MLS News
Fans, Media and MLS Must Start Respecting the League's History
MLS News
Thursday, 21 May 2015 19:39

Major League Soccer has grown significantly since its first season in 1996. However, there's still one niggling problem. MLS' history is often insulted and disregarded by the newer generation of fans, the media and even by the league itself.

This must end if MLS wants to be taken seriously.

There were some peculiarities in the early days of MLS, such as the 35-yard shootouts it adopted from the North American Soccer League to determine a winner. However, Alexi Lalas, Tab Ramos and a few of the league's former executives told Complex Sports' Doug Sibor that they liked how different MLS was at the time.

One of those rules was made fun of in a video produced by MLS (via World Soccer Talk). 30 Rock's Judah Friedlander told a story involving the New York MetroStars' Eddie Gaven and a goal he scored against D.C. United in 2003 after head coach Bob Bradley exposed a loophole.

MLS allowed for a fourth "goalkeeper only" substitution at the time, so in overtime, Bradley made Tim Howard an outfield player and made midfielder Mark Lisi the goalkeeper. Gaven came in as a substitute for Lisi, and then Howard went back in goal. 

Friedlander goes on to slam Bradley in the video for exploiting this rule and labeled the ex-New York coach "Cheatin' Bob" in the skit.

This was a video that was actually uploaded onto the official league website. One of the greatest coaches of all time is satirized, even though he didn't technically commit an infraction. It's this attitude that must change when it comes to MLS' history.

There also is a misconception about the league's "poor" attendance in the first decade of its existence. Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail claims MLS "had its cultists in the [United] States, but BMO Field was the first stadium in which everyone was up for it."

Kelly goes on to say, "most MLS teams played in three-quarter-empty football stadiums. The crowds were somnambulant. At best, it was minor league. In some cases, it was little league."

While Toronto FC's first season was a resounding success, the rest of these statements are not true. D.C. United's supporters group, the Screaming Eagles, have generated a fantastic atmosphere since the team began, despite playing at a worn down RFK Stadium for nearly 20 years.

Section 8 Chicago was just as fervent at Soldier Field for the Chicago Fire. The LA Galaxy also drew solid crowds at the Rose Bowl. The MetroStars drew 46,000 fans in their first-ever home match at Giants Stadium, as well.

The only accurate statement is that MLS teams did play in football stadiums, but to be frank, it was a new league. The owners didn't have the stability or finances to fund soccer-specific venues like they do now.

Judging by the 2014 average attendances, per Soccer America's Paul Kennedy, only the Seattle Sounders could draw a sellout crowd at a football stadium. However, it's unrealistic to expect teams built from scratch in a new league to attract 60,000 fans or more.

Kennedy also shows the attendance numbers have gradually improved over the years. The increased exposure of MLS and expansion to other markets have certainly helped boost popularity, but it's not groundbreaking.

Another aspect of MLS' early years that is often criticized is the quality of play on the pitch. However, the U.S. national team players and internationals are arguably better than the current crop.

Goalkeepers like Tony Meola and Kevin Hartman are two of the best Americans in their position in league history. Defenders like Jeff Agoos, Marcelo Balboa and Eddie Pope, who was woefully underrated, were all top-tier players and were all U.S. internationals.

Marco Etcheverry was a cornerstone for D.C., and Carlos Valderrama was integral to the Tampa Bay Mutiny's success, plus he helped attract other international players to the league. Additionally, Roy Lassiter's record for goals in a season (27) in 1996 has never been broken, just tied twice (Chris Wondolowski in 2012 and Bradley Wright-Phillips in 2014).

However, none of these players or teams are celebrated because the majority of fans are new to the league and the sport itself. To make matters worse, MLS does nothing to educate the younger generation about the league's rich history.

If the newer fans and casual supporters watched the D.C. teams from 1996 to 2004 or Meola's MVP performance in the 2000 MLS Cup, they'd be surprised how entertaining the league was back in the early days.

Most New York Yankees fans will know something about Babe Ruth or Joe DiMaggio. Followers of the Green Bay Packers can wax poetic about Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr and their success in the 1960s.

Maybe one day, D.C. fans can pass along a story to their kids about Pope's golden goal in 1996 to clinch D.C.'s first of four MLS Cups.

 

Peter Galindo covers MLS and U.S. soccer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @GalindoPW.

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MLS Player Rankings: Dempsey Stays on Top, Felipe Rises, Larin and Wondo Debut
MLS News
Tuesday, 19 May 2015 00:38

The wild and wonderful world of Major League Soccer handed us some wacky results in Week 11, and it also saw a few unsung players step into the spotlight. 

Due to the drop in production from some of the league's stars in Week 11, a few under-the-radar players were able to break into the league-wide conversation. 

