Friday, December 21, 2007

Free For All Friday

99 Days to Go

As of Today, we are exactly 99 days away from the kick-off to MLS Season XIII. That is all...


MLS introduced a number of changes this week, including increasing the number of foreigners in the league, and allowing foreign spots to be tradeable. This would enable some teams, if they so wished, to stock up on foreign spots and field a full starting 11 of foreigners.

I fear that this is a move that appeals more to the business side rather than the football side. I'm also fearful that it will inch MLS closer to a 'retirement league.'

The optimistic fan sees this as an opportunity to bring in more talented South Americans like Erpen, or Emilio who are not so close to their expiration dates. The business man sees this as an opportunity to push for a salary cap increase and field a full 11 of Buffon, Terry, Cannavaro, Marquez, Pirlo, Ronaldinho, C. Ronaldo, Messi, Kaka, Ronaldo, and Schevchenko type players... of course, 6-8 years from now. Generally speaking, they're not going to invest their money in bringing in a Joe Schmoe from Europe or South America who will bring talent and skill to their team. They're going to go after the seat fillers.

The only way I can see the potential in increasing the number of internationals, is that if it becomes a temporary solution, and with every significant increase in the salary cap, the number of internationals is reduced by one. Ideally, I'd like to see a max of 5 I-spots per team [non-tradeable]. I predict the opposite though. Increase in salary cap, and an increase in the total international spots available, and yes, they'll be tradeable.

The Saga of Nery in England

An interview last night from Televisa Deportes showed a Nery Castillo reluctant to talk about the money he put from his own pocket in order to ensure his loan deal with Manchester City. I expect Nery to have a vote of confidence from his coach which shall do him well in the EPL. Nery is now the third Mexican forward to be playing in a top European league. Carlos Vela [Osasuna] and Giovanni Dos Santos [Barcelona] are the other two.

Transfer Season has a very complete transfer table in Mexican football so far this offseason.

The most attractive moves are Richard Nuñez from Cruz Azul to Club America, Jaime Lozano from Tigres UANL to Cruz Azul, Walter Gaitan from Tigres UANL to Cruz Azul, Fernando Arce from Morelia to Santos Laguna, Gaston Fernandez from San Lorenzo to Tigres UANL, and Hector Moreno's departure from UNAm to join Alkmaar Zaanstreek (AZ) in Holland.

Also noteworthy is the way that the two teams fighting to avoid relegation, Puebla and Veracruz have stacked up their rosters. Puebla has brought in Melvin Brown, Nicolas Olivera, Felipe Ayala, Javier Campora and Gilberto Mora. Veracruz on the other hand has signed Rodrigo Ruiz, Ariel Gonzlez, Santiago Raymonda, Claudio Patricio Graf, Rafael Medina, Alejandro Corona, Raul Salinas, and Salustino Candia.

I expect Tecos UAG to get pulled into this fight though, Cesar Luis Menotti and all.

You Want Respect? We'll Give You Respect

Let it not be said that CONMEBOL ever jumps without a parachute.

CONMEBOl confirmed this week that they are willing to comply with FMF's requests, and starting in 2009 Mexican clubs will be treated no longer as guests, but as full participants in CONMEBOL club competitions.

Not surprisingly, that same day a story was published in which representatives of Banco Santander, new title sponsors of the Copa 'Santander' Libertadores explained the importance of Mexican participation for them. The representative interviewed stopped just shy of saying that should Mexican teams withdraw their participation from the competition, they would reconsider their sponsorship of the competition.

Sadly, as is always the case in COMEBOL. Somebody is going to have to pay for the broken plates, and it seems it will be Club America. The team that began the movement to get better treatment for FMF teams in CONMEBOL is likely going to be penalized. CONMEBOL has announced that they are considering sanctions against Club America for their refusal to receive their silver medals in the Sudamericana final, and for "aggressive declarations that damage CONMEBOL's image... from a country that participates in South American competitions as guests."

Something Special

Again, I plan on having something special for you soon. Watch this space.

That's all for this edition of Free For All Friday. Hope you enjoy your weekend and have very happy holidays. Until next time...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Free For All Friday

We Demand Equality

As I reported last week, Club America and the FMF met regarding their treatment in CONMEBOL tournaments. FMF was very clear in its position: They want to receive equal treatment in CONMEBOL tournaments. FMF wishes to be treated as a participant rather than an invitee which would most significantly enable Mexican sides to host return legs, among other things. It remains to be seen how CONMEBOL will take this request from Mexican sides. FEMEXFUT did threaten to "reconsider" their participation in this tournament if these conditions are not met. We'll have to see what CONMEBOL says to this...

