As we slowly build up to Major League Soccer's 18th season – a scary thought, especially since MLS Cup still feels like such a recent event, for me at least – it's worth taking a look back at how it all started. Rest assured, the goings-on weren't always quite so polished.
Take, for example, the first signing in league history. US Soccer is counting down its top 100 moments as part of the federation's centennial celebration and included an interesting anecdote from president Sunil Gulati about what it took to bring national team star Tab Ramos to MLS. The league and US Soccer wanted Ramos – an national team player with Hispanic heritage and attacking flare – to help give the league an initial foothold with fans as well as other Americans playing abroad.
He certainly helped with both those aims, but when he committed his future to MLS, there wasn't even contract to put pen to paper on. I'll let Gulati explain.
“He was going to sign with Tigres, and what we decided at the very last moment was why not have a handshake to sign with MLS, and we would loan him to Tigres,” Gulati told USsoccer.com. “The league wasn't far enough along to have a contract or a standard player agreement or any of that, so it was just a handshake.”
Just a handshake. Imagine suggesting that to the current crop of agents stocking teams these days. You'd get laughed out of the room.
But after a year-and-a-half with Tigres UANL, Ramos kept his end of the bargain, ending up with his hometown MetroStars for the next seven seasons. It wasn't always smooth sailing – cue Red Bulls fans simultaneously nodding their heads and silently weeping – but Ramos became a pioneer in a league that he helped put on the map.
To think, all it took was a handshake and the belief that professional soccer in the US was worth the commitment.
“I was excited to come home and start a new experience,” Ramos said. “It was coming home and there was the draw of playing at Giants Stadium, where I had watched the Cosmos play and where I practiced with the Cosmos 10 years before. All those things were really important to me. Obviously, having my family here as well.
“And it was fun. It was fun drawing the big crowds the first couple of years. It was fun driving to the stadium, just to be part of the whole thing. It really truly felt like we had a professional league at home and it was going to stick.”
You may have seen this video already. If so, go ahead and watch it again. It really is that incredible.
Most people won't ever pull off something this perfect on a soccer field in their lifetime. Then again, most people aren't this cameraman, who somehow backheeled a long clearance out of bounds directly to the player tasked with taking the ensuing throw in. Oh yeah, he also did it on the fly and without taking his hands off the camera. Talk about foot-eye coordination.
Ho hum! Back to work.
More than 1,700 miles separate Houston and Newton, Conn., but the Dynamo aren't concerned with distance as they do their part to support a grieving community in the wake of unimaginable tragedy.
On Friday, Houston announced they were partnering with the Quinnipiac University soccer program and the Connecticut Football Club to host "Soccer Night in Newtown" on Monday, January 7. Dynamo president and Guilford, Conn., native Chris Canetti is leading the charge, using his connections in his new home to provide a much-needed distraction for those affected by the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"Soccer is a big part of the Newtown community, and we thought it would be a great idea to give the kids a chance to have some fun playing a game they love alongside some of America's top professional players and some of the area's top collegiate players," Canetti said in a statement. "I hope this event can be a diversion from some of the harsh realities facing their world and provide an opportunity to create positive lifelong memories."
Forward Brian Ching, midfielders Ricardo Clark and Brad Davis, defender Corey Ashe and goalkeeper Tally Hall will all make the trip to Newton to sign autographs and participate in soccer-themed activities at the free event. Houston also opened an auction to benefit the United Way's Sandy Hook School Support Fund, and prizes includes a trip for two to see the Dynamo play a 2013 home game at BBVA Compass Stadium in downtown Houston.
There isn't much to say other than 'Well done, Dynamo." At times like these, we're all in it together, and Houston's attitude toward tragedy is a lesson to us all.
The San Diego Sockers indoor soccer team made US sporting history recently by winning 43 consecutive games. Sounds pretty incredible, huh? Not everyone is impressed, though.
You may remember Peter Wilt, the first president and general manager of the Chicago Fire and a veteran of the indoor soccer world. Needless to say, Wilt doesn't seem particularly enamored with the Sockers' record, one he views as built on the back of subpar competition.
@FOXSoccer & the Globetrotters have won how many in a row? If SD Sockers would dare to play a real team in a real league, streak would end.
— Andrew Wiebe (@AndrewWiebe_MLS) December 22, 2012
San Diego plays in the Premier Arena Soccer League (PASL), a competitor to the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), which plays underneath the USL banner. Perhaps someone can enlighten me when it comes to the differences in the comments section below.
I'm actually pretty familiar with the indoor game – my grandmother and aunt had season tickets to Wichita Wings games back in the day, and I actually took in a match between the recently revived Wings and the Kansas City Comets on Friday night – but I'm certainly no expert these days.
So could this record be bogus, a mark fueled by a sizable talent gap? Sure, but it's still impressive nonetheless. Even the best teams struggle to string together five wins in a row, let alone 43.
MLS "haters" be forewarned: The latest edition of Jimmy Conrad's American Soccer Spectacular pulls no punches.
And if you love great goals, well, there's that too.
