Friday, March 23

Stories Of the Day: Fair Play - Fans follow what FIFA does not

"FIFA Fair Play" - while fans support anti-racism campaigns, apparently that program and mantra does not matter to its own issuing governing body off the field...

Seeing Red: Got to give a hand to the supporters groups around North America that are part of the Independent Supporters Council (ISC) ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ initiative. Creative and nice to see something so widespread and organized that does not come from MLS HQ.

FIFA Accountability: A story from The Associated Press was published today involving FIFA transparency.
AP: FIFA's anti-corruption adviser called for swift publication on Friday of a Swiss court document revealing which soccer officials took millions of dollars from marketing agency ISL as kickbacks from World Cup broadcasting deals.
I seem to recall over the past year, especially during the CONCACAF conundrum, numerous occasions when Sepp Blatter said FIFA was on a path to transparency. Continued refusal to share this kind of information is wrong. FIFA is a large, important sporting organization and, like The Olympic Games, should be far more transparent to be corruption free, especially with as much money involved and gambling associated with the sport.

You can't completely eliminate wrongdoers and scandal, but you have to make an effort instead of looking the other way and telling outsiders 'nothing to see here.'

The sport should model itself, in some respects, after the American political system where government officials disclose their financial dealings. FIFA, the confederations, federations and the top officials from each should be releasing all of the applicable financial documents associated with the business they do.

Everyone knows there is an obscene amount of money moving around the sport. Fans and media just want to know that it is being used properly. To know that individuals in positions of power are not abusing the access they have or placing the game in disrepute.

And it is not just fans and media that deserve full disclosure. FIFA is strict about governments not interfering in the game, but on the other hand expect host nations to spend millions, if not billions, building venues and supporting soccer programs. These countries who spend millions on bidding for things like the World Cup, should have the security to know that the money they are spending is not being wasted while other nations and/or federations are surreptitiously cheating or undermining the system. 

Thursday, March 22

Stories Of the Day: Shock and Awe

Two big items for the day, and they both involve the current CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament…

Pissed Off Peter: First there was a kerfuffle in Philadelphia over Danny Califf being benched without explanation. It has since been allegedly calmed. Now, coach Peter Nowak is miffed over the US call-up of his Union defender Sheanon Williams for the U23 National Team at the last minute to replace Molde’s Josh Gatt.  

Hard Route Becomes Impossible Path: After the first day of action in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament, it is pretty clear what lies ahead for everyone. The race in Group A was to finish first and, likely, avoid playing Mexico, as the winner of the other group, in the semifinals. With the US getting an easy 6-0 victory on 10-man Cuba, the advantage is clearly in the hosts favor now as Canada and El Salvador did themselves no favors in a scoreless draw. Though odds were against it, they both probably hoped they had a chance at taking the top spot if they could earn a draw against the US, but now they will be left scrambling to better one another in the remaining two contests to finish second just to keep hopes alive that a miracle 90 minutes against Mexico will result in an Olympic berth.

Wonder what thoughts were going through Nowak's mind as the game finished out with Williams on the bench? At the very least, he had to be happy to see Freddy Adu hit a fantastic strike.

Wednesday, March 21

Stories Of the Day: Consequences

Today’s items focus on consequences… good, bad and undecided…

Tracking Your Moves: A great feature on the Philadelphia Union’s rewards program describes the benefits available for season ticket holders. The system awards points based on which games they attend or watch as well as other team events they participate in.

Atlantic Round-Trip: I feel for Thierry Henry as a concerned former teammate of Fabrice Muamba, but your club has one goal in a pair of losses to open the season. Is now really a good time to take a couple days to fly across the Atlantic when you have a big home opener Sunday against a 2-0 Colorado side? 

Speaking of Being Unbeaten:
A quickie from Simon Borg on MLSsoccer points out the odds of teams making the playoffs after a 2-0 start is quite good. That’s great news for KC, Houston, RSL, Colorado and Vancouver.

Bad News from a Beat Down:
It looks like the consequences of a player-involved tussle at a bar are getting out of hand itself. A Houston police officer, who was off duty at the time, is not only filing suit against the players, but the Houston Dynamo, seriously. I’d love to hear the lawyer’s rationale for this one.

Side Note - MLS on NBC Primetime: So, as I was typing this up, I had Whitney running on the tube. In one of my occasional glances up at the screen, l noticed one of the apartment sets featured a giant, what I am assuming, schedule magnet for the Chicago Fire on the refrigerator that must have easily been about a square foot in area. Now, sports product placement is certainly not new for NBC, but it is nice to see the network pushing it’s MLS relationship beyond the sports channel and into the mainstream – though I am not sure we should be proud it was on Whitney (only had it on because everything else was repeat or reality, ugh).

