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MLS Observations

A few thoughts on Week 2 of the MLS regular season.....

*Since Kenny Cooper's miracle goal from midfield in the ninth minute of the opener, FC Dallas has not scored in two home matches.

*Luciano Emilio's goal for D.C. United was his first in league play since last Aug. 2.

*According to the Columbus Dispatch, Toronto supporters (and perhaps some Crew fans) need to grow up:

Unruly fans, including some from a contingent of an estimated 1,500 Toronto supporters, confronted one another and the police in parking lots to the south and east of the stadium. Multiple arrests were made and mace or pepper spray was used to break up at least one melee. At least 20 police cruisers and a helicopter were still patrolling the lots 45 minutes after the game. Columbus police said that some fans were ejected from the stadium and there were at least three arrests. A security guard said that Toronto fans ripped a stadium railing from its bearings. Multiple rows of bleachers in the Toronto section were twisted and bent. Toronto fans also unfurled multiple vulgar banners that were removed by security.

Lots more on the continuation of this thread.....

*Very disappointing attendance figures: Um, 14,686 for Columbus's first home game since winning MLS Cup, and the total included at least 1,500 TFC fans? The second-smallest home-opening turnout (15,895) at RFK? The usual 12K at Giants Stadium and Dick's? Dallas draws 6,500? Seriously?! Thank God for Seattle and the 28,548 who watched another Sounders victory and another Kasey Keller shutout.

*All five goals in San Jose's 3-2 win over Houston were scored in 14 minutes late in the first half.

*Recent acquisitions Eduardo Lillingston and Bojan Stepanovic scored their first MLS goals for Chivas USA, which was missing nine players.

*Kansas City's Kevin Hartman became MLS's career leader is saves, surpassing Tony Meola.

*After a Kansas City foul, Terry Cooke stepped onto the field and slammed in a free kick for Colorado.

*The Revolution earned a road tie despite being battered by injuries. Only 17 players were in uniform. Missing were Twellman, Ralston, Badilla, Castro and Albright. GK Matt Reis was a late scratch because of a knee ailment, allowing Brad Knighton to make his first career start.

Other thoughts?

By Steve Goff  |  March 30, 2009; 6:12 AM ET
Categories:  MLS  
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Next: Monday Kickaround

Comments

The attendance figures are disappointing, and folks need to bottle what is in Seattle. Since expansion beyond 20 teams is difficult, it will be interesting to see whether relocation becomes the new buzz after 2012, if teams like KC and Dallas can't sustain enough local fan support, they are prime candidates for relocation to cities like Montreal and Ottawa.

Posted by: jofij | March 30, 2009 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Yikes the attendance at some matches was appalling. 6500 at Dallas? Probably seemed like a big crowd to Chivas, but even for a Sun. afternoon that was bad. I don't see how Colorado had anywhere near 13,000 in the stands. SSS or not, those two clubs are in real trouble if they don't start selling some tickets.

Posted by: Ron16 | March 30, 2009 7:30 AM | Report abuse

Why do you lump Kansas City into bad attendance; their only game so far has been sold out.

Posted by: PEddy | March 30, 2009 7:36 AM | Report abuse

It's just not sensible for MLS to continue playing on FIFA international dates. As a direct result, clubs got hosed out of what should be one of the better gates of the year.

Posted by: schmuckatelli | March 30, 2009 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Dallas is profitable despite not being able to draw on Sundays. Noone is relocating them anytime soon. You better tell KC to stop stadium construction if they're a candidate for relocation anytime soon. Both teams have local ownership. Other teams like Chivas and New England are much higher up as possibilities (which are remote anyways). Houston and DC could move if unable to build a stadium. Having a couple of Sunday afternoon games for Spanish-language TV does not equal a team needing to move.

Bottle what's in Seattle? Take away 13+ years of mediocre history in Dallas, Denver, etc. For their 1st game ever, Dallas drew 27,779. The Rapids drew 21,711 and for years got 50-60k for their July 4th game. Back then MLS didn't have the product to retain crowds. These markets bear the scars of MLS's growing pains. Not everyone got to win all the time like DC, LA, and Chicago.

So lets give these teams with new stadiums a chance to get better management (than what the likes of Dallas and Colorado have had) before worrying about relocating them. Houston and DC fans should be much more worried.

