Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Free Kicks

Happy Friday to you! This past week saw some interesting happenings in Major League Soccer, not the least of which was New York actually winning a game... against the LA Galaxy no less. We also saw Real Salt Lake fall to the Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle became three time champions of the US Open Cup.

Seattle took a serious approach to the Open Cup tournament, chartering flights and bidding to host matches and getting their fans involved. As Greg Lalas said on ExtraTime Radio, once the Sounders starting taking it seriously, everyone started waking up and realizing that hardware has meaning. The same thing happened with Real Salt Lake in the CONCACAF Champions League. It takes one or two clubs deciding something is important to see that passion spread.

It is my opinion that these two tournaments are particularly important to the growth of MLS. When fans start becoming aware of their teams being involved in competitions outside of the standard season (something almost unique to soccer in American sports), then we know our sport has grown and gained notoriety. The more competitions MLS teams are competitive in, the more coverage and thus sponsorship which can lead to more money. The process takes time, but as teams realize there is more to the season than MLS Cup and the Supporters Shield, the more championship coverage fans will enjoy.

A quick note on the bid process for the Open Cup is not perfect, but what it does do is give teams (ownership) a chance to invest in the tournament. With the tournament lacking a direct sponsor, this is a good thing. A team invested in the tournament is going to promote their games (think DC United/Seattle Sounders). That is a very good thing.

On a separate note, New York won a game this week in style. Not only did they win, they defeated the LA Galaxy to do it. What is most noted is that the Red Bulls looked good. However, digging deeper we see that the Galaxy were using a depleted roster (no Landon and no Robbie Keane). Furthermore this match marked the return of Luke Rodgers, who would be an MVP candidate if he'd been healthy all year. New York fans can certainly be proud and excited on their teams victory while Galaxy fans can shrug this game off.

The Salt Lake/Vancouver matchup was a fun game to watch and likely a deserved one for Vancouver fans. Their team has struggled and despite some good moments, really lacked some of the excitement it seemed they would have at the beginning of the season. Still, with the team coming together, a new stadium being opened and knowing a quality coach is on the way, fans have reason to cheer. The Whitecaps organization is doing a lot of things right and they've done a good job in the teams opening season.

In regards to the game against Salt Lake, they were perhaps fortunate on the penalty kicks and the red cards, but in truth, they did dominate Real. Now, that said, RSL fans are used to a roller coaster of ups and downs this season. They team is faltering at a frustrating time this year, even with the return of Javier Morales. Try to look on the bright side though. It looks like RSL will be facing an Eastern Conference team in the playoffs.

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