Dai…er, Weekly Sweeper, 11.16: Things That Are Wrong + MacGyver Lives in Africa

Maybe this would be better as a weekly feature…while I’m pondering that, here’s the most interesting stuff I saw in this, the final week of 2007.

– Apart from sharing his memories from MLS Cups past, Ives Galarcep reported today that we can expect to see Fernando Clavijo back at the helm for the Colorado Rapids in 2008. This is the thing that is wrong…well, one of them. COLORADO RAPIDS FANS: Boycott this team, cancel season tickets, etc. And when you do, call the front office to tell them exactly why you’re doing so. Contempt doesn’t have to be a one-way street.

– Turning to the other wrong thing, tucked into a Seattle Times primer on MLS arriving in Seattle is more talk of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) letting a second-division Seattle Sounders carry on…in Poulsbo, Washington. While a bad idea on a number of levels, it poses additional problems for Portland Timbers fans. To which team will they direct their unconditional hatred, the MLS Seattle team or the weird transplant USL-1 incarnation they’ll play week in and out? It ain’t right, I tells ya.

– Luis Arroyave confirms my suspicions about the parties around MLS Cup. It’s the dude party stuff I’m referring to.

– With the expansion draft coming next Wednesday (right?), a few sites (including this one) have kicked around notions about which players from their team they would release and expose. WVHooligan goes the extra mile and plays the game with all 13 teams. This is a two-parter: Eastern Conference and Western Conference. This is a pretty good way to start getting your head around this stuff.

– Inching as we are toward the time when we’ll all start looking back on the 2007 season, I thought I’d flag a good one in case anyone missed. It’s going to be tough to top Who Ate All the Cupcakes 2007-in-review post. Let’s hope it’s not their last.

– Finally, before getting to the run of random crap with which I like to close my Fridays, enjoy this beauty goal kick from some random indoor game.

Now…on with the crap! Continue reading

MLS: Philly Peeking Over the Crest?

Answer: yes, if one anonymous tipster is reading several signs correctly.  To flag some just-behind-the-scenes details to my colleague’s Philly expansion post below:

“-reportedly, Gov. Rendell has already agreed to the Philly MLS deal. He is just waiting for the Senate/House to pass the bill to sign it.”
“-The senate majority leader, former Chester city mayor, is a champion of the Chester MLS stadium project. He is fully behind it.”
“-The House appropriations chair is also 100% behind it.”
“-Both the chair and the majority leader are from 2 different parties, but completely agree this is a good project”

So, will it be the Emerald City (Seattle) and the City of Brotherly Love?

MLS Expansion: Double-Down on PAC NW & Beyond

My local paper reports this morning that Major League Soccer’s (MLS) top officials are again eyeing the Rose City’s potential as an expansion market. While nothing definitive appears in the article- for instance, no talk of negotiations, advanced or otherwise – it’s easy to disregard this as a simple means of keeping the lines of communication open. Indeed, the official line on the visit boils down to providing MLS Commish Don Garber with a chance “to see [PGE Park] in ‘game condition’ for a significant event.”

Reality aside, however, just seeing the reefer to the headline on the top of The Oregonian’s sports section set some wheels to spinning in my head – and those along somewhat urgent lines. Between Merritt Paulson’s (perhaps throw-away) figure on what it would cost to get the Portland Timbers’ PGE Park up to MLS standards and with a Seattle team to MLS looking powerfully firm for a rumor, it occurs to me that the future is now for Portland getting an MLS team.

Let’s separate this to make it prominent: Portland should get a Major League Soccer franchise in the same round of expansion that takes in Seattle, which looks to be 2009.

Clear self-interest aside (self-interest? where!?), a couple things recommend getting the Pacific Northwest “toe” in the national footprint in place all at once. To begin, if Seattle plays in one league and Portland in another, the risk of the rivalry between them losing its bite grows with each year – e.g. Seattle gets fixated on, say, San Jose, while Portland starts worrying about Vancouver’s Whitecaps. Pull both teams into the league at once and – Whammo! – enjoy the eye-gouging basement brawl between two expansion teams already entangled in regional rivalry. Second, the simultaneous move not only folds the Pacific Northwest region into league with a bang, it essentially wraps up the Western coast footprint. After Portland, Seattle and San Jose, where else does MLS go in a 18, or even 20, team league?

The last piece provides a nice segue into the larger question of expansion: where does MLS go to get its 18 teams by 2012? Continue reading

MLS to Seattle: Did They Bone It? So far…yep.