Posted by: undrafted | March 30, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Dallas' bet on the suburbs instead of the hispanic crowd in the south of the city has obviously hurt them but more power to them if they're still making money.

I too am worried about DC moving if we don't get a stadium deal in the next couple years. St Louis would likely love to get a franchise like DC.

Posted by: futboler | March 30, 2009 7:58 AM | Report abuse

*Colorado and Dallas attendence was terrible this weekend, specically playing in a SSS. Those organizations are going to have to turn that around.

* MLS games on international FIFA game day is unacceptable. When a supporter has to choose between watching his club or his country play, sometime is wrong!

Posted by: jg23 | March 30, 2009 8:10 AM | Report abuse

What's wrong is that soccer in this country isn't popular enough to deal with frequent Wednesday games. So MLS schedules on the weekends with bad weather and international conflicts. Deal with it unless you plan to convert millions of Americans into fans overnight.

Posted by: undrafted | March 30, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

What's wrong is that soccer in this country isn't popular enough to deal with frequent Wednesday games. So MLS schedules on the weekends with bad weather and international conflicts. Deal with it unless you plan to convert millions of Americans into fans overnight.

Posted by: undrafted | March 30, 2009 8:24 AM


Or....MLS could start the season a little earlier and end it a little later to 1)relieve schedule congestion and 2) allow for more flexibility when it comes to scheduling around international dates. With most teams in their own stadiums now, this should be made a priority. European leagues go for 10 months out of the year...not 7-8 like MLS.

Posted by: afadgsafhgd | March 30, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Initially MLS tried to appeal to the non-soccer fan or casual fan (clock counting down from 90 minutes, shoot-outs, etc.). Then the decision was made to try drawing serious, knowledgeable soccer fans, especially latinos. The consequence of that is that when you play on FIFA dates, you'll suffer.

I hate to make excuses but it's realistic to acknowledge the following:
--KC's numbers will be low because of where they're playing: in a HS stadium with limited capacity. That throws the average off but that's not their fault. Local owners, building a local SSS, have already invested in a training complex that is probably the best in the league.
--Colorado: just came off a huge snow dump on Thursday--17 inches plus sub-freezing temperatures, still cold at game time, that is always going to be an issue with that club and March games.
--DCU: international game date hits US, Salvadoran and Honduran DCU supporters hard plus a couple of days of cold, wet weather and projected rain on game day.

Columbus and FCD are really the only two clubs without good excuses (both have SSS, Columbus is coming off a great year). In RBNY's instance, I would buy the argument that the Meadowlands is a huge albatros around any club's neck (but still, in the NYC area, you should be able to draw better).

As for the argument that relocation is the future buzzword, I desperately hope not. The two most likely clubs to be relocated in the future would be Houston and DC United. When a club has developed a SSS that they own, they're sunk into an area and it's also hope for the future in terms of profitability. We've got to be brutally honest here--if DCU and Houston can't get stadia, they're the primo candidates for relocation. Either that or DC United needs to find a formula to suddenly start drawing 40k+ to RFK.

Posted by: JoeW1 | March 30, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Given the collapsing economy people are cutting back and entertainment is one of the first things to get cut. Plus no one is paying much attention this time of year. Youth soccer hasn't even started yet in most places. Didn't they have winter weather going on in the Dallas area? There are always plenty of excuses, but I think this year attendance will be down a lot mainly due to the current economic climate.

Toronto "fans" seem to think being hooligans is a cool thing. Mix them with the yahoos in Columbus and you have a recipe for what happened over the weekend.

Posted by: fedssocr | March 30, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

"The attendance figures are disappointing, and folks need to bottle what is in Seattle."

You can't bottle what you simply don't have.

King and Snohomish counties have more soccer players per capita than anywhere in the US. It's been that way since I was a kid (I'm 56).

This area has always had savvy and well-informed fans.

We have always had big-time attendance figures for our teams (see NASL).

Someone once pointed out that the USL figures weren't that good. Well, they were consistent--more so than any other club in the USL. Also, the folks in this area know the difference between second-rate and first-rate (not that I'm saying MLS soccer is first-rate..... yet).

Mix in the fact that Seattle/Portland/Vancouver have always had a vicious rivalry (in every sport we have in common) and you've got the makings of the right ingredients for immediate success.

Hard to repeat that anywhere else.

The problem, long-term, for Seattle is sustaining this. Seattle fans are also about the most fair weather folks you'll ever meet. If the team isn't good, they won't come. Period.

