Thursday, February 28, 2013

Resolutions for the 2013 MLS Season

With Major League Soccer set to start the 2013 season this weekend, I felt it was time to suggest some resolutions for the forthcoming season. Some of these might not be acceptable to some (or maybe a large amount) of MLS fans, but I am of the opinion that trying to abide by these resolutions would result in the 2013 MLS season being an enjoyable season, for us all.

Stop Saying "We Need to Grow the Game":

A battle cry from the soccer media and soccer fans in the United States is that, "We must grow the game!" Well, we can't really grow the game, the game will grow organically, in the same manner that the NFL and NBA managed to grow organically out of the shadow of Major League Baseball. Organically growing the game is essentially on MLS and, to a lesser extent, U.S. Soccer. Put out a good, accessible product and the game will grow.

MLS fans and U.S. Soccer fans bemoan what they call "Euro Snobs," bemoan how you're likely to find more Manchester United fans at the soccer bar than MLS fans. Well, that supports my argument, EPL, La Liga, and UEFA have all managed to provide a good, polished product that has, thanks to the internet and cable television, managed to grow big fan bases in the United States, as well as elsewhere in the world.

For a number of reasons, primarily financial, MLS still has lots of growing to do to reach those levels of popularity. It's not going to happen overnight, not if you want MLS to create a solid financial foundation, but MLS has come a long way since 1996, it'll get there.

Finally, let's be honest, efforts to grow the game can often be counterproductive because too many soccer fans can become annoying evangelical zealots that tend to turn away sports fans who are not soccer fans.

Stop Complaining about Lack of National Television Coverage:

There's a simple truth about sports broadcasting in the United States that many MLS fans do not seem to comprehend, and that is the fact that no major sports league has all of its games broadcast on national television. Not MLB, not NBA, not NHL, and not even NFL.

Thanks to contracts with NBC Sports Network and ESPN2 about two MLS matches per matchweek are broadcast nationally. Additionally, almost every MLS team, if not all MLS teams, have contracts with regional channels and networks that broadcast all of their non-nationally broadcast matches.

This is pretty much how it is in MLB and NBA. While NFL does have broadcast contracts with CBS and FOX, many of those games are only shown in specific regions. Only the Sunday, Monday, and Thursday night games are truly national broadcasts.

I don't have the time or inclination to do a statistically breakdown on the percentage of league games in each league that are nationally broadcast, but face it MLS fans, MLS is not getting a cold shoulder on the national broadcast landscape.

Stop Complaining when National Television Coverage is Delayed by Another Sport:

Sometimes sports games and events go over their scheduled time, sometimes that means you're going to miss the start of an MLS game. One most occasions, due to contractual obligations, the network cannot leave the prior game or event to go to the MLS game before that prior game or event is over.

But here is the good news for you, when an MLS game goes over it's scheduled time, the network is staying with the MLS game and not switching to the game or event scheduled to follow the MLS game.

Stop Complaining about American Football Lines on the Soccer Field:

Do you want MLS teams to make money so that they can pay better salaries, attract better talent, improve the product, grow the game? Then learn to live with American Football lines on MLS pitches.

For teams with their own stadiums, leasing them to college and high school football teams and tournaments is a good source of revenue. Get used to the lines, they'll be showing up every fall.

As a side note, MLS is not the only place you see those lines - they're also in some stadiums in Mexico, plus some teams in Europe share stadiums with rugby teams, which have similar lines.

Forget about promotion and relegation:

It's not a viable option, not right now. The current lower soccer leagues in the United States are in too much turmoil and uncertainty that promotion to MLS would just hurt MLS and relegation from MLS will hurt league revenue and investment.

While many "resolutions" that MLS seems to want to push seem to be geared towards creating a more "family friendly" environment, these resolutions are geared more to trying to get MLS fans to be more realistic about MLS and the business world it exists in, to be happy with how far MLS has come, and to learn to sit back and enjoy the ride, cause the destination will be worth it.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Your Friday Goals - February 22, 2013

Another week of European Nights, another bad outing by Arsenal, Carlos Ruiz is back in MLS, it's time for your Friday goals:

More after the Jump:

Houston Dynamo to Unveil 2013 Uniforms at Event on Monday

On Monday February 25th, the Houston Dynamo will unveil their new, official 2013 uniforms at a launch party being held at The House of Blues, located at 204 Caroline St. in downtown Houston.

The uniform launch event is free and open to the public. The event will begin at 5 p.m. and feature Dynamo players modeling the new home and away uniforms, goalkeeper jerseys, and training tops. Other highlights of the event will be Dynamo Girls and the first broadcast of CSN’s Dynamo Weekly show. The 2013 uniform unveiling is the first event in a series of activities scheduled for next week, dubbed March to Soccer week.

