I'll be logging the Jonathan Kraft interview on the WEEI Dale and Holly Show as it happens. Here it goes: (click title to read more)
- Jonathan Kraft exchanges shirt complements with Dale and Holley.
- Talks about Patriots Place being a "lifestyle center" which will be a first to the region.
- Patriots Place was the brainchild of Papa Kraft who wants to make Foxboro a "destination". Getting Bass Proshops was huge and will be the anchor. God help us. Didn't we fight the Civil War to banish rednecks from the area forever?
- Asked if the current situation is better than Boston would have been (for the Pats). JK was a little apprehensive because it would have been better from the start. However, this new project would never have happened.
- Not a direct relationship with the project and the sports teams save the medical centers that will be built.
- Now talking about the Pats museum. Can't they save that for tomorrow's interview with Bob Kraft? JK seems really into it if that matters for anything. Don Shula Steakhouse should be there right next to a monument to that blizzard game as suggested by Dale. John Smith kicked the winner in that one. That's soccer related, right?
- Holley asked how the Revs turned around. JK attributes it to Steve Nicol. "He's a real mucker in the mold of the old Bruins". I have to agree. SN would dive in front of a slapshot face first. JK also talked about how Nicol is superb with American players.
- JK likes how they don't have to scour the Earth for players. Dear Lord.
- JK talks about Beckham impact and explained the DP rule. Stressed how they are meant to not only add good players, but they had to add something else off the field. Claudio Reyna? Talks about how AEG owns Beck's image rights.
- Beckham game is almost sold out. I'm thinking that's the 30k number.
- Holley asked about Joseph situation and why the Celtic offers were rebuffed: SJ is too valuable to the team. Hey JK, then freakin pay him!
- Asked if it's better if Beckham coming or big clubs wanting MLS players. JK mentioned that the goal is for MLS to be a power. He mentioned that it's important for the US to compete for a World Cup before the league is taken seriously. He believes MLS is a second tier league. Someone should force him to watch some Argentine or French league games sometime.
- Asked when the normal players will start getting recognized on the streets of Boston. JK mentioned he overheard a lot of Revs talk at a youth tournament which is a huge change from 5-10 years ago.
- TV ratings: MLS is "holding it's own" on cable. Right there with NHL's. Aspiring to approach NBA's level. People want to watch soccer and JK thinks production value will help.
- Thinks MLS will be in 16 cities shortly. Talked about how ESPN2 Thursday night is important branding, especially with the out of market audience. Sort of dissed Direct Kick as unpopular and not many parents buy it for their kids. You think?
- Dale doesn't think Gillette is good for soccer. JK agrees and thinks SSS's add atmosphere. Gives a shot out to the "fan club" in The Fort. JK wants a SSS, and mentions they are working on one.
- JK would be happy to share a SSS with the Breakers (new women's team next year).
- He would also love to get a SSS next to public transportation.
- A number of other towns have approached them. They aren't going public with it because of the Patriots experience. Brian Bilello and the company that built Gillette are leading the charge.
- Krafts were "very close" to doing something with Liverpool a few years ago. The time just wasn't right for it. They are still open to something like that in the future.
- On youth development, he talked a lot about the structural setup for some reason. He mentioned Sunil Gulati and how MLS is absorbing some of the youth setups and JK mentioned the importance of that. A lot of rambling with no specifics.
- Dale asked about hosting the World Cup. JK said the soccer bigwigs are focused at getting it in the US in 2014 or 2018. Brazil may have something to say about that.
- Holley asked about the overhyped 2006 US team and why we should think things will be different. JK pointed out that we tied Italy. Fantastic point. I'm sold.
- Kids that can be great short stops and point guards can become soccer players instead! Good luck with that, man.
That's all for the interview. Not a lot of new information. It's reassuring they are somewhat actively working towards a SSS. Besides that, it was pretty generic.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I woke up too late on Sunday for a proper review of that atrocity on Saturday night. I visited friends down the Jersey Shore from Sunday until this morning, and I'm glad to be back. Here's some quick thoughts on the happenings over the weekend:
(click title to read more)
* The Revs seemed surprised by the way the ball was sticking to the pitch and were unable to cope.
* KC wanted the game more, plain and simple. There was an obvious lapse after the Revs went up 2-0, and the Wiz made them pay.
* Jay Heaps got owned by Eddie Johnson. James Riley looked lost at times. What the heck was Avery John doing on the bench?
* With Chicago in freefall, it's a three team race in the East. I think the Revs look the weakest leg of the pyramid right now.
* The Revs deserved to lose the last two games. Getting three points out of those matches was fortunate.
* Andy Dorman continues to become less and less a part of the New England attack.
* I'm hoping Stevie Nicol is putting the boot to the team this week. They better destroy Salt Lake.
* At least the reserves won 3-0 on Sunday morning. It also looks like Daniel Hernandez will be back shortly. With Jeff Larentowicz's substandard performance as of late, he may be a welcome addition to the lineup (I can't believe I just typed that).
Fantasy Soccer Bootroom will be back soon. My schedule's been hectic as of late and I've been neglecting it. Check back Monday for the next installment.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
With the Foxboro town meeting over and the vote going overwhelmingly in favor of granting the new liquor liscenses, the Pats are beginning to pimp the Patriots Place project on their website and in the media.
For the Krafts, this is a legacy project that all but cements their presence in Foxboro. For Revs fans, this will enhance the gameday experience for fans. Hopefully, there will be an appropriate pub in the complex to house those who want to continue the postgame tailgate longer than the town police usually allow.
As discussed in this blog's stadium series, if this project succeeds, especially when it comes to gameday crowds, the only site for a Revs SSS will be in Foxboro. Some disagree with that assessment, notably RevsNet's Brian O'Connell who believes this means the team will never get a SSS under the ownership of Kraft. I think his points are a little shortsighted. It's not an either/or situation and they'll be looking to expand the number of the events there at some point. A second venue will be the way to do just that. It may not be next year, but somewhere in the 5-10 range after they know the economic benefits the project has.
Success of this project is a slam dunk. I known this because they have already nailed down a Christmas Tree Shop as a tenant. For those not in the know, they offer Walmart prices without all the fat shoppers proudly displaying their ankle fat. In fact, if you are into women in their fifties (who isn't?), you can pull some trim while you buy oven mitts at a 60% discount.
Friday, May 25, 2007
A real battle awaits the Revs at Gillette Stadium tomorrow as the Kansas City Wizards come to town. New England needs to win to regain their 3-game lead over Red Bull New York, while KC will be looking to bounce back after drawing to Colorado. Kansas City seems to be rejuvenated since hiring Curt Onalfo as head coach over the offseason. The Wizards represented the Western Conference in MLS Cup 2004, but have failed to make the playoffs the last two years since moving to the East. They are playing some exciting soccer, too bad nobody's watching.
(click title to read more)
Eddie Johnson's resurgence has grabbed most of the headlines, but the addition of rookie midfielder Micheal Harrington has just as much to do with it. The former UNC player has added a much needed spark down the wing. Another addition who should feature Saturday is Carlos Marinelli. The much traveled former Middlesbrough player brings the distribution and touch of class that was desperately needed in the KC midfield. That was before he strained his hamstring in Toronto a few weeks ago. Marineeli should be back in the starting lineup as he played 37 minutes in the Wizard's 1-1 tie with Colorado.
KC comes into the game a bit banged up, especially in the back line. Jimmy Conrad will be missing the game due to a hamstring strain. Conrad also injured his jaw a few weeks back. I like Conrad, but if you continually go head first into 50-50 balls instead of using your arms to keep separation like your adversary is doing, you're going to get your jaw broke from time to time. Essentially, what makes him a good defender, also makes him reckless at times. Scott Sealy is also listed as out. This is good news for the Revs who already had enough offensive firepower to worry about. Midfielder Jose Burciaga is questionable with a shoulder strain (Parkhurst thinks he's a wuss) and our favorite kung fu artist, Nick Garcia, is probable with an abdominal strain. That's good news for Andy Dorman. The next time Garcia chops him in the throat to prevent a goal scoring opportunity, it won't have as much impact.
For the Revs, Shalrie Joseph is listed as questionable with a knee contusion. The word earlier in the week was he'd be good to go. It's also rumored that Daniel Hernandez would be ready. However, with the team's current depth at defensive midfielder, it wouldn't be prudent to rush him back. Wells Thompson has been listed as questionable with a broken wrist. Although I'd normally consider a footballer to be a wimp for missing a game with that kind of injury, he should probably be rested with Stevie Ralston likely to miss games in June due to the Gold Cup.
If New England is to be successful, they are going to have to win the battles on the wings. KC has exploited teams out wide and this has to be neutralized. Also, Shalrie Joseph and Jeff Larentowicz need to disrupt Marinelli. If the Revs can achieve those two things, Eddie Johnson will be left on an island up top.
The Revs have a real opportunity to take it to Kansas City's defense in this one. Although it's not wise to mess with a good thing (if the last game can even be considered "good"), I would hope Pat Noonan gets the start next to Taylor Twellman up top. Adam Cristman has been solid, but college rookies tend to burn out early and it may be a good idea to give him some rest. Granted, there's a bye week after the next one, but Cristman will need to play the full 90 minutes in a few of the upcoming games and will need to kept fresh. Starting Noonan would also bring the short passing in the box between him and Twellman that will likely produce goals in this kind of game.
The thing that worries me here is the Revs didn't play well last week and still won. While that was great last week, it doesn't provide much of a catalyst to improve upon going into this one. There's also natural grass installed at Gillette for the Gold Cup. It's an unproven surface, which could create a wildcard element. If the grass isn't properly settled, it will get a bit torn up during the Ireland-Bolivia game that will take place immediately before the Revs game.
Probable Revs Lineup:
Our Sports Central
Monsters & Critics
Down The Byline (KC Blog)
Thursday, May 24, 2007
US National coach Bob Bradley announced his 23-man Gold Cup roster today. Taylor Twellman, Steve Ralston, and Micheal Parkhurst were all on it. The roster is considered his "A team" with the USSF firmly behind winning the championship of CONCACAF over Copa America which will be played shortly afterwards (more on that later). (click title to read more)
No surprise with Twellman. He's been on form to start the season with six goals in eight games. His body of work, which should have earned him a World Cup spot, is second to none in regards to MLS forwards over the past five years.
Parkhurst is a slight surprise and may have a lot to do with Jimmy Conrad's current injury woes. It would be nice to see him line up next to Oguchi Onyewu in central defense. Parky will provide the coverage while Gooch provides the muscle. He will have some competition from Simek and Demerit. However, play time is over and Bradley has been instructed to win the tournament. Players won't get special treatment because they are based in Europe and won't be going to Copa America.
Steve Ralston may be the biggest surprise. He's surely earned the spot with his current MLS form. However, he won't be in the USMNT picture much longer. This just goes to show how much emphasis the US is putting on this cometition.
No word yet if there will be any overlap with the Copa America roster, which won't feature any players from Europe. Reis and Noonan may be sure a sure bet for that team, and it would be a tremendous hit to the Revs if they lost the other three for another two weeks.
So, does the US Soccer Federation have it's priorities in the right place? Winning the Gold Cup earns the US a birth for the next Confederations Cup in 2009. The logic being, that is where they would face the best roster that teams like Brazil and Italy would throw at them. The consensus is that many teams won't be sending their best to this year's competition. It's played at the absolute wrong time for those players based in Europe who need a month off before the ten month grind starts up again. Many of the South American federations are resigned to that fact and haven't invited their best.
Just don't tell that to Lionel Messi and Robinho, who seem desperate to play in it. Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico (who always try to win whatever competition they are in) will all be fielding rosters which will likely have an easy time with the US B team. Our A team would actually have an outside chance at winning Copa America, which would be a lot more impressive than beating Cuba and Canada in our own stadiums.
They are also passing up the opportunity to seriously compete in a meaningful competition in a hostile environment. This year, it is in Venezuela. Not only will they be chanting "Osama" and throwing rocks at our bus, they'll be sniffing the air while shouting "Satan was here yesterday! I smell Sulfur". There's a similar environment that the US competes in every four years and always seem to lose: Mexico City's Azteca Stadium. Am I the only one who thinks it would be a heck of an experience to seriously prepare for, and be successful in that type of environment?
I don't place all the blame on the USSF, though. The scheduling for Copa America stinks (not as bad as W's sulfur undies apparently). They are missing an absolute golden opportunity to set up a competition opposite the European Championship every four years. Just imagine if they invited a certain amount of CONCACAF teams who in turn made this year's Gold Cup the basis for qualification? Both tournaments would then take a quantum leap in importance. That's something they both need, but sadly, it's something we will never see.
In the meantime, it'll be nice to see which newcomers will succeed when called apon and which will crash and burn. We're likely see Byrne get some time at RM, and we'll probably find out who Nicol rates as the fourth best forward on the team. Gary Flood will see some time, especially if Avery John gets called up to the Trinidad and Tobago team. I'd also like to see if Ryan Solle has what it takes yet.
Time will tell. Until then, congrats to Twellman, Ralston, and Parkhurst. You've earned it.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Real Salt Lake, unsatisfied with being one of the worst teams in MLS, traded their only proven goalscorer today for a flash in the pan crybaby. Congratulations RSL, you're #13 and you've earned it. The aim of Salt Lake's deal was to free up salary cap by sending Jeff Cunningham to Toronto in exchange for Alecko Eskandarian, their first round pick next season, and cash. It's a clear sign that they are looking into the distant future on this one. (click title to read more)
Or maybe not. This quote at the end of the article threw me for a bit of a loop:
A high-ranking RSL official said, "Parting with Jeff [Cunningham] was hard but we are in a much better position now to improve our team. If you think of the cap room we've created not only from this deal, but also from Jason's [Kreis] retirement and [Luis] Tejada's departure, we've got the cash to possibly make a run at Shalrie Joseph or another player looking for the right change of venue."
Now, I could be wrong here, but that comment is all sorts of wrong. First off, as discussed here, Shalrie Joseph is under contract with the Revs until the end of the 2008 season. If this were Europe, it would be a clear instance of tampering if a club official made a statement like that. The setup is completely different in MLS, where all contracts are owned by the league. The survival of the league up until now has been dependent on a system where individual teams haven't had to bid for players. Some may say this has held MLS back, but this business plan has been vital in keeping the league afloat by keeping costs down. Some of the owners and league officials swear by it, and I highly doubt they feel the league can stand to let the floodgates open with so many unknowns about the economic impact of the designated player rule, youth setups, etc...
I'm a bit surprised this "high ranking team official" was so liberal with throwing Shalrie's name out like that. Joseph's situation has indeed been the most public, but two other MLS stars, who may be on the downside of their careers, are also unhappy with the lack of new contract offers: DC's Christian Gomez and Houston's Dwayne De Rosario. He may have been thinking about the other two, but one thing I know: not mentioning someone has no effect on their contract negotiations. That's where this will wind up hurting the Revs. Ron Waxman, Joseph's agent, can use comments like that to their advantage. The main negotiator on behalf of the Krafts is Sunil Gulati, who just so happen to be on the league's audit committee (among 12 other positions of varying degrees of importance). Sunil also has to think about the league's finances when making these deals. Real Salt Lake doesn't have an employee embedded at MLS HQ quite like Gulati. Although this situation is a sore spot with me, the fact remains comments like that one are not in the league's best interests. It would be interesting if anything becomes of this.
So what would it take for Real Salt Lake to wrestle control from us? Well, it would require a trade. What's funny about the whole thing is it probably would require giving up cap space which would make it hard to give Joseph the raise he deserves. All that aside, I would imagine one of their first round picks in 2008 would be involved, and probably the better of the two. RSL will be at or close to the bottom and Toronto, although better off coming out of that trade, will at worst be a 6th or 7th pick. That has to be enticing for Steve Nicol, who has had success bringing along American talent. Imagine if it was a straight-up trade for their two first round picks? That would almost be worth it from our end if Daniel Hernandez comes back strong from his nagging groin injury.
Another scenario could develop from all of this. The Revs could nail down a designated player this summer. Needing cap space, they could make a trade with RSL sending Joseph there in exchange for one draft pick. I would expect the return from such a trade would be lower if New England had to make it in short order like that.
If not, teams are going to have to be prepared to give the Revs a ton in return for Joseph. He's quite possibly the most important player on the team. He's under contract for awhile and is going nowhere unless it makes the Revs stronger in the process.
Monday, May 21, 2007
The Revs signed Kyle Helton on Saturday, their sixth and final pick of the 2007. Helton is a speedy defender, and will be reunited with former Duke teammate Chris Loftus on the developmental roster. Given his draft position, he elected to finish out his degree at Duke before giving MLS a try. Helton will most likely play right back on the reserves and will join a large crop of promising youngsters being groomed to step in when some of the aging Revolution players begin to fade.
Although some may think this closes the door on the Revs landing a designated player during the summer, Helton's arrival has no effect on that possibility. A DP would have to go on the 18-man senior roster, which is already full. The team would have to waive a player, most likely Marshall Leonard or Daniel Hernandez, to make room.
Speaking of Hernandez, rumor has it his groin is finally healed and may see action as soon as this week. It would be nice to see him eased into the lineup in a similar fashion to how Pat Noonan has been used. We don't want Joseph or Larentowicz burning out.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
In a game reminiscent of last year's Eastern Conference final, the New England Revolution scored early and then hung, hung, hung on for a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo tonight. Shalrie Joseph scored the lone goal before the Revs fell back into their version of the Maginot Line. Although our defense proved just as porous as that bit of French engineering, the outcome was different as the good guys repelled wave after wave of second half assaults from our orange adversaries. (click title to read more)
My immediate reaction is that we can't keep doing this. Then again, maybe we can. The way I see it, there will be at least another ten games this season where we will go into halftime with the lead. We have become so accustomed to this tactic, we have to be getting good at it, right? If we can only drop 6-8 points in those games, and have a few come from behind victories, we'll be close to the top of the table all year. How's that for a positive spin? Truth is, our form was piss poor tonight.
Khano Smith may have been ready to keel over and die from exhaustion towards the end, but he sure did play a lackadaisical game. Most of his passes seemed wasteful and without purpose. Andy Dorman had a bad game and came off for rookie Wells Thompson who looked even worse. Shalrie Joseph didn't exert himself much in the midfield, and came out around the hour mark. I hope he's not injured. Joey Franchino held himself admirably in his place. Riley continued to look shaky in the back and Adam Cristman disappeared in the second half. This is the type of game Taylor Twellman was ineffective in last year, and tonight was no different. Did I miss anyone?
Oh yeah, Micheal Parkhurst had a standout performance at central defense and Matt Reis played maybe his best game of the season between the sticks. Both were co-MVP's in my book. Without that duo, Houston would have probably won 3-1.
The only great thing the team can take away from this is they played poorly, yet still won. They have proven to be explosive at times, and are going into a very long homestand. Even with the national team callups, they should fare well over the next few months. A poor performance sometimes translates into hard, effective training sessions. Let's hope that is the case as the Revs get ready to host Kansas City next week. There should be a good crowd with Ireland playing beforehand, so let's hope the home team puts on a good show.
Monsters & Critics
After an emotional roller coaster of a day, I sat down to watch the Toronto-DC United match. This gave me an opportunity for some closure on my MLS local announcer critique I had done earlier. DC won the game 2-1, but they had to come back to do it. It also took reverting back to a 3-5-2 in the second half, something that one would figure was obvious given the success teams had with it against the expansion side vice lining up in a 4-4-2 and slugging it out. Anyway, here's my very unfairly biased critique of DC's announce team: (click title to read more)
First off, let me say I was emotionally drained going into this, so I had no tolerance for the typical trappings I despise about American soccer commentary. I had watched my favorite insignificant Football League side, Blackpool, win to go on to Wembley and possibly get promoted to the Championship. Why Blackpool? Well, that's the home of legendary wrestler and elasticface, Sir William Regal, that's why. I also played them extensively in Fifa '05. Their new digs look nice after moving out of "Generic Lower League 3". That's where the game told me they played, anyhow. Then, Manchester United lost to Chelsea in the FA Cup during extra time. Even though I favor United, I called that one perfectly in an e-mail read out on World Soccer Daily on Friday. What made it so painful was watching the game play out exactly as I had called it: boring play, few chances, Drogba with an extra time winner. Then, the good Lord made it up to me as the Red Sox demolished the Braves with Daisuke Matsusaka cruising to his sixth victory. Has any team worked pitchers like the current Sox lineup? Then again, one bad game in October and they're the 2001 Mariners. Needless to say, I was a little wiped heading into this one.
Announcers: Dave Johnson, Thomas Rongen
Dave Johnson is the "IT'S IN THE NET!!!" guy. To his credit, he made that call when Toronto scored. Rongen's a decent analysis, but his timing deteriorated as the game went on. So did Johnson's. When the game got heated, Rongen quizzed Johnson: "What does DC United stand for?". Johnson responded" "pride and, uh, passion?". Very weird moment which also caused some bile to rush up my esophagus. Their crew gets low grades for showing a montage of Moreno penalty kicks before he tied the all-time goals record. Granted, you would have to go back a few seasons to see him score a nice goal from the run of play in MLS, but he did have a nice one in the CCC. Show that one. All in all, they are a decent team by MLS standards. I just wasn't up for 90 minutes of standard MLS announcing this afternoon.
Calling the game: 7, Homerism: 8 (mostly for that stupid exchange)
So the final tally looks like this:
1. Toronto FC
2. Chicago Fire
3. New England Revolution
4. Houston Dynamo
5. DC United
6. Kansas City
7. Red Bull New York
8. Chivas USA
9. FC Dallas
10. Real Salt Lake
11. Colorado Rapids
12. LA Galaxy
13. Columbus Crew
As the Revs game inches closer, I'm getting a little nervous. We're really going to find out if the team is for real, or just another middle of the pack team that just happened to go on a run to start the year. We'll find out in about two hours time.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Nearly nine years ago, as soon as I stepped onboard my warship, my new coworkers made it clear to me the evilness of the number 71. Most of the people I served with over the next five years didn't take as positive an outlook as I did. Much of their angst was directed towards the ship, whose hull number was CVN-71. I chalked it up to silly superstition, but I did notice the number 71 popping up in a lot of places. However, that's mostly because it's a relatively high prime number. I also realized the Nostradamus prophecy of "floating city 71" sinking at the start of the millennium was a silly rumor spread through gullability after I heard the same thing repeated by people from other aircraft carriers, with their hull number replaced with ours. Needless to say, I thought those people just needed an object to focus their discontent. Our number just so happened to be 71.(click title to read more)
That all changed with MLS Cup last November. Taylor Twellman's extra time goal seemed to end the team's championship drought. That sense of euphoria was ended 71 seconds later as Brian Ching haded in a deflected cross to tie the game up and send it on to penalties, the Revs eventually losing. A few days later, I sent out an e-mail to some of my former shipmates (I can call them "shipmate" now and not worry about being taped up and thrown in a laundry bag). The overwhelming response I got was "now you see!". As I type this, the Red Sox are having maybe their best season ever. What's their magic number? Yup, it's 71. I fear the worst.
The Revs come into this game on quite a roll. Since they lost the opener (while they were undermanned), the team has only dropped four points in six games. This trip to Houston will be their last road game for over a month. Three points would be nice, but any amount of points would be a victory in this one. Houston lost to Toronto midweek, where they were run ragged. However, they had an extended layoff before that game and will be fit.
For New England to take away points, they have to contain Houston's strikers. Brian Ching is one of the best target forwards in the league. They have also recently picked up Joseph Ngwenya from Columbus who appeared out of sync with his new club against Toronto. Hopefully, the two day break isn't enough time to resolve that situation. Houston has one of the strongest midfields, where this game will probably be won. If Joseph can exert his dominance, the Revs should be in good shape. If Dwayne De Rosario can control much of the action, New England's in for a long night.
I'm curious to see who gets the start up top next to Twellman. Adam Cristman has allowed Pat Noonan ample time to heal, and scored his first ever goal last week. Noonan may keep his role off the bench until the Revs return home. This may be the last game US coach Bob Bradley will evaluate before he decides on his Gold Cup roster. Guys like Micheal Parkhurst and Matt Reis are on the bubble and can't afford a bad game (although Reis wouldn't be called in to be a backup). Twellman may be a lock for that team, so resting Noonan to ensure he's 100% for Taylor's upcoming absence may not be a terrible idea.
MLS teams usually have a letdown after an exciting performance, but the Revs can gain some distance from their competitors with a win. A win would give them 17 points, which is 71 in reverse. That's good luck, right?
Projected Revs lineup:
Thursday, May 17, 2007
I watched the Toronto-Houston match last night on MLSnet which used the Houston telecast feed. It was the first game called by the Houston announcers I've caught in quite some time, and I think I've heard all the local announce teams this season so I've decided to rank them.
The criteria will be how well they call the game being played on the field, how much they gear their announcing towards the home side, and a completely subjective ranking by me. The final rank takes a lot more into account than the first two categories. And yes, I'm a biased Revolution supporter. (click title to see rankings)
So in no particular order:
Announcers: Charlie Palillo, Glen Davis
Decent broadcast last night. Glen Davis, who hosts one of the best soccer radio shows in the country, provides color commentary that is very relevant to the play on the field. He can also break down plays in a concise manner. What I didn't like was the length of the advertising plugs Palillo was forced to read. God bless his soul, he tried to find good opportunities to squeeze them in, but if it takes 30 seconds to read them, the game will change from he starts to when he finishes. There was one such plug where he spoke over one or two legitimate scoring opportunities.
Calling the game: 7, Homerism: 5, Rank: 4
Announcers: Sean Wheelock, Brian Roberts
I was surprised when I heard how long Sean Wheelock has been at the announcing game. I first heard of him a few years ago through Fox Sports World (now Fox Soccer Channel). As it turns out, he's been calling Wizard games for quite some time. Of all the local announcers, he's the hands down leader in putting the game first. He calls the game in a similar fashion you would find on an EPL broadcast. The problem is that his voice is rather annoying and the gravity he exudes doesn't typically match the vibe emanating from the stands.
Calling the game: 10, Homerism: 1, Rank: 5
Announcers: Dwight Burgess, Dante Washington
Along with Brian Roberts and Robin Fraser, it's nice to see a former African-American player getting a broadcast gig without the media whores at MLS HQ embarrassing themselves with parallels to Jackie Robinson. That's about the only thing positive I can say about the Crew broadcast team. The game I watched was a home match against DC. They talked over the game, and what they were saying wasn't at all interesting or relevant.
Calling the game: 3, Homerism: 8, Rank: 12
Salt Lake City
Announcer: Bill Riley, Robin Fraser
Fraser doesn't fill the telecast wish superfluous banter, which is good. It's standard issue stuff from a FSN braodcast and pretty low key. Not a lot to hate, but not a lot to love.
Calling the game: 6, Homerism: 5, Rank: 9
Announcers: Kenn Tomasch, Kenny Stern
I remember catching a game of theirs a few years ago and was completely turned off by the homerism. They have changed their act in a big way. Both of the games I've watched them call were against the Revs. There was only a hint of bias and nearly equal time was spent on both teams.
Calling the game: 8, Homerism: 2, Rank: 2
Announcers: Jim Watson, Mark Rogandino
Rogandino's getting his chops in at FSC announcing lead-in's to EPL matches. I wish some of those announcers rubbed off on him. The broadcast talked over last Saturday's game and was riddled with inaccuracies. LA beat the Revs in the 2005 MLS Cup final. I really don't think the announcers knew that with the way they threw around superfluous stats.
Calling the game: 3, Homerism: 6, Rank: 11
Typical FSN stuff. Something that really bothered me was the number of advertising plugs and graphics on the screen about other Colorado sports teams.
Calling the game: 5, Homerism: 6, Rank: 10
Red Bull New York
Announcers: JP Dellacamera, Shep Messing
I've already shared my thought on Messing here. The thing that makes this broadcast stand out is the team's voice quality. You can tell they are pros who have been at the announcing game for some time. I still think a lot of Messing's comments would be better served in the studio, but the broadcast is one of the better ones in MLS.
Calling the game: 6, Homerism: 7, Rank: 6
New England Revolution
Announcers: Brad Feldman, Greg Lalas
Make no mistake, Brad Feldman is our Homer. He's also quite a talented announcer who my not be limited to calling Revs games in the future. Greg Lalas does what some of the other color guys should do and that's keep his partner's home team bias in check. They make a great team. It's almost too good because the little inside jokes the two pals have spills into the telecast at times.
Calling the game: 8, Homerism: 8, Rank: 3
Announcers: Christian Miles, Bernardo Osuna
It's tough playing the latino angle on the English broadcast. Chrisopher Sullivan is busy with the FSC game of the week, so that was an experience drain this season. Christian Miles is an odd choice given his inability to distinguish between Latvia and Lithuania on entire WC qualifier broadcasts. However, they do give the game proper respect. There's also something about Osuna's style that I love. He's in and out quickly with his comments, which is rare in MLS.
Calling the game: 7, Homerism: 7, Rank: 7
Announcers: Brad Sham, Dave Dir
Dave Dir is a wealth of knowledge. It's a decent broadcast, but sometimes Brad Sham doesn't seem like he's all that into the game. The "Dave's Dir-ections" feature does make me chuckle whenever I hear it, though.
Calling The Game: 6, Homerism: 6, Rank: 8
Announcers: Nigel Reed, Craig Forrest
The English play by play guy brings a touch of class to the broadcast. For awhile, I've thought that American announcers should call games like the do in England. I still do. However, this team makes me think that it may be the manner in which Englishmen approach speaking is better suited to calling soccer than the way Americans approach verbal communications. The Cannuck color guy is a bit of a homer, but overall it's probably the best in MLS.
Calling the game: 9, Homerism: 5, Rank: 1
Whoops! I haven't actually caught any of their telecasts this season. When I was stationed in Viginia, I caught them all the time on Comcast and loved the run of poor form they were experiencing. I also really enjoyed Thomas Rongen's color commentary when he was on. However, it wouldn't be fair to rank them here.
1. Toronto FC
2. Chicago Fire
3. New England Revolution
4. Houston Dynamo
5. Kansas City
6. Red Bull New York
7. Chivas USA
8. FC Dallas
9. Real Salt Lake
10. Colorado Rapids
11. LA Galaxy
12. Columbus Crew
Not ranked: DC United
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Wicked slow news day in Revoland. The only soccer news even remotely related to our players is Bob Bradley's promotion from interim to full time US coach. No big surprise, and I'm not in the ranting mood. There's plenty of that here.
If you want to scout our next opponent as they take on Toronto, and don't subscibe to Direct Kick or MLSnet's service, you might be able to pick up the CBC feed here. It worked for the game last week, so it may be worth a try. If it's dead, look on BigSoccer and maybe one will show up.
I'm really interested in seeing how much Brian Ching plays tonight. He was used sparingly in New York because of the fieldturf. Toronto's rug is in better shape than the one at Giant Stadium, but it'll be interesting to see Houston's starting XI.
Taylor Twellman was MLS player of the week, but I'm not the biggest fanboy when it comes to that award.
Steve Ralston was on In The Net yesterday and so was Glen Davis. There's a link to the mp3 in the right sidebar. It was a good episode and I recommend checking it out.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Roughly a fifth the way through the MLS season, the New England Revolution sit atop the MLS table for the first time. This makes me giddy. Granted, the teams sitting just below, Kansas City and New York, have a game in hand. Given the team's stellar run of results since the opener, it's tough to argue the case the team is not in MLS's elite. The team hasn't gotten off to this good of a start since 2005, the only year in the team's existence anyone could make the claim the Revs were "great". It's tough not to get elated with the Revs winning three out of four, with a tie on the road to a desperate team mixed in. However, this raises the question whether a team in MLS, a single entity league designed for parity, can even be considered great. (click title to read more)
The vibe going into the 2005 and 2007 seasons were very similar for the Revs. Both teams hadn't made any proven additions. Both teams didn't make any proven additions. Pre-season predictions often had both teams in the middle of the pack because nothing left gave the pundits any reason to be high on them. Both teams needed at least one rookie to become a full-time starter. In 2005, our defense looked very weak going in, but Micheal Parkhurst exceeded everyone's expectations and has been one of the best central defenders right out of the gate. This year, the Revs needed a competent strike partner for Taylor Twellman while Pat Noonan healed, and have got it from fourth round draft choice Adam Cristman.
Relying on players from the draft is risky. Just look at the picks from 2006. Not many are left, and Willie Sims is at best the team's fourth best striker. However, the Revolution have built their team almost entirely through the draft. This would give credence to the theory that Steve Nicol and Paul Mainer have an eye for talent, that they have made the required additions through the draft to make New England a superior MLS side. This would be the easy way to look at it:
(Revolution) - (Dempsey) + (Thompson + Cristman) = small point loss
If this is true, so is this:
(Real Salt Lake) + (Freddy Adu) + (Chris Seitz) = playoff team
This approach treats players like they are commodities who's value relies on where they play and who they play with. It doesn't take into account that players, especially young ones, are developing all the time. How much they progress depends heavily on good coaching. That is where the Revs have had an edge. They have a very good coaching staff that has taken a multi-year approach towards it's players.
Let's revisit those math equations. We'll give Nicol's staff a variable of 1.2 because their coaching helps the team, and Real Salt Lake's staff a 0.8 because John Ellinger was a twat and Jason Kreis is unproven. We'll also say that the original equations gave New England a schedule length adjusted 42 points and Salt Lake 40 points to make the playoffs (many preseason predictions went that way):
1.2[(Revolution) - (Dempsey) + (Thompson + Cristman)] = 50 points
Now, look at the change for RSL:
0.8[(Real Salt Lake) + (Freddy Adu) + (Chris Seitz)] = 32 points
That wouldn't be a bad prediction at this stage of the season, huh?
Although far from scientific, the coaching variable needs to be part of the equation. It's far more mathematically sound than the simple commodity method most people use in their preseason analysis. It's also better than the standard "we need time to gel" line that is often spouted off when a team gets off to a bad start. While often true, who do you think is responsible for getting the players to gel? That's right, the coach.
So the coaching is largely responsible for continual improvement of our home team despite no real proven acquisitions. However, there's one other major factor to take into account, and that's the quality of the league.
Going back to 2005, many of the teams were going backwards. There were also two expansion sides that had dreadful first seasons. It's hard to argue that DC, New York, Columbus, Chicago, and Kansas City started the 2005 season in better shape than their 2004 counterparts. In fact, many of those teams made offseason trades that destroyed their chemistry. The Revs finished 2004 strong, and built on the success of their young nucleus. You could say that Noonan, Twellman, and Dempsey all made the jump from "promising young talent" to legitimate allstars that year. The way the league is set up for parity, all it takes is a slight rise in quality coinciding with other teams taking a step back to propel you to the top. That's what I attribute the team's remarkable rise in form during the first half of 2005 to.
However, success in a league where everyone is somewhat equal makes you a target. From the summer of 2005 all the way through the start of the 2006 season, teams stepped it up when playing the Revs. They figured out that you could stack the box and play the counterattack with success. Just ask DC United about this. They had one of the best starts ever in 2006, but their record has been mediocre ever since.
So that brings us back to this season. Just how good is this team? Several years of playing together has yielded a cohesive unit. A few rookies have stepped up to contribute. Khano Smith entered the season on time without a broken leg and has solidified his starting position. Taylor Twellman is happy and has scored six goals in seven games. These are some of the reasons that make the Revs better than last year. However, the league is also much better, especially compared to 2005. Given that, the improvements the team have made aren't enough to consider them "great".
Looking forward, the Revs do have the most promising group of youngsters in their short history. With the coaching strengths I mentioned above, that will reap dividends in seasons to come. The current first team is in the upper echelon, but it's tough to say they are tops in MLS. We'll just have to wait and see.
Monday, May 14, 2007
The results in Major League Soccer this week were a dream from a New England Revolution standpoint. However, that didn't prevent my fantasy side from looking foolish. Chowda United may have produced an OK 18 points and held respectively in the top ten of the RevsMFLS division, but some of my logic turned out to be incorrect and could have cost me much more than it did. (click title to enter the bootroom) (click title to enter the bootroom)
As you can see, losses by Chicago, New York, and (to a lesser extent) Kansas City squelched any hope of a big week. In fact, it took a big night from Taylor Twellman in LA from making it my first single digit tally. The biggest hit I took was with Chicago's loss to Toronto. I banked heavily on that game, and lost out big time. The Fire weren't ready for the game, and it showed. New York appeared to be nothing without Claudio Reyna. His fantasy stats leave a lot to be desired, but he distributes the ball as well as anyone who has ever player in MLS. I'll need to keep an eye on his injury status.
Looking ahead to this week, I'm definitely sticking with Perkins in goal. Chicago will make the necessary adjustments. The real question is whether or not those adjustments will keep Kenny Cooper off the scoring sheet. Chad Barrett will be dropped from my starting XI, but I have Emilio and Brian Ching waiting in the wings.
In fact, forward may be my biggest dilemma. I'm actually seriously pondering sitting Taylor Twellman, whose been the top point getter the last two weeks. Success breads attention, after all. Brian Ching is a lock up top with two matches, one against Toronto. No, I haven't abandoned the "beat on the canucks" philosophy. They won't have the rested legs on Wednesday to repeat their effort last Saturday. The caveat to this is Brian Ching did not start in New York because of the fieldturf. I have to wonder if the same will be repeated in Toronto? That's something I'll need to know in two day's time. Emilio may not even be a first choice starter anymore. He came on in the 66th minute of their only win of the season a week ago. Granted, he played the full 90 against the Revs on Thursday. If Twellman does get the start, it will most likely be in favor of Kenny Cooper, who will be on the road in Chicago.
At midfield, Andy Dorman is all but assured to reenter the lineup, especially if I sit Twellman. I may not want to rely too heavily on the Revs for another road win, so I'm probably not going with the two players at the same time. Landon Donovan should continue his dominance over Chivas, so he's a lock. I'll also be keeping Justin Mapp, because I have a hunch about Chicago bouncing back on Thursday night. Dane Richards will be going back into mothballs, so that leaves one spot open. Ironically, Kyle Beckerman and Davy Arnaud will be squaring off this week. I haven't decided who I'm going with yet. Right now, it's Beckerman because his team is at home and I already have Michel Harrington on my team. The game will test KC's ability to bounce back and Colorado's capacity to handle success. Right now, it's a toss up.
I'll be swapping Wade Barrett for Alex Yi in the back for similar reasons I'm going with Brian Ching. Harrington's a keeper because he's actually an offensive-minded midfielder. Seth Stammler will also be staying due to him being a midfielder (albeit a defensive one) and Arena's "defense by ball control" system.
One thing's for certain, I do need some big weeks if I'm to close the gap with PSC United at the top of the table. Their reliance on New York players should have cost them huge. However, they racked up 23 points and gained distance from most teams. Seeing that the top overall tally in MFLS was 36 points, that amount was very respectable.
As for RevsMLS Cup, I managed to beat my opponent, Plantsville Saints 18-10. That win assures my place in the next stage, so I won't need to worry about gearing my lineup towards that competition for another few weeks. The win also brought a smile to my face as my opponent didn't field any Revolution players, which is a little worrisome in a division comprising of fans of the team with the most points in the league. My next opponent is Puddlemere United, who seems to be a bit more loyal than the last one.
My team seems to be doing fairly well in my first serious attempt at fantasy soccer. However, I do need a new angle if I am going to get ahead. I'm keeping an eye on how well the new foreign players are doing with their respective clubs. The lesser knowns of that group may become good value pickups in the future. Players I'm specifically looking at are:
Carlos Marinelli: Injured right now, but should rack up assists with KC.
Guillermo Schelotto: A tad expensive, but looks a class above most MLS players.
Maykel Galindo: Not exactly foreign, but new on the scene and could be a good bench forward at his price.
Pascal Bedrossian: When all things are settled after Blanco arrives, he could be a starter and a playmaker.
That's it for this week. I hope the next round of games goes better than the last. No teams are off this week, but get those squads fixed by Wednesday ahead of the game in Toronto. Peace.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Here's an interesting little doozy I came across in the Daily Star: Calum Best, son of the late, great footballer George Best, thinks he can give MLS a go! I had to stop typing in my name on the online Paris Hilton amnesty petition to read the story, and I'm glad I did.
(click title to read more)
For those not in the know (like myself until I googled his name ten minutes ago), Calum Best is a fashion model known for his antics in the British tabloids. He's more famous for who he's dated and for being a self-publicizing whore than for actually being talented at something. He's like the male version of Lindsey Lohan. Not surprisingly, he's dating Ms. Lohan as we speak. It would be the perfect storm of celebrity idiocy if a decent portion of America knew of his father, much less his privileged ass.
The story about him coming to MLS is nonsense to us, of course. It's hardly worth noting. It's a widely held belief among outsiders, especially the British, that our brand of soccer is crap. There's is better, I'll give them that. I'm a big fan of one and a fifth of their five national club systems (SPL's nothing after the Old Firm). Seeing how much money is being thrown at Beckham reaffirms their superiority complex. Think about it, if a Korean baseball team signed Barry Bonds for A Rod money, what would we think? Korean baseball sucks, that's what we'd think. We already knew that, but it would be in the front of our minds after the deal.
This quote from his agent did interest me:
“We’ll just have to wait and see what happens. It’s certainly an option for him.”
The ambitious Red Bulls might be a goal too far for Calum.
They have just signed former Aston Villa striker Juan Pablo Angel on a £800,000 a year contract and also boast US national team hero Claudio Reyna.
But the struggling New England Revolution could snap him up. A source there said: “If he’s a tenth as good as his old man he’ll go straight into the team."
I'm not nearly as insulted as you might think. In fact, I'm rather flattered and encouraged. The agent had to think of an eastern team off the top of his head, and New England Revolution came to mind. I attribute that to Steve Nicol's name popping up in any American transfer gossip. Granted, it's due to the fact the "reporters" are just being lazy and throw in the name of the only manager they know of. However, by hook or by crook, the Revs are getting their name out across the pond. I'll chalk that up as progress.
Besides, his agent is probably wired into the fashion world and knows of our struggles in that area. The more I think about it, the more I'm sure that's what he meant.
Here's the part that frightens me:
“It’s going to be an interesting time and he’s pencilled in for trials at both clubs."
God, I hope that's not true. Sure, we'll give anyone a trial. However, I don't want to see him penciled in as anything to do with the Revs save "Slyde the Fox celebrity host body".
Then again, wouldn't Calum Best and Stevie Nicol make a great Dennis the Menace-Mr. Wilson duo in a reality show? Just as long as they throw in a talent contest with three judges. That angle hasn't been overused yet.
The Revs haven't played a game like that in quite awhile. Sure, last week's scoreline was 3-1, but both teams deserved a slap on the wrist for their performance. The game that just finished at the Home Depot Center in LA had what most Revolution games have lacked since 2005: pace. There were glimpses of that quick-passing possession team of old, as well as Adam Cristman really exerting himself physically on an opponent for the first time. The Revs defense did look weak when LA countered, but for the most part, it was their best performance of the season. (click title to read article)
LA took a 1-0 lead into halftime with a well-placed Kyle Martino volley in the 14th minute. It was one of two chances the Galaxy had on net in the first half. However, the other, which was also on the counter attack, came about by Landon Donovan simply outplaying James Riley on the right side of the goal mouth. Luckily, Landycakes flubbed the shot wide.
The Revs did have their chances in the opening period. Most notably, Adam Cristman somehow missed a sitter resulting from a miss-timed cross to Twellman. On another occasion, Cristman beat his mark through shear man-strength and had a clear chance on net only to have his shot deflected out by a diving Ty Harden.
Luckily for New England, LA didn't come out for the second half quite as motivated as the boys in blue. Adam Cristman scored his first career MLS goal when he boxed out his defender to turn on a Steve Ralston flick-on header. The assist puts Stevie at #2 on the all-time MLS assists list, just one behind Carlos Valderrama. Oh, and did I mention he set the all-time games played record for MLS regular season games played tonight, also? Way to go Stevie!
New England didn't wait too long afterwards to take the lead. In the 52nd minute, Taylor Twellman headed a Jay Heaps feed off the crossbar and then finished off the rebound by heading the ball in the net. The Revs dominated the action for the next ten minutes, before falling into their all to familiar "protect the one goal lead shell". LA evened up the score sheet with a Tyrone Marshall short post header off of a corner kick.
The Revolution response was quick. Pat Noonan, who was substituted in for Cristman ten minutes earlier, fed Taylor Twellman a perfect pass in front of net where his fellow Missouri native finished for the winner. That was the way the game ended as the Revs moved to the top of the MLS table with 14 points.
It's hard to find a lot to fault after a fine, energetic showing on the road, but I'll give it a whack. James Riley looked shaky in the back, even before his nemesis, Nate Jaqua, came on. LA seemed to find a way to create space on his side all night. I thought Jeff Larentowicz was invisible for most of the night, and the pace of the game may have been too quick for him at times.
That's about all the negatives, though. Khano Smith worked Chris Albright hard on the left side and you could see the effect that had on him. Smith may have not won every battle, but he was a positive factor. He also made a few moves beating defenders to his right. The scouting report on him will have to be updated, as overplaying his left foot may not be a successful tactic in the future.
The rest of the team looked sharp, especially when passing to create space. That may have been a hit against LA's lack of a presence in the midfield, but the Revs just haven't looked that good in so long.
Lastly, Micheal Parkhurst may have been the key to victory. His marking and positioning squelched many the Galaxy attack before it could start, and I can't say too many good things about his timely tackling.
Next up is Houston in a rematch of MLS Cup. Win that one, and they'll look like world beaters heading home to Foxboro in two weeks time.
New England Revolution Official Site
Saturday, May 12, 2007
I say it's a theoretical manufacturing good used in an economics class scenario. They say it's a name for buttons, sliders, menu bars, title bars, and all the other paraphernalia that windows can have or contain, hence short for "windows gadget". Confused? Don't worry, I am too. What I do know is that widgets have the potential to reduce the dependency we have on internet browsers to get to the information we typically seek. Although this technology is relatively new (at least for point and clickers such as myself), there's already a handful of widgets useful for soccer fans out there. Here's a review of some of them available to dullard consumers like myself, as well as a few I have created myself. (click title to read more)
First and foremost, I'll explain how I discovered widgets in the first place. It all started when I opened up a Google account and began customizing my Google homepage (now called iGoogle). I started out with a few RSS feeds from messasgeboards and from blogs I read (RSS feeds will show the X most recent headlines or post titles and link to them). I found those to be particularly useful. However, I also discovered more advanced applications such as clocks, calenders, and even games to place on my homepage. Those are all essentially widgets. It may be worth pointing out that, like most streamlined applications, widgets were first introduced on Macs.
Most people, even those who write blogs, don't know how to use code. Places like iGoogle and Yahoo make it possible to easily install and then drag and drop widgets right where you want them. Once installed, these applications make the internet experience much easier, especially for the casual user.
Where To Get Widgets
I already mentioned iGoogle and Yahoo, which have an easy to use interface to find and install them. I also started using Widgetbox to both download and publish widgets. That single table I had been maintaining by manually installing the code to my blog has been turned into a widget thanks to Widgetbox. What makes this service nice, besides the fact it's free, is that it makes installing to the popular services such as myspace, yahoo, and blogger idiot proof. As long as you have a site where you can install code on, it's really easy to add widgets from Widgetbox. There's also a "blidget" feature which easily converts blogs to widgets. If you re interested, you can subscribe to this blog's widget here.
Yahoo also has a popular service. I plan on experimenting with the program soon to see if I can improve on that MLS Table widget. Although, it appears that their widgets can only be installed on the Yahoo Widget program.
(If anyone knows of any other good widget hosting services or creation programs, please leave a comment and I'll amend this section)
Here's some widgets that may interest the soccer fan out there:
Soccer Scores: just what it says, very concise module, yet extensive coverage
Soccer Shoes: blog rating soccer shoes, very unique
Maradona England Fixtures Widget: I think it displays England's fixtures, but what interests me is the graphic
SoccerXScores: another score display (Yahoo only)
SoccerStats: another Yahoo widget. This one's quite extensive.
Unreal Soccer: cute soccer game widget
There are a few neat widgets covering other sports that I would like to see for MLS. If I could figure out a way to easily set up and maintain a stat tracker widget, like this one, I'd do so. The problem with the way I'm currently maintaining the MLS Table widget is I manually set the table up in Dreamweaver, and then post the code to Widgetbox. I can't see myself doing that for any number of stat trackers. If I can find a better program, I may just go for it.
Something that I would love to do is design a widget to count down Stevie Ralston's bids for most games played and all-time assists record. That would be very easy to do and it'd be tough to mess up the stats because there's only two to keep track of.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Saturday will be the first trip for the Revs to the Home Depot Center since the opener last season. That one was a fairly drab affair with the Revolution coming out the better in a 1-0 affair. However, Steve Nicol's boys won't have Clint Dempsey to tip the scales this year as they take on Landycakes and some other superfluous players going through the motions until Beckham arrives in a few months. (click title to read more)
Due to the wonders of marketing-based scheduling, LA will have only played one MLS regular season matchup between their second game (April 12) and their fourth game (May 12). They did play, and beat, New York in the US Open Cup on Wednesday. If you're one of the 30,000 or so people in the country who care about it, they won 3-1 while down a man with all four goals scored in extra time. Some of the Galaxy starters saw a good amount of action, but not enough to have an effect on their output on Saturday.
Speaking of rest, Shalrie Joseph is fresh off his one game suspension and Andy Dorman was substituted out early in the second half during Sunday's game so both key midfielders will be ready to go. What is anything from a sure bet is the health of Pat Noonan, who missed Sunday's game after starting the game in DC last Thursday. Noonan is a first choice starter for the Revs, but with Adam Cristman providing a different (more physical) look up top, it'll be interesting to see who lines up in the first eleven Saturday night.
Another good question is who the gaffer now favors at left back, a position the team is suddenly almost too deep at. With Micheal Parkhurst returning and bumping James Riley from central defense, it is unclear if Avery John is favored over Riley. John won the spot after returning from the World Cup and through Riley's injury problems early last summer. When Riley returned, his form was off from the spring and he lost the starting role for the rest of the year. Riley has been playing very well in Parkhurst's stead. He has also allowed John to have reduced minutes in the last three games, and it'll be interesting to see who lines up at 10:30 EDT tomorrow night. Joey Franchino is another option at left back after returning from his leave of absence. Although, he is more likely to supplement the midfield, possibly giving Larentowicz some time off.
LA has been known to play an up-tempo game, especially at home. For this reason, I suspect the Revs will look to play defensively and then try to exploit them on the counter attack. However, if they allow players like Landon Donovan to dictate the game, they'll come away with a loss. It is very important for Joseph and Larentowicz to impose their physical presence early on. Donovan has been known to cower and disappear when faced with a tough battle. Give him space, though, and the Revs are in for a long night.
Another matchup problem for the back line to worry about is Nate Jaqua. He was pish for the Fire at times in his career, but he's done well against New England at times due to their size differential, especially with Riley. Jaqua hasn't found his groove with LA yet, and here's hoping it takes him a bit longer.
LA Soccer News
Probable Revs Lineup
Reis, Heaps, Parkhurst, John, Ralston, Larentowicz, Joseph, Smith, Dorman, Twellman, Noonan
It was bound to happen. One of the unfortunate byproducts of David Beckham coming to the league is the amount of would-be investors, who know little about the game, popping up. In the past, MLS has taken the high road, claiming that expansion teams would only be awarded to ownership groups with a good business model and a plan to build an appropriate stadium.
However, that was before they had a lot of serious investors knocking on their door. Does the league office, made up almost exclusively of non-soccer guys, believe it's own hype? They already plan on charging much more for an expansion fee than the $10 million Toronto paid last year. Do they think that they are the reason the league is beginning to take off and all they need is some seed money from a handful of quick expansion fees to make soccer a major sport in the US? I hope not. There are many pitfalls in that approach, and I hope the bigwigs have the ability to turn down tens of millions of dollars to avoid the same trappings which doomed the NASL to failure.
(click title to read more)
However, my usual reaction didn't apply when I read this story. In short, they plan on building a retractable roof stadium somewhere near the Las Vegas strip, in conjunction with a casino, which would house a Las Vegas MLS franchise. I have no problem with this.
Other American sports don't want any part of Las Vegas. Gambling isn't accepted as a part of mainstream American culture. The owners in the other leagues won't let their colleague anywhere near the gambling, including owning horse tracks where you can't even bet on team sports. I'm not sure if this would be a problem given the single-entity nature of MLS's business model with our very own Bob Kraft, who also owns the Patriots. I doubt it, because he'd be separated from the operation of any casino built into a Las Vegas stadium. He may benefit from it's success, but not directly.
MLS commissioner Don Garber has no problem with Vegas, though. He seems all for the plan. The spokesman seems to be former US international Paul Caligiuri and Alan Rothenberg & son seem to be backing this effort. MLS would be the only professional sports team of note in a city that has been been adding permanent residents by the truckload as of late. It has the potential to represent the city well, if done right.
Besides, if you could only make one away trip a year, would it be to Las Vegas or Columbus? I thought so.
The league needs to careful when choosing expansion cities. If not, they will have rapid expansion, followed by huge losses when Beckham's star fades. They keep saying they will take a break from expanding at 16 teams. Besides the financial aspects, this is also a good idea because the US player pool just can't support a top flight league that has 32 teams, like the NFL has. I may go into this further in the future, but they should really think about building a second division in the next decade and then slowly economically promoting two provenly successful teams at a time. MLS needs to get a larger footprint in this country, but not at the expense of the league's financials or the quality of play.
In the meantime, they really need to get this deal done in Las Vegas. Dealer, I would like change for my tax return, please.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
What do you do if you are Bob Kraft and have just constructed a $300 million entertainment/retail/commercial development next to Gillette Stadium which is dependent on big events? Build a multi-purpose venue that can host a lot more big events, that's what. Incorporate a retractable pitch for the Revolution in a modestly-sized dome and you now have a stadium which could host a wide range of events, some of which this region has never seen. (click title to read more)
Seem too "pie in the sky"? Possibly. It would take a good amount of risk and public funds to pull something like this off. There would also be some political hurdles to overcome. However, there is the potential for substantial economic reward for both the stadium owners and the region. This part will be separated in two. The first segment will deal with the various kinds of events the stadium could host and the effect it would have on other event venues in the area. The second will deal with the engineering problems and some ideas on how to solve them.
Last December, an attempt to squeeze a cigarette tax through the Ohio legislature during a lame duck session was defeated. If it had passed, the money generated would have been used to build a $180 million retractable roof, retractable field stadium which would have housed a Cleveland MLS expansion team. 100% of that money would have been used for stadium construction as the Wolfstein Group had investors lined up to privately buy the land and build a mixed-use development.
While the deal failed, it did offer a ballpark figure on what a stadium like that would cost (although probably a conservative estimate). It also showed that someone actually figured out how to make a stadium like that work for a cold weather city like Cleveland. As I will discuss later on, there are a few other such stadiums around the world.
For the sake of discussion, assume a stadium with a roof (possibly retractable) and a retractable natural grass field which would hold around 20,000 people for MLS games and up to 40,000 for large events. I'll be getting into the engineering specifics in he next segment, but this wouldn't have to be a mini version of University of Phoenix Stadium. There were actually a few predecessors to the Cardinal's new home around the world in climates very similar to ours.
The one that stands out to me is the Sapporo Dome in Japan. They actually hold both baseball and soccer games in a region that once hosted the winter olympics. They've proven a grass field can be maintained for soccer (the baseball field is artificial) and the engineering obstacles they overcame were far more difficult than what the Krafts would face.
So, it's not impossible to maintain something like that here. Let's talk about what it would mean to the region.
The events such a venue can host range from trade shows to pro wrestling, conventions to concerts. However, let's first talk about the sport of the facility's primary tenant: soccer. Besides Revs games, this would be the only appropriate place to host US National Team games during the winter for literally thousands of miles. Although a fresh surface would probably have to be brought in for games during the dead of winter, the chance to host the Brazilian, Argentinian, or Mexican team once a year would be enough incentive to bring in a pitch for a little over $100k and schedule one or two more friendlies around it. It would also be an ideal place for MLS teams in the northeast to play early CONCACAF Champions Cup games or Copa Libertadores group stage games if the league ever gets invited.
