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.
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.
Not content with the robust stable of forwards already under their employ, the Vancouver Whitecaps announced today the signing of Maltese striker Etienne Barbara. Having registered a 20-goal season last year under Rennie while with the Carolina Railhawks, his nose for goal will be no shock to his former and current coach.
What exactly does Rennie think of his 7th (yes 7th) striker? Check out the clip above to hear what he has to say about him following today's practice in Orlando.
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.
The Whitecaps are one of the six MLS clubs currently holed up at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. With Sebastien Le Toux, Eric Hassli, rookie sensation Darren Mattocks and Long Tan among their ranks they posess one of the most blessed attacks in the league.
One of the talking points during today's post-practice media scrum was the 'Caps wealth of attacking options. Does new coach Martin Rennie realize what he has on his hands? Let's just say he's happy with what he's got.
This week the Insider will be coming to you from the happiest place on earth. I'm in Orlando to take in a week's worth of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic in hopes of getting a good handle on who'll be contenders and who'll be pretenders in 2012. I'm also here to spend some time around the players in a somewhat relaxed setting in hopes of seeing --and sharing-- their true personalitites.
First stop: the FC Dallas hotel, home of one of the league's worst Halo addictions.
How bad is it? So bad that the players pooled their money and bought to TV's when the hotel wouldn't let them hook their XBOX's up to their TV's. I'll let goalkeeper Chris Seitz tell you the rest.
Oh and the guy with the mohawk? His name is Andrew Jacobson.
Expect to see more of this as we inch ever closer to the March 11th debut of MLS on NBC Sports. Arlo White, the former voice of the Sounders and the future voice of MLS on the peacock network, joined host Russ Thaler on NBC Sports Talk tonight to discuss some of the big storylines around the league heading into the 2012 season.
And you know what? He looked damn good doing it. Here's to more soccer talk on Sports Talk.
Did you hear about the email that Celtic sent out to its fans today? In a nutshell they are encouraging their fans in the Seattle area to turn out to the Sounders' upcoming CONCACAF Champions League match and root against the home team and for Santos Laguna, their sister club. Sounds crazy, I know, but just to prove I'm not lying here's an excerpt from the email:
"Celtic's partner club, Santos Laguna, will face MLS outfit Seattle Sounders in the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals at the start of March.
And Celtic fans in the area are being urged to come out and support the Mexican side, who now also include former Bhoy, Marc Crosas, among their ranks, as they aim to advance to the last four of the competition.
The Seattle district, of course, is home to a sizable Celtic support which was in evidence when the Hoops took on the Sounders in recent pre-season tours of North America.
While it may not be the Hoops from Glasgow in action, the club is asking supporters to turn-up and give the Los Guerreros some green and white backing from the stands."
Now there may be MLS cities where this tactic might work to bring out a few more bodies for the opposition but, let's be honest here, Seattle probably isn't one of them. Asking Seattlites to come out and root against the Sounders is akin to...hell, I don't know. I'm not sure there is a scenario out there that is preposterous enough for me to draw comparison with it.
Seriously, what are Celtic playing at here? After all, this is club that has played in Jet City four times, including three matches in the last 9 years, so it's not like Seattle is a market for which they hold no ambition. If they've made any new friends among the Sounders' sizable fanbase in the last few years they may have just broken up with them with this move. Are the Bhoys burning a bridge in the Emerald City? Or are they fanning the flames of rivalry for their next visit?
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?