Valet parking is available at House of Blues. Private lots and street parking are also available around the venue.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I'm Done With Landon Donovan

I'm done with Landon Donovan.

I'm done with his sabbatical.

I'm done with his Major League Soccer "return."

I'm done with his lack of passion.

I'm done with his lack of heart.

I'm done with his pouting.

I'm done with his unrealized potential.

I'm done with his body language.

I'm done with his lack of genuine displays of emotion.

I'm done with his monotone way of talking.

I'm done with the speculation.

I'm done with the Livia Soprano of U.S. Soccer.

I'm done with the what could have beens.

I'm done with the apologists.

I'm done with the accolades.

I'm done with the leniency.

I'm done with him not fighting harder.

I'm done with his penalty kick routines.

I'm done with him on the United States National Team.

I'm done with Landon Donovan.


I reserve the right to change my mind and opinion based on the future performances of Landon Donovan.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Houston Dynamo Sign Andrew Driver & Trade Je-Vaughn Watson

With just over a week before starting the 2013 MLS season, the Houston Dynamo have made a couple moves as they get closer to solidifying their roster for the start of the season. On Tuesday February 19th, the Dynamo traded Jamaican International Je-Vaughn Watson to F.C. Dallas for a second round pick in the 2015 SuperDraft. While some might think the Dynamo are getting the raw end of that deal, the trade was primarily made to open up an international roster slot for today's signing of English midfielder Andrew Driver.

Driver, 25, has been playing for Heart of Midlothian F.C. in the Scottish Premier League since 2006. The Dynamo acquired Driver from Hearts on a loan deal.

“Andrew is good at taking people on, he crosses a good ball and can take set pieces,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. “He is a hard-working player and I think he will definitely fit in with the team. He has a good attitude on the field and is versatile. He can play on the left or right side of midfield.”

“I am very excited about the opportunity to come and play for the Dynamo,” Driver said. “I have followed MLS over the years and Houston has stood out as one of the top teams. I know a lot of success has been because of the work of Dominic Kinnear, so I am delighted to have the chance to learn from him and improve as a player under him.”

“It’s always exciting to add a young international player with talent and experience,” said Dynamo President Chris Canetti. “Andrew will add valuable depth to the squad at a time when we are set to face a heavy load of games between MLS and Champions League."

The Dynamo start the 2013 season on March 2nd, when they host D.C. United at BBVA Compass Stadium.


Friday, February 15, 2013

U.S. Soccer Player Robbie Rogers Comes Out, Steps Away from Football

Today, on his website, U.S. Soccer player Robbie Rogers acknowledged on his website that he is gay and that he was stepping away from the sport of soccer.

Rogers, who is only 25, has played for Heerenveen, Columbus Crew, Stevenage, and Leeds United, as well as earning 18 caps with the United States National Team. Earlier this year, he left Leeds Unit in a mutual agreement with the club.

In the world of masculine sports, it is not easy for a male athlete to come at and tell the world that he is gay, so I applaud Robbie Rogers for his decision, for his bravery in being honest to his family, friends, fans, and more importantly for being honest to himself.

I wish Rogers would not end his career as a soccer player though; at the age of 25 he still has lots of good playing years left in him. If Rogers is making the decision to retire because he's concerned about how his teammates and opponents would receive him, I wish he'd reconsider. While soccer has its fair share of machismo mentality, it is also the sport that seems to have developed more acceptance of the LGBT community, especially Major League Soccer. In fact, I think MLS is much more progressive on this issue than any of the leagues in Europe, and if Rogers were to sign with an MLS club, he'd experience very little negativity from players and fans.

That being said, based on his statement, it appears that Rogers used soccer as a refuge from having to acknowledge the truth to himself, to others. If he feels he needs to retire in order to discover who he is, what he wants, then who I am to question that decision?

Godspeed Robbie Rogers, many of us soccer fans hope to see you on the pitch again, but we know it's more important for you to find happiness first.


Your Friday Goals - February 15, 2013

It was a week of European Nights and Valentine's Day, but now it's time for your Friday Goals:

More after the jump:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Houston Dynamo Sign Bryan Salazar to a Homegrown Contract

On Thursday February 14, 2013, the Houston Dynamo announced that they have signed Dynamo Academy forward Bryan Salazar to a homegrown contract. Salazar becomes the fifth player from the Dynamo Academy to sign a professional contract with the Dynamo first team. Per team and league policy, terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Salazar, a senior at Houston area Fort Bend Bush High School, has been in the Dynamo program for six years, having progressed from the Dynamo Junior Academy as a 13-year-old up to playing for the Dynamo U-18 squad over the past two years. The Houston native has traveled with the Academy to tournaments in El Salvador, Mexico, and the Netherlands. Salazar was also part of the Dynamo Academy U-16 squad that won the 2010 Dallas Cup.