One top player who contributed to yet another goal for his side was Clint Dempsey, who remains atop the MLS Player Rankings for the second consecutive week. 

Joining Dempsey on the list after Week 11 are guys like Cyle Larin and Chris Wondolowski, who have been consistent up top for their respective sides. 

Continue reading on to see who else featured in this week's compilation of MLS' 20 best players. 

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MLS Power Rankings: Seattle Sounders Rise in Week 11
MLS News
Monday, 18 May 2015 21:02

The MLS weekend is over and it produced the craziest, most dramatic set of matches this season. It was the perfect showcase of the league's parity.

The Seattle Sounders turned heads with their 2-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps, one of the hottest teams in the first half of the campaign.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Union, New York City FC and the Montreal Impact all recorded points. Their results, as well as Seattle's, have significantly altered the power rankings.

Here are the power rankings for MLS for Week 11.

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Los Angeles Galaxy Upload 'Highlights' of Their 4-0 Defeat to Orlando City
MLS News
Monday, 18 May 2015 13:16

The Los Angeles Galaxy fell 4-0 to Orlando City in Major League Soccer on Sunday, but at least the club took the embarrassing scoreline in perfect stride. 

The Galaxy uploaded their official "match highlights" of the match to their YouTube channel, but the video was not-so-suspiciously devoid of any actual highlights. 

They've taken a page out of the Doncaster Rovers' playbook. 

[LA Galaxy, h/t Sports Joe]

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Philadelphia Union Moving Forward After Rais MBolhi Transfer Disaster
MLS News
Monday, 18 May 2015 02:17

CHESTER, PA—As Zach Pfeffer placed his 93rd-minute strike into the back of the net on Sunday night, the crowd at PPL Park, who experienced a wide range of emotions in the three hours prior, erupted in celebration of a long-awaited Philadelphia Union victory. 

The goal from the homegrown player was a perfect end to a dramatic week around the grounds of PPL Park that featured a fan protest against ownership and a dramatic match against D.C. United. 

The Union, who entered the match with one win and six points from 11 matches, were marred by a traumatic stigma surrounding their goalkeeping situation for quite some time before manager Jim Curtin officially declared Rais MBolhi would no longer be a part of the team's plans ahead of the team's trip to Vancouver last week. 

MBolhi, who starred for Algeria at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, inked a deal with the Union during the 2014 summer transfer window and debuted near the end of August. 

From the start of his Union career, Mbolhi's transfer to Major League Soccer was greeted with nothing but skepticism since the club already had two capable goalkeepers on its roster in Zac MacMath and Andre Blake. 

Part of the reason why the Union supporters group, the Sons of Ben, took to the pathways outside the stadium before Sunday's clash was to express their displeasure with how the front office spent money on MBolhi. Instead of purchasing extra help at positions of need like centre-back or forward, Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz brought in MBolhi after the World Cup. 

What ensued was a spell of disastrous performances in between the pipes for the Union throughout the end of the 2014 season and start of the new campaign in March. The first of the Algerian goalkeeper's major blunders came on October 2, 2014 in a must-win match at home against the Chicago Fire. MBolhi played a goal kick straight to Robert Earnshaw, who proceeded to equalize the game at 1-1 just minutes after the Union found a breakthrough. 

With MacMath loaned out to Colorado for the 2015 season and Blake on the mend from offseason surgery, MBolhi was the only choice to start in goal as the Union opened the new year against the Rapids on March 7. MBolhi's spell in goal lasted all of five matches due to a bevy of mistakes as the final line of defense. 

Philadelphia tried to tread water with local prospect John McCarthy in net, but the goalkeeping jinx hit him in the form of a concussion before Week 10's trip to Vancouver. 

With loanee Bryan Sylvestre in net and a makeshift defense in front of him, the Union were torn apart by the Whitecaps at BC Place. The final result over a week ago was the tipping point for many fans of the club, who organized a march before Sunday's match against D.C. to voice their displeasure with everything about the club. 

“I would say first and foremost they’re entitled to voice displeasure when the team’s only won one time coming into this game," Curtin said.

"I look at myself in the mirror first. We’ve had injuries, we’ve had different things, we’ve had off-the-field issues this year and it's been very challenging. If you’re a fan of this team, you’re entitled to be pissed off at how this has gone. I’m pissed off with how this year has gone. I share their sentiment. I feel the same way," the manager said after the match. 

After the protest ended and the fans filled their seats, a boisterous roar of chants spilled through the stands at PPL Park on Sunday night, even when it seemed the Union would not capitalize on their chances and earn the three points. 

“It’s always great to have people in the stadium. We know that we have fans that are always allegiant toward us. It’s great for us to have that. I really appreciate that. It’s hard for them right now because we didn’t do well (to start the year)," long time Union player Sebastien Le Toux said after the 1-0 victory.

