MLS Powers San Jose and Los Angeles Just Maybe Could Hang in the EPL

Could San Jose and Los Angeles, the last two MLS Supporters' Shield winners, avoid EPL relegation? It would be close, but just maybe they could. The annual MLS Cup has led to another round of annual questions about what this soccer league means and its place in the larger football world. American soccer fans tend to fall into one of two groups. One refuses to acknowledge MLS exists, because the cool kids only talk about England and Europe. The other continues to believe MLS is improving and sees the American league (prematurely) knocking on the door of premier status. Neither view is wholly defensible. Proving MLS exists, however, is a little easier than comparing the American league to its overseas counterparts. The Supporters' Shield was the selection vehicle for MLS teams. English clubs place greater emphasis on league tables than FA Cup runs, and tables dictate promotion and relegation. The Supporters’ Shield is awarded to the team with the most points in the MLS regular season. The last two teams to win the Supporters’ Shield are the San Jose Earthquakes and the Los Angeles Galaxy (the latter of which also has won the last two MLS Cups). Americans love championship ...
Filed under: MLS News No Comments

5 Reasons MLS Can Continue to Grow in Popularity This Christmas

This Christmas, MLS Commissioner Don Garber finds a more popular league under his tree, so let’s take a look at the five players who helped wrap and deliver that present. First, we need to define terms. Popularity is one of those more fuzzy words that can mean pretty much whatever anyone chooses it to mean (which itself is a Christmas gift for writers of seasonal twaddle). Typically, popularity sort of means something having to do with a state of being well-liked. For a soccer league in the land of the NFL, NCAA BCS, NBA, MM (March Madness, but rolling with the acronym theme), MLB, NHL and even PGA, couldn’t popularity also just mean a state of recognized existence? For purposes of this Christmas-season slideshow, it can and does. But then even recognized existence is too vague. Soccer, which is occasionally referred to as football, is as global as Rudolph's flight path. Recognized existence in the U.S. and overseas are different things. This brings up the 800-pound gorilla in an elf-sized room. Being known internationally and being respected internationally are also altogether different things. So another category of popular player is who brings MLS the most international respect. We’re only doing ...
Filed under: MLS News No Comments

MLS Moves: How a Larger Deal Could Bring Luis Fabiano to D.C. United

The rumors of D.C. United interest in Luis Fabiano sound fantastic, with transfer fees far above what the MLS team can afford, yet there are ways in which the Brazilian striker could find himself wearing United's Black and Red next year. Fabiano currently plays for Sao Paulo. That club reportedly would want seven million euros for his transfer, which at current exchange rates would be just over $9 million. D.C. United is sending representatives to South America, but little has been made public about the aims of the trip. Here’s what we know: Fabiano has been an explosive scoring threat everywhere he's played. Also, Sao Paulo has him on contract through 2015. Beyond that, and the knowledge of D.C. United personnel headed to the South American continent, it is all rumor and speculation. Neither club has announced formal talks, nor even acknowledged that the United trip will include a stop in Sao Paulo. Let’s assume D.C. is interested in Fabiano, and the 32-year-old Brazilian international is at least one of the targets of this trip. Why would the MLS club even knock on that door, knowing in advance they can’t afford the transfer? Sao Paulo isn’t likely to cut anyone a break on the price. Fabiano has scored 23 goals in ...
Filed under: MLS News No Comments

5 Who Contributed the Most to MLS History

Is it a good time to start a new conversation on the players who have had the greatest impact on MLS history? With another dramatic season concluded, and now facing six long, dark winter weeks before the SuperDraft gives us an excuse to ponder the next, what else would we do? The Christmas shopping can wait a little longer. Which players have had the greatest impacts on their teams and the league? This is a discussion of on-field contributions, and limited to MLS fields. If considering which MLS players went on to bigger careers in other leagues, the conversation would be altogether different. Likewise, if allowing for off-field factors, like which players had the largest impact on league rules and business models, this could be a one-slide slideshow. Given David Beckham's departure from the Galaxy side that captured the 2012 Cup, he’s been talked about enough. Candidates for the following slides were subjected to a rigorous, analytic point system. While not quite as complex (or geeky) as the college football Bowl Championship Series formula, it came close. Readers won’t be bored with details, but factors weighed included individual honors and team accomplishments, with bonus points awarded for when the two coincided. The analysis also included a “sanity check” to ensure ...
Filed under: MLS News No Comments

David Beckham’s MLS Balance Sheet in the Red After 6 Seasons with Galaxy

As David Beckham prepares to play his last game with the Los Angeles Galaxy, it is time to review the former England captain's balance sheet in the States with MLS.Black or red? No, that's not a reference to his AC Milan jersey. It's a question of whether that balance sheet shows net gains or losses for the U.S. league that changed its rules and its salary structure to accommodate Beckham's 2007 arrival.MLS commissioner Don Garber sees nothing but gains.Citing league attendance and expansion, as well as Galaxy competitiveness, Garber said Beckham achieved every goal and then some. "Overdelivered," was the commissioner's exact characterization.With all due respect to Garber, that statement is an overreach.As the blogosphere eagerly awaits word on Beckham's next adventure, whether on the playing field or in an owner's box, let's establish some ground rules for this slideshow.It is not about Beckham's quality of play or the degree to which his arrival in the States was over-hyped. Beckham was good enough to earn regular playing time for Manchester United and Real Madrid, but was not quite up to everything the 2007 hype machine was purporting. He was never as great or complete a player as the American non-soccer fan could have assumed ...
Filed under: MLS News No Comments

USMNT: Should Jurgen Klinsmann Watch the NCAA Tournament?

