At first blush the announcement today that NYCFC has been granted the 20th Major League Soccer franchise looks like good news. Frankly, I am not that happy about it.
The owners of Manchester City FC and the New York Yankees have combined as the ownership group for NYCFC, with the Man City owners putting up the big money and the Yankees providing local sports industry expertise. While I am happy to see more big investors coming into MLS, I am not happy to see them running a little cousin which is a side show to their larger concerns. Just take a look at MLSE and Toronto Football Club; the priority is clearly the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The other sad fact is that Don Garber and the New York Cosmos have failed to put the Cosmos brand back where it belongs at the top level of the game in the US and Canada. It is torture to see the New York Cosmos brand languishing in the newly anointed NASL, at tier two of the game.
Back in the days of the North American Soccer League, (part one), the New York Cosmos were a serious club which would frequently trounce top global football opposition in friendly matches. Pele, Cryuff, Beckanbauer, Neeskins, Chinaglia, Alberto and other great players donned the famous green jersey with one of the best logos ever put on a sports jersey. Crowds at Giant’s stadium where they played were typically in the 50-70,000 range.
My feeling is that the Cosmos brand would boost the moribund attendance figures in the Eastern conference of the MLS, which lag behind the Pacific Northwest by a large margin.
Today the New York Cosmos brand is possibly the most under utilized and under fulfilled brands in all of world sport. By not coming to agreement, MLS and the Cosmos have done a disservice to us all. The owners of the Cosmos brand are not the brightest bulbs under the light shade, and will never realize the potential of their brand while playing at the second tier of football. Their only conceivable plan is to build their brand on their own so that they can increase its value and influence to such a degree that MLS can’t say no to them. But how will they do this playing at the lower level of soccer?
As for NYCFC, how will they build loyalty to a new brand in a market in which the NY Red Bulls embarrass the league with their attendance figures in spite of having a fabulous new stadium and Thierry Henri?
I hope there is a back story to all of this and that NYCFC hopes to purchase the Cosmos brand with their enormous financial might. In my view that is the only scenario that makes sense. Certainly that is the case for fans like me, who desperately want to see the Cosmos brand thriving again, in the Eastern Conference of the MLS.
Lets hope there is a plan in Don Garber’s head to get back to the altar for the marriage we all want to see.
I had the worst posible footy day yesterday. I had recently made a note to self which said I must watch the Europa League final between Chelsea and Benfica. It looked like a very interesting match. I didn’t want to miss a final with an English team in it. I also fully intended on watching the Whitecaps and Montreal Impact in the first leg of the Canadian final. I dashed home and turned on the television. I went to all of the sports channels and all I could find was the Toronto Blue Jays and the San Fansisco Giants. I got my iPad and looked to the Whitecaps site. It said I could watch the match on Sportnset One. I turned to Sportsnet One and it was the Toronto Blue Jays verses the San Francisco Giants. At this point the veins were popping out on my forehead. It turned out you needed HD to watch the match which I don’t have.
Then, while I was flipping around Sportsnet on the web I noticed they had played the Europa League final that day and I had missed it. I missed both matches.
What a disasterous day. The only consolation was reading Alan Errington’s hilarious twitter messages about the Whitecaps match.
Anyone who reads my blog will know about my contempt for fieldturf. Though most players absolutely hate the stuff, many who play on it are muzzled by their clubs so they cannot criticize it. While we have yet to hear one Whitecaps player criticize the fake stuff our team plays on at BC Place, you had better believe they are muttering about it among themselves. You can also bet it is a part of their contract not to slag the stuff even if they want to.
This is why it is refreshing to hear top soccer players telling the truth about the stuff as Abby Wambach, the American women’s team star, has done recently. On ESPN Wambach has decried the fact that five out of the six venues for the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada will be fieldturf venues. She makes the point that this would never occur in the men’s World Cup (she is right about that), and express fear for player injuries and the quality of soccer that will be played during the Cup.
