Two things that deserve never to be mentioned again: Last night’s match and Toronto FC fans

Well, say this for MLS Cup 2010….. no one was killed.

So there’s that.

Yay.

Okay.

Sigh, I’ve got to actually talk about this match?

Jesse Hertzberg from offstage: Yes!

Can I trash Toronto too?

Jesse again: Yes, but try talking about soccer first, please.

Deal! Okay, then let’s break this down, shall we?

The on-field action:
It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t artistic, but for about one-third of it, it was pretty engrossing, which when you consider the two teams on offer in the conditions at hand, was probably about as good as anyone could’ve asked for. The ending was completely compelling as Dallas attempted to come up with new and creative ways to miss chances. Prior to that, Colorado summoned up the spirit of Pippo Inzaghi in scoring two of the most ludicrous goals in MLS Cup history. If for no other reason, I’ll remember the final for that, which is more than I can say for some of those New England finals, right?

I don’t think I’m alone in saying Conor Casey disgraced himself throughout the match only to be rewarded with that goal and unbelievably the final MVP award (only to have is name screwed-up by the VW flack on stage). Casey was like Claude Lemieux out there – just running around the attacking area in the general direction of the ball and then just elbowing, grabbing, or bodyslamming anything that got in his way. On that first half penalty appeal, Casey clearly committed a foul on the defender before getting hacked down in response. It should’ve been a FK to Dallas and then a yellow card to both participants for the subsequent after-party. But any talk of cards, brings us to one of the final’s true enemies – referee, and I use that term extremely lightly, Baldomero Toledo.

Toledo was a joke. He tried to follow the age-old British maxim of “don’t ruin the occasion” but then in true USSF-fashion, ended up totally ruining the occasion. While Toledo was making his Palin-being-interviewed-Couric-face, Dallas but especially Colorado proceeded to turn the game into slightly better-attended version of a Wednesday night “tilt” between Michigan State and Purdue. For those of you who both missed Sunday’s match and have never watched Big Ten soccer, it was grim. I wouldn’t say that Toledo ruined the match because that would be downplaying the role of the hosts Toronto in the entire mortifying occasion. This brings us to the…

Off-field matters:
Let’s start with Toronto. I know from my family who lived up there that it seems to be an inherently decent place, one filled with decent people like my late great-grandmother, Rose.

That proviso being made, allow me to say that Toronto FC fans are officially the biggest bunch of scum, frauds, jokes, and assholes I’ve ever seen in the history of MLS. Seattle fans, you’re off the hook, and off the hook for a long, long time. Reports claim that many Toronto supporters showed up for kickoff and them almost immediately left in a protest against their owners Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) for a) forcing them to buy Cup Final tickets as part of their season tix and b) fielding a fairly mediocre team this year. Look, I’m no fan of MLSE, but this was such an unbelievably bit of destructive and malicious behavior by Toronto fans that hopefully it has ensured MLS doesn’t go anywhere near Toronto for an All-Star Game or a Cup Final ever again. Remember when Michael Wilbon said he’d rather go to Beirut than Detroit for a Super Bowl? Well that now applies to Toronto for any major event.

I know TFC fans seem to have this “love the team, hate MLS” perspective on things; but allow me to remind TFC fans that without the much hated MLS and MLSE for that matter, there would be no TFC and they’d be left watching Serbian White Eagles play Metros Croatia in a high school stadium as genocidal scum on both sides attempt to re-live the “good ole’ days back home” in the streets outside.

Toronto fans embarrassed their club and all of Canadian soccer last night and I’m not even counting the ones who left early during the second half or during overtime. Casual fans are casual fans, but for allegedly real fans of TFC to leave because of their unhappiness with management is a joke and a really big reason to think that maybe MLS should’ve just told the CSA to pound snow and start their own league. I’ll reserve judgement until we see how Montreal and Vancouver are before declaring Canadian soccer totally rotten and asking that Dunc and Gord MacAsshole go start their own league that almost certainly wouldn’t even reach WUSA-level heights before crashing miserably.

One final note, a taunt really, to TFC fans. You might really hate MLS, its structure and its salary cap but you know who loves it more than almost anyone – your ownership. MLS is designed for owners who want a low-risk, low-cost sports investment where even owners who don’t try to win all that much can make a nice return. Who does that sound like? It sounds like MLSE and its main shareholders the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund. Pretty much, you’re ********ed, Toronto fans! Your owners absolutely LOVE MLS because even if the fans truly give up on the team (which looking at the Maple Leafs’ history, they never will), MLSE will still be sitting pretty, mired towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference counting its cash. You can yell and scream all you want, but when the best you’ve been able to show for four years is zero playoff appearances, Danny Dichio, and a dilettante German consultant – you’ve really got nothing. Have fun with your mediocrity Toronto fans, and after last night, allow me to speak for every other fan in the league when I say HARDY, HAR, HAR.

