Have you entered "NASL" into Google lately? No? Do it now and there is a good chance you'll be surprised by the fact that there is a third league that goes by that name.
Most American soccer fans are familiar with the old NASL which ran from the 1960's to the early '80s and the second division league that currently operates under that name. But there is also something called the North American Starcraft League which, according to its website, "was established to foster the prominence of esports and professional Starcraft 2 play in North America through highly visible organized and invigorating competition".
Finally, a league to out-obscure the American second division. Thank you Starcraft fans.
Oguchi Onyewu just can't seem to catch a break.
The big central defender tore ligaments and the meniscus in his right knee in Sporting CP's win over Paços de Ferreira on the weekend. Sporting's official site says he needs surgery and will be out for at least two months.
Obviously, this rules him out for next week's showdown with Italy. But it also begs the question: How much can US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann rely on Gooch at this point in his career?
Onyewu's athleticism never really recovered after his horrible injury against Costa Rica two-and-a-half years ago, and rebuilding his other knee — at age 30 — suggests the road ahead will be bumpy. Expecting him to ever regain his 2007 to '09 form, when he was the best defender in Belgium and deservedly attracted the attention of clubs like AC Milan, seems like a fool's errand.
It was already imperative that guys like Geoff Cameron, Tim Ream and George John step up and claim roles with the national team by the end of the calendar year. The latest injury to Onyewu just crystalizes that need.
Speaking from past experience, there are few adventures in sports that trump away days. When I think about all of the hours in my pre-professional blogging life spent on my feet with a song coming out of my mouth the best memories often center around stadiums that were not my club's home ground.
These golden moments don't just happen though as they require an incredible amount of coordination between the clubs, the supporters and (hopefully) a good travel agent. And, for the most part, they aren't the quick, 1-hour jaunts associated with some European leagues.
In a league that connects two coasts and spans two large countries the distance a supporter can travel for a match is more often than not extreme by world football standards. This excerpt from a recent article in The Guardian highlights this fact best:
"The average journey for North American fans is still one of the longest you would undertake in most other leagues; the bigger journeys are more expeditions than road trips; Portland Timbers fans going to New York is the same as going from London to Baghdad. LA Galaxy at Boston is longer than Tokyo to Manila.
The journey those Fire fans made to Toronto clocked in at 1,000 miles round trip, and that's their second closest game; in England, no-one can travel that far at all, and it's pushing the longest trip most European fans would have to make. Only fans in Russia can hold a candle in terms of the distances traveled to see a team play, and even there, the average distances tend to be exaggerated by a small number of teams in Siberia and the far-east."
Seriously, there are fans out there who are logging more air miles than Chelsey Sullenberger these days and I salute them for it. Special acknowledgment to those who travel to and from Canada to be with your team; anyone willing to brave both the TSA and customs for only a 33.3% chance at witnessing a win is alright in my book.
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.
When you're Thierry Henry, you can do stuff. Stuff like score 300+ professional goals, stuff like win a World Cup, and stuff like build a mansion with a four-storey fish tank.
Just like Troy McClure.
Plenty of folks were disappointed that the little Swiss playmaker spent his maiden MLS voyage tethered mostly to the wings. As part of the Martin Rennie overhaul in Vancouver, though, it looks like Chiumiento will be moved to the center of the park - his natural spot, and the place he's wanted to play since day one.
Go to 1:16 of the following video and you'll see why that's a good idea:
Yes, it was against a college team. Yes, it's just preseason, and no, most MLS defenders wouldn't fall for those shenanigans.
But Chiumiento's got more than that in his bag, and the 'Caps are going to improve this year (I figure they'll compete for the final Western Conference playoff spot). If they go from 6-18-10 in 2011 to the postseason in 2012, somebody's gonna get the credit.
If history holds, that somebody will be Chiumiento. Six of the last nine MLS MVPs have been attacking midfielders, and many of them - David Ferreira, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Christian Gomez - are strongly associated with "turnaround" seasons.
Sebastian Velasquez didn't take a typical route to MLS. It doesn't appear that it will matter in the end.
Velasquez tweeted on Monday that he had been offered a contract with Real Salt Lake after being taken 36th overall in January's SuperDraft.
Needless to say, he was a little excited.
I Feel So Blessed!! RSL Offered Me A Contract!! Should I Sign It?? JaJaJaJaJa DUHHHHHHH :)))))))))))
— Sebastian Velasquez (@TiaN_Futbol) February 20, 2012
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.”
A little more than a year after taking the seventh-seeded Colorado Rapids to an unlikely MLS Cup victory, Gary Smith is working knockout wonders again on the other side of the Atlantic.
Smith and his new side, League One club Stevenage Borough, held Premiership visitors Tottenham to a scoreless draw on Sunday in FA Cup action, setting up a winner-take-all replay at White Hart Lane. Tim Ream and Bolton await the winner of that game. One in which Smith and Stevenage, emboldened by what was a very competent performance against Spurs, hope to push what could be a distracted Tottenham side to the limit.
“It’s quite incredible and we’ve got every chance,” Smith told ITV following the match. “They’ve got Arsenal and Manchester United soon and we might be sandwiched between them and we’ll go there with belief."
If they do manage to pull off a shock result and write their names into FA Cap lore, it will be because they managed to slow down the likes of Gareth Bale, Louie Saha and Jermain Defoe, something Smith was keenly aware of following the match.
"I thought today we prevented a tremendous Tottenham side from creating more than they are probably capable of," he told Sky Sports. "There was just a bundle of energy about the team.I thought that when that intensity dropped towards the end of both halves, the players' ideas and organisational skills to keep some very talented individuals at bay was fantastic."
Of course, Stevenage and their recently hired manager – Smith joined the cause on January 25 in a move club chairman Phil Wallace called a "different approach" – will have a much harder time containing Spurs in London, but it's still nice to see a former MLS headman giving an EPL title contender at least a temporary headache.
Added note from Yanks Abroad's Brian Sciaretta:
@jonahfreedman great story. It's also worth mentioning an American played for Stevenage in the game vs Spurs. (NYC-born Don Cowan)
— Brian Sciaretta (@briansciaretta) February 19, 2012