Last night was my first matchnight of the preseason and it did not disappoint with both Toronto FC and FC Dallas coming out victorious over their non-MLS opponents at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. I took particular pleasure in two things: Ryan Johnson's tough-angle goal against BK Hacken and the sight of David Ferreira back on the pitch.
While the former was pure entertainment Ferriera's return was a reminder of what FC Dallas was missing in 2011 and a warning of what they'll have in 2012. Opposition beware.
Speaking of opposition, FC Dallas' opponents for the night were local USL side Orlando City, who featured a pair of soccer siblings: Dustin (brother of Dax) McCarty Maxwell (brother of Leonard) Griffin and John (brother of Wayne) Rooney. Last night the latter was living in the shadow of his older brother as a large man in a "Rooney" Manchester United jersey sat almost immediately behind his spot on the bench in the first row of the stands. No doubt John Rooney is a big boy and his own man but that type of thing must be maddening after a while.
Back in MLS land, I had the pleasure of witnessing the Houston Dynamo staff, who were in the press box for last night's matches, absolutely dominate a half-time session of trivia game Sporcle. Steve Ralston and Dominic Kinnear not only know their soccer but baseball as well. They also have an encyclopedic memory for 1990's alternative rock that any radio DJ would be jealous of but with one exception: they didn't know the name of Lit's big hit.
But you can't fault them for that because no one remembers what Lit's big hit was.
The great thing about being in Orlando this week is, surprisingly, not the weather. That's been spotty. Last night a storm rolled through that, while not quite biblical in proportion, was enough to hold Simon Borg and myself hostage in the Sporting KC hotel for far longer than we intended. In the end it was OK though because it afforded me a chance to talk about team chemistry with coach Peter Vermes, who said of all the team's he ever been around the current KC squad is the tightest off-the-field he's ever seen.
Unfortunately for Kei Kamara though the storm put a damper on the pick-up basketball game he was trying to organize with some of his teammates. So much for team camaraderie.
The sun came out today though and after all that rain it's as humid as anything. Even Houston Dynamo players Corey Ashe and Andre Hainault, who should be used to a bit of sticky weather, thought it was a bit much for February.
The Dynamo had some interesting neighbors at today's practice. On one side were pitchers and catchers for the Atlanta Braves --they conduct spring training at the sprawling ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex-- with the Montreal Impact on the other. Funny how Brian Ching came back to Houston only to spend pre-season in the shadow of the Impact; guess his preseason plans would have been the same either way.
One of the hot topics around the soccersphere today was news of sanctions levied against supporters of the Houston Dynamo. Below is the letter sent from MLS to leaders of the Houston Dynamo supporters groups on Monday. According to MLS spokesperson Will Kuhns, this is not the first time that an MLS supporters group’s privileges have been suspended for behavior issues. In the letter, you will see that the incidents at issue occurred during road games, and that the sanctions apply only to road games.
Major League Soccer and its Clubs are committed to the growth of a vibrant and healthy environment in our stadiums. We are focused on fostering a League-wide culture that embraces the passion of our core fans. That passion however, must be displayed in a responsible manner that is in accordance with the MLS Fan Code of Conduct.
This letter serves to address several violations of the MLS Fan Code of Conduct committed by Dynamo supporters at the following events:
1. MLS Cup, Houston Dynamo vs. LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center (November 20, 2011): Violations of the MLS Fan Code of Conduct included
a. multiple illegal smoke bombs were brought into the stadium, ignited and thrown onto the field
b. various objects that presented a safety risk thrown onto the field in the direction of players and stadium personnel
c. obscene language and gestures by multiple supporters
2. Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City at LIVESTRONG Park (November 6th, 2011): Violation of the MLS Fan Code of Conduct included
a. a prohibited smoke bomb that was brought into the stadium and ignited
3. Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park (September 24, 2011): Violations of the MLS Fan Code of Conduct included
a. a prohibited smoke bomb that was brought into the stadium and ignited
As of March 1, Dynamo traveling supporters will not be permitted to utilize items listed as Supporter Group Exemptions in the MLS Prohibited Items policy (e.g. flags, banners, confetti, drums). This sanction shall continue to be in effect until otherwise notified by MLS; provided, however, that at a minimum it shall apply to the following games:
1. Houston Dynamo vs. Chivas at the Home Depot Center (March 11, 2012)
2. Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City at LIVESTRONG Park (July 7, 2012)
The decision to impose this sanction is based on the League-wide position that misconduct at any MLS event can affect a fan’s standing at other MLS facilities. MLS will not tolerate behavior which threatens the safety of any fan, stadium employee or match participant. The actions of just a few individuals can influence the perception of all of our supporters, clubs and League.
After the opening of BBVA Compass Stadium on May 12, 2012, the League will evaluate whether to lift the ban on the previously stated privileges. The following factors will be considered in determining the ultimate length of this restriction:
1. Supporter conduct at 2012 MLS away games
2. Supporter conduct at BBVA Compass Stadium
3. Implementation of a supporter charter
4. Formation of an effective leadership system for all Dynamo supporters that is recognized by the club
The League is encouraged by the ongoing discussion between the Dynamo supporters and the front office to learn from past events and prevent them in the future. While regrettable that these incidents took place, it is our hope that 2012 marks the year that such misconduct is a thing of the past so that we can return to our focus of supporting the Texian Army, El Battallon, Brickwall Firm, La Bateria and any other legitimate group supporting the Dynamo.
