

Score: 9


The Whitecaps name goes with the Whitecaps history, so I certainly can't complain about that. Blue and white are classic football colors, colors I would be proud to wear should I become a Vancouver supporter. The logo isn't the greatest (does the word "Whitecaps" really have to convey depth like that), but I'm happy to overlook it (for the most part) in light of the other good things. Another good score for the Whitecaps.

Score: 7

Supporter Passion

With a strong history usually comes strong support, and the Whitecaps are certainly evidence of that. The Southsiders are the team's main supporters group, and while they seem passionate, I have to say that I'm a bit underwhelmed. As an observer far removed from the club and it's local support, I have to use the means at my disposal to judge the atmosphere in the stadium; in this case, it's all about YouTube.

Here's the best Southsiders video I could find (admittedly only after a brief search):

I'm sure Swangard is a fine place to see a match, and perhaps I would be more impressed in person; I just can't find it in me to give a great score to the Whitecaps on this one. Their first truly poor category of this round.

Score: 5

Total Score: 27

A good solid score for Vancouver, one that will push them into a clutch of clubs at the top-half of the table.

The current standings:

Montreal Impact----------30
Austin Aztex-----------------29
Minnesota Thunder-----27
Puerto Rico Islanders---27
Vancouver Whitecaps---27
Carolina RailHawks-----22
Cleveland City Stars-----20
Charleston Battery-------18
Miami FC---------------------18

Hmm...three teams on 27 points. This might be harder than I thought.

The remaining clubs:

Portland Timbers
Rochester Rhinos

Almost done. Two more clubs, and then onto Round 2. Stay tuned for the next installment, vote for your favorite club in the poll, and comment on my decisions; as I've said before, I could easily be swayed to change my opinions if given enough reason, or if support for one club is overwhelming (as it appears to be for the Thunder at the moment).

Where Will Gooch Land?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 | View Comments

It appears that Oguchi Onyewu is a definite goner from Belgian side Standard Liege. is reporting that the American defender will pick a new club within the next month.

Top of the suspect list is German club Monchengladbach, where fellow American Michael Bradley currently plies his trade.

While Onyewu's agent is suggesting that 'Gladbach aren't the other club interested in his client's services, we haven't heard much on Gooch's potential suitors in quite some time. France and Spain have both been mentioned as possibilities, and although I can't verify, I'm sure one or more English teams have been mentioned.

Whenever one of our National Team boys is mentioned as a transfer candidate, the American soccer blogosphere erupts with commentary on where the player "should" end up. Generally this is based on the style of play in a given league, which we see as as either an aid to his success, or a way to ensure that he develops properly (so he can play better for the Nats).

I think most of us believe that Gooch has improved drastically over the past few years, although he still has more than a few detractors. But he remains our most consistent, well-heeled defender, and the next step in his career should be viewed under the heading of improving-the-reputation-of-Americans rather than improving-an-American-as-a-player.

To that end, I'm going on record that I hope Gooch goes to the biggest club possible; as long as he can get playing time, the bigger the club, the better is it for the American reputation. As much as European clubs might claim no bias when it comes to the nationality of a player, I think it would be naive to believe that one doesn't exist against Yanks. For that reason, I'd rather Onyewu end up at Paris Saint-Germain than Borussia Monchengladbach (this is not a discussion on the actual quality of the league; while the Bundesliga might or might not be better than Ligue 1, PSG is a bigger club than 'Gladbach).

What are your thoughts? What club would you like to see Onyewu sign with in the summer?

Focus on the Aztex

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 | View Comments

I'm not normally one to simply pass on links, but I just came across a nice little article on the Austin Aztex, and I thought I'd share. It fits nicely with my new found interest in USL, and I'm sure a few of you will appreciate the story.

English Island Deep in the Heart of Texas (

It's funny how the news cycle works. We hear about something, it reaches some sort of logical conclusion, and we move quickly on to the next story. This is true of both consumers and distributors of news, and shows just how short our attention spans truly are.

Case in point: Portland's MLS expansion situation. The City Council held a vote, the measure passed (just barely), the league bestowed Merritt Paulson with the expansion gold seal for 2011, the collective American soccer community cheered (for the most part), and then we forgot about them. It's two years until they enter the league, so why waste our time worrying about the preparations (besides a little talk about ticket sales), when everything seemed to be a foregone conclusion?

More after the jump.

Yet things are not so rosy in the Rose City. The stadium renovation plan for PGE Park, the part of the plan that MLS fans care about, is yet to get the green light.

The crux of the matter isn't even the new-and-improved PGE Park; the issue, and the reason for the holdup, is the stadium that must be built to house the Portland Beavers after PGE Park becomes MLS-only. In order for that to happen, the city's old Memorial Stadium must be demolished, something which some in Portland simply don't want to happen.

Ugh. As a soccer fan, and as someone who believes that Portland is a proto-typical MLS market, as I want is for the stadium to get renovated, the anticipation to build and for Portland to give us "Seattle, Part II" (that's sure to piss off fans of both the Sounders and the Timbers; I hear they don't like each other). The league needs the rivalries in the Northwest more than it needs almost anything else; the start of 2009 is a stark reminder how poor MLS atmospheres can be, and Vancouver-Seattle-Portland would immediately improve things.

Still, I completely understand those citizens of Portland who insist on due-diligence on the part of their city government. If people want to be sure that the financial obligations, veteran memorials, and other concerns are probably addressed before the stadium construction goes forward, who are we to call that into question? It's those in Portland who oppose the plan without regard to legitimate oversight and are simply "haters", causing trouble because the Rose Quarter issues are their cause-du-jour.

