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  1. This is a tone deaf franchise that's never given a rat what the city wants or thinks. From the start, they've always felt they know better than their own paying customers. So, what that means is, you'll get more ugly uniforms more ugly logos and a franchise that will continue to embarrass the great city of Toronto for decades.
  2. I've seen a lot of MLS rumors in the past, I think I'll stay cynical about Anelka coming to Montreal until it actually happens. It would be great for the league though. This is true, excellent point. I guess my only rebuttal is that MLS seems to really award/tolerate rugged play. There are tackles in MLS that routinely draw yellows in other leagues (even EPL which is more rugged than most other Euro leagues). I feel this isn't necessarily a bad thing, except for the fact that: 1. The MLS season is long and also has extensive travel, so the rugged play creates for a lot of fatigue and injury. MLS has more "war of attrition" than just about any other soccer league I know, (it is sort of like the NFL that way). 2. #1 wouldn't be such a problem, if MLS had depth, but the salary cap structure of MLS pretty much ensures your bench players are often a significant drop in quality from your starting 11. 3. #2 wouldn't be so bad, if it didn't mean your secondary in-season cup tournament was therefore AWFUL to watch. And is largely, a really, really gimpy product (not directly an MLS product but still a problem). 4. #3 wouldn't be so bad, if it didn't also extend to your Champions League games. 5. None of these problems would be bad, if the regular season had vital meaning, but it doesn't. So if you played really, really well all-season (and perhaps sacrificed the US Open and CCL to do it), and then you get one or two key injuries from the league's rugged play, you get nothing because of the wonky play off system. If you are lucky, you get the Supporter's Shield, but that trophy wouldn't even exist if it weren't for the fans and the league itself does very little to elevate its prestige. 6. You add to all these problems that the officiating is poor and sometimes your players get injured on plays that the referee doesn't even dub a foul...or worse you best player gets a red on what was largely a really clean tackle. 7. Problems 1-6 make it even harder to attract the free agents that MLS can afford. There's a reason why players like Ljungberg bolt, or players like Ronaldinho won't consider MLS. Although this is changing a lot, I feel problems 1-6 hamper the league's ability to attract skill players. 8. Attracting more skill players to the league is the BEST way for US soccer to improve. The book Soccernomics states this argument much more clearly than I can. 9. The US team has a hard time competing internationally, because their rugged style of play gets penalized even more once more European and CONMEBOL refs are in the tournament. Now I should admit that I like the playoffs and want them to stay. I also like the US plays off of hard tackles and hustle (I think Americans like this and it helps sell the game). But I still think MLS could help its quality more, by investing more in its refs, carding more consistently and providing greater rewards for finishing the regular season strong. Also, I feel the DP rules are a great mechanism, but they count too much against the cap. There's problems with that formula and those problems are argued much better in the "Beckham Experiment" than I could post here.
  3. Seen no-hitters, World Series games, playoff games in almost every sport, I've seen several pennants and cups won, but actually very few actual records: I saw Ichiro break Sisler's hit record. I saw Shaun Alexander score more touchdowns in a single half of football than any other player (and was so close to breaking Gayle Sayer's record that NFL film hastily set-up cameras all over the stadium to record it, if it happened). I think I've seen franchise records for the Blue Jays, Seahawks and Mariners, (by various players and positions)... ...but that's really about it.
  4. Having some problems landing the new hat. The "Lids" in Seattle all claim to get the hat in next week and the official site has most hat sizes on back order. Anyone know of a brick-and-mortar franchise that is definitely carrying it?
  5. Superb job by Portland. Much, much nicer than the Sounders' failed attempt this year at a collared jersey. I say this as a Sounders fan, but Portland have a much keener, brighter sense of their brand, logo and how to present it than the Sounders do. The Sounders "seem" genius, because the fans here in Seattle are soccer-mad, but it's actually Portland that are producing a sharper brand image. Of course on the actual pitch, it's an entirely different story. And it is there, I hope my Sounders continue to dominate.
  6. Interesting that Montreal really want to acquire quite a few "old vets" and apparently attempt to compete right away. I think the Union proved, it is better to be patient with a young, "upside" crew, with just one or two vets. Maybe that's the framework Montreal actually does go with. My earlier skepticism of Montreal, stems from some experience with Montreal's sports culture in general, which has historically left franchises when they start to wander or perform poorly (Habs are an exception, but Habs fans love to gripe, I know I am a lifelong Habs fan). I think Montreal can succeed, but I wonder if this was really the right time to bring them in. I hope it was, I hope Montreal kicks tail, and becomes a great franchise for the league.
