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MLS Insider

27 August 1:26 de la tarde

This might come as a shock, but we don't make it down to the NASDAQ MarketSite building in Times Square too often. Still, MLS was in the house today, along with some pretty impressive company.

The occasion? Check out the tweet below, as well as this brand new video spot produced by the Department of Homeland Security:

Together with Department Secretary Janet Napolitano, NBA Commissioner David Stern, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Congresswoman Yvette Clark, Commissioner Don Garber helped to announce the day's big news.  

MLS, along with all the other major leagues, will be actively working with the DHS to expand the Department's "See Something, Say Something" campaign into professional sports venues nationwide. Very cool. 

Garber's message to the DHS and the crowd of TV cameras/media on hand: MLS is behind this initiative to keep fans safe in our stadiums, 100%.

Following the announcement the crowd stepped outside for a brief photo op situated just underneath the following display, smack in the middle of Times Square:

It's a good reminder for everyone. If you're out at a match and you see something sketchy, be sure to speak up. It can't do any harm.

24 August 2:33 de la tarde

What's the old saying? White skinny jeans make everything a lot more fun? Something like that, right? But what about white skinny jeans, an open bar, a dance floor and 700 good-looking people packed into a warehouse in the name of charity? 

Yeah, the second annual Chicago Fire Foundation White Party was legit. We took a little field trip out there yesterday, and came back with a few stories. 

Paladini's pad: When you're in a city for 18 hours, there's no time to mess about. Not long after arrival we were on the top floor of Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini's swanky Lincoln Park apartment building. I asked Daniel about how he thought the night might go. His response?

"It'll be good." And it was. 

Quote of the night: "Logan Pause is one of the coolest and best guys on the planet. He eats like a rabbit." - Arne Friedrich. Not really much to elaborate on other than that I can now confirm that Logan Pause is a great pro and this sound bite from Friedrich is really funny to say on your own in your best German accent. 

Up close with Frank Klopas: Yeah, you know the gaffer was in the building. Being the boss of the club and all, Mr. Klopas had plenty of people to talk to, but I was able to grab a few minutes to get the lowdown on one of Frank's in-game rituals. Did you know worry beads were a thing? Pardon me, because I didn't.

It's true, though, Klopas was given a set of beads by a close family member some time ago, which he keeps in his pocket during the run of play. The wooden set of beads remain largely ignored for most of the match, as only during the last five minutes will Frank call upon the good vibes of the beads, taking them in his hand until the final whistle. 

To my knowledge, Klopas did not bring them to the party. The only real letdown of the evening. 

Marco Pappa is class: If you needed a reminder about how quickly things can turn ugly between club and player during the transfer window, this has been your week. So it was refreshing to speak with Marco Pappa, a guy who has been downright stellar at times in his tenure with Chicago, and hear just how much he loves this club.

Pappa is on his way to Heerenveen when the season is over, but you can be sure he'll be holding a special place in his heart for Toyota Park. 

Good night, good cause: The real reason we were here: Not only did all the beautiful people in attendance have a night to remember, but the Fire were able to raise $40,000 to benefit the Chicago Fire Foundation.

It's not always about the linen capris. 

19 August 8:40 de la tarde

Always kind of worry about the Sunday afternoon game. A Saturday's worth of matches usually supplies its fair share of drama on any given weekend, so depending on who's facing who on Sunday, the MLS weekend can sometimes fizzle out. It's happened before, you know it.

Not today, not for D.C. United and Philadelphia Union.

We made it out to RFK Stadium to find the I-95 Rivalry alive and well in the nation's capital. Below you'll find some of the best images from a crazy, crazy day at RFK.

Shortly after arrival we were waiting in the parking lot when a few D.C. United and RFK staffers came hustling out from under the stadium. Dwayne De Rosario had arrived, along with the NBC Sports Network camera crew filming his edition of MLS 36. Little did anyone know the kind of footage they were about to capture. Oh, and how about this license plate?