With a hat-tip to Who Ate All the Cupcakes, I read this morning that a soccer-specific stadium is not on the cards at present for the potential/rumored Seattle Major League Soccer (MLS) club.  Due to Paul Allen’s reported involvement with the club, they’ll play their games in Seattle’s Qwest Field.  Those Who Eat Cupcakes don’t find this so upsetting as I do, based mainly on their impressions of Qwest as a facility for soccer – gathered first-hand for the record – and what happens with the revenue streams.

Having visited Qwest for a soccer event or two (I even think I once caught a game at Safeco Field, the joint for baseball), I don’t disagree in terms of the basic structure, even if I feel like no amount of decorative cover can overcome the consuming emptiness of a too-small crowd in a too-large building.  And the revenue thing is nice as well.  What’s not nice?  Working around an NFL schedule and staring at the damn grid lines.  I thought MLS was past the “take-what-we-can-get” mentality, but I’m guessing the national footprint thing won in the end.

So that’s the first thing they boned.  Here’s the second:

“The Sounders will be recognized for their second United Soccer Leagues First Division championship in the last three years next Sunday when the Seahawks host the New Orleans Saints.  Players will be honored on the field while a championship banner is raised on the west side of the stadium.”

Maybe others have had different experiences with football fans and soccer, but based on what I’ve seen down the (considerable) years, this has the potential to go badly.  They can expect nacho-and-beer searching indifference to this recognition ceremony.

Daily Sweeper, 10.4: Where’s the USOC? Seattle, Rumors +, MLS Love

– Martin Rogers, Yahoo! Sports’ guy, wrote an article wondering – or, rather, explaining – why the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup gets overlooked year after year.  Lots of good points get in – notably, the familiar one about how the Open Cup looks too much like Major League Soccer’s (MLS) playoffs – including one I’ve never yet considered:

“Perhaps the Open Cup’s history is also part of its problem. Whereas MLS is a relatively young product that is confident in its future prospects, the Cup dates back to an era where there was little interest in the game.”

Elsewhere, as if trying to prove Rogers’ point both Sports Illustrated and ESPN ran the same Associated Press article.  Way to celebrate the tradition guys.  At least the bigger, soccer-specific sites came through (or at least  the ones I visit): USSoccerplayers.com and GOAL, especially, turned in swell write-ups.  The little guys – e.g. amateur blogs (like this one!) – did their part as well, but, twit that I am, I didn’t lift the links as I traveled.  My bad.  Still, I’ll link to the FC Dallas Offside’s lamenting write-up ’cause he deserves some sympathy after a tough loss.

– A couple MLS-to-Seattle tidbits to pass on: first, MLS Rumors (GOD!! I LOVE THAT SITE!!!), is doing its normal business of spreading, well, rumors (caveat, caveat) that a Seattle MLS club could start play early as 2008.  Mmmm…not the best idea, as I see it – or at least it’s one that will continue the lopsided conference issue…though that could be fudged by going single-table.  In related news, American Soccer Daily reminds all  of us about the big concern about a Seattle franchise:

“Plans for a soccer-specific stadium, a requirement for any new MLS franchise, have not been mentioned, making 67,000 capacity Qwest Field with its FieldTurf surface the likely home for the club.”

Yeah, that does suck…not getting around that really.  There’s also the issue with jacked-up security dudes at Qwest (NOTE: This comes from the Timbers Blog, which doesn’t mean it’s manufactured or unfair necessarily; it’s just that Timbers’ fans hold all things Seattle and Sounders in the same regard as a herpes rash.)

– Finally, Dan Loney really does Says It All by sharing what makes MLS so darn endearing.  All those precious mistakes…as fun as watching a toddler fall down…

Just Call Me a Useful Idiot, OK?

 (UPDATE: Yeah, I changed the title.  “Memo to ____” doesn’t match the mood of the post.)

I’ve been mulling over the things I’ve written in my “screed of independence” (which continues to fill with comments now that the SoccerCity message board has found it) and have cede one point to the Timbers’ Army commenters: every member of the Timbers’ Army is twice the fan I am. Absolutely true: you do more to build the game outside the stadium and you do more to make the game interesting once it’s on. As for where I am, a comment left by “Vic,” absolutely nails it. Vengance seems to wish me bodily harm for something as close to nothing as you can get, and that’s more of what I expected when the SoccerCity message board found this post.

(The comments keep stacking up and I have a late, good one to flag: I’ve heard stories about trouble between Sounders fans and visiting Timbers fans, so what yabollox wrote makes sense, or at least explains the fervency I’m getting. I never had fan trouble – thankfully – ’cause I think it’s sub-moronic to the point where I have a rule of thumb about it: if you throw the first punch at an opposing fan and it’s, literally, in defense of nothing more than your team’s pride, the most unfortunate moment in your life came when the sperm met the egg. Long digression…sorry.)

