Archive for September, 2009
But why did it take a week for that to come to light? Why didn’t Harrison address that on NBC last Sunday night?
(EDIT: Now the account has been re-titled “Not Real Harrison” and the person in question is backtracking.)
My man Richard Broad and I are reunited Sunday afternoon for the start of another season broadcasting college soccer on the Big Ten Network. We’ll be calling the men’s game between the last two conference champs, Ohio State (4-3-0 4-0-3) and Michigan State (4-1-1), which starts at 2:30pm ET but won’t air until 4pm ET (so you can bag all those plans you had to watch the NFL).
I’m not sure this will be a pretty game, but I’m interested to see Ohio State’s young attackers (Chris Hegngi and Austin McAnena, both freshmen) – against the Spartans’ stout defense (GK Avery Steinlage had an NCAA-record consecutive shutout minutes streak snapped recently).
Also, a game I wish we were broadcasting takes place tonight in Madison, where first-year Badgers’ head coach Todd Yeagley faces his alma mater, Indiana in the first conference game of the year.
Video to come, but this was a hilarious moment late in Chicago’s 17-14 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon as Jay Cutler walked straight into the hands of Referee Scott Green as Green was signaling time out. Knocked Cutler’s helmet clean off.
I missed this when it happened, but, luckily, Dan was there for me.
“I’d scrap the playoffs and gladly take what projects out* to be tied for fourth place in the overall standings with Chicago,” Sacha Kljestan didn’t say.
There’s this notion, perpetuated by people who have an insane love for how things are done in countries they’ve never visited, that if you scrap MLS’ conference-based setup and the playoffs, that everything will be just hunky-dory. Every game will matter, the intensity will be ratcheted up tenfold, and interest will skyrocket.
Except that based on the latest standings, as we chat today, Tuesday, September 21, more than a month before the end of the season, three MLS teams would have been eliminated from contention for the title, with another two justthisclose to being toe-tagged.
Realistically (if not mathematically), nearly half the teams in the league are just prolonging the inevitable, even at this date. This is what you want? Just so you can have a domestic league that looks like a European league?
“Oh, the players will play so much harder,” you say. Really? You have a league that’s about 60% American. You think they can play much harder? That’s all American players can do – play hard. And since they’re all underpaid (according to people who don’t understand supply and demand), what, exactly, are they loafing around for now. Most players are probably playing as hard as they can#.
In most European leagues, even if you can’t win the title, you can play for a guaranteed spot (or the right to play off for a spot) in the UEFA Champions League or the Europa League. Those are lucrative tournaments that can make a huge difference in a club’s profit margin.
The CONCACAF Champions League (for which four US teams qualify – the MLS Cup winner, MLS Supporters Shield winner, MLS Cup runners-up and US Open Cup champions) is not a particularly lucrative tournament. It’s an afterthought. It’s a fixture congestion-er. Mathematically, all but one MLS team (New York) could still be in the running to finish in the top four in a no-playoffs, top-four-qualify-for-the-CCL scenario.
But is that the kind of race that will keep your interest? Whether or not your team will finish top four so you can play Joe Public next August? And if you somehow manage to win that tournament, you might get to play Al-Ahly in Abu Dhabi in December 2011 – two years from now?
Having a bunch of your teams basically eliminated from anything meaningful with weeks left in the season only provides yet another reason to ignore MLS at this time of year (oh, look, a new stadium in Dallas!).
But, hey, it works great in Europe!
*Based on current points-per-game. Very rough estimate, probably mathematically impossible for everybody’s projected points to turn out that way.
#Does not apply to David Beckham.
Updated with the one missing game (thanks to USL’s hard-working Gerald Barnhart), here are my final unofficial attendance figures for USL-1 this year:
|Puerto Rico Islanders||15||49,391||3,293||3,198||4,423||-25.55%|
|Cleveland City Stars||15||22,362||1,491||1,502||N/A#||N/A|
|Miami FC Blues||15||15,952||1,063||922||1,701||-45.80%|
#Cleveland was in USL-2 last year and averaged 1,634 in a different venue.
- After three straight years of overall league average attendance growth, USL-1′s average dropped just under 9% in 2009. Only two teams (Portland and Vancouver, who, coincidentally or not, announced they’ll be going to MLS) saw average attendance growth. Everybody else was down – in some cases (Puerto Rico, Carolina and Miami), way down.