Moving on to the two most over-discussed nuggets of the weekend, I think that the playoff format isn’t a total disaster and I think the pro/rel talk is nothing but talk.

While we don’t know the 2010 playoffs’ final form, the addition of two teams through a play-in game actually has the potential for some dramatic action, especially if they are one-game play-ins. As for the shift back to more geographically “conventional” playoffs? Fine, whatever. It makes it less odd and easier to explain. Works for me.

As for the winter calendar. All I learned about that this weekend is that Sepp Blatter must literally be so stupid as to be brain damaged after using some his time with President Obama to bring up MLS playing a summer calendar. If this were any other normal business or non-profit enterprise, we’d tell FIFA and the USSF refereeing clowns to pack their stuff and get out so we could go off, innovate, and find a better way to do things. That MLS and other soccer leagues around the world cannot do this without being declared “REBELLIOUS” is one of the truly, truly stupid things about this sport.

Getting back to the winter calendar, it will never happen. This is all talk, politics, and evidence to those (like me) who think Qatar is now the clear favorite to win the 2022 World Cup bid. This is a move that shows the US is now playing from behind. That said, win or lose, it will never happen. If these “consultants” Garber talks about have even half a brain, they’ll say exactly what I said in a earlier column. It would be a very, very bad move for the league.

Well, that’s it from here. I’m sure I’ll have more now that the draft (otherwise known as the only part of the season that DC United fans are allowed to forward to anymore) is approaching.

Oh and more thing.

Toronto fans: You’re ********ed.

Ha ha ha.

MLS Seeks Mexican Solution to FC Dallas Problem

MLS Commissioner Don Garber and league officials believe they may finally have a solution to their FC Dallas problem.

The club, which plays in its own stadium – Pizza Hut Park in the suburbs of Dallas – drew a shade over 6,500 people to its match vs. Chivas USA on Sunday afternoon, a 2-0 loss. So far, FCD is 0-2, having scored one goal and conceded five. But even with a respectable gate in the opening 3-1 loss to the Chicago Fire, FCD is averaging just more than 11,000 fans per game, far below 2006 and 2007, when the club drew a decent average around 15,000 fans.

In light of that, and the fact that the club is one of the more pedestrian vessels in the MLS armada, Garber has hatched a copycat plan to that of something currently being done in the NFL. You will remember, of course, that Garber came to Major League Soccer from the NFL, having served as head of NFL International. In the NFL, the Buffalo Bills played a regular-season game last year in Toronto.

As for FC Dallas, the plan is for them is to play two regular-season home games per year in Mexico, at sites yet to be determined. This was hoped to be done this year, but with the schedule and team travel plans already set, it has to wait until at least 2010. In a groundbreaking agreement, FC Dallas would get 50% of the gate from each game, with the hosting Mexican club getting 35% to cover game operations cost, and 15% going to the visiting team to cover their extra travel and such. FC Dallas would also get a small percentage of concessions and other revenue. MLS expects it can draw at least 40,000 fans for each match, depending on the opponent, far greater than the capacity at Pizza Hut Park.

There is no word yet on the opponents. Garber and the league will use the time between now and when the 2010 schedule comes out next winter to talk to all the teams in the league, except Houston and Chivas USA, regarding their interest in playing FC Dallas in Mexico. The same team won’t appear vs. FCD twice in Mexico in one season. Houston is off the board because MLS does not want to take away the local Dynamo-FCD rivalry from both home fans and those would like to travel between the cities for games. The league doesn’t feel Chivas USA is a good choice, because of concern that Mexican fans might see it as a Chivas reserve team, and not show up.

MLS hopes to accomplish multiple goals with the plan:

* Bring the MLS game closer to the Mexican fans and media, drumming up new interest in the league, new marketing possibilities, and to hopefully entice top Mexican talent to join the league.

* Give the league two more “events” for its season calendar. The league is talking with ESPN2 and FSC about televising the games in Saturday night primetime spots. Either network could do this – FSC already shows MLS on Saturday nights, and in the summer, ESPN2 doesn’t typically air Major League Baseball on Saturday nights. ESPN Deportes or FSE would be home to the Spanish broadcast.

* Give FC Dallas a greater identity in the US and Mexico, making it a sort of regional team and a larger profile.

The last point is a key one. Aside from some Open Cup success, FC Dallas hasn‘t accomplished much in 13+ seasons. It is the only founding member of the league still in existence that hasn’t played in an MLS Cup final. It is hoped that by playing two games a year in Mexico, Mexican fans and others will latch on to the club and begin attending games at Pizza Hut Park – a decent enough facility but one where empty seats are far too plentiful.