“When I joined the Junior Academy six years ago, I was told this was my chance to become a professional soccer player and I’m excited this day has arrived,” Salazar said. “I want to thank everyone at the Dynamo Academy that has helped me achieve my dream of playing for the Dynamo and I look forward to continuing my career under Dominic Kinnear.”

This season, Salazar has scored nine goals in 14 games for a Dynamo U-18 squad, which has won seven of its last nine matches and is in second place in its division. At the USSF Development Academy Winter Showcase in December, the 5-foot-9 winger scored five goals in three matches, including two goals each against the Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes U-18 squads.

“Bryan is an exciting young player,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. “When he gets the ball, he is not afraid to run at defenders. He has put up some good numbers with our Academy teams and I think he has a very promising future. We want him to succeed as a person and a professional and we will do everything we can to make sure that happens.”

Salazar will finish high school and continue to play with the Dynamo Academy before joining the Dynamo full time this summer. Salazar is tentatively scheduled to travel to Charleston with the team this weekend for their first match of the Carolina Challenge Cup.

The Dynamo Academy, presented by Statoil, was launched in 2007 as a way to develop local talent in the Houston area with the goal of signing players to the Dynamo. Since 2007, four players have been signed to Dynamo homegrown contracts: goalkeeper Tyler Deric and midfielders Francisco Navas Cobo, Alex Dixon, and Josue Soto. Deric recently re-signed with the Dynamo after leading the team to a first place finish in the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League group stage. Of the other homegrown players that have signed with the Houston Dynamo, only Alex Dixon remains a member of the club.

The Houston Dynamo begin their 2013 MLS season by hosting D.C. United at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday March 2nd.

Portions of the above were taken from a Houston Dynamo press release.

[VIDEO] Gus Johnson's Champions League Debut

On Wednesday February 13, 2013, Gus Johnson made his Fox Soccer Channel debut by doing the play-by-play in the network's broadcast of the Champions League match between Real Madrid and Manchester United. The match ended in a 1-1 draw and on the whole, I think Gus Johnson did a good job on the broadcast. Was he perfect? No, but then who is, especially their first time calling a game in a sport that they're still new too.

I admit that I did not watch the match, rather I listened to it via SiriusXM FC, which aired the audio from the FSC broadcast. That makes my experience a bit different from those who watched it, but I was able to keep up with what's going on fairly well with just the audio.

I'm not in the mood the debate the pluses and minuses of what FOX is doing in its efforts to groom Gus Johnson for its upcoming World Cup finals coverage. There's been plenty of that lately, much of it irrational, insular, and disconnected from the realities of the business of sports in the United States. I'll make no bones about the fact that I've long wanted Gus Johnson to start covering soccer and I'm happy that FOX has made this move to get him into the booth for high level soccer matches.

So, without further adieu, here's the highlights of Gus Johnson's Champions League debut:

Friday, February 8, 2013

Your Friday Goals - February 8, 2013

This week The Hex began in CONCACAF with the US losing to Honduras and Jamaica holding Mexico to a draw, plus Fox announced that the great Gus Johnson will be doing soccer play-by-play, but now it's Friday, time for some goals.

More videos after the jump:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

El Tri: Francisco 'Maza' Rodriguez Shoots the Bird

While Mexico did not lose in its opening match of The Hex, a 0-0 draw against Jamaica at the Estudio Azteca in Mexico City was not the way that El Tri wanted to start the last stage of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil. But not only were the Mexican players frustrated by the Reggae Boyz on the pitch, but they were frustrated by the boos emanating from the Mexican fans filling up the stadium.

It seems that the frustration took the better of Mexico's captain Francisco 'Maza' Rodriguez, who shot the bird at a live television camera as he left the pitch after the match. Today Maza is trying to claim the gesture was a result of a "finger injury," well I call bullshit on that. Was that scowl also a result of an injury, huh Maza? I don't mind when athletes let their emotions get away from them and they make an obscene gesture or hurtle some foul language, but I do hate when they try to cover it up with lies. Be a man Maza, admit you were pissed off and you weren't thinking straight.


The United States Drops It's First Hex Match to Honduras, 2-1

The Hex, the last stage of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, began on Tuesday February 6th, and the United States got off to a bad start with a 2-1 loss to Honduras at the Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Due to the fact that I don't have beIN Sport on my provider and the fact that the match occurred while I was at my day job, I was not able to watch the match. I did listen to the radio feed out of Honduras, but my Spanish is far from adequate to fully understand what was going on. But, based on the comments and accounts of people who did watch the match, here is my impressions:

- The United States played like a team made up of players who played for their clubs over the weekend; flew to Miami; then flew to Honduras on Tuesday; barely had time to train and bond; and underestimated their opponent.

- The United States is striker deficient and Jurgen Klinsmann should have played Herculez Gomez.

