Saturday, January 31, 2009
We shall start with the MLS, using figures garnered from ESPN. In 2008, the Los Angeles Galaxy, despite its poor performance on the pitch, had the largest total and average attendances with 390,762 throughout the season and an average of 26,050. Not surprisingly, Toronto FC took second place with a total of 303,623 and an average of 20,241. The top five was rounded out by DC United with an average of 19,835, Houston Dynamo with an average of 17,752, and Chicago Fire with an average of 17,052. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Wizards had the lowest attendance with a total of 170,769 throughout the season and an average of 10,673 per game. But don’t let those figures fool you, since one figure I found indicates that capacity of CommunityAmerica Ballpark for soccer matches is 10,385. Wonder how they squeeze in another 300?
So, the dishonor of having the worst MLS attendance for 2008 actually goes to FC Dallas. Despite having its own soccer specific stadium with a capacity of 20,500, Dallas only averaged 13,097 throughout the 2008 season.
Finally, according to ESPN, the unofficial average attendance for all MLS matches in 2008 was 16,310.
Since the MLS is a summer league, it is only fitting that we take a look at how Major League Baseball did attendance wise in 2008. Not surprisingly, the New York Yankees managed an average of 53,069 per game and pulled a season total attendance of 4,298,655. The caveat being that the MLB has a much, much longer season and larger stadiums then the MLS. The worse 2008 attendance in MLS was experienced by the Florida Marlins who averaged 16,688 per game. The Marlins must have had some decent attendance in the Spring, because I saw pictures of late season home games with attendances that could be counted in the hundreds, not thousands. The second worst performing team was the Kansas City Royals who averaged 19,986 per game.
Since the 2008/09 NBA season is ongoing, we’ll take a quick look at attendance numbers from the prior season. The team with the best attendance was Detroit, averaging 22,076 per game. Meanwhile Indiana only averaged 12,221 per game and Memphis averaged 12,771 per game. Surprisingly, the Los Angeles Lakers only averaged 18,997 per game.
With this being Super Bowl weekend, I’d be remiss if I ignored the juggernaut on the professional sporting landscape in America, the NFL. In 2008, Washington took the honor of having the largest average home attendance, 88,604. While Oakland only had an average of 54,497; however, the figures for Denver and San Francisco are not available yet. Of course, by only having 8 home games a season and gigantic stadiums, these numbers are not that surprising.
In the larger scheme of American professional sports, MLS does have the lower average attendances, but all the MLS teams average over 10,000 fans per game, a respectable number. While there is room for attendance improvement, last season’s attendance figures indicate that all MLS franchises have managed to secure a decent niche in their home cities.
Much as the NFL is the juggernaut when it comes to American sports, the English Premier League is the juggernaut of soccer leagues. I’m sure nobody will be surprised to learn that during the 2007/08 season, Manchester United had the highest average attendance in the EPL with 75,691, averaging over 15,000 more per game then second place Arsenal. Rounding out the bottom of the attendance table in the EPL were Wigan with 19,046 and Portsmouth with 19,914. The overall average attendance in the EPL for that season was 36,076.
Meanwhile on the continent last season, Serie A averaged 25,115 per match, with Inter pulling an average of 59,054 compared to Empoli’s 7,437 per match. The average attendance for Spain’s La Liga was only slightly higher at 28,920, with Real Madrid pulling a respectable 73,162 per match, while Levante only averaged 11,134 per match. Not surprisingly, Bundesliga pulled the largest attendance amongst the big leagues of Europe, averaging 43,679 per game. VfB Stuttgart had the biggest average attendance 105,520, while Energie Cottbus pulled in only an average of 18,820 per game.
While it’s interesting to put these attendance figures all in one place, due to the variety of all the external factors (season length, stadium side, weather, marketing, money, etc.), I don’t feel qualified to crunch them all together and make some grandiose statement about the future success or demise of the MLS. However, I believe I am qualified enough to look at these numbers and get a sense that yes, on the whole, other sports in the US and other soccer leagues draw more spectators on average then the MLS; however, the MLS’s average attendance figures are very respectable and suggest the existence of a strong, devoted base. As MLS teams move into their own stadiums, increase their revenue, and expand their local marketing, I suspect the average attendance numbers should rise across the board. Who knows, despite the economic situation, MLS might see gains because it often provides the best bang for the consumer’s entertainment dollar, as I understand it the Houston Dynamo will soon be offering a special 15 games for $150.00 package, basically a barebones season ticket package.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
The Houston Dynamo began firming up their 2009 roster on January 23rd when they signed former Herman Trophy semi-finalist and two-time All American from San Diego State University, Tally Hall. The 23 year old goalkeeper has spent the last two years with Denmark’s Esbjerg fB. Hall was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Galaxy in the 2007 SuperDraft, but their rights have since expired and the Dynamo claimed him as a discovery player.