MLS anticipates one game being held in the late spring, with another in the summer, but the choice of venue and working out scheduling with the Mexican Football League, as well as television, will ultimately decide that.

Wrapping up the weekend

Peace in our sarong-covered time. “L’affaire Beckham” finally comes to a conclusion with what is being described as a “timeshare” arrangement. I dunno if something was lost with the translation, but I am unsure as to why Beckham’s PR people would want him associated with 2 bed, 2 bath duplex in Boca. I actually think that MLS as a league and negotiating entity won this battle, but the Galaxy as an actual soccer-playing team are somewhat hosed. What are they going to do with salary cap space that you know is gone come July? If you’re an LA fan, you can’t be feeling too good right now, can you? Mr. Loney, the eyes of the lonely Galaxy nation turn to you.

Manchester United continues to squeeze the life out the sport in England. I give them full credit for putting together a great team and to Ferguson for clearly being the best manager in England by a long distance, but come on, this is starting to get boring. They strolled past Fulham like they were hardly there. If United can get by Inter this week, I absolutely see them marching to the quintuple. End of story.

Time of first total panic of 2009 by DC United supporters: 7 p.m., 3/7/09. That’s the time most fans began hearing of United’s 3-0, two-sending off, two-injury bludgeoning at the hands of RSL in Charleston. Allow me to speak for the panicked masses. Reports from Carolina say that United looked like a complete and utter mess out there. Certainly it’s early, but another bad start to the regular season is going to make Soehn’s seat very, very hot as folks look for someone to blame.

Can someone remind folks in the Metroplex that they have a professional soccer team in town? Less than 5,000 seats sold for the home opener in Frisco? Wowza. I knew that Dallas wasn’t lighting the world on fire with its attendance numbers, but that is a total utter disgrace. According to Buzz’s report linked above, GM Michael Hitchcock has had ticketing removed from his portfolio of responsibilities. I would think so. But in classic HSG-management style, they correct the mistake once its far too late and now they’re probably still looking an embarrassing opening day gate. HSG’s motto should be “shutting the barn door after the cows have gotten out.”

I share EPL Talk’s taste in beer. I rarely agree with too much EPL Talk says, but if this story is anything to go on, they do have very good taste in beer. Anytime I find a bar with Fullers on tap, I am a very happy man. Most of the time, I just settle for a six pack from the wonderful folks at Total Wine and More (also known as reason #5,432 why Virginia remains better than Maryland).

Soccer fans seem to lead way jumping on World Baseball Classic bandwagon. From my totally anecdotal and incomplete research consisting of talking to my sports fan buddies, it seems that my friends who like both soccer and baseball are getting more into the World Baseball Classic than my friends who only like baseball. I guess it’s safe to say that soccer fans are for more comfortable with the concept of international compeition (and the idea that the USA might lose) than more blinkered baseball fans. Personally, I am loving the tournament. The USA-Canada game was outstanding, Japan looks like world-beaters, we’ve had two genuine upsets already (Holland over the Dominicans, and the Aussies beating Mexico), and Adam Dunn is single-handedly giving Nats fans like me reasons to be optimistic.

A guess and a potential mess

Goff starts the trade rumblings in earnest today.

*MLS draft fever: 10 days and counting. More on that later today. Lots of trade rumblings, including a potential three-way deal involving Dallas and Toronto and another club. I also hear Dallas is in the market for a veteran left-side midfielder.

I have no idea what Dallas, Toronto, and Team X are up to but I am willing to bet that the left-sided midfielder on the market is Eddie Lewis of LA.

Speaking of Dallas (And how often do ever do that during the offseason?), Schellas Hyndman had some interesting things to say about Kenny Cooper’s status.

“I believe we will have Kenny for this year,” Hyndman told DallasSoccerNews.com. “All I know, we got an okay to count on Kenny for the season.”

I hope Hyndman isn’t as naive as he sounds there. Because who here really believes that MLS would reject an offer if the number is high enough? As I said in an earlier post, I am certain that Cooper will not finish the 2009 season in Dallas, whether Hyndman believes it at this moment or not.

The Appiah Situation


Well, assuming what Steve wrote is true, it’s beginning to look like those deals for Gallardo and Emilio are slowly strangling United’s ability to do much of anything.

I have always been slightly concerned that having two DPs ties up too much cash to allow for enough flexibility, and it looks like we might have some proof of that. Like many DC fans, I was slightly nauseated when I read this, but if I were a Dallas fan, I’d lose my mind when I read this.

At least United showed some ambition in attempting to sign him. Dallas meanwhile is attempting to emulate the “model” of “Deadly” Doug Ellis’ Aston Villa teams of the last 10 years, squandering a big market for no reason other than their own cheapness.