But I appreciate the willingness of some people, in what has become a record comments thread, to write something simple as “glad you support the team,” even if they follow it up with, “but you’re not a fan.” If being a fan means wearing green underwear and singing songs with everyone else, no, I’m not that kind of fan. But I show up, I know what I’m watching, I know who I’m watching down to the individual players, along with their strengths and weaknesses, and I yell and whoop like it. There are people like me in every one of the “cathedrals of the game.” We’re here, we’re not really sure why, get used to it.

Turning to this specific post, I don’t hate Seattle ’cause I don’t see the point of it. As much as I want to see the home team win – and I do…just not desperately – I’m mainly there hoping for a good game and a good night. The funny thing is, I used to “get sick” watching my team, did the whole act really. But, one day, I realized it was just an act. Is everyone out there acting? I really doubt it. And I’m not about to question anyone’s sincerity because I don’t live in their head and it’s their life, not mine.

That’s kind of the point in the end. Why do I feel like it’s my job to speak for anyone who might feel guilt about sneaking up to Seattle for an MLS game? I can’t tell you. It’s just how I’m wired, precisely the same reason I follow the Timbers the way I do and why I’m slowly, but surely, turning on my old club, New England. I just like soccer and I don’t have it in me to fake caring about things I don’t care about. What I do know is that I’m paying money to support the business the Timbers Army loves; not counting concessions (which I don’t know that the club gets; in fact, I really doubt it), I’ve paid the Timbers’ organization easily over $1,000 down the years – and that’s on the inside; I’m absolutely horrified to think what I’ve given to places like the Marathon and the Bitter End down the years. And, no, I’m not looking for a thank you…jesus, I’m not stupid.

It was my love for places like the Marathon that took me back to Portland from the East Coast. If there’s one thing I resent in the above, it’s the throw-away line about “Portland being just an address” for me. (Damn shame that came from Obi, who I think is a mad genius for the Deborah Knapp thing…oh well.) I turned my life upside down in more ways than I can count to move back to Portland six years ago. I moved here out of simple love for the city itself, not the soccer team. And, as much as the city has changed, I don’t regret the move for a minute; the people drive me batty, but that’s a personal problem; PEOPLE drive me batty – goes back to wiring.

Anyway, that’s it from me. I’ll pay to see the Timbers as long as I live here and when I can afford it. So, let me support the team/teams I like in my own weird way, take my money, and we’ll all be happy.

Portland v. Seattle: A Screed of Independence

“Anonymous said…”“No self-respecting Portlander will EVER cheer for Seattle Sounders. They may attend a match to watch Beckham or root against Seattle with the opposing fans. The Timbers have a strong identity in Portland and the very heated rivalry goes back to NASL days.”

I lifted that from the comments on du Nord’s main post from yesterday. Call the screed below a reaction to several lines of thinking in that comment: what it is to be “a self-respecting Portlander,” what it is to be a soccer fan, and so on. This post has been a long time coming, something I’ve sat on because I didn’t want to listen to any kind of aftermath. The bile contained in it grows from swallowing the irritation of reading the silly shit inherent in the “true supporter” mentality.

Contrary to anonymous’ comment, I’m a self-respecting Portlander and I will be cheering for the MLS Seattle Sounders. And I’ll be cheering for the Timbers. Different teams, different divisions: let’s drop the sad pretense we’re dealing with Liverpool and Everton.

Maybe I should describe myself as a “self-loathing Portlander.” The thing is, I’ve lived in both Seattle and Portland and wound up in Portland because I like it better…or I used to. Time was, I had more fun in Portland, the beer was cheaper, and, for a while anyway, the people who lived here seemed a whole lot less into themselves and less eager to celebrate their choices. They lived here and got on with it. The beer is still cheaper, but the rest has changed. One indicator for that: “Keep Portland Weird” bumper stickers; if you have to keep reminding yourself to “be weird,” chances are you’re entirely normal, in spite of your “creative class” job.

Yeah, I’m also a transplant. Big deal. I’m guessing “anonymous” and a damn big chunk of the Timbers Army are transplants as well. Have I measured that? Nope. Just running the averages: a huge general transplant percentage in Portland probably equals a huge general transplant percentage in the Timbers Army. What’s my point? I don’t get how people get so hopped up on their “Portlandness,” how they embrace it so fervently when, like me, they’re transplants. I’ve lived in the wet side of the Northwest since 1989, excluding a four-year sojourn to the East Coast – and I’ve never had the urge actually mate with my city. Maybe these people want and/or expect more from their city. And, here especially, there’s this suffocating sense of Portland, once a city, now an identity.