On Monday January 26th the Dynamo further strengthened their defense for the 2009 season when they signed former MLS Defender of the Year Bobby Boswell to a long term contract. The Dynamo initially picked up Boswell in a post-season 2007 trade deal with D.C. United, where Boswell had fallen out of favor. After a rough start during the 2008 Pan Pacific Cup, Boswell eventually made himself a crucial part of the Dynamo’s back line and of the 48 matches played by the Dynamo in 2008, Boswell started in 43 matches.
With the acquisition of Julius James in the De Rosario trade and the signing of Boswell, the Dynamo traded defender Patrick Ianni to Seattle Sounders FC. Between an inconsistent 2008 season and the fact that Ianni is no longer a Generation Adidas player, the time had come for Ianni and the Dynamo to part ways.
Finally, the signing that has truly captured the attention and imagination of Dynamo fans was broken by Ives Galarcep on Tuesday and made official by the Dynamo in a press conference today – the acquisition of 18 year old forward Felix Garcia from the PDL’s Laredo Heat. For those unfamiliar with the geography of Texas, Laredo is situated on the Rio Grande and is the southern terminus of Interstate 35, making it one of the biggest ports of entry between the United States and Mexico.
The potential of signing this young prospect; who scored the winning penalty kick for the Heat in the 2007 Championship, has played with the USMNT U-20 squad, and has trained at the Dynamo South Texas Academy; has been rumored for weeks here in Houston. Dynamo COO Chris Canetti was a guest on the 1560 Soccer Show here in Houston on January 5th, and when asked about Garcia, he stated that if Garcia made the move from the PDL to the MLS he’d probably sign a Generation Adidas contract and go into a weighted draft where other teams would have a shot at acquiring him as a developmental player, and he played down the prospect of signing him directly from Laredo. It may have been a smoke-screen, but more likely it was a conservative response to a situation that was still be played out, and in the end the Dynamo were able to sign the young striker, with impressive speed and finishing, as a transfer from the Laredo Heat. The icing on the cake, for the Dynamo, is the fact that Garcia has signed a Generation Adidas contract.
The adjective most used to describe Garcia is “raw,” which under the coaching of Dominic Kinnear and John Spencer, could pay dividends for years to come, not just for the Dynamo, but also for the U.S. National Team. As Canetti stated today, “He’s obviously a player with a lot of potential, and we’re looking forward to maximizing that potential. We are going to be very patient in his development and are eager to see him grow as a professional player under the positive training environment that Dominic Kinnear has established.”
The signing of a young, gifted player from the streets of Laredo during a week when the MLS has been presented with the potential of having three of its players move to three big European clubs, could prove to be a fingerpost in the history of the MLS, if it so chooses. While there is a certain attractiveness to signing older, established players who spent incredible years with some of the biggest and most successful clubs in Europe, there is no shame in being a league that develops raw talent and then reaps the benefits of the rewards by transferring developed players to the bigger leagues that have lost interest in developing talent. While this type of attitude has kept teams afloat in Brazil and Argentina, imagine what this approach could do for the MLS, which could take this money and not just pay overhead, but reinvest it to grow the league’s stature and respect around the world.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Close to home, Roma Captain Francisco Totti made his first appearance of 2009, playing for 84 minutes in today's match against Palermo, and scoring a goal in the 24th minute. The Sicilian side's Edison Cavani got the equalizer in the 31st minute, but a Matteo Brighi goal in the 45th minute gave Roma the winner and another 3 points in their effort to finish in the top four and secure a spot in next year's Champions League. Speaking of the Champions League, the return of Totti is great news for the Eternal City's side as they prepare to take on a flailing Arsenal in the knockout stage.
Meanwhile in Milano, David Beckham proved his worth to A.C. Milan when he scored a goal in the 33rd minute in today's 1-1 draw with Genoa. This was Beckham's second goal during his "loan" from the L.A. Galaxy to Milan, and only heightens the speculation that the loan will turn into a true transfer before the MLS season starts. The good news for Beckham and his quest to be on England's 2010 World Cup squad was the fact that Fabio Capello, coach of The Three Lions, was at the San Siro for today's match. However, Beckham did incur a abductor injury today, but he does expect to be match ready this Sunday when the Rossoneri travel to Roma to take on S.S. Lazio.
After a rough start to 2009, table leaders Internazionale a/k/a Inter Milan had an impressive 2-0 victory down in Sicily against Walter Zenga's Catania Calcio. Inter's Dejan Stankovic got proceedings started early when he scored in the 5th minute and the always dangerous Zlatan Ibrahimovic put the icing on the cake when he found the back of the net in the 71st minute. Oh yeah, the Special One a/k/a Jose Mourinho was banished to the stands today for arguing with the referee during Inter's lackluster 1-nil victory over Sampdoria on Sunday. With today's win, Inter picked up some breathing room in the race for the Scudetto thanks to Udinese's 2-1 victory over Juventus.
