Tags: Jermain Defoe, major league soccer, Micheal Bradley, MLS, NASL, new york cosmos, Soccer Bowl, TFC, Toronto Football Club, Vancouver Whitecaps
While we Whitecaps fans eagerly anticipated Sunday’s match against Chivas USA, there is no doubt what the big match was last weekend. It was Saturday’s clash between the Seattle Sounders and Toronto Football Club.
The match was eagerly anticipated because of the star power involved. It was Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley’s first match for TFC; the first time the biggest signings of the MLS off-season appeared before the public on the pitch. On the opposite side appeared Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. A crowd of 39,000 watched the match in Seattle’s massive stadium. The match was available on both Canadian and American television on Saturday afternoon.
The star power on the field, the TV coverage and the match day atmosphere reminded me of the old days of the North American Soccer League. It was rather like watching the New York Cosmos playing the Tampa Bay Rowdies or the Vancouver Whitecaps at Giant’s Stadium back in the late 70s. I kicked myself for not going down to Seattle and watching the historic match.
Major League Soccer is making big strides, although watching the Whitecaps and Chivas play in front of 6000 in Los Angeles brought me back down to earth. Lets see what the MLS can do in re-marketing their least successful team in the huge Los Angeles market. I hope they bring the LA Aztecs back, but I am not holding my breath.
The star power did not disappoint: Defoe scored 2, Dempsey scored 1, and Bradley dominated the midfield. Defoe’s class won the day, and watching him take two goals with breathtaking ease was well worth the time spent in front of the television.
While some complain about the manner in which the likes of Dempsey and Defoe are hired by MLS and sent to hand-picked franchises, I am happy to look in the other direction. I can hardly wait to see Defoe and Bradley in action in Vancouver. I don’t care if they are on the other team provided I get to see them play.
Back in the day the New York Cosmos were a stacked team favoured by the league, but a gritty team from the village of Vancouver beat them and went on to make Canadian sporting history by winning the Soccer Bowl.
The present gap departing coach Martin Rennie left is beginning to gnaw at me. Without a coach, the Whitecaps are like an orphan, and the lack of certainty is very discomforting.
Like all football fans, I want the best players and coaches to be on my team. I worry that we may lose out on the front runners for the coaching position and have to settle for second best.
The key figure in the coaching question seems to be Jason Kreis, whose contract is up with his current team Real Salt Lake. RSL play in the final tomorrow, which may be the last hurrah for Kreis with RSL. There are several Major League Soccer teams who are vying for his services including Real Salt Lake (who reportedly have tabled an offer to him), the expansion NYCFC, and the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The fact the Whitecaps are waiting to announce their new coach after the MLS Cup suggests the Whitecaps want to make a bid for Kreis, who will be in the enviable position of being the subject of a bidding war. NYCFC have deep pockets, and may well win it. If Kreis wins the MLS Cup, he will be in the position to demand a far prettier penny than if he loses it. The stakes are very high indeed.
The Whitecaps have interviewed Bob Bradley, who seems to be the back up plan if Kreis is unattainable. But Will Bradley love us back? Does he have his heart set on a more glamorous European post?
Carl Robinson, who was one of Martin Rennie’s assistant coaches, seems to be plan C. If Kreis and Bradley fall through, we know the players love Robinson, but is he really an improvement over Martin Rennie? Don’t we want a solid, more experienced coach?
I have pinned my hopes on Bob Bradley. He is an excellent coach and has more experience than Kreis in any event. Having been the US men’s national team coach, Bradley will have built up loyalty among top American players who may want to play for him. He has been successful in MLS previously, and has coached the US national team in the World Cup of 2010.
I hope he agrees to be our coach. I would love to have him on board, and I think he would love the challenge of managing a squad of players which is ready to breakout as a potentially great MLS team.
The Whitecaps have said they will announce their new coach next week after the MLS Cup. I can hardly wait, and I hope our new coach will inspire us fans and take the Vancouver Whitecaps to the level we deserve.
Tags: Don Garber, Major League Soccer Expansion, MLS expansion, Orlando City SC
Yesterday Orlando City SC was announced as Major League Soccer’s 21st franchise. Orlando has been very successfully working away in the USL, the third tier of North American football. It is reported they enjoy 9,000 or so fans every match even at that level. This is good news because it shows that people in the State of Florida are desperate for football and want to support a team. Ten years or so ago, MLS was forced to contract two Florida teams, those being the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the Miami Fusion. Now, Florida entrepreneurs obviously feel that they can run an MLS franchise and make it profitable in the years to come.
