Monday, March 4, 2013

Soccer with Breakfast - March 4

This is the second edition of this morning recap of top stories around North America, but I am already rethinking the column name so don't be surprised to see another name in the future…

Attendance in LA
It is not exactly a surprise to anyone that Chivas USA would kick off the season with a lot of empty seats, especially since they cover entire sections of the Home Depot Center with team logo tarps. But a crowd of just over 7k for the home opener makes you wonder just how many lower division clubs will finish with better average attendance numbers this season, especially if the team remains a doormat on the field.

The story did not end there though for the overshadowed side as Grant Wahl reported Sunday from an anonymous source that the actual crowd was just under 5k and of that only 2,700 were paid tickets. Ouch.
And then there is the LA Galaxy. Although the attendance figure published was 20,124 there were also quite a few empty seats Sunday versus the Chicago Fire - a surprise for a team that is the reigning two-time champion of the league. Guess the negative marketing hits of David Beckham leaving and Landon Donovan being on 'hiatus' were too much to overcome. So much for Becks turning everyone into loyal followers. Would be interesting to know how many fans there Sunday became Galaxy fans because of Beckham.

Garber avoiding NASL-related expansion?
First there were the comments during and after the March to Soccer address by commissioner Don Garber last week regarding New York expansion, and now there is word that the league has eyes on Miami. An interesting note on both though may be the distinct avoidance of NASL owners being involved.

During the media event to promote the start of the season Garber made it abundantly clear that there were no active discussions between MLS and the New York Cosmos regarding the NASL club moving up as the second New York franchise.

Then, virtually out of the blue, another report (see tweets below) from Grant Wahl Sunday stated that MLS was in serious talks with Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross about adding an MLS franchise if the stadium gets approval on a major renovation. On its own the Miami news would seem unusual. However; given the success of the Cascadia expansion coming with a built-in rivalry, it would make complete sense that MLS would want an instant regional foe for USL Pro's Orlando City should they make the jump up to MLS - a move that is looking more likely as time goes by.

Back to the NASL though. It is interesting that MLS officials met with a member of Ross' group on Friday when Garber said in the March to Soccer address that he was meeting Thursday in New York with Bill Peterson, the commissioner of the NASL, which is largely owned by Traffic Sports, which is based in Miami and owns the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

It was not a good week for the second tier and its public relationship with MLS. Perhaps showing how little he pays attention to the league, in Saturday's halftime chat during the broadcast of the Toronto-Vancouver match Garber not only indicated the league had no interest of further expansion in Canada, but said that its good the second division is, noting that Edmonton and Ottawa were soon to be added. The thing about that is, though, that FC Edmonton is heading into their third season of play this year.

Magee hat-trick bad news for Klinsmann?
The great news for the LA Galaxy is that Robbie Keane and Mike Magee proved the champions may not suffer too badly minus Beckham and Donovan. The bad news is how does this affect the psyche of Donovan, who was on a sabbatical while weighing his career options. The US international said he is coming back in March, but you have to wonder if he keeps seeing the Galaxy post big wins like Sunday's 4-0 outing against Chicago, how motivated will he actually be to rush back. And if he's not 100 percent dedicated to getting match ready, how does that affect his return to and form with the national team?

Super Sunday
Three big individual performances Sunday capped Opening Weekend in fine fashion. First there was Magee's hat-trick for LA, then it was a pair of Salt Lakers in former RSL striker Fabian Espindola scoring twice in New York's 3-3 thrilling draw at Portland and Alvaro Saborio hitting both in RSL's 2-0 victory at San Jose.  Magee nearly had four for the Galaxy, but that performance was followed by two more thrilling contests.

First the New York Red Bulls jumped out to a 3-1 lead 28 minutes in thanks to a pair of Espindola strikes and from his fellow former RSL teammate, defender Jamison Olave. Portland came back in the second half, however, eventually getting the tie off an own goal from Olave. In the nightcap in San Jose reigning MVP Chris Wondolowski dominated the proceedings and had numerous missed chances only to see Saborio scoring twice in the late stages of the contest for the road win.  See reports, stats and video links for all the opening weekend games at the NASR Today recap.

Mexico on top again…
One final game to note on Sunday was the US U20 men, not surprisingly due to MLS player conflicts, came up short against Mexico in the CONCACAF Final, 3-1.

'Soccer with Breakfast' is a quick recap of interesting, underreported, or top soccer news items - sometimes accompanied by some commentary - to give readers in the Inland Northwest area (or beyond) a brief look around the North American news scene.