Elsewhere in Serie A, Cagliari continued its good form in a 1-nil victory over Siena; Chievo Verona and Lecce settled for a 1-1 draw; Sampdoria crushed Lazio 3-1; Fiorentina picked up 3 points against a stumbling Napoli thanks to a 2-1 victory; Bologna rebounded from last week's loss to Milan with a 1-nil victory against Atalanta; and Torino's effort to avoid relegation was barely helped by today's nil-nil draw with bottom of the table Reggina.
After Match Day 21, Inter still reigns supreme on the table with 49 points, but Juve is only 6 points behind. Milan has a firm hold on third place with 41 points, while Genoa's hold on fourth place is threatened by Roma, who are only one point behind.
Today's matches, this weekend's matches, and other news out of Serie A and Italy will be discussed in this coming week's episode of World Soccer Wrap: Serie A.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
When asked about Garcia on a subsequent show, Dynamo COO Chris Canetti indicated that the Dynamo had some interest, but they played down the potential of signing him, indicating that he would have to enter the MLS via the MLS Draft. Looks like that route was avoided because Garcia signed a professional contract with the Laredo Heat. It was well known that Garcia wanted to stay in Texas, and despite getting some attention from FC Dallas, their I-45 rivals managed to make the signing. I haven't seen any information as to what type of transfer fee was paid for Garcia, but he is a Generation Addidas player so his salary will not count against the cap.
Just under a year ago, ESPN's Justin Rodriguez profiled Felix Garcia:
In my Opinion, South Texas - from Laredo down to Brownsville and over to Harlingen, is probably one of the largest sources of untapped soccer talent in the United States. Home to many poorer high schools whose teams give the wealthier northern schools a run for their money on a regular basis. I give credit to the Houston Dynamo and the MLS for taking a chance on a young player from this region, a move that should only increase the Dynamo's fan base in south Texas.
For those interested in seeing Felix Garcia in action, I direct you to this video:
Meanwhile, on the other end of the pitch, the Houston Dynamo have resigned Defender Bobby Boswell. The former MLS Defender of the Year claimed a regular starting spot on the Dynamo's back line this past season, but he recently went out of contract and tested the waters in Turkey. It appears that foriegn player rules were a roadblock to Boswell obtaining a deal, so he's returned to Texas and has signed a multi-year deal with the Houston Dynamo. Boswell's return and his contract increase means that it was time for Patrick Ianni, who is no longer a Generation Addidas player, to hang up his orange kit. The Dynamo have traded him to Seattle where he'll rejoin former teammate Nate Jaqua.
Finally, the Dynamo have also signed goalkeeper Tally Hall as a back-up for Pat Onstad. The 23 year old American keeper has been playing with Esbjerg fB in Denmark.
After a multi-week trial, Houston Radio station, 1560 The Game, the only independent sports talk station in Houston, has officially made the Soccer Show part of its weekly line-up. We got some love from the Houston Chronicle, even if Bernardo mispelled my first name.
By the way, Dynamo Coach Dominic Kinnear will join us in studio next Monday night.
Tomorrow, the 2009 season schedules should be out. Meanwhile, the Dynamo start camp on February 2nd.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
February 6: at FC Dallas (scheduled).
February 9: vs. FC Dallas (scheduled).
February12: at L.A. Galaxy.
February15: vs. San Jose Earthquakes at San Luis Obispo, Calif.
February 18: vs. Hammarby FC (Sweden) at Carson, Calif.
February 24: vs. Atlante (Mexico) in CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal home leg.
February 28: vs. Montreal Impact (USL-1).
March 3: at Atlante in CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal away leg.
March 7: at Austin Aztex (USL-1).
March 11: vs. Southern Methodist University.
March 14: Exhibition game to be determined
March 21: vs. Columbus Crew in MLS season opener
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Meanwhile in Philadelphia, the Deleware County Council approved the sale of $28.6 million in bonds to help fund the soccer stadium being built in Chester for Philadelphia's 2010 MLS expansion team.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
For the Houston Dynamo, it seems that the main purpose of the draft is it gives them the ability to trade 1st and 2nd round picks to other teams in exchange for current talent they want to see in a Dynamo kit (like Bobby Boswell and Kei Kamara). Staying true to form, this year the Dynamo only had 3rd and 4th round picks.
In the 3rd round, the Dynamo drafted Daniel Cruz, a 19 year old midfielder from UNLV, and a Generation Addidas player. More importantly, Cruz, who grew up in Arizona, has played for the US U-17 and U-20 teams, giving him crucial competitive experience outside the realm of college soccer.
