Needless to say, Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League games were exciting.
Perhaps even more so because of the nearly unprecedented attendance. Between the two CCL matches, 71,001 fans showed up. That's an average of 35,500.
By comparison, UEFA's four Champions League games this week averaged 49,776.25. That includes 75,632 fans who packed the Nou Camp in an attendance figure nearly as ridiculous at Barcelona's 7-1 destruction of Bayer Leverkusen.
Take what you will from it, but it's fair to say that the bar for CCL matches hosted by MLS teams has been raised.
A confession: I'm not a fantasy freak.
I don't spend days analyzing the various formations and figuring out the optimum financially efficient roster. I don't partake in a great deal of trash talk with the other people in my league.
About the only thing I obsess about is which music idol I should name my club after.
But despite all of that, I play. I play against my colleagues and friends. I tend to lose, but I appreciate the competition and the comradery.
This year's new salary-cap game, MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager, is not easy. But it is a very good approximation of what it's like to be a real MLS manager.
The salary cap ($100 million) is tight, and building a well-balanced squad, with a mix of high-scoring stars and cost-efficient role players, can be a struggle. At times, I cursed the person who set the prices.
The upshot is that as I set my roster, I started making some intriguing decisions on where I was willing to sacrifice quality for quantity. If I went for a cheap 4th defender so I could add a more expensive striker, what happens if there's an injury on the backline? If I ditched the big-money third striker, does that let me have a better attacking midfielder?
Ultimately, you've got to decide. Just like a real MLS manager does. And then you play.
So without further ado, here's the roster of my beloved Otis Redding United. I promise you, we will not try any tenderness in the 2nd Annual ExtraTime Radio Experts League.
Bonjour à tous et bienvenue sur Coup Franc, la première section en français du site MLSsoccer.com.
Avec l’arrivée de l’Impact de Montréal, la MLS effectue son entrée en terres francophones et il est tout à fait logique de pouvoir suivre ses activités en français. C’est ce que nous nous efforcerons de faire ici.
Si vous voulez tout savoir sur l’Impact de Montréal, nous vous suggérons le portail officiel du club (impactmontreal.com) ainsi que tous les autres sites qui parlent du club, et ils sont nombreux, que ce soient des sites spécialisés, de supporters, de médias,…
L’objectif ici est vraiment de pouvoir vous informer sur tout ce qu’il se passe en Major League Soccer, de vous donner un avant-goût des sommets à venir, des comptes-rendus de chaque journée de championnat, de vous faire partager des moments insolites, de vous familiariser avec les équipes et les joueurs, etc.
Cet espace est fait pour vous, et comme sur MLSsoccer.com, nous attachons une grande importance à l’interactivité, n’hésitez jamais à réagir aux nouvelles et à nous faire part de vos suggestions.
En attendant, nous nous réjouissons d'inviter les 220 millions de francophones venus de tous les continents à venir parler le langage le plus universel entre tous : celui du ballon rond !
It was a festive morning in The City Beautiful as Commissioner Don Garber made a whistle stop in downtown Orlando today. To say the city, Orlando City Soccer Club and its supporters rolled out the red carpet for the commish is an understatement. There were digital billboards like the one pictured above. A banner hung out front of city hall, not far from the statue commemorating the city's 1994 World Cup matches. And then there was the reception the OCSC's supporters gave Garber when he walked into the room.
In a word, it was "raucous".
Though the city's place at the MLS table isn't a forgone conclusion, the sense of excitement in the room for what may lay ahead was palpable, not only from the fans but from OCSC owner Phil Rawlins.
"It was extraordinary to see all the fans out here in the middle of the workday at midweek, a tremendous display of passion. Very heart-warming."
As for next steps, Rawlins plans on staying the current course.
"We're going to keep on doing what we've already done and build on a successful 2011, both on and off the field. Hopefully, as Don said earlier, it's not a matter of "if" but "when."
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.
Unless you're a part of the ever-growing Sporting KC fanbase or stumbled on the #DearMrHunt hashtag on Twitter during the past week or so, you probably had no idea that Kansas City's 2000 MLS Cup trophy doesn't reside in Kansas City.
In fact, the trophy doesn't belong to Sporting KC at all.
The hardware Peter Vermes, Tony Meola and Chris Henderson, among others, earned at RFK Stadium against the Chicago Fire remains – and will continue to remain – property of the Hunt Sports Group, a treasured memento of the late Lamar Hunt, who owned the Wizards when they reached the MLS pinnacle at the turn of the century.
Understandably, Kansas City fans started wondering if they would ever get the opportunity to enjoy the spoils from their lone championship season in person. From that idea grew #DearMrHunt. And as it turns out, Clark Hunt was listening.