A Mexican in Manchester!!!

But it's not Guillermo Ochoa, and it's not Manchester United. After a 6 month spell at Shakhtar Donetsk, Mexican striker Nery Castillo is on the move to Manchester City. This is part of a 1 year loan to the EPL side. Nery wanted to go to Eastlands back in August, but his falling out with Olympiakos staff screwed him over. Hopefully Castillo will get more playing time, and he'll be one of four Mexican strikers playing in Europe along with Giovanni Dos Santos, Carlos Vela and...

There's Only Juan Carlos Cacho

The Tuzos' big front tooth has apparently received offers from a Bundesliga side yet unnamed. Along with the offer for JCC, there's also speculation about another offer for midfield motor Jaime Correa. Both of these players have played key roles for Hugo Sanchez, especially in the Copa America. Cacho replaced Omar Bravo in the attack, and with Pavel Pardo apparently falling out of favor with Hugo, Jaime Correa took over the midfield.

Colorado and Kansas City Want Jared

Borgetti is out of contract at Cruz Azul and looking at his offers. The all-time leading scorer for El Tri is apparently hoping to stay in Mexico, but has begun talking to MLS about offers from Colorado and Kansas City. I don't see how things would work out in KC with him and Eddie Johnson up front, but I can definitely see this working out for Colorado if they get him and Cooke on the same page. Borgetti made himself famous with header goals off of crosses from "El Pony" Ruiz at Santos. That relationship with an assist-man is something he's never gotten back.

Ahi Se Veron

With a very touching story about his 'change of heart' Juan Sebastian Veron has officially said "Thanks, but no thanks" to a deal linking him to DC United. Veron said the offer was tempting, and he would advise others to take it in his place, but that his happiness at Estudiantes was more important to him.

Something Special

Wow, I really hate the offseason. Not much to talk about. Well, at least not until the transfer season... then we'll be cooking.
For the time being, I plan on having 'something special' for this blog soon... I'll keep you updated.


That's all for this edition of Free For All Friday. Hope you enjoy your weekend. Until next time...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

An Assessment of the Damages

Pachuca's loss to Etoile Sportive du Sahel [a name that will never be erased from the minds of Tuzo fans] yesterday was perhaps the biggest disappointment to Mexican football to date. Maybe it was because for the most part Pachuca was Mexico's loveable winner. Maybe it was because for about a year, the team looked almost unbeatable, and was unbeaten at home. For a long time, Pachuca looked like the "superclub" of Mexican football. ::shudders::

But perhaps Pachuca believed the hype. It concerned me that once the year finished last spring, the club did not bring in any players, and made no major additions. The only move was Landin's departure to Morelia in exchange for Marquez Lugo and Gabriel Rey, but neither of those has proven to be good enough to replace Landin.

The Tuzos need to look to make some changes [drop Manzur, Rey and Marquez] and bring in some players that want the leading roles, not just support players. There are rumors regarding the possible return of Richard Nuñez, and the addition of Miguel Sabah as a strike partner for Juan Carlos Cacho.

We'll have to wait and see.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Just A Matter of Time

As a close follower of both MLS and FMF, I've had a certain curiosity about how long it'll be until Mexican sides start shopping in the United States when the transfer season opens. Mexico certainly has the purchasing power, as FMF is the highest paid non-European league.

While checking the rumor sheets on a number of sites, forums, and other places of questionable credibility but often very accurate in predictions, I ran into a few surprises. Listed as "rumored" transfers were the following players:

Atlas - Eddie Johnson
Puebla - Carlos Pavon
Puebla - Luciano Emilio
Tigres - Ante Razov

According to the questionable sources listed above, these are all current MLS players who are catching attention of certain Mexican sides. The past season there were some very mild internet rumors [probably originated in the 3 meetings between the two sides] regarding Brian Ching, Dwayne de Rosario and CF Pachuca. The culminating point for these rumors was a mention on national television [TV Azteca] during a CF Pachuca game, where the commentators stated that these two players could very easily earn their living playing for any Mexican outfit.

American players have participated for Mexican sides before. Wynalda and Balboa played for Club Leon before MLS resurfaced, and in '95 Dominic Kinnear played for the "team of the decade" Necaxa. However, since MLS began, I don't think there has been a single American player [not of dual citizenship] playing for a First Division Mexican time.

With all these rumors starting to float, and greater exposure to the American game [both by virtue of better TV coverage of MLS, and through CONCACAF tournaments] it seems like just a matter of time before you start seeing certain MLS players, and specifically American players suiting up for Club America, CF Pachuca, Tigres UANL or other Mexican sides.

Free For All Friday

Club America Wants Out

As I suggested earlier, Club America has announced that they will call together a series of meetings with FMF and other teams to tell their side of the story. Their aim is to organize a league wide boycott of all CONMEBOL competitions. President Guillermo Cañedo stated that they are "no longer willing to pay for the right to play."

Ochoa: One the World's Best

With declarations like that of Diego Armando Maradona who qualified Mexican Club America keeper Guillermo Ochoa as "one of the world's best," nominations to awards that support such claims, and rumors surfacing about Memo's impending transfer to some of the world's elite clubs, it seems inevitable that the 4th year keeper of only 22 years of age will be leaving the eagle's nest.

With Club America's watery line up, all eyes are now pointing at superb Argentine keeper Federico Vilar of Atlante.

Boring, boring Pumas...

Vilar played in what could possibly be his second to last game. The first leg of the Mexican league finals kicked off last night to a "thrilling" 0-0.

If I had to choose a hyphenated, 12 letter description for UNAM, it would have to be "anti-football." The side has a notoriety for being very savvy in stopping play to their advantage and frustrating the opposition with small fouls, and dirty tactics. Atlante was wise to this and decided to take the same approach to the game, which in turn made the game even more boring than your average UNAM game. The return leg is on Sunday in Cancun, Quintana Roo.

CF Pachuca in the Land of the Rising Sun

The only club side in the world to have ever lifted an international title in a foreign confederation is getting ready to take a shot at club history. The Tuzos begin their quest in Japan on Saturday night at 9:45pm against Etoile Sportive du Sahel.

The Mexicans and Tunisians will compete to advance to the semifinals against Argentine powerhouse Boca Jrs. on Tuesday/Wednesday.

The side from the beautiful windy faced off in a preparation match yesterday against United Chiba of the local J-league and fell 4-2. Despite the score, the best news for the Tuzos was keeper Miguel Calero's participation. Calero had been kept out of the Sudamericana and the Mexican league after suffering a thrombosis just a few weeks after the SuperLiga finals.

MLS Season XIII Week One Announced

The highlight of the newly announced MLS first week for the upcoming 13th season will certainly be the Saturday rematch between MLS Cup 2007 Finalists Houston Dynamo and the Revs.

Here's the rest of the games for that first weekend:

03/29 - New England vs. Houston
03/29 - Columbus vs. Toronto
03/29 - Salt Lake vs. Chicago
03/29 - Kansas City vs. DC United
03/29 - Colorado vs. Los Angeles
03/30 - FC Dallas vs. Chivas USA
03/?? - San Jose vs. New York

The Return of the California Clasico

The other game that was announced was the kickoff to Week 2 of Season XIII. The game schedule for April 3rd will feature the return of one of the California Clasico.

Galaxy will host the San Jose Earthquakes on the ESPN Thursday Night Prime Time game. And as if that weren't enough, add a tint of blood as the aftershocks come with former coach Frank Yallop who will get his first shot at retribution against Galaxy and all the injustices he claimed.


That's all for this inagural edition of Free For All Friday. Hope you enjoy your weekend. Until next time...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Time To Say Good-Bye?

Tonight Club America "fell" in the final of the Copa Sudamericana to Argentine side Arsenal by a margin of 0 goals in their 4-4 aggregate "defeat" thanks to the away goal rule.

Those Blessed Refs

If at first it may have seemed to be sour grapes on the part of Mexican sides, it's become a troubling coincidence that in the final stages of CONMEBOL competitions where Mexican sides are involved, refs have a coincidental habit of erring in favor of the South Americans.

Forgotten cards of both colors, swallowed whistles, and uneven calls seem to the the day's special whenever a Mexican side is involved.

The first leg of the final, and tonight were no exceptions. Two missed red cards in the first leg, a goal from Arsenal that comes after an Arsenal player clearly handles the ball, and a number of questionable "soft" calls throughout the game helped Arsenal come out with a 3-2 lead from Estadio Azteca.

In tonight's match up, Salvador Cabañas is fouled in the box, clear as day and the ref swallows the whistle and forgets his red card. That's two goals, one in favor and one against, that were influenced by the referee's inability or unwillingness to see infractions.

Defense? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Defense

Much like some said that Pete Vagenas finally passed the ball too far back in the SuperLiga final between LA Galaxy and CF Pachuca, it can be said that America's defense finally messed up too much.

Club America practically played with a backline of 4: Ochoa, and the 3 posts. The 'defenders' on the field did nothing that actually resembled defending.

For years, Club America has neglected reinforcing a weakened backline, whose last major upgrade came in 2001 when Castro and both Ricardo and Oscar Rojas debuted for America under Manuel Lapuente. Davino, however, has been with the club for 10 years... 9 too many if you ask me.

Time to Say Good-Bye?

Club America President Guillermo Cañedo Jr. posed an interesting question after tonight's game. He suggested that the time will come when FMF will have to decide if Mexican sides really want to continue having to pay on the field for being allowed to participate.

With the growth in competitive level of MLS sides, the establishment of the SuperLiga, and the time consuming CONCACAF Champions League, maybe FMF should say good-bye to South America.

The South American fans have never made it a secret that they are not happy with Mexican presence, and neither have the referees.

I don't know who stands to lose more.

Mexican sides who lose the 'prestige' of these competitions, and the experience of facing "quality" sides.

Or CONMEBOL who would lose strong competitors [reverting to Argentine-Brazilian domination] and additionally all the additional sponsorship money that Mexican sides bring in.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Omar "Small Pond" Bravo

Chivas' version of Real Madrid's Raul doesn't seem to pack the same punch when it comes to the games that really matter.

Despite being one of the most consistent Mexican scorers today, and having captured the scorers' title last season, Bravo seems to come up short when the games require him to bulk up.

In all the playoffs he's participated in, Bravo has a miserable lone goal, and his most memorable moment perhaps came last Wednesday. During a run in the box, the Atlante defender stretched out his hand attempting to push Bravo, but failed to make contact. That was no obstacle though, as Bravo made the best of it and flopped like a fish out of water to earn his team a PK. (Despite the 1-0 lead in the first leg, Chivas was unable to advance to the finals, and Bravo was again a no-show.)

Same goes for the Mexican National Team, where Bravo has been inefficient and unsuccessful.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

The Unprotected

Here's a case by case look at each of the players L.A. left unprotected for the 2007 MLS Expansion Draft for the San Jose Earthquakes, including my predictions of what the likelyhood of each of these lads being drafted by Frank Yallop & Co.

Cronin, Steve -- There are more attractive options at keeper on the other lists. Expect Yallop to pass on Cronin. Low.

Caso, Mike -- Didn't even get as much playing time as Randolph or Tudela. Unless this kid has a secret that only he and Yallop know about, I don't see him going anywhere. Low.

Friesz, Lance -- See above. Low.

Glinton, Gavin -- He kept the team in the fight with goals in critical moments last year. I'm surprised to see him on the list and not Edson Buddle. I'm certain Yallop will look at his name a few times before making a decision. High.

Gordon, Alan -- Highly doubtful that Frank Yallop will take Gordon. See above. Low.

Gray, Kelly -- It's hard to tell exactly who it was thea brought Kelly Gray into the team. Grey never really gained regularity with the team, and a couple of nice runs aside didn't do much to draw attention to himself. I'd say Yallop might be tempted to take him, but will look for other options, especially at that position. Medium.

Harmse, Kevin -- If I had to guess, I'd say this is who Yallop will want. Harmse came to this team because of Yallop. High.

Martino, Kyle -- Martino is good, but not that good. Whether he goes or stays, I expect him to be warming some bench next season. Nevertheless, it is an attractive option for Yallop. Medium.

Mathis, Clint -- Could this be the reason why Clint Mathis was brought in? I doubt it, but we'll have to wait and see. ???

Tudela, Josh -- Turned out to be a daring little midfielder, but I don't think Yallop will pick him when there are other options at defensive midfielder from this Galaxy lot. Low

Vagenas, Peter -- Can't imagine Pete playing for the archrivals, but I can imagine Yallop picking him anyway. Yallop trusted Pete with a lot of starts in midfield, and Pete is one of those guys who seems to get along well with coaches and do all that they ask. Medium.

Veris, Kyle -- Looked promising early in '06, but when he was thrown into the fire later in that year and during the '07 campaign, he's been disappointing. Low

Xavier, Abel -- Probably thrown in this list because he's the type of guy who will say "LA or bust" and choose to return to Europe should he be selected. Low

The Cup Comes Home in 2008

MLS just announced that the 2008 MLS Cup Final will be played in Carson, California on the beautiful Victoria Street Stadium. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for both Los Angeles based clubs to reach the finals and play for the highest honor in US Soccer in front of their home crowds.


FMF Quarterfinals Set

Weds & Saturday
Cruz Azul - Atlante
San Luis - Guadalajara

Thurs & Sunday
Morelia - Santos
UNAM - Toluca

Mathis Returns to L.A.


The LA Galaxy today acquired forward Clint Mathis from the New York Red Bulls in exchange for the club's natural third round pick in the upcoming 2008 MLS SuperDraft. Mathis, who was originally drafted by the Galaxy in the 1998 SuperDraft, is the 16th leading scorer in MLS history with 59 goals in his nine-year MLS career. He will join his new Galaxy teammates in Los Angeles this week before heading to Australia with the club on Friday.

Mathis, who will turn 31 on Sunday, was drafted by the Galaxy in the first round (sixth overall) of the 1998 MLS College Draft and went on to appear in 65 games for the club, scoring 15 goals and adding 17 assists. Midway through the 2000 season, Mathis was traded to the MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls) as part of the Galaxy's acquisition of Luis Hernandez. He played the next three and a half years in New York, where he is now the club's all-time leading scorer in all competitions, and with whom he was a finalist for the 2000 MLS Honda MVP Award and was named to the 2000 MLS Best XI.

After a year in the German Bundesliga with Hannover 96, Mathis returned to MLS, joining expansion club Real Salt Lake in 2005 before being traded to Colorado for the 2006 season and then on to the Red Bulls in 2007, with whom he scored six goals and added two assists in 26 games. In the Red Bulls 5-4 win over LA in August, Mathis tallied a goal and an assist, with the goal giving him a team-record 45 in all competitions during his career with the club.

A member of the U.S. National Team, Mathis has collected 46 caps and scored 12 goals since debuting with the National Team in 1998. He was a member of the U.S. squad that reached the quarterfinals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup scoring the American's only goal in the 1-1 draw with the host nation Korea Republic.
The way I see it this could either be Pavon's replacement. The FO may be looking to bring in an experienced striker to anchor down the front rather than risk bringing in another foreigner [like Pavon] who struggles simply adapting to the league.
Either that, or Alexi Lalas & Co. may be working on putting together a trade-bait package to seek the 2nd DP spot now that the pressure is off.
Expect more movement from the Galaxy camp within the next couple of weeks to give an indication of what Galaxy's plans for Cletus are.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's Houston! See You In 08

So after a very interesting season, it's the Houston Dynamo that walks away with MLS Cup 2007.

A long offseason awaits us, and seemingly endless possibilities in terms of new names and faces, new venues awaiting, and the hope that next year WILL be the year for fans across the league.
You've got to feel bad for New England, but the biggest loser here is San Jose. This Houston team was their team. It should've been them. Oh well, I guess they can try to rebuild starting next year.

Friday, November 16, 2007

CONCACAF Champions League

Nick Green said in his blog that in the latest CONCACAF meeting, the suits decided to replace the current CONCACAF competition that takes place in January with a Champions League that would begin in August of 09.

From the starting date, I think it's safe to assume that CONCACAF is going to make this competition a group stage + knock out, home-and-home type deal similar to the European version.

3 quick problems:

1) It would screw Mexico over, as they would probably mandate that the champions play in this rather than the SuperLiga as Mexican clubs are already screwed out of the Libertadores because they have to play CONCACAF Champions Cup.

2) If it's running from August to May[?] it will obviously clash with MLS' calendar, and you'll see a single competition be played across 2 seasons of MLS and a single MLS Season will contain both the end of one year's cup and the start of the following year's. This would also make a team qualify to a tournament that would not be played until a year later.

3) Looking beyond these obvious obstacles that CONCACAF has obviously ignored, 24 teams? Are you kidding me? Where the hell are we going to get 24 teams from?

If we play pretend for a second, I can see an expansion of the SuperLiga working with 16 teams.

Category A
4 FMF Clubs - Champions and Runners Up for both the fall and spring tournaments
4 MLS Clubs - Champion, 3 highest point totals

Category B
2 Honduran Clubs - Champion + Runner Up
2 Costa Rican Clubs - Champion + Runner Up

Category C
1 Jamaican Club - Champion
1 T&T Club - Champion
1 Guatemalan Club - Champion
1 Salvadorean Club - Champion

Then you split the groups into quartets including: 1 Mexican, 1 American, 1 Category B, and 1 Category C

Obviously, the question then becomes, what will clubs get out of this competition other than just a chance to participate in an international competition?

Yes, there's the ticket to the World Club Cup, but what will the financial rewards be, etc. etc. etc.

Seems like yet another bad idea from CONCACAF [albeit with good intentions]

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Copa Suda-Mexi-Cana

For the 3rd consecutive in a row, a Mexican club has reached the final of the second most important international club tournament in South America.

2005 - UNAM (Lost to Boca Jrs. in PKs)
2006 - CF Pachuca (Won 2-1 against Colo Colo)
2007 - Club America

America must wait until tomorrow to find out who its opponent will be. The only guarantee is that it'll be an Argentine side. Legendary side River Plate hosts the second leg of the semifinals against a surprising Arsenal de Sarandi.

Arsenal already has a Mexican head above its mantle, having knocked out CD Guadalajara in the quarterfinals.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Mexican Playoff Puzzle

Week 17 of the 'Opening 2008' Season has been completed and this is how the teams are set:

- Direct Entry -
1. Santos
2. Toluca
3. Atlante
4. Guadalajara
5. San Luis

- Wildcard -
6. Club America
7. Cruz Azul
9. CF Pachuca
10. Morelia

- Wildcard Stage -

Club America vs. Morelia [Thurs & Sun]
Cruz Azul vs. CF Pachuca [Weds & Sat]

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Shades of Blue & White

In Martin Roger's column for Yahoo! sports, he talks about Tim Leiweke's vision for this club. Leiweke's attitude is perhaps best summarized in one line:

"I want everyone in the league to be envious of us, on and off the pitch"

Thinking about this quote, and looking at what Galaxy have done, I began thinking about the other team of historically loveable losers that I support. CF Pachuca.

In 1995, the current President and ownership group took control of the team.
In 1999, the team [having come from the 2nd division] wins its first title in history.
In 2001, the team wins its second title [from the 8th place position]
In 2003, the team wins its THIRD title.

Between 2003 and 2006 though, the team launched an impressive marketing campaign that would be the delight of most marketing professors. It wasn't just advertising. It was remodeling the stadium, opening the first Football University, opening the Tuzo Plaza shopping mall, etc. etc. etc.

But during those 3 years, Pachuca's results on the field suffered, at one point even finishing dead last on the table by a wide margin. Had it not been for Mexico's strange relegation system, the Tuzos would have surely returned to the promotion division.

At that point, Jesus Martinez [President] and Andres Fassi [Director of Football] both said 'enough' and decided it was time to put the Tuzos back on track. Having completed their ambitions projects, they set out to accomplish that which a football team is supposed to do: Win.

Since 2006, the Tuzos have won: 2 Domestic titles, 1 CONCACAF Champions Cup, and 1 [very painful] SuperLiga

Interestingly enough, AEG has followed a similar timeline.

In 1998, AEG bought Galaxy.
In 2002, the team accomplished its first MLS Cup title.
In 2005, the team won another [from the 8th place position]

After two years, Leiweke and company are apparently ready to return to the field.

Could it be?

Friday, November 9, 2007

The 2008 Galaxy Draft

It was brought to my attention this morning that with Frank Yallop's buyout by the San Jose Earthquakes, Los Angeles has managed to amass a grand total of 9 draft picks for the 4 rounds of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft.

This perhaps is the best tool Ruud Gullit and Cobi Jones have as they start to look into the 2008 Season as it perhaps holds the key to doing that which seemed impossible: Keeping Landon Donovan without dismantling the team.

I had originally expect Galaxy to lose a 3 man package in order to keep Landon. Either Randolph, Martino and Albright, or Randolph, Harmse and Jazic [if we traded with TFC].