"He's a hard worker," Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said. "He's not afraid to run at people. He can play wide in the midfield or up front, so he's versatile, and he's got great pace."
In an interesting move, the Dynamo used their 4th round pick to secure the MLS rights of forward Marcus Tracy. The Wake Forest player, and winner of the Hermann Trophy, recently signed a contract to play at Aalborg in Denmark.
Meanwhile, today's first draft pick, which belonged to Seattle Sounders FC, was forward Steve Zakuani of the University of Akron, and a native of England. Word is that Zakuani has rejected European offers in favor of playing in the MLS.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Today Roma and Sampdoria got around to making up that postponed match from October, and Roma picked up another crucial three points in their effort to land in the top four despite their slow start to the season. Today's victory was thanks a brace from Julio Baptista. The Beast found the back of the net in the 21st and 53rd minutes. With Sunday's 2-2 draw against Milan and today's victory, Roma is showing signs that it can have success while Totti recovers from his soft tissue injury, sustained just prior to the winter break.
Meanwhile, both Inter and Juventus got favorable results in their Coppa Italia ties this week. On Tuesday, Inter beat Genoa 3-1, thanks to goals from Adriano (who Mourinho wants to lose weight), Cambiasso, and Ibrahimovic. On Wednesday, Juventus demolished Catania, 3-nil. Juve's goals came from Marchionni, Giovinco, and Del Piero.
Inter's victory means that they'll be facing Roma in the quarterfinals on January 21, a team they have dueled with in recent Coppa finals, as well as the SuperCoppa. Other quarterfinal matches will feature Sampdoria - Udinese on January 21, Lazio - Torino on January 22, and Juventus - Napoli on February 4.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Sunday, January 11, 2009
The winter break is over for Serie A and the teams returned to the pitch this weekend. Genoa started things off with a bang, demolshing Torino 3 - nil on Saturday afternoon. Jose Mourinho and his Inter squad to the pitch at the San Siro on Saturday looking to beat up on little Cagliari, but a Acquafresca goal early in the second half put the visitors on top until Ibrahimovic got the equalizer in the 77th minute. One point was nice for Inter, but 3 points would have been better. Meanwhile, Cagliari's 8 match winning streak came to end.
Juventus made life a little more difficult for the Inter faithful thanks to a Alessandro Del Piero goal, off a beautiful free kick, in the 33rd minute. Juve's 1-nil victory over Siena put them within 4 points of table leader Inter.
Elsewhere Sunday afternoon, Lazio beat Reggina, 3-2, thanks to a hat trick from Goran Pandev; Palermo beat Atalanta 3-2; Lecce upset homeside Fiorentina 2-1; Bologna had a 1 all tie with Chievo Verona; 1-1 was the scoreline in the Udinese - Sampdoria match, and Napoli beat Catania 1-nil.
The Sunday evening match featured A.S. Roma playing host to A.C. Milan. The initial word out of Milan was that David Beckham would start the match on the bench, but he took to the pitch and put in 89 minutes. It was an offensive thriller as Vucinic put up an early goal for Roma and Milan's Pato responded with two goals early in the second half. Not to be outdone, Vucinic got the equalizer for Roma in the 72nd minute.
Looks like Danny Szetela is having a good turn at Serie B's Brescia, and an unnamed device enables him to watch U.S. television, helping him to get over his homesickness. Hmmmm, I'm guessing its a little thing called a Slingbox (and combine that with a DVR, he probably doesn't have to stay up late to watch his favorite shows either).
Brescia closed out 2008 with a victory over Grosseto and doesn't have another match till the 17th when it hosts Pisa (this past weekend's match against Sassuolo was postponed). Brescia currently has 32 points, sitting 3 points behind table leader Livorno.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
What are the L.A. Galaxy to do? After one and half seasons of having two of the biggest names in MLS on their squad, it appears that Landon Donovan won't be back in a Galaxy kit this year and don't be surprised if David Beckham is gone too.
Both Galaxy stars are on so-called short term loans with European clubs. Donovan is at Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, on what is really an extended trial. Meanwhile, David Beckham recently suited up for A.C. Milan in its recent friendly with Hamburg. The 2008-09 Serie A season resumes this weekend and Milan travles to the Eternal City to take on A.S. Roma this Sunday. The rumblings coming out of San Siro and Milano is that David Beckham will likely see some action this weekend.
Meanwhile, former Galaxy General Manager, Alexi Lalas, has expressed his belief that DB23 will stay on as DB32 in Serie A.
But there is hope for the L.A. soccer fan, it appears that Brazilian great, Marta, will be signing with the WPS's Los Angeles Sol.
Monday, January 5, 2009