Sporting still won't own the trophy itself – retaining ownership was part of the terms agreed to by the Hunts and OnGoal when the team was sold – but they will have the opportunity to display it at Livestrong Sporting Park for the 2012 season until it goes to it's permanent home at Arrowhead Stadium.
It may not equate to ownership, but no matter how you slice it, that's a win for the fans that pack Livestrong Sporting Park from week to week.
Before you settle in to watch tonight's LIVE, streaming pre-season games from Arizona, head over to TheCrew.com for a LIVE stream of the “State of the League” conversation from 6:00-8:00 PM with MLS Commissioner Don Garber alongside Columbus Crew Owner Clark Hunt and Crew President & GM Mark McCullers.
Have a question the commissioner? Ask him via Twitter using the hashtag #Crew96. Make sure to follow the Columbus Crew on Twitter for further updates.
Watch the "State of the League" here.
Admit it: You can’t stand noobs. They’re always just a little too quick to pull out the over-the-top display of enthusiasm for whatever it is they don’t know how to do.
This week’s episode of IFC sketch comedy show Portlandia highlights the problem with newbies when Peter and Nance, an eccentric, overly eco-conscious couple played by the show’s stars — Saturday Night Live mainstay Fred Armisen and indie rock veteran Carrie Brownstein (Wild Flag, Sleater-Kinney) — go to their first Portland Timbers game with a flag they designed to show their support for the team.
Yes, it is as tragic and funny as you imagine.
“It’s funny and weird because I’m not usually a sports person and I don’t live in Portland but I love Portland,” Armisen said when reached via phone last week.
“One of the things I love about it is that it reminds me of England a little bit, and the fact that they like soccer there as much as they do just makes it seem that much more vaguely European. We had to get them in the show somehow.“
He’s not saying that the wild passion of JELD-WEN Field’s section 107 is a put-on, though.
“It’s not an affectation, they really do love it,” Armisen said. “When we first met the people from the Timbers Army we knew it was a very real thing.”
Brownstein, a Washington native who now lives in Portland, testified to the region’s well-documented fervor over football.
“When I was a kid I went to Sounders games in Seattle, where I grew up, and I played soccer. I think for everyone in the Pacific Northwest it’s the obligatory sport you play.”
Like the character she plays in the episode, which airs Feb. 24 at 10 pm ET, Brownstein has yet to see the Timbers in action.
“I haven’t been to a game [in Portland] yet, but when we shot the episode it made me want to go,“ she says. ”Portlanders are eager for communal experiences and the Timbers are perfect for that. “
“Also the singing is really great, even just at the shoot. It’s all pretty intriguing so I really want to go.”
Armisen and Brownstein aren’t the only comedy titans taken with what’s going on in JELD-WEN’s North End.
“[Saturday Night Live creator] Lorne Michaels read that article in The New York Times about them,” said Armisen, “It was funny because he was immediately fascinated by them.”
This week’s show won’t be the Portlandia debut for a few members of the TA though, as they were cast for the “Allergy Pride” sketch that aired earlier in the season.
“If you watch the parade, they’re the Soy Punks,” Armisen said. “They were perfect for it because they were so good at shouting and shouting angrily.”
The Philadelphia Union -- in particular, manager Peter Nowak -- have taken a few hits this offseason. Understandly so, considering some of the messy player transactions, such as the sudden flight of goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon and the bizarre Sebastien Le Toux situation. I'm still not clear whether Le Toux was forced to go to Bolton or if he just failed and tried to pass the buck. Either way, he's with Vancouver now.
This all comes on the heels of a late overseas training stint for Danny Mwanga, Kyle Nakazawa's trade to LA, Veljko Paunovic's retirement, and the loss of Justin Mapp in the expansion draft. Plus, don't forget the explanations given by Nowak about Carlos Ruiz's transfer to Mexico.
But there has to be a method to the madness, right? Nowak seems sure. He tweeted this out on Monday in response to a fan's question:
“@Doug_Cutaiar: "I don't need details. Can you just assure me you guys know what you're doing with these moves this off season?” Yes.
— Peter Nowak (@Peter_Nowak) February 14, 2012
That response -- "Yes" -- is so perfect. So simple. So Nowakian.
Lest any of the second-guessers forget, Nowak and the Union are still on the correct trajectory for a club born just two years ago. That is, in Year 2, they improved over Year 1, and even made the playoffs.
So despite the departures and the confusing aftermaths, at some point, everyone needs to have a little faith and give Nowak the benefit of the doubt. After all, he's succeeded everywhere he's been. And so far, he's succeeding in Philly.