But why trade players we have if we can trade players that we don't have. When trading away players, most teams are willing to accept a draft pick for a draft that'll take place one or two years down the line. Here's where LA has some real strength. We're not talking about draft picks for 09, or 2010. We're talking about draft picks for January of 08.

LA should be able to make either one big trade giving away 4 or 5 draft picks in exchange for a DP spot, or a number of trades to put together a package of players that won't affect the team's core and will be attractive enough for other teams to bite.

I still fully expect us to keep and use at least 4 of those draft picks. In last year's draft LA picked up Robbie Findley, Ty Harden and Josh Tudela who have all proven to be good players with a lot of potential. Finding young guys is going to be critical in strengthening this team not just for the upcoming season, but in the long run.

Ruud Gullit!!!

Galaxy's New Boss... (more to come)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better

No, really... I can.

As a fan of the Mexican league, I knew 3 years ago that the concept of Chivas USA was, by name more suitable for your local AYSO leagues in latino areas. There, you'll find:

Cementeros USA [Cruz Azul], Monarcas USA [Morelia], Atlas USA [Atlas] and if we get fancy, we'll also find Juventus USA, Real Madrid USA, etc. etc. etc.

After 3 years of a steadily decreasing attendance, steadily increasing on-field product, and steadily increasing efforts to convince us otherwise by giving away free tickets match-day and offering tickets left and right at 25%, or 50% off, it's safe to say: "I was right."

That leaves us with a problem. Los Angeles is still the best market for soccer in America, and by far the only market that could support two teams. However, despite what MLS tells you, derby nights aside, there's only one team in L.A.

On the night of a derby, you may find a full house and the Chivas FO will have an oversized flag on hand, but on most night, Chivas USA's announced attendance of 13,000 really means that there are about 9,000 people in the stands. Let’s not even get into how many of those are there on a fully paid admission ticket.

With people like Landon Donovan, Alexi Lalas, David Beckham, and Cobi Jones, this city is oozing with your typical "haters." There are thousands of soccer fans in Los Angeles who would love to have any team that rivaled Galaxy... except for Chivas USA.

And while the on-field product continues to improve, you can't help but wonder what the stands would look like if rather than using the seal of the city of Guadalajara for a Los Angeles based team, they had used the seal of the City of Los Angeles and named the team something like City of Los Angeles F.C.

Maybe then they could attract more people of different backgrounds in Los Angeles, rather than the 10,000 [inflated attendance] that they average when they’re not playing teams that feature the likes of David Beckham, or Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

This season's success may have bought the team some time, but in order for this brand to be successful, it needs to appeal to all of the people of Los Angeles. CD Guadalajara supporters have their team already, and as Legion showed us in August, when there's a conflict of interest, the Chiva faithful would rather take a roadtrip north to San Jose to see the real team play in a meaningless friendly, than to watch their daughter team play in an official match. They won’t switch loyalties, and while some may back the sister team, I find it hard to believe that they'd be willing to buy full season tickets for a product they consider 'inferior.'

Vergara and Cue are sitting on a winnig loterry ticket by having taken hold of a Los Angeles based franchise early on, and are squandering it on a team with an AYSO image.

It's Gullit

I could join the he-said-she-said that seems to be drugging the Galaxy faithful lately, but I'd rather not. Instead, I'll just list my 5 expectations for newly appointed Galaxy manager, Ruud Gullit:

1. Sexy Football -- Sorry Ruud, your phrase, not mine. I expect Galaxy to win [duh!] but hopefully we can win playing offensive football that'll have the home support at the edge of their seats. Nothing wrong with going on a long win streak a-la Frank Yallop before choking in Chicago, but winning by 1-0 off a PK, and with less than 5 shots total [1 or 2 on target] isn't really much fun.

2. No Excuses -- I hate hearing managers groan about things that are bugging them AFTER games. Yallop waited until after they were losing the games on hand to complain about the backloaded schedule which we ALL saw coming. If you have an issue with something, speak out right away or take it like a man.

3. Challenge the Team -- I've played FIFA 08, I know it says Jazic and Pavon are starters. I think it's safe to say most know that Randolph and Gordon [or a new forward] would be better options. Make the players win their spots.... each and every week.