Posted by: swansuite | March 30, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

I don't think the economy will have a drastic impact on most teams, but Dallas might be one to suffer. Gas and tolls galore to get out to their stadium.

Columbus didn't do great but I think their fanbase is slowly improving. It's only a matter of time before they pave their parking lots (right now the debate is how quickly it can be done). The Crew rarely draw well in March and seem to have turned around the decline in the strength of their core support.

Colorado has rarely drawn well but they built the stadium anyways. Kroenke just bought more of Arsenal so I think he's committed to the sport. I don't quite get the hands off approach now that they're in the stadium but somehow I think they'll eventually get a better supported team. I'm not sure what they're waiting for.

Houston and DC are strong organizations but nothing else will matter if they can't find the right long-term solution. The only other teams I see in danger of relocation are New England and Chivas (could either find another owner?). Both have quiet efforts at getting new stadiums that would cement their future but those seem to be slow, long-term efforts. Houston and DC are the 2 to watch for now. I have no idea how close Houston really is to a deal. DC seem set for an early 2010 push for a stadium. That's the soonest I see any decision being made for United.

Posted by: undrafted | March 30, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

ummm, at least Colorado has some valid reasons. Not the least was the huge snowstorm. My parents were stuck in Denver from Wed Evening till Sat. night (Thanks to Frontier Airlines). I am sure the snow kept some people away.

Posted by: lrg1231 | March 30, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Well, the eurosnobs will be pleased. MLS has hooligans now. Should be interesting to see how the Toronto FO responds.

Posted by: bluesfan1 | March 30, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

The next time we have major international games, let's see if it affects attendance like this. You would think Dallas wouldn't be affected by the glut of Saturday games, but you can only do so much soccer before the wife yells at you :)

Even with the economy, MLS is probably still one of the best values out there.

Poor job by Rimando on Montero's goal. I don't know how he got caught on that.

Posted by: Reignking | March 30, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I think the economy is going to hit MLS particularly hard this year. NFL fans will sell everything they own to go to football games, but MLS targets lower income demographics and families w/kids so those people may not have the disposable income to come out as much.

The good news is that teams like Seattle and Toronto are proving that soccer can indeed thrive in North American cities with a more open minded and internationally aware population. Middle American cities like Dallas, Columbus, and Kansas City simply won't ever embrace soccer as much Canadian cities and the Pacific NW so it is great to see that the league is choosing its expansion markets so wisely.

Posted by: eduardo2 | March 30, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Idiot Toronto. I know those two teams think they have a rivalry, but this is just stupid.

Posted by: Reignking | March 30, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Re: Colorado ""I am sure the snow kept some people away.""

Snow hit Thursday. It was Sunny and 50 in the Front Range on Saturday. Roads were easily driveable by Friday afternoon.

All the Hispanics round these parts prefer Chivas or America, with scattered Cruz Azul supporters. The Rapids hardly register.

Posted by: delantero | March 30, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Should be interesting to see how the Toronto FO responds.

Posted by: bluesfan1 | March 30, 2009 9:07 AM
___________________________________
Should be easy to identify those who were arrested/involved in incidents and turn them back at the border.

Posted by: schmuckatelli | March 30, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

As usual the Crew stadium security seemed oblivious to even the most basic crowd management techniques, let alone how to manage a large away contingent. Having said that, the breathless report in the Dispatch wildly exaggerates the problems that occurred.

Posted by: DetroitTFC | March 30, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Alcohol and mob mentality hurt Toronto and Columbus. I met nothing but fun loving Toronto fans in Charleston. Maybe those 30-40 folks were the only sensible ones, but I'd bet money that copious alcohol and racial slurring Columbus fans had something to do with it. Toronto may very well be at fault, but it only takes a few bad apples to ruin a whole bunch.

On Seattle... Much respect to their draw, but seriously folks they had nearly a year of excellent marketing, SUPER SONIC HYPe, and a huge void left by the Basketball team leaving town to build their season ticket base. Seattle is also a very Bandwagonesque town. Talk about Teenage Fanclub....Look back to the Mariners 2001 season as a reference. Not to mention a Seahawks team that looks and plays nothing like the super bowl flunkies they were a few years ago. People are looking for something to be proud of. I've got friends in Seattle who are going to games who didn't even know what MLS was two years ago.... seriously.