"I can understand that. I can’t say I agree 100 percent with them. I understand how they feel. They are here and they want their team to do well. When you don’t win the games, you feel unhappy. I'm with them. I'm unhappy and I play on this team. They deserve for us to do better and they deserve to have a winning team because they are always here," Le Toux continued. 

Philadelphia knocked on the door for 92 minutes before Pfeffer finished off a Fabinho cross to send the stadium into a loud uproar. 

Curtin wouldn't say the win brought a sense of relief to the club, but he did acknowledge the importance of the goal given the circumstances the club has faced. 

“I never feel relief. I’m happy when we win. But I don’t really dwell on it too long. I don’t have time to think that we’ve accomplished anything yet because we haven’t," Curtin said.

"We won a soccer game at home. That’s what we’re supposed to do. I understand the word relief because it has been a crazy, stressful season but I’m more happy for our players because they deserve three points," the manager continued. 

One thing Curtin did make sure to note after the contest was the bond formed between the players in the locker room, led by United States World Cup veteran Maurice Edu. 

"I’d actually like to commend Maurice Edu for keeping the group together. It’s been a big step in his growth and leadership," Curtin said. "

"He’s always been a great player. He has qualities I can’t coach or teach. But he’s really improved on being the man in the locker room that keeps everything going in tough times. Anybody can lead when you’re winning and it's easy. It's the guys that can lead in the hard times, those are the real leaders in my eyes. That’s when you really see who the real leaders are," Curtin continued. 

"It’s easy to start pointing fingers, drift off into small cliques and whisper and this and that. We ask everyone if they have something to say, speak up. We have team meetings and things like that. It’s important that everyone takes part in that and expresses their opinion," Edu said.

"But again I want to reiterate that we have a really good locker room here. I think that goes a long way so even in the tough times we stick together. We all enjoy each other’s company off the pitch as well. In training we try to keep things positive, push each other and bring out the best in each other," said the midfielder and center back. 

One win over the top side in the Eastern Conference doesn't guarantee the Union are out of the danger zone just yet, and the players and manager are aware of that. But on a night where everything could have gone wrong in front of a national audience once again, order started to be restored on the banks of the Delaware River. 

 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

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MLS Team of the Week: Orlando, Montreal and Seattle Stars Shine in Week 11
MLS News
Monday, 18 May 2015 00:11

Major League Soccer's 11th week of action in 2015 was by far its craziest and most unpredictable. 

Over the span of five days, plenty of unlikely results were produced, as well as some top performances from fringe players.

The two biggest upsets in Week 11 were delivered by the Montreal Impact and Orlando City. The Philadelphia Union also earned an upset of sorts on their home field. 

One club that didn't stray from the path this weekend was the Seattle Sounders, who outclassed Vancouver Whitecaps from start to finish.

The four clubs combined to put eight players in this week's edition of the MLS Team of the Week.

Continue reading to see who else joined that group of standout stars from Week 11.

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An Argument for Why Jordan Morris Must Move to MLS
MLS News
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 23:40

Jordan Morris cemented his spot on the American soccer landscape on April 15, when he netted the opening goal against Mexico at the Alamodome in San Antonio. 

Scoring against Mexico, whether it be in a competitive match or in a friendly, always puts a player in the good graces of the American fans. 

Now with the spotlight off him, Morris must find a way to work his potential into a consistent role on the international stage. But unlike every other player in the USMNT talent pool, Morris is still plying his trade at the collegiate level at Stanford University. 

According to an April report from Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl, the Seattle Sounders offered him one of the most lucrative deals for a homegrown player in the history of Major League Soccer. As a Seattle homegrown player, Morris' rights are owned by the Sounders.

Despite the latest round of interest and speculation, Morris is still set to play his junior season for the Cardinal in the fall instead of developing at the professional level. 

When it comes to playing time, Morris will certainly receive plenty of that during the college season, and based off his recent international trajectory, he will be training with either the USMNT or United States U23 team over the next few months. 

Since he will be a part of some type of national team program over the summer, Morris' fitness shouldn't be a major concern. 

If he stays in school, Morris has a chance to start every game when healthy and hone his skills while developing confidence in front of goal. If there is one quality any forward needs, it's confidence. In most matches he plays on the collegiate stage in 2015, Morris will be the best player on the pitch. 

If he lives up to the billing and leads Stanford to a successful season, there will be few concerns about what stage of the developmental process he is in. 

In an ideal world, Morris would thrive during his junior season at Stanford and then link up with the Sounders ahead of the 2016 MLS season. If he does that, Morris would most likely start out with the club's USL affiliate before earning playing time off the bench. It is worth noting that whenever he turns pro, Morris will find himself among stars such as Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins at the forward position. 

With Dempsey and Martins in the fold, Morris would not receive a ton of game action in MLS. But he would be able to work on fine tuning his individual prowess in front of goal with the Sounders 2 team in the USL. 