My only fear is that under the current salary cap system, which caps spending on players at 2.8 million or so, expansion will mean a dilution of talent in MLS overall.
As things stand, you don’t have to scratch very far below the surface of any MLS team’s starting 11 (including my own team the Vancouver Whitecaps) before you get to some very mediocre footballers who are not really worth paying to watch. Whenever the MLS schedule clashes with international fixtures, meaning star players are absent from MLS matches, the quality of players on the pitch often takes a distinct dive to the point where we may as well be watching a second tier NASL game.
If MLS is to have 24 teams in the future, as is stated, how will this benefit the fans of already existing teams? What is the plan to address the often poor level of quality of the squad players in the league?
One solution is to dramatically raise the salary cap in the next collective bargaining round in order to allow MLS to recruit and retain quality players. This will stop good young American and Canadian players from going over to Europe to play in lower leagues for more money because their payday in MLS is so poor. Raising the salary cap must be done in such a way that it attracts quality new players rather than giving the already existing mediocre players a pay raise, however.
One thing I do not want as a fan is for MLS to mimic the huge and bloated MLB, NHL, NBA and NFL. The dilution of talent that has resulted in those leagues from too many teams makes the great majority of games in those leagues not worth watching. Putting excellence on the pitch is what will make people keep on paying to see MLS games.
Don Garber has been very smart in learning the lessons and avoiding the mistakes of the old NASL, (which folded in 1984), but surely he must recall the fact that the old NASL folded, in large part, because of over-aggressive expansion which led to a dilution of talent and poor quality football which people did not want to watch. In effect, expansion led to boredom for the fans of the old NASL.
While MLS is growing rapidly, my belief is that under-performing franchises such as Chivas USA, whose marketing plan has been a complete and massive failure, should be folded, in order to keep the quality of players, and franchises, at a high level. The attendance figures last year at Chivas USA home games were an embarrassment to MLS.
Don Garber surely must have plan to improve the quality of players in MLS team’s squads. If he does not, the expansion of MLS from the current 19 teams playing to the planned 24 could be the bubble that bursts the league.
My season ticket has arrived. A highly successful exhibition tournament against Major League Soccer rivals near Disneyland has whetted the appetite for real competitive football. My head is spinning with possible Whitecaps line-ups and formations. Kick-off is less than a week away and I can hardly wait for MLS matchday 1, or “first kick” as the league is fond of calling it.
Our starting goalkeeper and the starting back line against Montreal are easy to predict, but from there it gets dodgy to say at best. We can expect Cannon in goal, Rochat at left back, Bonjour and DeMerit in the middle and lee at right back. It is foolish to try to predict but I expect Atiba Harris at left midfield, Davidson as holding midfielder, Chiumiento playing behind Hassli and Camilo up front, and Le Toux will have a go at right midfield. I give myself only a small chance of getting this right, but that is as I would call it at this point. This is an attacking team, and I expect the Whitecaps to put the rookie Montreal Impact squad under heavy pressure early on in an attempt to score many goals.
I expect the Whitecaps to be competitive in every match they play in this season, which will be a big improvement over last year’s team. However, the lack of top class quality in midfield may drag the team down over the season, even after Barry Robson arrives. Chiumiento remains our only creative midfielder possessed of genius, but he is an absolute liability when it comes to the defensive side of the game. He can create goals, but he can also give them away on a platter.
We have improved our squad enormously, but in the tough and ambitious Western Conference, so have our rivals. This means it will still be a bit of a stretch to make the playoffs. The fact that we will have so many games in the Western Conference means we will be scrapping and struggling all season just to stay in playoff contention. Too bad we don’t play in the lacklustre Eastern Conference where owners just don’t seem to care so much about the quality of their squads or their football. Perhaps it is because there are so few fans actually in the stands over there.
In any event, we fans supported the team admirably in 2011, with the third best attendance overall in Major League Soccer. It is time for the Whitecaps to reward the fans with better football. The good news is that Martin Rennie’s men seem poised to do exactly that. I think we will see some performances that will get BC Place rocking with excitement and joy, as some big teams are going to come here and get beaten in some tough, intense football matches.
It is time for us fans to get loud and proud as well, and I look forward to seeing what the better organized and much improved Southsiders have in store for us. It should be a great show.
Roll on Saturday!!!