An entreaty from PGE Park, which I came across here.


“In just a few days, the City Council will vote to take the critical next step in the plan to bring Major League Soccer to Portland – deciding on a Rose Quarter location for a new and better home for the Portland Beavers.

“Retiring the Memorial Coliseum and building an intimate new 8,000-seat stadium at the Rose Quarter will dramatically increase attendance at Beavers games, helping the local economy and generating more funds for the city spectator funds and nearby parking garages. The Memorial Coliseum (will also be replaced) with a new memorial honoring all Oregon veterans.

“The improvements required to PGE Park to bring Major League Soccer to Portland will make it an even better venue for soccer and football. Taken together, MLS at PGE Park and Beavers baseball at the Rose Quarter will create 600 short-term jobs, more than 300 long-term jobs and generate roughly $50 million in annual economic activity in the community.”

The bottom line remains that MLS will have to pull out of Portland if the stadium issues do not get resolved. That would be a PR nightmare for the league, something all the Sounders success cannot possibly mitigate. Cross your fingers that the support soccer fans are attempting to drum up in Portland pushes things forward; while most MLS fans have moved on and are taking the Timbers' entry into the league in 2011 as a given, there's still some work to do out there.

For much more background on the matter, I give you a link to Field of Schemes. Please keep in mind that the site is anti-publicly financed stadium at its core. There are some basic issues in Portland (see basic math errors) that don't bode well for a smoothly implemented plan.

On a lighter note, there are "rumors" about the Timbers potential MLS logo. Color me underwhelmed; not about the actual logo (I'm all for continuity, and the Timbers already have a strong logo), but about the "rumors" and nonsense surrounding it. Until work has begun on PGE Park, I'm not going to worry about how the Timbers might look.

If you care, it's the image at the top of this post.

Back on the USL-1 Project horse, and he's a temperamental beast. Luckily, we're headed down the home stretch, with just a few more teams to go, and I certainly want to see this project through.

Next up is the Puerto Rico Islanders, darlings of the American soccer scene after a wonderful run into the CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals. The Islanders are an intriguing team, one that I could easily see myself supporting. There are bound to be a few problems with their candidacy though, so lets get right to the scoring and see where things land.


Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean. That's just about all I know about the place, other than that the national language is Spanish, baseball is extremely popular, and travelers are warned not to leave San Juan's airport when traveling through. Which is the extent of my experience with Puerto Rico; a brief layover at the San Juan airport. I do like the idea of supporting a team from an island though (have no idea why that might be), and I'm not adverse to the working through the language issue. All in all, not a bad start for the Islanders.

Score: 6


After a little digging (i.e. the Islanders wiki page), I discovered that there have been two iterations of the Puerto Rico Islanders. The first played seven games in the old USISL back in 1995 before owner Joe Serralta moved the team to Houston. After lasting exactly one game there, the team folded. The second edition has obviously been much more successful, with 2009 being their sixth season in the A-League/USL First Division. The Islanders have gotten increasingly better over the course of the last five years, with a runner-up league finish last season. Add to that the recent run in the CCL (the Islanders entered through the Caribbean Football Union Club Championship) and the Islanders history just gets better all the time. It's certainly not a long history, but it is fairly impressive.

Score: 6


There are some out there that just can't get their heads around the color orange on a soccer kit. I'm not one of them. I'm in the bag for orange, and I love the colors the Islanders sport. The logo is nice; modern but not overly cheesy, works in the flag of the island, and just generally comes off well. I can't possibly argue with the name "Islanders", and as long as the people of Puerto Rico are fine with, so am I. A solid category for the club on the whole, best of the bunch so far.

Score: 8

Supporter Passion

I've been personally entreated to follow the Islanders by a few people, and I'm generally impressed by their support. Average attendance is supposedly between 4000 and 6000 (didn't have time to check for hard numbers), which is definitely a good sign. The club has their share of supporters groups, and while I can't really get a sense of them through Spanish-only online sources, there certainly appears to be strong backing for the club. I'm struggling a bit with the idea of following a team whose website I can't really understand, but I here an English version is coming soon, so perhaps I'll overlook the problem.

A brief display of Puerto Rico's support:

Score: 7

Total Score: 27

Fair score for the Islanders, I think, and it will serve them well in the final competition. I'm going to have to dig a little deeper on all of these teams, and this first round of scoring is a good starting point.

A few links I used for the Islanders overview:

Puerto Rico Islanders Official Site (Spanish only)
Islanders Wikipedia Page
Islanders at
Pasion Naranja! (Orange Passion) An Islanders Blog

The Islanders fit nicely into the table, which now looks like this:

Montreal Impact----------30
Austin Aztex-----------------29
Minnesota Thunder-----27
Puerto Rico Islanders---27
Carolina RailHawks-----22
Cleveland City Stars-----20
Charleston Battery-------18
Miami FC---------------------18

The remaining clubs:

Rochester Rhinos
Portland Timbers
Vancouver Whitecaps

Close to the end now, with just two northwest sides and the Rhinos to go. I'd like to get to the next round of the process (still not sure what the will be, and I'll also need to work in the voting) by the middle of the week, so perhaps I'll knock out the remaining clubs here in the next couple of days.

As always, please give me feedback; there's so much I (and many others) don't know about USL, and anyone with knowledge should certainly share.

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