However, it is that exact detail mentioned above that people will use as an argument for Morris to turn pro at this juncture of his career.

Thanks to the rapid expansion of the USL, most of the teams in the lower division of American soccer have direct affiliation with clubs in MLS. 

If Morris were to turn pro, he would be handed a solid amount of playing time at a higher level than college in preparation for the Olympics and other major senior team competitions. 

Of the players called into the U23 squad for the April 22 friendly against Mexico, only two were based in college. The other one was UC Santa Barbara defender Sam Strong. 

Some doubters of Morris may argue that he is not competing against top-notch professional talent like some of his other U23 teammates, and that may hurt his stock in Brazil next year against some of the world's best young prospects. 

Instead of waiting until the start of 2016 to join up with the Sounders, Morris could opt to play professionally as early as this summer and earn valuable minutes for the MLS side. If he were to impress manager Sigi Schmid, he could find himself in the first team, especially when the club faces a crowded schedule toward the end of 2015. 

Most outsiders would claim spending an extra six months with the Sounders would benefit Morris more. By turning pro, the pressure of being the team's best player would be lifted off his shoulders, and he would be able to focus on his game without a ton of distractions. 

Both scenarios end with Morris being a main component of the Olympic roster next summer and a fixture at the forward position for the senior team for years to come. 

Based off the competition he will face with the Yanks over the next 12 months, the better decision in our eyes would be to link up with the Sounders now. 

 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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MLS Week 10 Power Rankings: Did D.C. United Do Enough to Stay No. 1?
MLS News
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 19:33

Week 10 of the 2015 MLS season is in the books, and once again, there were several dramatic outcomes. 

D.C. United and the New England Revolution earned draws, the Seattle Sounders lost to the Columbus Crew and the Vancouver Whitecaps crushed the Philadelphia Union.

These results have altered the power rankings for this week, so will there be a new No. 1?

Here are the power rankings for Week 10.

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6 Lessons Learned from the First Meeting of the New York Red Bulls and NYCFC
MLS News
Tuesday, 12 May 2015 15:46

The buildup to Sunday's match between the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC was among the most interesting yet confusing in the history of Major League Soccer.

The league and New York media billed the match as a huge rivalry, a meeting of clubs with fanbases that simply did not like each other. Hatred between fans may well exist, but the question remained: Would the two teams, essentially strangers, play the match like it was a rivalry?

Thankfully for the league, media and neutral observers, the game had a rivalry feel from the opening whistle. Fans of both teams were loud throughout the match, an early goal set the pace for a frantic match and a first-half red card to Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga served to both give the match a level of controversy and grit, as well as level the playing field for an overmatched NYCFC side. 

The first half closed with the Red Bulls up 1-0 but down to 10 men. NYCFC held the ball for most of the second half, but a second goal from Bradley Wright-Phillips in the 52nd minute was all the Red Bulls would need to get the victory.

A Patrick Mullins goal with 10 minutes to play made the end of the match more interesting, but New York City never really threatened again. NYCFC boss Jason Kreis and his team were forced to leave Harrison with no points, despite playing nearly an hour up a man.

Though the match was huge for both clubs and sets of fans because of the nature of this blossoming rivalry, there were also plenty of long-term lessons to be taken away from the first Hudson River Derby. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is mostly good news for the Red Bulls, which have 16 points in nine games and sit in third in the Eastern Conference, while it is mostly bad news for New York City, which has only six points through 10 matches.  

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Female Canadian Soccer Reporter Burns Unfunny Toronto Fans
MLS News
Tuesday, 12 May 2015 07:52

Broadcast journalists have had to cope with idiots trying to ruin their reports by shouting a particular obscene viral phrase for quite some time now.

You know the one—the "FHRITP" line.

So fair play to City News reporter Shauna Hunt for showing up a group of Toronto FC fans by asking them why they were shouting the phrase during her live broadcast.

Their reasoning was as childish as their original statement, and Hunt managed to show them up for the fools they are.

The "jokers" were no doubt hoping to go viral. It looks like they might get their wish but not for the reason they hoped.

Update

Toronto FC have said they will act after seeing the footage. 

A club spokesperson told the Toronto Sun:

We're appalled that this trend of disrespectful behaviour would make its way to our city, let alone anywhere near our stadium.

We are working to identify the individuals, and when we do they will be banned from all of our facilities.

Moving forward, we will also work with our local television outlets to provide extra security support to female reporters doing live hits at any of our games. Our organization is committed to an environment where everyone can feel safe and included and discrimination or intolerance of any kind will be met with a swift and serious response.

We’re thankful to the vast majority of our fans who have stood up against such sexist behaviour and are working with us to help prevent it in the future.

[YouTube: 24hTV, h/t For the Win]

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