- The existence of MLS has helped develop soccer talent across the CONCACAF region.

I did see a fair share of knee-jerk the sky is falling the US isn't going to qualify tweets yesterday, but let's be realistic here, this was the first match of the Hex, odds are the US was going to lose a couple road games. The hopes of reaching the World Cup finals in Brazil are not dashed for the US, there's plenty of time and matches left in this process.

Before some video from and after the match, here's the other CONCACAF results:

Panama 2 - 2 Costa Rica

Mexico 0 - 0 Jamaica

Highlights from the match:


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mega TV is the New Spanish Language Home of Houston Dynamo Telecasts

On Wednesday February 6, 2013, it was announced that the Houston Dynamo have entered into an agreement with Mega TV (KTBU Channel 55) as its official Spanish-language TV partner.

Under the deal, Mega TV, which is owned and operated by Spanish Broadcasting System, Inc., will broadcast seven Dynamo road games during the 2013 MLS Season. Game broadcasts will include a 30-minute pregame and 30-minute postgame show. Additionally, Mega TV will include Dynamo highlights and news in its weekly magazine show, “Portada”.

“We feel it is very important for us to have Dynamo games available on Spanish language television, and this deal allow us to continue that tradition” said Dynamo President Chris Canetti. “Mega TV is a rapidly growing station among the Houston television landscape and fully distributed in the marketplace. We are pleased to be able to provide our fans with options for viewing Dynamo games and look forward to growing our relationship with Mega TV over the years.”

The agreement completes the Dynamo’s broadcast platform for the new season, which becomes one of the most comprehensive in Major League Soccer. The platform includes local television partnerships with Comcast SportsNet Houston (CSN), KPRC Local 2 (NBC affiliate), and Mega TV. Additionally, Houston will have a total of 18 nationally-televised games during the 2013 MLS season. The platform also includes local radio partnerships with Gow Media (1560 AM, 97.5 FM) and Liberman Broadcasting (850 AM, Spanish). Altogether, the Dynamo’s local media platform will offer approximately 600 hours of on-air programming during the year, with 239 hours of TV and 366 hours of radio coverage.

“We are very excited about our new partnership with the Dynamo,” said Mega TV General Sales Manager Gerardo Reyes. “The Dynamo have always offered an excellent product on the field, so we’re very proud to be a part of the team and the excitement around it. We look forward to bringing the Dynamo closer than ever to our Spanish-speaking audience.”

In addition to their game broadcasts, Mega TV will also produce a 30-minute season preview and a season wrap up show. Air dates for both programs will be announced at a later date.

“This agreement is tremendously beneficial for both parties,” added Reyes. It will not only help us elevate our brand in the Houston community, but it will, at the same time, help the Dynamo reach a key segment of their fan base.”

“It is critical for us to have media partners that share the passion and commitment for growing the game and the Dynamo fan base,” adds Canetti. “Mega TV fits that mold and is an integral part of our media platform.”

Mega TV games will be simulcast on CSN.

The Dynamo open the 2013 season on Saturday, March 2 when they host D.C. United at 7 p.m. at BBVA Compass Stadium in a rematch of the 2012 Eastern Conference Championship. Click here to buy tickets.

The above information is from a Houston Dynamo press release.

The Hex Starts Today - Prepare with a Look at the American Outlaws & USMNT Presser

The Hex, the last stage of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, begins today for the United States National Team with a match at Honduras in San Pedro Sula. The match begins at 3:00 p.m. central time this afternoon and will be aired on beIN Sport.

To get you ready for today's match, here's a story Fox Soccer Channel did about the American Outlaws, the newest group of US Soccer supporters:

As you can see, that piece was filmed in Houston in late January 2013 when the USMNT hosted Canada in a friendly, a rather uneventful friendly that ended in a 0-0 draw.

Here's a bonus video of a Jürgen Klinsmann press conference down in Honduras:

Houston Dynamo 2013 Fan Fest is Saturday February 9th

With the start of the 2013 MLS Season less than a month away, the Houston Dynamo will be holding their annual Fan Fest this Saturday, February 9th, from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at BBVA Compass Stadium.

The days events will include:

- Q&A and Autograph Sessions with Dynamo Players

- Photos with Championship Trophies

- "Dance Like A Dynamo Girl" Clinics

- Inflatable Soccer Games

- Win a prize on the Dynamo Prize Wheel

Meanwhile, Houston Dynamo Season Ticket Holders will also get a tour of the Dynamo locker room.

Click here for more information on Dynamo Fan Fest 2013.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Your Friday Goals - February 1, 2013

Beckham is in Paris, Shea is in Stoke, Balotelli is in Milan, the transfer window is closed, it's the first day of a new month, and it's a Friday - time for some goals from the week that was, your Friday Goals:

More videos after the jump: