Daily Sweeper, 08.31: Refunds, Superliga, and Priorities

– With David Beckham laid up for what looks like a really long time, people – notably those who bought tickets at “enhanced rates” to see Beckham – are rightly mulling what it means for the rest of the season’s games featuring an LA Galaxy road-show absent the main attraction. Major League Soccer’s (MLS) officials have held a no refund policy thus far, but a couple people wonder if that’s such a swell idea (hat-tip: du Nord) – even if they agree, as the RSLFM Report does, with the “no refund” concept itself. Here’s what the RSLFM Report suggests as counter-proposals:

“MLS and/or RSL should replicate a form of its own consolation policy created after the cancelled-fireworks on Pioneer Day. Then, ticket holders were offered special vouchers for $5 tickets to the next RSL home match. Although a token, the small gesture was appreciated by many people.”

“An even better solution would be a special Beckham speaking/meet & greet tour.”

Now, this could be a personal preference talking, but I wouldn’t show to a free Beckham event if him talking was the only event on the schedule; so, count me against the second proposal. The first, though, I can see.

On the other hand, I’m not so squeamish about refunding money, but I’d handle it in two parts. First, I would refund the difference between regular admission and “Beckham Admission.” Part two comes with saying, “This special pricing crap will never happen again….at least not till our product is big enough to allow us to jerk around all-comers.” Then again, I found the price-gouging distasteful from the get-go. Yeah, I get why it’s done – e.g. people will, and did, pay – but, I think the guy who wrote the (quite good) piece behind the first link (under, “wonder if that’s such a swell idea”) has it right: MLS just isn’t big enough to piss off/alienate anyone. Continue reading

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MLS: This Weekend’s Delight

Inspired perhaps by what feels like the end of the summer doldrums, the yen to talk about the upcoming games has hit. Yep, the must mean the playoff stretch has arrived.

Then again, perhaps it’s the particular match-ups on offer that signal an entertaining, as well as edifying, weekend ahead. MLSnet.com doesn’t yet have previews posted for all the match-ups – I’ll add those later – but here’s what I’m seeing in the near-future.

To begin with the only game that fails to titillate, it’s hard to get excited about the Los Angeles Galaxy versus Real Salt Lake; call it the Limping Whelp Bowl. I can’t even get up for the possibility of RSL pounding on the Galaxy, not with Frank Yallop at something close to the breaking point…that’s like prying at the fingers of a man hanging from a cliff. (And, for the record, I’m with Luis Bueno in thinking Alexi Lalas should be the man to swing; and I’d double-down on that if Robbie Findley is the man who scores the winner.)

OK, after that, it’s all pretty intriguing.

The Chicago Fire versus Red Bull New York carries the potential for a leap-frog changing of the guard; what better way could Chicago assert its superiority over New York than by beating them at home? And I still think they’ll do it with New York’s defense playing like it is. I think, worst-case (for them), Chicago walks out with a draw…and that’d just keep us all guessing a while longer.

Minus the intra-conference angle, Sunday’s game pitting the Columbus Crew against the Colorado Rapids has the same kind of potential. Columbus halted perceptions of a slide with last week’s draw at Houston, but only just; this team needs to get its groove back, especially with Colorado, who no doubt wants to substantiate rumors of their rise, heading in the other direction. And both teams can feel Chicago’s breath on their shoulders. I’m not fool enough to predict this one – too many things in flux – but a draw wouldn’t surprise me here.

Turning to another inter-conference game, the mere six points that separate them in the standings doesn’t speak to the perceptual gap I see between the Kansas City Wizards and the Houston Dynamo. This game comes at a good time for the Dynamo; when you’re struggling to score, what beats a home game against MLS’s most generous defense? (OK, maybe Toronto stands a little lower in terms of goals-per-game average…yup, assuming I did it right, that’s 1.56 goals-per-game for KC versus TFC’s 1.59. Still…) No questions, however, loom over Houston’s defensive record – only Chivas comes close – and with KC’s struggles to score against RSL just a few days old, it’s hard not to like Houston here. And what would that mean for the Wizards? Full-blown panic seems a real possibility.

