Archive for October, 2009

An MLS Playoffs Preview From Someone Who Hasn’t Been Playing Close Attention

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Seriously, I’ve been so busy this fall that I think I’ve watched maybe one MLS match in the last two months. So take this look at the playoff picture for what it’s worth, unless I get something right, in which case, yay me.

#1 Columbus v. #4 Real Salt Lake
This, of course, completes the trade that saw New York compete in (and win) the Western Conference bracket a year ago. The Team To Be Named Later in that scenario came within a whisker of actually being the West’s rep in MLS Cup 2008, but were just 11-12-7 this year. They did blow out Colorado to earn the last playoff spot (claiming motivation from my man Steve Pastorino) and they’re at home for the first leg tomorrow night. But the Crew (sorry, The Crew) appears to be the best overall team in the league and I like them to advance after an ugly first leg. Oh, wait, they’re all ugly first legs in MLS, aren’t they?

#2 Chicago v. #3 New England
Haven’t we met? Chicago went 1-0-2 against the Revs this year, winning and drawing in Foxboro and drawing the one match at Toyota Park. New England has only won twice since September began and they’re banged up. I don’t think this will be pretty, but I like Chicago to advance.

#1 Los Angeles v. #4 Chivas USA
Wait, Los Angeles won the West? When did THAT happen? I really need to pay closer attention. I’m sure that made my man Dan Loney feel ambivalent all over. Kudos to Bruce Arena for getting the most out of a team dealing with old legs and The Now Short Sleeved One. The Kids Down the Hall will try to make it tough for LA and they won’t play pretty soccer at all (Preki is supposedly on the way out). I like the Galaxy to advance.

#2 Houston v. #3 Seattle
This, to me, is actually the most interesting first-round matchup, and one I’d pay money to watch. Oh, I don’t have to? The first leg, at least, is on ESPN2 tonight. I think Houston is the better team, but Seattle seems to have this team of destiny thing going on. First leg in Seattle, should be an intimidating atmosphere, the Sounders went 7-2-6 at home this year. It’s looking to me like the Sounders will take the first leg and force Houston to do the business at home. I think we all remember how that worked out last year. So I’m going with the Sounders.

That would set up Chicago-Columbus in the East final (again) and Los Angeles-Seattle in the West. We’ll see.

Clever, But….

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

This video of a high school quarterback should be making the rounds today. Will Briscoe of Central High in Baton Rouge, Louisiana completes a two-point conversion pass behind his back:

Impressive. It didn’t end up mattering in the grand scheme of things (Central beat Zachary – which may be Doug Williams‘ alma mater – 58-0), and this did come after Central’s second touchdown in a 29-point first quarter, so it wasn’t quite as unsportsmanlike as it might have seemed.

But I wouldn’t go making a habit out of it. Someone might take your head off the next time.

Putting The Auf In Auf Wiedersehen

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

At least, “Auf” is what I said when I saw this:

Final MLS Attendance Numbers 2009

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Major League Soccer’s regular season wrapped up yesterday and here are the final attendance figures:

Team G Total Avg Med Hi Lo Change
Seattle 15 463,455 30,897 32,404 33,108 28,548 NA
Los Angeles 15 306,240 20,416 19,718 27,000 16,649 -21.5%
Toronto 15 305,167 20,344 20,384 20,902 19,843 1.1%
Houston 15 255,712 17,047 16,854 29,470 12,619 0.6%
Salt Lake 15 245,628 16,375 16,972 19,546 11,793 1.2%
DC United 15 241,322 16,088 15,895 24,175 8,033 -18.9%
Chivas USA 15 226,375 15,092 14,523 23,409 11,334 -0.1%
Chicago 15 220,331 14,689 14,534 20,000 10,288 -13.8%
Columbus 15 216,699 14,447 14,370 20,966 7,465 -1.2%
San Jose 15 211,717 14,114 10,049 61,572 9,022 2.9%
New England 15 205,977 13,732 11,314 26,623 7,286 -21.9%
New York 15 187,359 12,491 10,762 23,238 8,042 -21.6%
Dallas 15 186,612 12,441 8,623 51,012 5,724 -4.5%
Colorado 15 184,963 12,331 11,416 19,680 6,234 -9.7%
Kansas City 15 150,802 10,053 10,385 11,906 6,922 -5.9%
MLS TOTAL 225 3,608,359 16,037 14,686 61,572 5,724 -2.6%

Now, some notes:

  • The New York Yankees did outdraw MLS, but not by much (3,719,358 to 3,608,359).
  • The only teams showing any average attendance growth over 2008 had very modest gains, with San Jose’s 2.9% growth (thanks in part to the largest crowd of the year in 2009, a doubleheader at Candlestick Park that drew 61,572 to see Barcelona/CD Guadalajara and fewer than that to see San Jose/Columbus) the best of the bunch. No one else had even 2% growth in average announced attendance. However….
  • There were big drops in New England, New York, Los Angeles, DC and (to a lesser extent) Chicago. New York is understandable, but LA may have suffered from a few years of terrible teams, high prices and the whole Beckham Fiasco. And everybody suffered from the economic turmoil.
  • Those drops by New England, New York and Los Angeles, all 20% or more, were not the worst in league history for teams from one season to the next. Eleven teams, led by Dallas’ 40% drop when they moved from the Cotton Bowl to Dragon Stadium in Southlake, have had worse year-to-year declines.
  • Since I know you’re going to ask, the answer is 14,976. That’s the league average without Seattle. Because there were 225 games in the league, Seattle’s total impact was mitigated a bit, but it was just over 1,000 people a game league-wide (about a 7% bump). Because the league still was down about 3% on average, you can see the impact of the economy on the league overall.
  • Seattle broke Los Angeles’ 1996 record with a 30,897 average (the record was 28,916). The Sounders’ median (32,404) was also a record and despite having one less home game than the Galaxy had in 1996, they broke the record for total as well (463,455 to 462,650).
  • October (17,593) was actually the best month for league average attendance, beating July (17,218).
  • In a small sample, weekdays (Monday-Thursday) outdid weekends, 17,566 to 15,855 on average. If you count Fridays in the weekday sample, it’s slightly larger and the difference is a bit less (16,775 on weekdays to 15,915 on weekends).
  • New York’s total and average were the worst in team history. Surprised?
  • Dallas’ median (8,623) was bad, but wasn’t the worst in MLS history. That still belongs to Miami, whose median was 7,023 in 2000.
  • Because of its small capacity, Kansas City had the 14th-worst average in league history, but five Wizards teams have actually had smaller averages. KC did have a median (10,385) that matched its capacity, meaning they sold out a bunch of games. So there’s that.
  • Home openers averaged 15,334. Home finales averaged 18,955.
  • Games involving (or purported to involve) David Beckham (as the visiting attraction) averaged 22,048, but only goosed the league average by just under 200 people a game overall. Last year, Galaxy road games averaged 28,132.

Old Home Week(end)

Monday, October 26th, 2009

What a great trip I had to Chicago this weekend. I got to see lots of old friends (like Steve Pastorino, Nico and Coz), see some team handball, work a terrific soccer game with people I like and eat food I can’t get here in the desert. Oh, and I met Willie the Northwestern Wildcat (above). But, boy, am I tired.

This Kiss, This Kiss….It’s Criminal…

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

No, no, no, no, Brett Myers, you may have won the NL pennant for the second straight year, but your wife hasn’t forgotten. (Thanks, Deadspin.)

EDIT: Well, hell, in the interim, YouTube took the video down. Bastards. You do know that you wouldn’t have been able to sell YouTube to Google for $1.65 billion without illegal videos, right, you hypocrites?

Ladies Night

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

That’s me with the lovely and talented Ann Meyers Drysdale (left), Basketball Hall of Famer and GM of the WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury and Kyndra de St. Aubin, my colleague at the Big Ten Network (she and I will finally work a game together at the end of this month). They were gracious enough to be guests in my Sports & Media class at Arizona State University last night as we talked about gender issues in sports media.

Hello, Sunshine

Monday, October 19th, 2009

I just thought the sun coming through the beams at Sky Harbor this morning looked cool. Don’t think this photo does it justice, but, whatever.

So, I just flew in from Indianapolis, and boy are my arms tired. Got to see some old friends and called Michigan State’s 1-0, double-overtime victory over Indiana on the Big Ten Network Sunday afternoon.

Tonight it’s class at Arizona State, with a discussion of gender issues that includes guest speakers Kyndra de St. Aubin and Ann Meyers Drysdale (by the way, here’s a story I did in 1992 on Ann, recalling her brief tryout with the NBA’s Indiana Pacers).

Meade In Heaven

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Actually, if I heard it from her, I think I’d be okay with it.

Indoor Plumbing

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

The National Indoor Soccer League schedule is out. Five teams, same as last year, but with the Milwaukee Wave replacing the Massachusetts Twisters. 20 games from November to March. Apparently because they couldn’t get 10 dates at their new home, the Philadelphia KiXX will only play 8 home games, while Baltimore and Milwaukee will play 11 each. The top three teams make the playoffs, with the second and third seeds playing for the right to meet the top seed in a one-game final at the top seed’s arena.

The Xtreme Soccer League went belly-up this summer, taking the Detroit Ignition, Chicago Storm (pictured above) and New Jersey Ironmen with it. The Wave – which were saved by a local businessman – survived to play another day (they’re the longest-running pro team in the country at the moment, having been around since 1984) and just pulled off a coup of sorts by hiring my man Peter Wilt as their new president.

As it has been for several years now, indoor soccer is a mess. The NISL and the PASL Pro are our two leagues now, and the PASL is only in its second pro season. Ten years ago, the NPSL had 13 teams and the rival WISL had seven more. Baltimore, Milwaukee and a reconstituted Monterrey team are the only holdovers from that list of 20. There’s no national television contract, no stability, no realistic plan going forward except the one that indoor soccer has always had – If We Can Get This Guy In, It’ll Make Up For That Guy Dropping Out. Multi-point scoring is still unnecessary. The skilled players of the 80s have given way to defensive, cynical play in the 2000s.

I love indoor soccer. I think it’s a great game. I have enjoyed being involved with it and hope to get the chance again. But it’s not at all a well cat.