First XI: All I want for Christmas ...
All I want for Christmas, in reality, is a new stadium for the MetroStars. Honestly, if there were a resolution to this situation, I'd never ask for anything ever again for the team that plays in my home state. But, since I've been away for a while, and since the name of this column includes the number 11, here's a full Christmas wish list:
11. An MLS team for Montreal. Why not? I remember the Montreal Impact, coached by my buddy Eddie Firmani. Our old friend Frank Yallop would surely love to have a place for his national team players to compete week in and week out. Go ahead and get radical here, MLS, expand to two Canadian cities and make Canadian players count, league-wide, as domestic players. I do not see how this can possibly hurt. Now that Montreal no longer has a baseball team to watch in summer (or a hockey team to watch in winter for that matter), let's bring MLS to one of North America's best cities.
10. More early cards. Who besides me is tired of all the tactical fouls in MLS games? A solution to this problem is to have referees handing out more early yellow cards to players who deliberately ruin the flow of games with tactical fouls, like shirt grabbing. When you let a bunch of these infractions go early in games, it gets harder and harder to call them later on. However, if you set the tone early, you won't see so much garbage in the final 30 minutes of games, when teams are using fouls as a time-wasting tactic.
9. Better offside angles. I admit, I cannot let go of that Earnie Stewart goal from the MetroStars-D.C. United playoff game. For all I know, the play was perfectly timed and onside. But that's not the point. To this day, no one has been able to see a replay that shows us anything. The league has e-mailed me, explaining that broadcast budgets limit the number of cameras that can be employed on MLS broadcasts. I understand that. But this is my "wish" list and I wish I could know one way or another if that goal was legit.
8. The Las Vegas Expo/Nationals. While I'm admittedly excited, I'm not optimistic about the news this week that the Expos to D.C. is not a done deal. Sadly, I think it will happen, and that's too bad for D.C. United. If anyone in the nation's capital wants to watch Major League Baseball, there's a team 45 minutes up the road that plays in a spectacular ballpark. Enjoy them. RFK is a soccer stadium and should not be torn up and reconfigured for a team that's only going to be playing there for a few seasons. Besides, Vegas wants a team. Let them have the team formerly known as the Expos.
7. A great rivalry between Chivas and the Galaxy. May one half of the stadium be gold and the other half be red and white. Let nationalistic pride play a part in it. Go for it. With this rivalry, let MLS have all the good that can come out of a local rivalry (that includes sportsmanship) and from it let there one day be a New York City team to rival the MetroStars. The one thing I do not want to see is Galaxy fans changing colors.
6. A new fouls committed leader. Did you know that D.C. United has led MLS in fouls committed every year AB (After Bruce left the team in 1999)? That streak must end.
5. MLS ExtraTime! Raise your hand if you miss the old show? With Rob Stone at the wheel, Dave Dir at his side and that handsome lad (forget his name) dishing out the inside stuff, late night TV did not get any better that. I have to believe if MLS released a holiday "best of" DVD of MLS ExtraTime it would simply jump off the shelves. Thankfully, I'm now a TiVo owner (thanks to the wife, I love you) and will be able to partake of future editions of Wayne's World, aka MLS Wrap.
4. EJ and the USA. Nothing has excited me more than the progress made by Eddie Johnson on the national team level. I love to watch this kid move up top. The way he can hold the ball reminds me a little of a guy named Patrick Kluivert (I know that's high praise, but I do like what I'm seeing here). Here's a wish that EJ continues to improve and becomes the scourge of CONCACAF on the road to Germany '06.
3. A North American Champions Cup. Simple. A match between the MLS Cup champs and the Mexican League champs. If marketed properly, that would be some must-see TV.
2. A local buyer in Kansas City. Yeah, I know I've given them some stick in the past, but I really do want the Wizards to stay in Kansas City forever. No, I do not want them to play in Arrowhead, just as I don't want MLS games in the Meadowlands, at Invesco, Gillette, or any other stadium that holds more than 27,000. Honestly, I'd love for the Wiz to become the small-town team, playing in an intimate, 15,000-seat stadium on the outskirts of town. The way I look at them now, they're a team with some history (from Ron Newman and Preki to Miklos Molnar and Tony Meola, to Josh Wolff and Davy Arnaud) and they need to stay around as MLS grows. Would be a shame for them to be moved.
1. Shovels in the ground in Jersey. Back to the top now. We need some good soccer news (other than Seton Hall's Manny Schellscheidt winning college coach of the year) so badly around here. Giants Stadium is quite simply the worst venue in MLS and has been since 1996. From part-time grass in the beginning to full-time FieldTurf in the present. From expensive parking and long lines for food (they only open up a few stands on MetroStars game days) to a dead atmosphere, a change is needed in the worst way to pump some life into Metros matches. I was there in the beginning, working as the Metros' first-ever PR guy, and it pains me to say, the same wheels that were spinning then are still spinning now. Please, Santa, deliver some shovels to Harrison so this project can officially begin.
Jeff Bradley is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Send your comments and complaints (200 words or less, please) to Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org and he promises to read (but not respond to) all of them. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or MLSnet.com.