Pour le dernier Coup Franc de 2012 (à écouter ici), nous vous avons préparé une émission spéciale de fin d’année (ou fin du monde, c’est selon). Plusieurs intervenants récurrents sont au rendez-vous : Frédéric Lord, Matthias Van Halst, Olivier Tremblay, Olivier Brett, Patrick Leduc et Patrice Bernier. Au programme :
- Quel avenir pour l’Impact de Montréal ? L’effectif actuel est-il suffisamment armé pour mieux se classer en 2013 ? Sinon, quels renforts recruter et à quels postes effectuer des changements ? Y a-t-il assez de joueurs de premier plan dans le noyau ? Quelle place pour les jeunes du club dans le groupe en 2013 ?
- On discute du futur entraîneur de Montréal. Martin Andermatt est-il un candidat sérieux ? Qu’ont à gagner des entraîneurs ayant son profil en venant en MLS ?
- Petit détour outre-Atlantique pour parler du club de l’année : le FC Barcelone. Faut-il l’imiter, et comment ? Est-ce possible avec moins d’argent ? Que vaut vraiment son école de jeunes ? Un entrejeu surpeuplé sans attaquant de pointe : une nouvelle norme ? Qu’est-ce qui est le plus impressionnant dans son jeu ? Combien de temps son hégémonie va-t-elle se poursuivre ?
- Nouvel opus du club de lecture. Olivier Tremblay a épluché « Nobody Ever Says Thank You », une biographie du très coloré Brian Clough signée Jonathan Wilson… et plus précise que l’autobiographie du principal intéressé.
Deadspin beat us to this one, and for that, we salute you guys. With cheesesteaks.
Honestly, there's not a lot to say about this footage of the 1924 US Open Cup final between the Fall River Marksmen and Vesper Buick besides "wow." And, "I wish there was enough footage of the old ASL for Ken Burns to do one of those eight-hour documentaries that I love so much."
Oh, and, "Who says that America has no soccer history or culture?" As wotnograpefruit, a commenter on the video's YouTube page, points out: This video, which shows that the Vesper Buick players had numbers on their jerseys, predates the previously reported beginning of numbered jerseys, 1928 with English side Arsenal.
So I guess there's actually a bunch to say about this. I love the US Open Cup. And I love that this video still exists.
You bet your sweet bippy.
Here it is on r/MLS, the 2012, end-of-season awards. And I am awesome.
Does this kind of dominance come naturally, you may wonder?
It would be immodest to say "yes." It would also be wrong. As Malcolm Gladwell so eloquently (read: dubiously) explained in his pop-psychology best-seller Outliers, there may very well be a thing called "The 10,000 Hour Rule." And that if any talentless hack does one specific task for 10,000 hours or more, he'll probably get pretty good at it.
I guarantee you I've wasted 10,000 hours on the internet. Hell, I've probably done 20,000 hours. I remember 'TheSpark' before it became 'SparkNotes.' I spent hours on SoccerAmerica:Graffiti. I ran a linkshell in FFXI, for God's sake.
To blatantly rip off Stephen Colbert: I am like an athlete who has trained his entire life for a race he never knew was coming. And that race is "internet."
Thank you for your votes.
I'm Matt Doyle, and I approve this message.
Omar Gonzalez clearly isn't a shy guy. And that's not some baseless assumption.
David Beckham already alluded to MLS Cup MVP Gonzalez's in-the-buff celebrations on Saturday after the Galaxy won their second straight championship at the Home Depot Center, but a tweet from Omar himself sealed the deal on Tuesday, one of those classic social media moments that spreads like wildfire.
The tweet was simple ("Caption this," which you should definitely do in the comment section below), but perhaps the best thing about the photo are the faces of his teammates and LA's staff. My top three: Michael Stephens (a combination of shock and delight), Edson Buddle (pure disgust) and Juninho (a mixture of the two). Landon Donovan and Beckham round out the top five.
Let us know what you think below. Hilarious? Over the top?
En cette semaine de Coupe MLS, nous aurons deux émissions Coup Franc. Celle de ce mardi (à écouter ici) est une mise en bouche avant le match de samedi qui sera évidemment au centre des discussions de notre émission spéciale plus tard cette semaine. Au menu aujourd’hui :
- André Hainault nous parle du parcours de Houston en phase finale, de l’état d’esprit de son équipe à l’approche du match de samedi, des différences avec la finale de la saison dernière, de son passage sur le banc, de l’apport d’Oscar Boniek Garcia et de l’influence du départ de Beckham sur la rencontre.
- Testez avec nous vos connaissances sur la Coupe MLS grâce à l’excellent quiz préparé par Frédéric Lord.
- Autre invité : le préparateur physique de l’équipe de France, Philippe Lambert, nous parle de méthodes scientifiques, de détection des talents, de valeurs éducatives et de l’évolution de sa profession.
- Nouvel opus du « Club de lecture » d’Olivier Tremblay, qui nous a concocté une surprise avec un livre dont le sujet a provoqué plusieurs divorces.
- On revient aussi sur la rumeur voulant qu’Enzo Concina soit courtisé pour devenir le prochain entraîneur de Montréal.