It is time we got out of the soccer stone age in Canada. We must realize we will never catch up with the rest of the world while we are playing elite level football on field turf instead of natural grass.
Here is the link: http://espn.go.com/espnw/story/_/id/9132798/abby-wambach-says-women-play-world-cup-turf-report
The Pacific North west has always been a bit of a soccer hotbed. Back in the NASL days Portland, Seattle and Vancouver were three of the strongest franchises. Even when the NASL disappeared, PacNorthWest football culture stayed strong, just below the boiling point. The addition of Seattle to Major League Soccer showed the love of football is strong in the region, and now the PacNorthWest is at a boiling point, with two other MLS franchises prospering in Portland and Vancouver.
With attendances soaring in Seattle and Portland, and Vancouver not so far behind, who would find anything to complain about? Unfortunately there is one major thing which is holding back PacNorthWest soccer: it is fake grass, otherwise known as FieldTurf. All three Pacific Northwest MLS franchises are currently playing on the stuff.
The problem with FieldTurf in Portland and Seattle has been recently highlighted by the fact the US National team would dearly love to play in front of such magnificent support in Seattle and Portland, but do not want to play on it. Instead, they want to lay a temporary grass surface over the FieldTurf. One commentator, Richard Farley of NBC Sports ProSoccerTalk, has said they should just play on the FieldTurf surfaces. He says “there is nothing wrong with Portland or Seattle’s fields.”
How wrong Farley is. Anyone who knows the game of football knows that FieldTurf is really no substitute for natural grass where professional football is concerned. I have never heard any top player express the wish to play on FieldTurf over grass; rather, they universally express contempt for FieldTurf.
There are a number of reasons why the World’s top clubs travelling through North America insist on playing on grass, and won’t play on FieldTurf. Such clubs include Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Celtic and others who refuse to play on the stuff. Why? Because it is not worthy of play at the top levels of the game. They feel it threatens their player’s careers and exposes them to muscle and ligament damage. Anybody who has played a game on FieldTurf knows the toll it takes on the body. While there is no doubt FieldTurf is better than the Astroturf of old, the world’s best teams are right about all of these concerns.
There is a reason why we missed seeing David Beckham in 2011 and Thierry Henry in 2011 and 2012 in Vancouver: both players were nursing minor injuries and did not want to aggravate them by playing on FieldTurf. If we had a proper grass pitch, we might well have seen them.
As a spectator of football, FieldTurf fundamentally changes the game and diminishes it as a spectacle. There is simply no substitute for grass when football is played at the professional level. FieldTurf is fine for amateurs, or in countries where weather conditions mean there is no alternative, but the skill of footballers at the top level is only to be appreciated on grass. Watching the best footballers on FieldTurf is like watching Formula 1 genius Michael Schumacher driving a stock car on a formula 1 track. We know the driver is brilliant, but we are never going to see that brilliance in a stock car on a formula 1 track.
While I love football so much I would watch it played on virtually anything, as a fan of football there is a huge difference in how the game is played on grass as opposed to FieldTurf. It is simply a game better played on grass.
With the fan support Pacific Northwest teams enjoy in MLS, and with the fantastic growing conditions we have, there is no excuse for having professional soccer on fake grass. Surely the goal of all three PacNorthwest MLS clubs must be to play on natural grass pitches. If not, the region will be stunted in its football growth and will never attain anything near the greatness of the world’s top clubs.
It is time for FieldTurf apologists to stop trying to sell us a bill of goods. It is time for commentators like Farley to wake up and see the truth. Stop trying to tell us this nonsense that FieldTurf is just as good as grass, or even nearly as good as grass. I really don’t care if FIFA has approved it for qualifying matches either. It is simply not as good as grass for the professional game, nowhere near, and we fans of the Pacific Northwest deserve better.
Give PacNorthWest football fans what we deserve: proper grass pitches. Then we might watch the standard of football we deserve.