The storyline heading into this match was focused on young Danny Cruz. Lovable, bursting with honesty and energy, Cruz had endeared himself to the DCU faithful before being moved to Philadelphia in the week for Lionard Pajoy. After getting off the bus, Cruz walked the pitch at RFK all on his own, taking in the vibe from a place that was no longer home. The emergence of United defender Daniel Woolard caught Cruz's eye, as the two shared a few laughs together before Cruz disappeared into the visitor's tunnel before warmups.

It wouldn't be an I-95 clash without a big group of travelling support, and the Sons of Ben made themselves heard. We caught some video of the chant below, but sadly the footage isn't exactly...umm...deliverable. This should suffice:

The last time we saw Carlos Valdés in the flesh he was representing MLS against Chelsea. Today he did his club proud, turning in another boss performance at the back once he got his captain's armband sorted before walking out for the anthems.

Back to DeRo. Not only is he on 98 career goals, not only was he being filmed for MLS 36, it was also his bobblehead game. We managed to find one near midfield during the second half, after we caught a pretty cool moment between DDR and Olsen before the second half began.

The Sons of Ben were doing their thing in section 317 all game, but one of the iconic images you'll find from attending any United match are the bouncing stands along the sideline. This photo came from when D.C. found themselves trailing. Can't you tell?

Of course we all know what happened at the end of the match, and I'll leave the analysis about what should or should have went down to all of you. But as the seconds melted off the clock, we caught a glimpse of a substituted De Rosario, leaning on the field boards watching the madness unfold just like everyone else at RFK, and the nationwide audience at home. Needless to say, don't miss his MLS 36 episode, because you know it'll be crazy.

John Hackworth said postgame in his press conference that it was a good point for the Union. Olsen's tone was decidedly different. A young coach quite rightly upset, but you feel that Olsen's demeanor rubs off easily on his charges. If I were Frank Klopas, I'd be a lot more worried about going in there on Wednesday.

26 July 12:57 de la mañana

Had a chance for a quick chat yesterday with a member of the League's special events staff, the group that does all the planning and preparations for the AT&T MLS All-Star Game. As you might imagine, the game itself requires months upon months of planning, mapping out every possible off-field detail. 

The problem with this of course is that sometimes you run into a situation where what goes down (Like, a 4-1 loss to Manchester United) on the field easily overshadows anything that happened off of it in the build up. The last two editions of this match haven't ended all that well for MLS. 

No such issues in 2012. What a night that was.

Over 19,000 packed PPL Park on Wednesday, creating an atmosphere that went from festive to electric once it became clear that a certain Englishman would be present in the starting lineup. We're not talking about John Terry. Beckham squared off against Di Matteo many-a-time when RDM played for Chelsea. 

1-1 and all to play for as we approached halftime, we caught the ESPN broadcast transfixed on the action transpiring underneath them. Max, Alexi and Kasey know a good game when they see one.

With most of the crowd and surely the lion's share of viewers watching at home preparing themselves for a round penalties, the crew of second half substitutes had other ideas. Zusi, Beckerman, Pontius, Beckerman, Johnson. Goodnight.

As captain of the squad, De Rosario may have been the one to lift the trophy for the All-Stars in front of all the TV cameras, but the night's prized piece of hardware eventually made its way into the hands of the man whose strike delivered it.

Everyone has their own opinion on Eddie Johnson's career path, but there's no arguing he's in as good of a spot now as he's ever been. Here's to continued success.

PPL Park is empty now. Chelsea have departed from their hotel, already on the way to Miami. Tomorrow the players will return to their clubs to prepare for another round of matches this weekend.

The show goes on, but it sure was fun in Philadelphia.

24 July 4:54 de la tarde

It's the evening before the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game, and the meetings, trainings, press conferences and pre-parties are in full force here in Philadelphia. Here are just a few of the highlights, courtesy of @MLS_Insider

Tuesday began like most days for the guys, with a little morning kickaround. The setting? PPL Park, which looked plenty spiffy ahead of its big night on ESPN2. 

As announced by MLS and the Union early this morning, there was a new face out and about for the All-Stars. Welcome to the show, Mr. Michael Farfan. Same stadium, just a few new teammates and some minor opposition to deal with tomorrow night.

Training concluded with some finishing, which left goalkeeper Dan Kennedy in a pretty tough spot as Jimmy Nielsen iced down off to the side. Kennedy's thoughts after being peppered for 15 straight minutes? This is the toughest session I've had all year.