One more inter-conference tilt to go – and it’s a doozy: DC United at FC Dallas, two contenders with toes touching and fists flying. Juan Toja could be back for FCD (though, for the record, I hope they rest him one more) and Denilson could make an appearance as well. On the other side, DC brings it’s Clockwork, um, Black road-show to Frisco. No way am I going to make a call here…should be a very tasty game, though.

That’s all of ’em…and I hope to catch all of two, if not three (hey, it’s a long weekend) – my poor kids. Looking back up that list of games, though, that’s a lot of worlds a-birthin’. For example, DC could look ominously unstoppable by Sunday morning, both KC and Red Bull could look out of it, Columbus could dip its toe back into the thick of it, etc. etc.

My beer and pretzels are ready; I only need to pick up charcoal for the grill and sedate the kids!

MLS Week 21 Collective Power Rankings

By running an impromptu survey, I grew the Semi-Detached Pundit Collective (SDPC) by two pundits – a good thing considering that bum Ryan Hunt still doesn’t have his rankings posted for Sports Illustrated; MLS Underground remains out of the game as well…dang it.

As for the data, the usual stuff applies: in parentheses after the current week’s ranking and average, you’ll see the most common ranking for each team (e.g. three #1 votes, which will show below as “#1 X 3”) and the previous week’s ranking and average. And, as usual, I’ll close with a comment or six.

Here are the participants for Week 20’s pool:

Center Holds It (Me)
The comments for that link give Mark in NRH’s rankings
D of DCenters fame dropped off his rankings
My Soccer Blog
WVHooligan
Sideline Views (Luis Bueno)
Fox Soccer (Keith Costigan)
ESPN (another collective)

And…drumroll, please….here are the collective rankings:

1. DC United, 1.6 (#1 X 4; last week, #3, 2.4)
2. New England Revolution, 2.4 (#1 X 3; last week, #1, 2.0)
3. Houston Dynamo, 3.3 (#2, 4, 5 X 2; last week, #2, 2.3)
4. FC Dallas, 3.5 (#3 and 4 X 2; last week, #4, 3.4)
5. Chivas USA, 4.3 (#5 X 4; last week #5, 5.4)
6. Red Bull New York, 6.8 (#6 X 4; last week, #6, 5.6)
7. Chicago Fire 7.3 (#7 X 3; last week, #8, 7.9)
8. Kansas City Wizards, 8.1 (#8 X 3; last week, #7, 7.7)
9. Colorado Rapids, 8.8 (#9 and 10 X 3; last week, #10, 9.7)
10. Columbus Crew, 9.1 (#10 X 4; last week, #9, 8.6)
11. Toronto FC, 11.4 (#11 X 5; last week, #12, 11.6)
12. Los Angeles Galaxy, 12.1 (#13 X 4; last week, #11, 11.4)
13. Real Salt Lake, 12.5 (#12 and 13 X 4; last week, #13, 13.0)

Some observations: Continue reading

Superliga Final: Joy, Pride, The Moment

Life gave me a hard, unwelcome shag last night: I won’t bore you with the details on the assumption that you don’t want to hear them; the main thing is, this will be (comparatively) brief and I won’t be posting today with my accustomed relish and volume.

Taking the nouns in the sub-title in order:

JOY
To my delight, the online video feed worked flawlessly last night: no hiccupping video, no long pauses, not even an pixilation.  Instead, I enjoyed smooth, TV-esque viewing.  Huzzah!

PRIDE
Coping with the aftermath of that shag meant I caught the game from the 60th minute forward.  While I can’t speak to the first half, I’ll celebrate the second, when I saw one of Major League Soccer’s (MLS) worst teams give one of Mexico’s best an entirely respectable fight.  Good on ya, Los Angeles.  All y’all played to the credit of the league.

THE MOMENT
Raise your hand if you thought Landon Donovan wasn’t the guy to take the decisive penalty kick.  My hand is raised.

Here’s the thing: I literally jumped out of my chair when Pachuca’s player shanked his attempt off the crossbar.  This was ME cheering for LA, for crissakes.  But then I saw Donovan, who had spent some time before taking his kick getting his legs limbered by a trainer; no less significant are the very reasonable doubts regarding Donovan’s composure under pressure.