The major target for this facility, and probably the biggest bargaining chip to get something like this done, is the NCAA basketball final four. It has been estimated that the final four has a $40 million economic impact on the region which hosts it. New England has never hosted the Final Four, and never will as long as the Boston Garden is New England's largest basketball facility. This could also be a regular host of the regionals, which has roughly a $10-15 million impact.
Another great idea that would be unique to the region is hosting a college bowl game each year. The capacity could be around 25-30k for such a game, which is a little low for a bowl game. However, seeing the nearest bowl game is in Detroit, that may not be a problem. If they could line up the 2nd or 3rd choice Big East team and the 5th or 6th choice ACC team, they would have a good chance to get a local team or a team who's fans travel well like West Virginia, Georgia Tech, or Virginia Tech.
The Krafts are getting into the convention/trade show hosting business and this would drastically expand their ability to hold a much wider range of events. What they have over Boston and Providence is they can host conventions the week leading up to Patriot games and the attendees who stay in on-site and nearby hotels don't have to worry about transportation to the game. This would raise some political issues in regards to stealing business from those two cities, so the economic benefits of other events would have to be used as a bargaining chip.
The other events it could hold regularly are: year-round concerts (20-40k), NCAA women's final four and hockey frozen four, various NCAA basketball conference tournaments, Massachusetts high school finals for soccer, football, basketball and wrestling, pro wrestling, and rodeo/bull riding. The latter would fit in nicely with the annual country music festival at Gillette held the weekend of the NASCAR race in New Hampshire. On top of those, two other unique and lucrative events this could host are WWE Wrestlemania and the ACC conference tournament.
Political Factors and Funding
As I mentioned, Providence and Boston wouldn't be too thrilled about Foxboro cutting into their convention business. Providence can't really do anything about that. However, Boston could stand in the way in getting state funding, something that would probably be needed. Arrangements would need to be worked out on the state level. An exclusivity agreement with the Boston Convention Center and providing a sweetheart deal to host high school sporting events and community functions could be good enough to satisfy all sides.
With concerts, the Tweeter Center is just a few miles away and wouldn't like their concert business undermined. They could work a deal out to only host large concerts in Foxboro during Great Woods season (preferably at Gillette) and then host concerts in the dome to their heart's content during the colder months.
There's also issues with the town of Foxborough (I do indeed know that's the correct spelling) not wanting to give up it's bedroom town lifestyle. There's a very interesting website for their bargaining angles in the Patriots Place project negotiations. The town seems willing to change, but there's some problems they need to overcome. One of the biggest issues is the town will stand to lose a good portion of their state education money with the rise in property value from the new project. Yeah, they're almost sure to get far more in return from tax collection, but nothing is guaranteed. Even if the money collected equaled the lost aid, change costs money regardless and they would lose out.
The Town of Foxborough police get supplemented with state troopers for Patriot games, but that is only 8-10 times a year. It would be tough to justify doing that 20-30 times a year. One of the solutions mentioned by the town police is establishing a private security force for the man mall. That force could be expanded to patrol more of Gillette Stadium and this project to free up the real police to do their jobs. That could also be cheaper for the Krafts in the long run.
Something that is favorable to this is a lot of the civil engineering improvements are being accomplished for the Patriots Place project, so it wouldn't take a great deal more for another stadium.
As for funding, some state aid would probably be required. At least some of the parking lot would need to be displaced, so either more land would be needed or a parking garage would needed to be built. I'm estimating the absolute lowball figure would be $180 million depending mostly on the type of roof. History shows that most of the funding would be private. However, a project like this would need to involve all levels of Massachussetts government in some way.
Another possibility is that a venue like this may be enough to tip the scales in favor of regular commuter rail access to Foxboro. Access by train to large indoor concerts during the winter could only help the Boston and Providence convention business, not hurt it. The man mall would take a little bit of retail business away from those cities, but there's still drastically more places to shop and dine in those two locations.
That's most of the abstracts involved in this stadium idea. Check back soon as I go into the engineering involved in such a project.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Joey Franchino's second half substitution for Avery John may have been the spark the team needed to obtain their 3-1 victory over the Chicago on Sunday. It allowed Micheal Parkhurst to move back from an unfamiliar holding midfield role to his favored position of central defense. It also provided the physical deterrent needed to free up Jeff Larentowicz who began creating attacking opportunities. That performance, combined with the brief runout against DC last Thursday, solidified the rather anticlimactic return of the former Revolution captain from his mysterious five week "leave of absence for personal reasons". (click title to read more)
So where has he been? Well, the appropriate question should be why hasn't anyone in the press made a serious effort to find out? There's a very good answer for that. There's also a reason why a blogger like myself, who's relatively free to speculate all he wants and spread rumors and half-truths around the blogosphere, hasn't tackled this issue until now.
You read about them all the time. College basketball players stealing laptops, MLB players fathering children in various cities, NFL players making it rain money in a gentleman's club and then bouncing a stripper's head off of the stage, European footballers getting really bad mullets. The press seems to have a fascination with some of the unfortunate things athletes do in their private lives. The reason for this is simple: it sells newspapers. Reporters can make names for themselves or solidify their reputation by breaking such a story. So why didn't the press dig deep enough into the Franchino situation to find out the specifics?
As much as we like to praise the growth of MLS, it is still not anywhere near important on the national landscape. I recall an Eric Wynalda interview on the Jim Rome Show from 2005 where the host asked if there would ever come a time when he would pick up the sports page and MLS was featured on a regular basis. Wynalda, to his credit, said he wasn't sure if that would ever be the case. He then went into some of the negative byproducts of professional athletes automatically achieving celebrity status and how MLS could develop a niche in the short term to benefit as an alternative.
Like it or not, Joey Franchino isn't a celebrity. No media outlet would make any kind of money from uncovering the truth behind his absence. They are better served getting the inside scoop of the songs on Big Papi's iPod than delving into the private lives of MLS players. Not a qualified celebrity, Franchino has the benefit of keeping his private life private if he has the opportunity and chooses to, within reason. To the team's credit, they have stood by their player and kept the reasons quiet. The press has asked about it periodically, but coach Steve Nicol has been tight-lipped and the front office has issued a statement saying they wouldn't comment on the situation.
Writing a New England Revolution blog, you would figure I would be all over this issue. There was the original article which gave a few clues, a mention in MLS Underground that mentioned he was in rehab in a matter of fact kind of way (When I inquired, a "source" gave them the info. The wording has since been changed.), and several second hand rumors on messageboards mentioning very personal issues.
Besides the fact that tabloid issues don't get me that excited, the main reason I haven't been fanning the fading embers of this story is I don't wish to speculate on this issue, and then be wrong. I've seen my fair share of rumors float around in my personal and professional life. They usually get legs when there's a scenario that is logical and people, for one reason or another, want to believe it. I have seen a handful of those rumors seriously backfire on those gleefully spreading them when they turned out to be false.
Several fans around the league don't like the aggressive way in which Franchino plays. Some of those people loved hearing bad things were happening in his personal life and he was taking a leave of absence. Something that did surprise me was the amount of people who were despicable enough to start rumors and the amount of people who were gullible enough to take those rumors as fact. It's a good thing the number of diehards on the BigSoccer boards are limited to the triple digits and these antics don't spread to the household of joe america yet. Again, this is one of the few positive aspects of MLS failing to live up to the expectations the founders had when it kicked off in 1996.
So where does that leave the Revs in regards to this issue? Joey has done surprisingly well coming off the bench. He will prove vital for the team when the inevitable injury occurs seeing he can competently play at least five positions on the field. His ability to be an effective leader behind the scenes is most likely seriously diminished. However, he can be a leader on the field which will be important throughout the season.
Odds are, we will eventually find out the truth. Having this information released on his own terms is a luxury few professional athletes possess. Most MLS players hold the status of role model only when they choose to based on their own involvement in the community. They aren't celebrities who have that status thrusted on them based on who they are. The trade-off is they are allowed a certain amount of privacy in these situations so they can go about their lives like normal people.
We American soccer fans suffer from an inferiority complex at times. Take solace in the fact that we can afford to behave like humans in these issues. Fans of other "major" sports certainly can't make that claim.