My trip down to the Disney Pro Soccer Classic has been a trip of many firsts: my first time in Orlando, my first trip to Disney. Add my first NBA game to the list as I just spent an evening with the guys from Sporting KC basking in the vertically-gifted glow of Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard.
For the Sporting KC players, staff, ownership and family, it was a fun night away from the tedium of the practice field and the hotel. For me it was an opportunity to see a bit of live sport that wasn't soccer --a very rare treat-- and to catch up with a few players I hadn't seen in a while like CJ Sapong, Kei Kamara and Chance Myers. I also got to see Aurelien Collin rock a leather vest over a sleeveless shirt while wearing sneakers covered in metal spikes; who knew Mad Max had a French cousin who played centerback?
Teal Bunbury was also in the house, fresh off of the U.S. Olympic team's victory over Mexico last night in Dallas. Unfortunately for him rookie Dom Dwyer was also there to. Check out the clip above and you'll see what I mean.
TUCSON, Ariz. – Lionel Messi. Arjen Robben. Sebastian Velasquez?
Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman made that lofty comparison of the Colombian-born, South Carolina-raised rookie attacker who has been impressing in preseason camp.
It’s that left-footed unpredictability that has Beckerman – and all of RSL – excited.
“He’s got that lefty whatever it is,” Beckerman said on Wednesday night. “I can’t pinpoint it but Messi has it, Arjen Robben. These lefties. Fabián [Espíndola] has it. They’re able to skin players.”
Not bad company for a guy who played junior college ball. But then again, not even Messi or Robben scored 55 goals over 33 games, like Velasquez did at tiny Spartanburg Methodist College.
What do you think? Is Velasquez the real deal?
Benny Feilhaber is a talented man capable of many things. Unfortunately using his left foot is not one of them.
Rookie Kelyn Rowe, on the other hand, uses his left foot better than many of us use our right hand. Watch the kid try to teach the veteran something new and grab a laugh along the way.
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.
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.
You asked for it via Twitter and Facebook so here it is on MLSsoccer.com: full-length video of last night's State of the League fan forum with Commissioner Don Garber, Crew Owner Clark Hunt and Crew President & GM Mark McCullers. Press play on the video above to view Part 1, visit TheCrew.com to watch Part 2.
For a long time, the San Jose Earthquakes were the only MLS club going with a name that dated back to the original NASL. They weren't the first to fully embrace their NASL heritage though (hat tip to the Sounders for inventing that).
But the club is making up for lost time with this year's season-ticket packages, which featuring several nods back to the disco-era Quakes of the past. Among the connections they're making to the earliest incarnation of the Earthquakes are:
- Throwback NASL jerseys to season ticket holders who paid in full by the final home game of 2011
- "EST. 1974" has been added below the collar on the back of the 2012 jersey
- Ticket books include photos, like the one above, from different generations of soccer in San Jose
This is in addition to last year's dedication of the George Best Gate at Buck Shaw Stadium, which will have a monitor playing a loop of Best scoring "The Greatest Goal Ever" for 2012.
It's all good stuff but I'm partial to the old school photos on the tickets. Is there anything more retro-cool than having George Best and Johnny Moore in your hands on game day?
Well played, @WhitecapsFC. Very well played.
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.
There aren't many jobs in MLS, or for that matter in the professional soccer world in the United States and Canada. So, if you want one, you might as well give yourself the best chance possible by getting the training you need.
For salespeople, that means heading up to Blaine, Minnesota, to the MLS National Sales Center. Founded in 2011 to train salespeople specifically to succeed in the soccer industry, the NSC is like a front-office equivalent to the development academies each MLS club has established.
"We give a 'selling foundation' to aspiring salespeople that will effectively prepare them to sell for MLS clubs," says NSC founder Bryant Pfeiffer. "This is a big contributor to our desire to sell out every MLS stadium."
The NSC is currently looking for applicants for its next session, which begins in March. Trainees accepted into the program, which lasts up to four months, receive a stipend to help offset the coasts of room and board in Minnesota. There are also opportunities to earn commission while attending the program.
But it is the training and the door-opening opportunity that is most valuable. In addition to the real-life sales experience of selling for MLS clubs, trainees benefit from instructional feedback from audio and video analysis and innovative coaching from local improv theatre instructors. After each month, those who qualify are given the opportunity to apply their training through the selling of season, group and mini-plan ticket packages and are offered a job interview with participating MLS clubs.
Already, 60 NSC graduates have gone on to get jobs at MLS clubs.
"Our belief is that the graduates of the program can not only make a fast impact in growing the game," Pfeiffer says, "but also become dominant salespeople at the same time."
For more information or to apply go to www.mlsnationalsalescenter.com.