But the question lurking behind that one poses no less a problem: if not Donovan, then who?  That Abel Xavier, a defender, stepped up and fluffed the following PK makes it hard to figure where else one might look.  After looking at MLSnet.com’s match report and reviewing the names of the eleven players on the field at the relevant time, I confess myself stumped.  As captain from the BB era (that’s Before Beckham), Donovan really had to take that kick.  I just wish he didn’t.

The biggest surprise for me, though, was Edson Buddle’s kick.  Holy crap, son.  Where did that come from?

Well, CF Pachuca takes the first Superliga title.  So be it.  I’m mainly glad it was a good game and look forward to next year’s.

RSL 3-1 KC: I knew it.

I knew it, I knew it, I knew it.

Damn my hide that I didn’t say it, but I knew it.  KC has issues.  Especially against teams with “fight.”  And that’s all Real Salt Lake has at this point.

And, for the record, I don’t even know what happened in this game…it could have been totally fluky…but, still, I knew it.

Your UEFA Champions League Group Stage Qualifiers are set…

Except for one. The winner of Sevilla and AEK Athens will move on. That game will be played September 3rd. Here they are by seed – the draw will be held today, early afternoon EST.

Pot 1/#1 Seeds
AC Milan (Cup Holders)
Barcelona
Liverpool
Inter Milan
Arsenal
Real Madrid
Chelsea
Manchester United

Pot 2/#2 Seeds

Valencia
Lyon
Porto
Sevilla/AEK Athens
PSV Eindhoven
AS Roma
Benfica
Werder Bremen

Pot 3/#3 Seeds
Celtic
Schalke 04
VfB Stuttgart
Steaua Bucharest (ROM)
CSKA Moscow (RUS)
Sporting Club de Portugal
Lazio
Marseille

Pot 4/#4 Seeds
Rangers (SCO)
Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)
Besiktas (TUR)
Olympiakos (GRE)
Dynamo Kiev (UKR)
Fenerbahce (TUR)
Slavia Prague (CZE)
Rosenborg (NOR)

French Ligue One: Midweek action yields win for Lyon

Lyon overcame a Valter Birsa PK conversion by sandwiching the Sochaux player’s strike with two of their own. Karim Benzema struck again and is fast becoming a staple in the starting line-up while offseason purchase and former Lille leader Mathieu Bodmer provided the winner early in the second half as Lyon survived 2-1.

Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, and Saint-Etienne all registered shutout wins. Monaco needed the early strike from former Vert Frederic Piquionne to over come Lille 1-0, while PSG and Saint-Etienne had slightly more comfortable wins. Amara Diane and Sylvain Armand did the dirty work for PSG and Saint-Etienne’s needed an Ilan penalty kick to beat a faltering Strasbourg. It’s the best start for Monaco [4-1-1] in a long time, while PSG underperforms again [1-4-1]. Les Verts opt for mediocrity in the tables and pure balance [2-2-2].

Olympique Marseille was the odd man out, the only giant to lose in the midweek. Les Bleus lost to a reeling Nice squad led by the production of Vincent Hognon and Belgian David Hellebuyck. Not even Samir Nasri can jumpstart this team as they desperately missing the presence of Ribery on the wing. Benoit Cheyrou does not compare…the game, however, saw most of the chances go Marseille’s way.

Rennes buried the hapless Auxerre even further in their relegation ditch as 2/3 of their concrete scoring chances were put away. Transfer target Jimmy Briand had the clincher as Auxerre never threatened and instead fell to 1-5-0 on the season.

Former Lyon player Alou Diarra hit for the only goal of the game as Bordeaux won a close contest with Metz, 1-0. Bordeaux sits pretty at 4th in the standings.

Tuesday’s match-up saw Valenciennes dominate yet another Ligue One squad. This time the victim was Lorient, losing 3-1 as Valenciennes depended on the brace of Gregory Pujol. To add a bit of a buffer zone, Sebastien Roudet added a goal in the waning minutes. Valenciennes sits proudly tied for first with an admirable 4-1-1 record.