From PPL, the travelling media contingent (along with Olsen, Donovan, DeRo and Henry) cruised to the Independence Visitors Center for the official pre-match press conference in conjunction with Chelsea.

Two different vibes. Di Matteo, Lampard and Mikel spoke sternly, while the mood lightened considerably once the MLS crew entered the room. Everyone was all smiles for the photo opp next to the Giant Ball, except for Landon Donovan, who looked more like he was ready to enter tomorrow's match than pose for pictures.

The players aren't the only ones busting their humps this week. The media are putting in ridiculous hours giving this match the attention it deserves. It's a massive occasion, and massive occasions typically call for podcasts featuring Alexi Lalas.

With the prematch pleasantries out of the way and the hype of tomorrow's match in full effect, it's time for everyone in attendance this week to unwind a little as the red carpet gets rolled out at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Walking around the hotel this evening, we caught a glimpse of the belle of the ball....

Jimmy's ready, and so are we. Should be a fun night out in Philly.

24 July 9:47 de la mañana

The champs are here.

While the bulk of the MLS All-Star squad arrived in Philly on Sunday, Monday was the day for Chelsea Football Club to begin preparations for Wednesday's match. We spent some time with the reigning Champions League winners, fun pictures below.

If Florent Malouda wasn't going to get enough attention stepping into the lobby, his socks certainly made sure he drew a crowd. Probably didn't matter either way, as there were plenty of waiting fans who were surely tipped off on where Florent and his teammates were posted up.

Following an afternoon of R&R, the time had come for Chelsea to finally get down to business in Philadelphia. The All-Stars trained Monday morning at NovaCare in serious heat and humidity, but Roberto Di Matteo's troops were afforded what was surely some much-appreciated relief from the sun for their evening training.

Cloud cover and a light drizzle persisted throughout, prompting a fair few jokes about London/Seattle from players and staff alike. Still, despite the rain, sporting director Michael Emenalo was kind enough to take a large chunk of time speaking both about Chelsea as well as his time in MLS.

Fun fact: Emenalo was on the field when this happened, all the way back in the beginning.

22 July 10:15 de la tarde

Things just got real.

That was the vibe today in Center City Philadelphia as the trickle of League staff, sponsor guests and media descending into the area turned into more of a river. 

There were a few players showing up, too. While their midweek adversaries Chelsea kicked off at Yankee Stadium against PSG, the first group of MLS All-Stars began checking in at the team hotel, highlighted by one of the brightest of them all. 

While Henry may have been first, his boss for the week wasn't far behind. Bursting through the lobby doors was Ben Olsen who, despite having just returned to his old stomping grounds, was really only interested in one thing: Watching Wednesday's opponent. 

Other All-Stars to check-in included the D.C. duo of DeRo and Pontius, Sporting KC's Graham Zusi, Aurelien Collin and Jimmy Nielsen and Dan Kennedy of Chivas USA. Sounders forward Eddie Johnson also flew into town, and we got were lucky enough to kick it with Eddie so he could answer a few fan questions on the MLS Facebook page. 

EJ responded to as many questions as he could within the 30-minute timeframe, but also shared some good nuggets that didn't make it in the chat. One example? At halftime of the Red Bulls-Sounders match last weekend, Johnson asked Henry if they might trade jerseys after the final whistle. Henry, after all, was Johnson's idol growing up. 

Titi's response?

Only if you stop running so damn much. 

20 July 6:59 de la tarde

Off the train, into a cab, around a corner onto Fairmount Ave. and there it was.

Sitting prominently on the famous steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, kids and their families sprinted eagerly to pose next to it while museum go-ers stopped and pointed. 

This was not the Rocky statue. Instead, a massive replica of the official adidas PRIME matchball of Major League Soccer. This was the #GiantBall.

Like any game, the ball was the star today, the thing that everyone (including a horde of media) had their eye on. That is, until Commissioner Garber and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter stepped up to the podium to signal the start of five straight days of festivities here in Philly.

Despite the spotty weather conditions (Read: It was freezing), Philadelphia Union faithful were out in force to hear Mayor Nutter show a little love for the lone Union representative in this year's game (Carlos Valdes) and welcome the rest of the League to the city he oversees.

Following the announcement, a massive group of children lined up side-by-side next to the Giant Ball to kick more appropriately-sized adidas Prime replicas down the steps. Once the last had been launched, the Sharpies came out for a signing session of a different variety.

The kids on hand weren't given any autographs on this day. Instead, they were permitted to make their mark on the ball that will make its way all over the city until Wednesday. The Commissioner got in on the action, as well:

Immediately after the event, the Giant Ball was already on the way, stopping next at Tir Na Nog on Arch Street where Jeff Agoos and Nelson Rodriguez gave an in-depth presentation on the nuts and bolts of MLS to local supporters. No gloss, no sugar-coating which made the dialogue that much more valuable for everyone taking part. 

Smiles all around, it's going to be a good week.

19 July 7:03 de la tarde

Heart rate, speed, distance, position, acceleration, work rate and power output. 

Those seven metrics were outlined by VP of adidas interactive Paul Gaudio as the key outputs in adidas' new micoach Elite System, which will make its debut during the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game and eventually roll out to all clubs in the 2013 season to make Major League Soccer the first 'smart soccer league' the world has ever seen. 

Time to get excited. 

In today's hour-long unveiling to over 100 media members in the ultra-swanky Sky Room of the New Museum in Manhattan, a core four panel of Commissioner Garber, adidas group CEO Herbert Hainer, MLS EVP of competition and game operations Nelson Rodriguez and Gaudio walked everyone through the system that will change the way the game is analyzed from a competitive standpoint.

And perhaps one day, from the fan's perspective, too. That's the road down which we are travelling, at least. 

On Wednesday, Rodriguez pointed out, the MLS All-Stars and their coaches will be able to figure out who's flying and who's suffering, no one else will have access to such valuable information.

In the future, though, the technology could make it's way into your living room, aiding in the way you access the game. Rodriguez used the example of being able to deliver data as specific as the heart rates between a goalkeeper and a penalty taker, in real time. 

That'd be pretty cool, wouldn't it?

16 July 4:22 de la tarde

Before things got hectic on the MLS docket Saturday night, the Insider had a chance to cruise out to Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the 2012 edition of MLS ¡Futbolito!, the official 4v4 tournament of Major League Soccer held annually in cities all over the country.

The idea around the event? In short, bring a bunch of soccer people together, pace out some fields, put down small goals, roll out the balls and stir until ready. 164 squads ended up making their way out to Queens on Saturday, boys and girls ranging in age from U-8s to grown-ups, and everyone enjoyed themselves just the same. 

Here are a few of our observations while we were out there: 

1. Bring your kit or stay home. It seemed like every team--regardless of age or division--was outfitted in some sort of matching kit. If you didn't know better you might have thought it was a mini-FIFA Club World Cup. Boca Juniors, Sao Paulo, Marseille, Real Madrid, New York Red Bulls, D.C. United. Added a lot to the vibe. 

2. Young girls in Messi shirts are cute. A team of girls sporting t-shirts that either had 'Messi', 'Ronaldo' or 'Neymar' on the back provided the cutest image of the afternoon, and perhaps ever. They were accompanied by a junior version of the Paraguayan national team, kitted out head-to-toe. Watching the Paraguayans practice set pieces under the guidance of their manager/older sister was pure entertainment, for sure. 

 

3. People like to watch. For the adult premier division matches, pretty much every field was lined with friends and family providing "atmosphere" to the proceedings. By atmosphere, we mean cheering, oohing, aahing, and giving the refs a piece of their minds -- sometimes very big pieces of their minds. Made sense since there was a pretty hefty cash prize on the line for the winners, which was eventually the NY Golden Eagles who managed to score 45 goals in seven matches on their way to the title. 

4. A stadium might look very good out here. This year's event was held on Field 9 of the park, which sits just across the Van Wyck Expressway from the potential stadium site for a second New York City MLS club. A lot needs to happen before that, of course, but it was fun to think about all the players, their families, and their friends coming here for an entirely different soccer experience someday.