  7. Yeah I'm sure they figure they can trade him, maybe even trade him right back to Houston. Looking at Montreal's draft, some of it is pretty cool, but a lot of it are players who are getting older and their "upside" has begun to diminish. Warner, Valentin and Nyassi made sense to me. I love Mapp, but how motivated is he going to be? And Ching just seemed like a "trade bait" pick. I am not that impressed with Montreal's swagger. It looks a little low-rent. Their press releases aren't polished, their web site is awful and their ticket sales aren't exactly eye-opening and their branding is really sub-par. This has every earmark of an expansion team still learning how to walk and talk and this is a TERRIBLE time to still be getting your act together. I'm not convinced the franchise has a real architect, more like some vague idea of a direction and a organization chart that's still starting to gel. I hope I am dead wrong, because I grew up in Montreal and when I was very, very little the first ever pro-game I went to was the Montreal Olympique (a much better name I think). I want them to do well. I just think Garber got a little too enchanted with Toronto's success. Saputo is great at selling Vachon cakes, but can he really steward a team in a league that requires razor-sharp attention to detail? Managing a viable MLS roster is really hard, the rules are complicated, the money is RIDICULOUSLY tight and the balance between depth/star power is a tricky one to navigate. You couple that with a starting roster that's already behind in development, and a fan base that's never really been that sold on soccer, a venue that is a bit piece-meal and I really worry about Montreal.
  8. Thanks for that, much appreciated, cheers.
  9. Love the new Union gear, they toned down the color clash and the "Bimbo" sponsorship gives them a really cool Mexican flavor. The piping is really slimming, shows off us old guys who work hard to keep fit. I like that, it also makes the shoulders broader, a nice bonus. The aesthetics are nice on this one, fine upgrade.
  10. And to be fair, the last few MLS Cups have been pretty dreadful to watch. The Toronto one was particularly poor, the one in Seattle allowed RSL to gouge-tackle Donovan all night long (watching my favorite US player get manhandled that night was particularly rough, of course Donovan ruined his chance at redemption on the penalty kicks). This last one, was very one-sided and had that AWFUL MLS artifact where DPs were making beautiful passes and crosses, only to have scrubs like Cristman screw it up with boneheaded play. I agree the starting time is all wrong. I also think Sunday is the wrong day. Saturday late-afternoon (7PM Eastern maybe) seems about right, the European games are largely over, many of the best college football games are over and you can assure you have as much of the sports stage as you can possibly expect. The other problem MLS had this week, wasn't entirely their own. With an International week wedged into the second week of November, they had to delay the final a week and when they did, players like Keane were exhausted from the travel. Not to mention, the stall in play really seemed to effect the timing/crispness of play (which tends to happen to all teams during a long break). I'll end my post positively though. MLS has a LOT of issues to contend with. The way our geography is, the way our sports culture is, the structure of CONCACAF itself and the careful consideration they must give to solvency and financial stability add up to a lot of challenges. In many ways, I think you have to kind of applaud what MLS has done. Here we have a league that is doing, what many felt could never be done: build a viable, stable, pro-soccer team in North America. As for MLS quality, I find the consistency of the quality is a bigger problem than the quality itself. In other words, at times MLS is a superb product to watch and I say that as someone with the blinders off. I know good soccer when I see it, and I do see it occasionally in MLS. But, the quality is rarely consistent. One of the reasons why is the lack of depth and the disparity in talent within each team. The Sounders have players like Rosales and they have players like Levesque. Levesque is well-liked because he hustles, but he has no real skills (other than hustle and fitness). He can RUIN a superbly crafted attack (and does so frequently), and he can benefit from easy, tap-in goals, because they were handed to him on a paper plate by world-class players (which in turn leaves fans to believe Levesque is an excellent player). Watching MLS isn't painful because the play sucks, it's painful because at times it shows flashes of being world-class, but then a player like Cristman or McCarty comes along and :censored:ing ruins the play, or makes a bone-headed mistake that swings the game entirely in the other direction. The reason is, the cap-hit on a DP is harsh and having 3 quality players ruins your salary allotment for the supporting cast. You couple that problem with the fact that your most cost-effective players are constantly getting raided in expansion drafts (and the product overall gets diluted) and you have a wildly inconsistent league. And one of the ways MLS combats inconsistent play is with fouls. In other words, one way a Levesque will compensate for his lack of skill against a Donovan is to keep fouling him. So then you have the other problem MLS has, which is that its a really rugged league, with a lot of ugly fouls and inconsistent officiating to mitigate the dirty play. Finally you add the dirty play, the inconsistent play, the diluted expansion problem and the salary cap punishments for DPs to one more problem: the play schedule and travel is BRUTAL, much, much worse than it is anywhere else (that's people like Ljungberg talking if you doubt that). So your knees and shins get butchered, and you have to travel all over the continent for two-games-a-week. These logistical problems are monumental, the fact MLS navigates them and continues to grow, is actually pretty miraculous.
  11. Pathetic ratings for the MLS Cup again: The sad news is, the 0.8 rating is actually an IMPROVEMENT, but also makes it the lowest rated live sports broadcast of the entire weekend and was only half of what a video-taped replay of Chelsea/Liverpool got at the same time. Which stuns me, because if you were a real soccer fan, why would you rewatch a game that was broadcast live just a few hours earlier in the morning? But euro-snobs are like that, and alas, this continent is cursed with people who worship brands more than they love the actual sport.