This is the first of a two-part series. The second part is scheduled for Nov. 21. Should Jurgen Klinsmann, coach of the U.S. men’s national soccer team (USMNT), watch or even care about the NCAA tournament?The knee-jerk response probably is: No, of course not. Why would he? We might quickly agree that Klinsmann has more important things to do at the moment. The next round of World Cup qualifiers is fast approaching. But let’s delve a little deeper. American soccer is still grappling with how to use (or not use) the collegiate feeder system, which has become a mainstay for other sports. While the significance of the NFL and NBA college drafts cannot be overstated, in soccer there are two diverse schools of thought. The first school, which seems to be modestly winning the argument at the moment, is that the college system is counterproductive to creating top-flight competitive soccer players. Clubs, academies and other European-like structures are what we should emphasize. The second school (pun only slightly intended) says that we are not Europe and should stop trying to force the development of the American game into a European mold. Instead, we should employ the traditions and structures already ...
Filed under: MLS News No Comments

MLS Playoffs: Dynamo Deny D.C.’s Destiny Discussion

BBVA Compass Stadium, Nov. 11, Houston Dynamo 3, D.C. United 1Even before D.C. United had fully secured its improbable ticket to Houston and the Eastern Conference Finals, the soft whispers of destiny started to circulate. They had dodged so many bullets in their series with the New York Red Bulls, how could it not? Never mind that D.C. launched its share of those bullets in circular firing-squad fashion. Still, Ben Olsen’s roaming band of Black and Red youngsters survived. The Houston Dynamo came into these conference finals also hinting at a little destiny of their own. They were not supposed to beat Chicago or Kansas City. Suddenly, they were hosting a battered and depleted side in the first leg of a series that would determine which team goes on to the MLS Cup. The Dynamo has yet to lose at BBVA Compass Stadium. D.C. had never won in the state of Texas. Also, there were questions of United fatigue from drama, travel and a short turnaround from Thursday night’s game in New York. Still, D.C. seemed to have that destiny thing working for it. Early in the first half, United Coach Ben Olsen could be forgiven for finally giving in ...
Filed under: MLS News No Comments

MLS Playoffs: DC United Advances in Fitting Second Leg to First’s Fiasco

United's Nick DeLeon scored the game's only goal on a through ball in the 88th minute of the MLS Eastern Conference semifinals between D.C. United and New York Red Bulls.With the win at New York's Red Bull Arena, D.C. United will go on to face Houston in the conference finals.The thing about that goal is D.C. had been trying to work through balls all night. However, the Red Bulls had their offsides trap working to perfection. New York had caught United runners six times prior to the 88th minute.For Ben Olsen's Black and Red, the seventh was a charm, as Robbie Russell found DeLeon unshackled from the tyranny of line judges.This was a playoff series for the books. It featured pretty much everything imaginable, and that was just the first leg. The second picked up where the first left off, especially considering it was supposed to be played Wednesday night.After toggling the schedule because of Hurricane Sandy, MLS made a last-minute decision to postpone the second leg 24 hours because of Nor'Easter Athena. That second storm was dumping snow on the field faster than grounds crews could shovel it off. MLS Commissoner Don Garber issued a written apology for the turn of events.The ...
Filed under: MLS News No Comments

5 Things We Learned from the United-Red Bulls Debacle

As heated rivals D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls prepare for the second leg of their Eastern Conference playoff series tonight, both teams will look back on their first game with regrets over opportunities missed, and with hopes of discerning elusive keys for advancing. Opportunities missed will haunt New York's Hans Backe and D.C.'s Ben Olsen. Both coaches watched their teams give away own goals. Olsen saw his opponents come out flat for a long stretch, and the most celebrated member among them never get in the game. Backe saw his opponents self implode, and finish the last 20-plus minutes a man down.  In a way, both Backe and Olsen should feel lucky to head into the second leg with a 1-1 tie. My guess is neither does. I am not sure I can provide the keys to advancing, but let's review what we the fans have learned from the first leg. Maybe there is a hidden gem somewhere in the mix.Begin Slideshow
Filed under: MLS News No Comments

MLS Playoffs: Red Bulls, United Combine for Strange First Leg

Maybe we should have known this one would be dramatic. But who could have known it would be this odd?Saturday's first leg of the Eastern Conference playoff series between heated MLS rivals New York and D.C. saw both teams score once—on their own goal. The Red Bulls struck first. Roy Miller, brought on at halftime, drove a Chris Pontius cross into the top corner of his own net in the 61st minute. In Miller's defense, he had to make a play on the ball as United's Nick DeLeon was coming after the same cross.It only took four minutes for D.C. to return the favor. With this one, I am struggling to find a comparable defense for the lapse.Thierry Henry played a corner kick too far beyond the back post, and Heath Pearce tried to head the ball back into that zone of danger just in front of the goal and keeper. It was not an easy task, and Pearce missed. The header was in along the goal line, floating instead toward the grasp of United's Bill Hamid.Hamid jumped and caught the ball. He had trouble holding it, because for some odd reason he did not go up with both hands. He then ...
Filed under: MLS News No Comments