The truly mysterious thing to me: not a whole lot really separates the two cities – certainly, the people don’t. I used to think Portland occupied a higher rung in Yuppie Hell, but I think it’s starting to drift down the rungs to meet Seattle. The fans do seem to hate each other – and I can only call that a mystery. That’s not to say, the rivalry isn’t fun – it is – but to take it seriously…I don’t get it. Maybe it’s a function of that weird inferiority complex Portland has always seemed to cart around, this ridiculous chip on its shoulder about being the “junior city.” I saw much the same thing between Boston and NYC when I lived in the former – and, yeah, I do find my preference for “second cities” a little peculiar…probably grows from a general desire for being outside the loop. Maybe it’s simple misanthropy.

With all that off my chest – whew! (and I’m waiting on the angry rebuttals) – the main thing is, I agree with most of what Portland fans seem to want. If an MLS club comes to Portland, they should play in PGE Park or another downtown facility – check. The Timbers’ Army sings at games and they liven up PGE Park – and I appreciate that, down to the foul language it foists on my kids (better learn it there than somewhere unsavory, I figure). And based on what I’ve seen, they’re a more boisterous supporters group than Seattle’s – check, so far as I find that interesting or important (not far). I should like a Portland soccer team more than a Seattle one – check.

So, I’m a card-carrying Portland fan…except for that whole thing about hating Seattle. I’ll readily root for a Seattle team provided, 1) they don’t play in the same division as a Portland team, and, 2) they’re not playing against the Timbers in whatever capacity. But week in, week out, what the fuck does it matter that I pull for a Seattle MLS team? In what way does this diminish a Portland team? When, or even if, an MLS team moves to Seattle, I’ll keep going to Portland Timbers’ games; when they meet in the U.S. Open Cup – assuming that tournament doesn’t go poof under the current pressures – I’ll pull even harder to Portland over Seattle. If Portland gets an MLS team, great, I’ll keep pulling for Portland…unless I move…then, who knows what?

Clearly, I can just ignore what anonymous wrote and just get on my life, right? So, why do I let it get up my ass? I don’t know. I guess it’s just the strong-arm, almost Bushian thinking anonymous’ statement and “true fandom” too often embodies: if you’re not with us, you’re with the enemy. Maybe I can’t stand being told what to think when what I’m being told is asinine. We’re talking about watching a bunch of dudes playing a game. They’re not our personal friends, we don’t have to pay Seattle tribute when we lose, they don’t charge down from the North and steal our virgins. They win or we win; both sets of fans go home and get drunk.

US Open Cup: MLS Recovers…Sort of

Looks like we have an all-Major League Soccer (MLS) final for the Lamar Hunt Kelloggs’ Rice Krispies U.S. Open Cup (LHKRKUSOC) on our hands – though it didn’t look that way till very late with both MLS teams relying on overtime to get through the semifinals.  Moreover, judging by FC Dallas’ win, one could argue the top-flight teams relied a little on a seemingly superior talent for conning the ref for their chief competitive edge.  I’m not talking egregious examples, mind you, but that’s kind of the point; it’s a subtle art and FC Dallas, at least, certainly had it down.

Could that really be the final piece to building a better professional?

I didn’t see the New England Revolution’s (slim) win over the USL-1 Carolina RailHawks and can therefore only pass on what I read: ‘twas a tight game, not unlike Dallas’ (slim) win over the Seattle Sounders…speaking of which…

The notes I took on last night’s game didn’t merit posting – I can’t say whether that’s down to the game or where my head was last night.  On the other hand, I can say the fact that few would mistake this game for a classic came to me around the end of regulation.  Was it close?  Certainly, though that applies to any game settled in overtime.  Hard-fought?  On one side, yes; that would be the Seattle side.  Whether Dallas suffered from fatigue or complacency I never quite pinned down, but they adopted a static, ball-watching approach that amounted to passing the ball to a succession of their players to watch them run at Seattle’s defense (e.g. “Here’s the ball, Juan.  You run at ‘em and we’ll keep an eye on things back here.”  “Here’s the ball, Arturo.  You run at ‘em…” etc.).