Tuesday, March 20

Stories Of the Day: In the Kitchen

What’s the famous Bill Parcells saying? "They want you to cook the dinner; at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries. Okay?"

Burning it Up: That is definitely something you want to hear about a striker. However, the trouble is that in Vancouver it currently is in reference to rookie Darren Mattocks, who accidentally suffered serious burns to his arm and shoulder over the weekend from an incident that occurred while preparing dinner.

Ballack Agent Blasts Red Bulls: The agent for Michael Ballack took a swipe at the New York Red Bulls and their general manager Erik Soler. The drama stems from the fact that, apparently, the Red Bulls have decided to go in a different direction, looking for a younger and more creative attacker in the midfield, and have their eyes on Stephen Ireland. Making matters worse, Soler allegedly told the agent, Michael Becker, he thought at this point in Ballack’s career, he was more suited for a defensive role, which Becker was offended by.

While this will undoubtedly create more drama in New York, where there is a history of failed star imports; you have to let the club shop for the groceries they think is right for the current team. Just because Ballack is a big-name star that is still a good, capable player that may fit well at another MLS club does not mean that he is what New York needs. Only hindsight can prove otherwise when the meal is cooked.

Speaking of Picking Ingredients: Olympic qualifying is right around the corner for CONCACAF. The US squad made what is likely it’s last change to the roster today, adding Sheanon Williams, a third Union player who currently plays under the leadership of former Olympic coach Peter Nowak in Philadelphia. Up north, the Canadian coach Tony Fonseca trimmed the roster, letting loose the older players in favor of a young squad of 20. The tournament starts Thursday.


Monday, March 19

Stories Of the Day: Surf’s Up

Water, water, everywhere…

Keane finds pot of gold for belated St Patrick’s celebration: The LA Galaxy struggled through its first three games in MLS and CONCACAF Champions League, but on Sunday Robbie Keane came alive and threatened all game long. In a match where he could have had several more, he finished with two goals and was part of the build-up in the third as the defending MLS winners, who literally received gems pre-game in the form of championship rings, dominated visiting DC United.

Wave win another MISL title: Speaking of champions, the Milwaukee Wave repeated as title holders in the Major Indoor Soccer League, winning their sixth in franchise history. It was not as easy as one might have expected following Friday’s 14-2 blowout in Game 1. The Baltimore Blast forced overtime on the road in Milwaukee only to come up short of forcing a mini-game with Joe Hammes scoring the 12-10 winner for the Wave.

Rapids roar in Philadelphia: Up a goal but down a man following the second-yellow ejection of Jeff Larentowicz, the Rapids got a stunning strike from Tony Cascio four minutes later to put pressure on the Union. Despite several chances and a Lionard Pajoy tally, the hosts could not make up the two-goal hole in the loss.

Sunday, March 18

Stories Of the Day: Tragedy and Triumph

It was day of extremes as the day started with unfortunate news out of England, but concluded with big nights in the Northwest…

Football Takes Back Seat: It was a big day in English soccer. American eyes were on Bolton with Tim Ream on the roster. Ream would not see the pitch as the quarterfinal contest was abandoned just before halftime when his teammate Fabrice Muamba collapsed away from the play with an apparent heart attack. The situation was critical with dramatic efforts being made to save the 23-year-old’s life and after a lengthy delay, the match official Howard Webb made the decision, in consultation with both clubs, to abandon the match. That is not an easy decision to make, and it made me wonder: what would happen if something like this occurred in MLS, the lower divisions or the US Open Cup. Schedules are so sacred because re-scheduled matches are difficult to sell. And with the new format of the US Open Cup running rounds in consecutive weeks, how could you possibly replay a match unless it is the very next day.     

Rave Green Beer Flows in Seattle:
There was plenty to celebrate in Seattle on St Patrick’s Day just days after heartbreak at the hands of the green-and-white clad Santos Laguna in Mexico. Alvaro Fernandez and David Estrada seemed unstoppable on the night, playing a factor in all three Sounders goals in the 3-1 win. Estrada will be a front-runner for Player of the Week with the hat-trick while Fernandez, credited with two assists, was a key figure in all three tallies by his teammate.

Merit-orious Result Away from Vancouver: Last year, the Whitecaps were the first team since the 2009 New York Red Bulls to go without a victory away from home. It was a tough pill to swallow considering their Cascadian rival Seattle went 5-5-5 in their debut MLS campaign three years prior. This year, the club came out and decided to put an end to that status in its first road game of the year. It was not the most thrilling game to watch, but when David Chiumiento’s corner kick found the head of defender Jay DeMerit in the 68th minute, it looked like the Whitecaps knew that monkey was coming off their back. And it did as the American’s tally stood up for the 1-0 decision.