4. A Little Heart -- And by a little, I mean a lot. Nothing kills me more than seeing a coach who stands at the sidelines cross armed through a goal for or a goal against as if they're indifferent to the whole mess. Everytime I looked at Yallop on the bench, I felt sorry for the guy, as if his mother had just passed away... after having passed away last weekend, and the weekend before that. Just take some pride in your work.

5. Trade Pete -- Pete is the nicest guy in the world, seems like a humble down to earth type, but he's been steadily getting worse with each season. I'm still having a hard time figuring out how his nickname in certain circles went from Pistol Pete to Passback Pete.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Yallop Resigns

I find it troubling that Frank Yallop walked away from the job after, as far as I understand, he had been given the green light to continue with the team.

As good a coach as Yallop has proven to be in the past, it seems fairly certain now that the gig as the Galaxy head coach was too big for him. Time after time during his brief stay here in L.A. he put forth excuse after excuse.

Last season he focused on the USOC, probably thinking we had lost too many games under Sampson to make up and get to the playoffs. He loses in THAT final, and then he tries to push for the playoffs. He misses the playoffs, then blames the USOC by saying something along the lines of "We won a couple of games in the USOC, if those would've been league games we would've been in the playoffs."

This year he focuses on the SuperLiga realizing we've lost too many points to get to the playoffs. He loses in THAT final, and then tries to push for the playoffs.

He takes the team to the final game versus Chicago, and says that despite having a couple of guys back from injury, he's going to stick with the one that brought him and play the same 11. After the loss, he says that those guys were tired -- question, Frank: If they're tired, why would you start them again?

I'm glad Frank Yallop is gone, and am eagerly awaiting the announcement regarding who will replace him.

The Ugly Duckling -- Pt. 1

When you look at the immediate impact Real Salt Lake, Toronto FC [2nd and 4th in league attendance], David Beckham and Cuauhtemoc Blanco have had, you begin to analyze MLS's other “promises” more closely.

Obviously both Kansas City and Columbus are in need of help. But both teams can blame historically poor performances. Both missed the playoffs in the past 2 seasons and their attendances dropped from 15k to 9k, and from 16k to 12k respectively.

The opposite is true with the team from Carson. As Chivas turns into a more competitive side, their "fan base" has vanished.

Chivas USA's home attendance averages 13,013 per game. But if derby attendance versus Los Angeles Galaxy is excluded, the average drops to 10,000, just above Kansas City.
And while La Legion 1908 scrambles to pull the largest banner in MLS over its members, the seats around them remain abandoned.

For a team that promised to tap into the vast Mexican-American market, and promised to be the biggest draw in MLS, it is baffling that they have only been able to reach a 20k home attendance once for any game that does not involve Galaxy. So far this season, the top deck has only been used for the game versus Galaxy.

Perhaps the problem is that Chivas USA is, by name, contradictory to Club Deportivo Guadalajara’s traditions.

During the 1950s-1960s era of Chivas dominance in the Mexican league, the Sacred Flock gathered supporters thanks to their winning ways and their nationalistic, Mexicans-only policy.
When Television mogul Emilio Azcarraga bought Club America, he immediately aimed to turn his team into the villains of Mexican football, and nemesis to the CD Guadalajara side that was beloved by all.

His method of choice?

Azcarraga put money on the table and sought expensive foreigners; a perfect antithesis to Guadalajara’s model.[Ironically, since Azcarraga’s overhaul, Club America’s titles outnumber Guadalajara’s 9 to 3]

Guadalajara’s supporters only ever support players of one nationality: Mexican. They will support Mexicans playing for Guadalajara, abroad, or for the national team, but never a foreign player.

And if there’s a particular group Guadalajara supporters are specifically opposed to, it’s Americans, even Mexican-Americans. In 1998, Gerardo Mascareño played 10 games with Guadalajara before controversy regarding his American birth left him off the team.

It is an Oxymoron to put the words Chivas and USA together and expect Guadalajara supporters to embrace this image. Because doing so would require them to support foreign players from various nationalities, including Americans. That is something that Guadalajara fans are unlikely to do. Guadalajara’s traditions will keep Guadalajara’s supporters, and others of different backgrounds in the Los Angeles area from adopting Chivas USA.

If the organization wishes to grow with the team’s recent on-field success, they must abandon the City of Guadalajara badge, drop the Chivas USA moniker and re-brand into the alternative to Los Angeles Galaxy, like Club America did with them in 1959. Otherwise, they must cope with low attendances and the decreased sponsorships that will follow.