Both sides had their chances, though I’d give Seattle the edge in quality and menace over the game’s first 60 minutes.  Leighton O’Brien certainly kept Dallas’ defense busy as did (I think this is his name) Sebastian Le Toux and Taylor Graham (I watched extended stretches without sound, so I’m a bit weak on the names).  Dallas did have their forays toward Seattle’s goal, but it definitely took them a while to either warm to the task or get used to Qwest Field’s turf.  By the end of the game, though, Dallas’ attack gained momentum and urgency, even if the organizational side of things made only rare and feeble appearances.  All the same, the slightest whiff of the inevitable attended Dallas’ first goal.

Two more goals came – one a penalty-kick that simply had to be called, the other pulled back by Seattle too late to make a difference – but the first one decided it.  Hell, one could say Seattle hitting the crossbar once and failing to capitalize on multiple corners decided the game.  Dallas, to their credit, scrambled bodies across the defense when it counted, Sala came up big enough, and the MLS club even offered a half-competent attempt at killing off the game in the overtime period – though it’s here where the ref’s love of theater entered the game.  Dallas players not only made the most of any contact, but conjured a few game-delaying performances where no contact was made.  The online feed came from a Seattle broadcast and the Sounders’ homer announcers howled and laughed through all this.  And it was cynical, to be sure, but it also worked.  So, yeah, welcome to the Big Time, rubes.

Taken together, MLS upheld the top-flight’s reputation, if only just, but at least one of the finalists hardly covered themselves in glory in doing it.  As for Seattle, they argued more forcefully than any club in the country that the gap between the best of the USL and MLS isn’t as big as we might think it is.

And that was with a designated player (Denilson) on the field.

(Dang it.  I did want to mention one possibility here; it occurred to me as I watched that the introduction of Denilson might be at least a partial culprit for the timing and movement issues in the Dallas.  Then again, they looked just plain lazy/tired with fair frequency.  At least Denilson and Toja combined well here and there.)

Daily Sweeper, 09.04: Ticking Clocks; Lotsa Open Cup (+ Blasphemy); Yallop’s Lifeline(?); St. Louis Update…Gasp!

– I’ll lead with a doozy of a concept. A Houston Chronicle article on the local team’s recent staggers pointed out that said local team has only SIX regular season games remaining. Nah, I said. Then I checked the standings. Holy crap. The same applies to Kansas City. It’s crunch-time, people. Good stuff.

– The semifinals for the Lamar Hunt Head-On/Activ-On U.S. Open Cup (LHH-OA-OUSOC) go down tonight – but all y’all knew that, of course, and planned accordingly. I know what I’m doing tonight (unless the wife says otherwise…yes, dear) and will duly prime myself with previews from both games:

FC Dallas v. Seattle Sounders
US Open Cup unofficial site
Nice bit from FC Dallas Updates – especially the crack about Seattle humidity

New England Revolution v. Carolina RailHawks
US Open Cup unofficial site

By time of posting, the New England/Carolina game should be close to underway – so I’ll be missing that one – but the Seattle/Dallas Super-Epic-o will air online tonight. Huzzah! I would live blog the game, but…well, I’m not sure how it’s done – on a practical level, I mean. That’s to say, I have an approach in mind – e.g. watch the game and write comments, posting them as they come to me – but that seems like such a pain in the ass. Is that how people do live-blogging when they do it?

Anyway, I’ll probably do my usual thing, wife and kids allowing – e.g. “Brain-Dead Blogging,” where I write down a bunch of crap in a whiskey-juiced haze and foist it on all y’all later. Continue reading

Open Cup: Revs Win (Hello Dignity!); The Future

Having missed the game, I can’t speak to anything but the final score with a whole lot of confidence, but, suffice to say, the New England Revolution reached the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (LHUSOC) courtesy  of last night’s win at home over the Harrisburg City Islanders.

The local media for each city doesn’t cite refereeing errors or anything of the sort, so it seems we can chalk this one up to superior play trumping heart.  Or, to paraphrase New England head coach Steve Nicol, taking the evening as a whole, the Revs felt comfortable.

For the record, this marks only the second time in club history that the Revs have reached the LHUSOC (or even the USOC) semifinals; the last time came in 2001…and they made the final that year…where they lost…to Los Angeles…again…  (The official U.S. Open Cup site has nifty records of the MLS era, by the way.)

So…with all the LHUSOC quarterfinals wrapped up, who would you (yes, you, the person reading this right now) dub the tournament favorite?  Is it the upstart Seattle Sounders?  The “upstartier” Carolina Railhawks?  Or do the MLS clubs, faith-abusing FC Dallas or the New England Bridesmaids…er, Revolution, hold the upper hand?

My vote: Seattle.  In all seriousness, I’d be crapping my trousers right now if I were either MLS franchise.  And I’m still waiting word on where the final will be played.