Most people would agree that Italians Arrigo Sacchi and Marcelo Lippi are two of the best managers. Ever. Between them, after all, they have six Serie A Scudetti, three Champions League/European Cup titles, and one World Cup.
At the club level, they saw the majority of their success at AC Milan (Sacchi) and Juventus (Lippi).
Ahead of this past weekend's Milan-Juve top-of-the-table clash, La Gazzetta dello Sport (the pink paper) brought the two tacticians in and had them imagine how the match would go using Subbuteo, the classic table soccer game. Check it out:
This, of course, got us thinking: Which two MLS coaches would we like to see sitting across from each other like chess grandmasters, discussing tactics, formations, predictions, and players' strengths and weaknesses, and then leaning forward to move a little painted figurine to demonstrate?"
It would be cool to see the LA Galaxy's Bruce Arena and the Seattle Sounders' Sigi Schmid square off. They are two of the most solid strategists MLS has ever seen.
Or how about hearing the Houston Dynamo's Dominic Kinnear explain the intricacies of his tried-and-true 4-4-2 and how it stacks up against, say, the Ajax-inspired 4-3-3 employed by Toronto FC's Aron Winter.
Or a Rookie Rumble: New England's Jay Heaps vs. Montreal's Jesse Marsch?
Tell us what matchup you would want to see, and we'll look into making it happen. No joke.
Former Houston Dynamo midfield ace Stuart Holden hasn't had the easiest time since joining England's Bolton Wanderers in January of 2010. Sidelined twice by serious injuries, a broken leg and an anterior cruciate ligament injury, Holden has unfortunately become just as familiar with the inside of the rehab room as he is with the pitch.
But, as the old saying goes, when life hands you lemons you make lemonade. Or a Youtube series. Welcome to No Holden Back.
Today could be the day that the Dynamo land two forwards ahead of the 2012 season.
In addition to reacquiring Brian Ching, Costa Rican reports say the club are also close to signing Cristian Lagos from a club called Santos. An executive from the Costa Rican side confirmed it, according to this tweet by a reporter
— Juan Carlos Agüero(@juankaguerom) February 16, 2012
He made news on Wednesday, getting revenge against his former club Liga Alajuelense, by scoring two goals in a 3-1 win by Santos.
(PHOTO: Al Dia / Costa Rica)
Could the long, winding saga that is "Brian Ching vs. the Montreal Impact trade" be headed toward its inevitable conclusion? Earlier today the Impact announced that they'd awarded Ching a leave of absence from camp for unspecified, personal reasons. Now comes talk of a long-desired (by Ching) move back to the Dynamo courtesy of Mark Berman, sports director for Houston's FOX affiliate.
MLS sources tell FOX26 Sports the Dynamo are in advanced talks with Montreal that would send the rights to Brian Ching back to Houston
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) February 13, 2012
Coincidence or conspiracy?
Welcome to the Depth Chart, a shallow look at the hot topics currently dominating the American soccer conversation. A story's RANK indicates its size, while its BUZZ (thumbs up, or down, or both) reflects its sentiment. Scroll beneath the image for links to the articles referenced within.
This week, familiar themes populate the Depth Chart: trades, the USMNT and yet another big LA acquistion.
Spotted in the hallways of the Home Depot Center ahead of the Timbers' preseason match vs. the LA Galaxy today: Portland head coach John Spencer with projected No. 1 NFL Draft pick Andrew Luck.
On the surface it may seem random but this certainly wasn't thier first meeting; Luck is the son of Oliver Luck, who was president of the Houston Dynamo while Spencer was an assistant there.
Photo courtesy of @TimbersFC.
Cheerleaders: love 'em or hate 'em they are an inextricable part of the American sports landscape. But for many of the MLS fans that weighed in on the league's Facebook page yesterday they aren't part of one sport: soccer.
"I don’t understand this notion that cheerleaders don’t belong in soccer. Cheerleaders have been around the game forever. Maybe not in Europe, but if you look at Mexico, Colombia and most of all the other Latin-American countries, you will see that many of those clubs have had cheerleaders for many years and the game didn’t get ruined. They get to cheer the crowd at halftime, when no one has anything to do other than eat, drink and wait for the second half. Cheerleaders are not going to change what happens inside of the field, and that’s what I care about. So I say, sure, bring them on." - Edgar Acero
"When it comes to soccer, cheerleaders are nothing but a distraction. Then again, that's pretty much their purpose in just about any setting. But by that definition, so are concession stands, play areas that give parents a much-appreciated outlet for their offspring and just about anything that happens away from the field during the course of a match. Many people spend 90 minutes fixated on the play itself, but countless others scarf down giant, salted pretzels, play around on Twitter or ogle pretty girls with pom poms. Who am I to say any of those things don't belong? To each his own." - Andrew Wiebe
"I’m opposed to cheerleaders in MLS, but only because I’m opposed to cheerleaders in general. It adds nothing to the product on the field, and anyway, why would you spend money on tickets if your only goal is to see scantily-clad women? You could just as easily stay home and use man’s greatest invention: the interwebz." - Nate Sulat
"I'll admit that as a former Texas high school football player I have a strong association with cheerleaders & pointyball. So as much as I enjoy pretty women, team spirit and soccer it just seems a little odd --not to mention possibly degrading-- to me. Not because it's "Americanizing" the game, as some allege, but because they just remind me of autumn Friday nights in Anytown U.S.A. Also, rejection. - Shawn Francis
What's your take on cheerleaders in soccer? Let us know in the comments below.