- Despite dropping off just over 5% (an inevitable new stadium sophomore slump?), Montreal still led the league for the fifth straight year.
- Portland’s 9,734 average made them the only team other than Montreal or Rochester to average over 9,000 per game since 1994.
- September (5,427) was the best month for USL-1 average attendance, while April (3,689) was the worst (with only 16 games in the first month).
- The league only averaged 4,168 on Saturdays, but (thanks largely to Montreal playing several games midweek) 7,205 in 10 Wednesday games.
- Home openers averaged 5,536, home finales 5,079.
- 22 games on Fox Soccer Channel drew just barely below the league average (4,617).
Whether or not the supposed “breakaway” league comes to fruition, I would have to think we’ve seen the last of Miami and Cleveland in the top flight.
BTW, Harrison’s grammar is one thing, but Rhodes’ official site biography is unintentionally hilarious:
“He stands at 6’3”. He is the eye of the storm…calm but surrounded by walls of force and an insurmountable mass of 215 pounds packing the tenacity, talent and skill to triumphantly maneuver his way on the field and in this world. He is Kerry Rhodes.”
Crunching some numbers and shaking them until they give up some useless information about the 148 players who played in Women’s Professional Soccer this season:
- Five players – Kristine Lilly (Boston Breakers), Aya Miyama (Los Angeles Sol), Caroline Jonsson (Chicago Red Stars), Becky Sauerbrunn and Homare Sawa (Washington Freedom) all played every minute of every game. Meanwhile, Lauren Sesselmann of Sky Blue FC played one minute of one game.
- Chicago’s Nikki Krzysik led the league with five yellow cards.
- Only four players received red cards and two of them (Karen Carney and Frida Ostberg) were from Chicago. FC Gold Pride’s Carrie Dew and Boston’s Alex Scott were the others.
- Abby Wambach‘s 70 shots were far and away the most in the league.
- Chicago’s Ella Masar (11) and Danesha Adams (10) made the most appearances off the bench.
- Boston defender Erika Sutton was the only player to start and play 90 minutes in her only appearance of the season.
- Washington’s Briana Scurry was the only goalkeeper to start at least one match and not record a shutout on the season.
- Of players with at least 15 shots, Boston’s Jennifer Nobis put the highest percentage on net (61.1%). Chicago’s Ella Masar put just 3 of her 19 shots on goal (15.8%).
- With 8 goals on 26 shots, LA’s Camille Abily had the best scoring percentage (30.8%). Her teammate, Aya Miyama, was 0-for-43.
- There were 10 players with a singular name (Cristiane, Daniela, Erika, Fabiana, Formiga, Francielle, Marta, Rosana and Sissi) and only two with the same last name (Elise Weber of Saint Louis and Sue Weber of Boston, who are not, as near as I can tell, sisters).
- The most common first names were Allison, Lisa, Heather and Kelly (three each), though there were also an Ali (Krieger), an Allie (Long) and an Aly (Wagner). There were two Sarahs (Senty and Walsh) and a Sara (Larsson) as well as a Nicci (Wright), a Niki (Cross), a Nikki (Krzysik) and a Nicole (Barnhart).
There’s a month or so left in the 2009 Major League Soccer season, and six clubs (Chivas USA, Houston, Colorado, Columbus, Chicago and New England) still have a chance to win half of the games on their schedule.
Don’t laugh. That’s more rare than you might think. In the 30-game, no-shootouts era (since 2003), only 11 teams out of 71 have won 15 or more games. San Jose’s 18 in 2005 (an expansion year in which they beat up on Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake) is the high-water mark.
And taking out shootouts (from the 1996-1999 era), these teams won the highest percentage of their games (in a 32-game schedule).
So only about 21% of MLS teams have been able to outright win half of the games on their schedule. The 1998 Galaxy may be able to lay claim to the most impressive performance in league history, as the Gals won 22 of their 32 games outright (with two more in shootout), scored 85 goals and had a goal differential of +41. With Cobi Jones scoring 19 goals, Welton (WELTON!) scoring 17 and Mauricio Cienfuegos adding 13, they were an offensive juggernaut.
Oh, and they didn’t win the title. Chicago beat them in shootout in game two of the West finals. LA scored one goal in the two games. Oh, well.