  12. With the Galaxy's new 55 million dollar local-TV deal, hopefully the MLS will realize that selling tickets is one thing (and it will get you as far as the NHL is, which frankly, isn't very far), but TV and media rights are where it is at. Yes, of course, this is going to take a long time to achieve, but the attendance figures are going to fluctuate (and ticket sales quickly reach a cap whereby fans can no longer afford your product if you keep raising them to accommodate for increased salaries). Also ticket-based leagues have constant relocation issues, because it just takes a few bad seasons to be reeling in debt. I know the short-term focus has to be tickets, but the real gain here is TV. World Cup rights were sold for an ASTRONOMICAL amount. The NBC/Versus deal was pretty good. This is where MLS has to focus more. If they can do all they can to make sure NBC's tenure with the league is successful (bending over BACKWARDS for them is a good place to start), this will eventually pay off. MLS has other issues to make their sport a little more conducive to TV ratings, but that goes way beyond the scope of a discussion of MLS in the South East. I don't think MLS belongs in the South East right now, truly I just don't. My apologies to the great fans in Florida and Georgia, but MLS needs to stabilize right now, develop its quality, improve its officiating and doing all it can to get its TV ratings out of the PATHETIC basement and into a position where it can LITERALLY beat out bowling tournaments. Right now, it is some of the WORST rated programming on ESPN and it is only ESPN's commendable patience with MLS that really has ensured they have even that. And NHL's model isn't the fact the NHL is borked, and is run by idiots. Garber is smarter than the NHL, he's even smarter than Tim Leiweke and Tim should be really grateful he got his 55 million, because Garber had a lot to do with that (more than he, or most people realize). In fact, I wager Tim sometimes wishes that the NHL was designed/managed like MLS. But it isn't, the NHL has always been owned by sharks, who are often too paranoid of one another and too damn greedy to really do the sport good (call it Ballard-syndrome if you like).
  13. It would be great if this was the Carolina Silver Jays. But it was a completely wrong look for a baseball team in Toronto, a city that has a superb and proud connection to baseball for decades. I think that's why so many of us reacted so harshly to the "Silver Jays" movement. It was because it looked like a sinister attempt to remove the team's identity with Canada and to remove the word "Blue" from the title. It was, to my eyes, a distinct severing of the chord from the team's history and origin. And it was cynical corporate move to remove the word "blue" from the title, because of what the word "blue" represented in the team's history. You couple this with the re-branding of the stadium, the ridiculous decision to put advertisements over the names and faces of legacy players and the obvious choice of colors they thought were "trendy" (instead of meaningful), well the whole thing reeked of a regime change that was arrogantly assuming we the lemmings fans would eagerly consume the new identity. Even the way in which the new identity was built was wrong, (by just tapping a marketing firm, without any real contact or feedback from fans or stewards of baseball in the city reeked of arrogance). I'd say the old "pencil lead logo" is practically a text book of how NOT to launch a new brand identity. I'd say this launch, so far, is pretty close to a text book on how you do it correctly. Even the speeches at the unveiling, pretty much concede this reality. If you listen to the speech's in the video it pretty much states: "Man we messed up. We heard you. We spent some time on this one, we think we got it right, enjoy it..." I think the Jays did exactly what you should do when a corporation tries something new and it sucks. It admitted the mistake, it took careful, cautious care for its next step and when it was confident it had amended the error, it announced its revision with pride. I can think of a lot of companies and brands that can learn a lot from that.
  14. The thing about the Mariners is, they've never won a substantial pennant in any jersey and as great as Griffey, Edgar and Ichiro are, none of them have brought home a ring. The colors are just too corporate, the brand itself looks bland and the whole look appears too stuffy and conservative (which is the exact opposite of all the sports brands in this town). I welcome teal, as a nice throwback to 1995 (and I really am okay with them cashing in that one equity-chip they have with the fans here, even if they do cash it in frequently). But I'd really welcome a new, bolder look for this team. There's a real "hokey" quality to the Mariners brand. There's something very provincial about the Mariners. I think a sharper, bolder image for the team is the first step in shedding some of that quality. It's this bizarre hybrid of a frumpy, paranoid housewife and a stuffy, tight-fisted local bank. I blame ownership which seems absolutely adverse to new ideas, and absolutely threatened by anyone in their organization getting a significant amount of power or equity (this was part of the reason Gillick and Pinella left). Gillick has openly talked about how conservative and slow the Mariners are in their governance. Lord knows, the franchise's plight could use something. You can make a sincere argument that the Mariners are the worst pro-ball club of them all. Truly, that means the amount of equity they have, pales in comparison to what can be gained with a fresher perspective.
  15. Montreal has some interesting choices to make in the expansion draft. If they are smart, I think they avoid a lot of big-ticket names and instead find young talent, with a great deal of upside that will welcome the chance to play every day. Le Toux wasn't young, but what made him a great pick was he was hungry to play every day and his work ethic was strong. This is what you want. What you do NOT want is Adu or de Guzman, who will likely whine at getting picked and probably not be fully dedicated when they arrive. Of course drafting for trade bait, or "trade back" potential is smart too. This is what happens with expansion folks, talent gets diluted. It must be infuriating to teams like Salt Lake, to be an expansion team and then almost every year (since they finally got their act together) watch your talent get swiped away. MLS really needs to put their expansion-fever on hold for a good 5 years.