If we get a stadium deal done for United I bet we sell 22,000 season tickets our inaugural season too.

Again, ignoring FIFA matchdays in years of WCQ is bush league.
Ignoring them anytime is. Extra especially when the points are so important. As someone already mentioned, how many folks didn't go to DCU's home opener, not because of the weather or stadium depression, but because Honduras, and El Salvador were playing? Us Gringos may have the luxury of TIVOs or bars who wait for us to arrive after the home opener to show the WCQs on delay, but are the Salvadorans living in such luxury?
Does a Honduran *Kitty O' Shea's* exist?

Posted by: DadRyan | March 30, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Surprising because when TFC fans came to RFK last year all they could muster was a measly "KFC UNITED" banner . . . with a chicken on it . . .

It was so weak that it wasn't even worth responding to . .

Posted by: delantero | March 30, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Hooliganism in MLS just seems weird to me. It's as if these fans see soccer as an excuse to break stuff and fight one another. The teams and league management need come down hard on this behavior now while the season is young. Otherwise, it's just going to get worse.

Posted by: Brokenbil | March 30, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Surprising because when TFC fans came to RFK last year all they could muster was a measly "KFC UNITED" banner . . . with a chicken on it . . .
Posted by: delantero | March 30, 2009 10:04 AM
================

Obviously they've had a productive off-season, drafting a few belligerents, and coming up with a more offensive game plan.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | March 30, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I have to wonder if having FCD's game on 'nationally' on T-fut and locally on free English-language UHF TV impacted the attendance. I realize everything must be televised these days, but you have to create some desire to go to the game.

Posted by: IamAM | March 30, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I may be the only person affected by this, but I for one wasn't at the DC home opener because there was a home Wizards game going on at the same time. I had a ticket, I just didn't go and I'll be not going again this weekend for the same reason. Again, maybe I'm the only one who made that decision, but that's still one less person in attendance.

Posted by: jfdobb | March 30, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

7 hour bus ride to Columbus on a Saturday morning/afternoon...I'm sure that they weren't doing crosswords.

Posted by: Reignking | March 30, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Initially MLS tried to appeal to the non-soccer fan or casual fan (clock counting down from 90 minutes, shoot-outs, etc.). Then the decision was made to try drawing serious, knowledgeable soccer fans, especially latinos. The consequence of that is that when you play on FIFA dates, you'll suffer.
__________________________________________

These fans may account for a larger proportion of the mix than in the past, but I doubt that they are in the majority. For most fans, the principal factor holding down attendance at MLS fans this past weekend was the obvious one: the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The fact that hardly anyone has mentioned this until now is telling.

Posted by: universityandpark | March 30, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

"MLS targets lower income demographics"

Posted by: eduardo2 | March 30, 2009 9:24 AM

Seriously? How many of your "lower income demographics" visit the Washingtonpost.com and see DC United ads?

Posted by: jleppig | March 30, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

That's MLS matches, not MLS fans.

Posted by: universityandpark | March 30, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Is this the new "Good, Bad, and Ugly?"

Posted by: sitruc | March 30, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

If you want fans to show-up in Dallas, don't schedule an outdoor event in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. I am not going to drive three hours to attend a game where I have to sit baking with the sun in my eyes the whole time. We just watched the game on Telefutura, in the Air-conditioned comfort of ourliving room. Later in the season, when the games are in the evening, my family will drive up to Dallas for a few games.

Posted by: hueybahr | March 30, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

@jfdobb: Lemme get yer ticket! Holler at me!

Posted by: DadRyan | March 30, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Um,

To me - the attendance numbers aren't great. But let's dig down - Colorado hasn't had the best of on-field success in recent years and could really benefit from a marquee player.

Kansas City is further along in their stadium situation than DC is.

Dallas is a disaster by all accounts - only the Dallas Cup and Pizza Hut's name keep them above water. They almost need to be an entirely hispanic team and would benefit the most from relaxed salary rules in order to draw a crowd.

Columbus - again - when I think Ohio right now I think disaster on jobs and housing front. Anything near their 5 year average is a win for them.

DC - not the best, but again, economic worries, lack of results last year, USA and Mexican teams in action, College basketball, etc, etc, etc. - they can do better - but I'm not going to panic yet. I figure most of the people there on Saturday will be there for the other 19 games this year.


ALSO - for all you WPS fans out there that now think I'm even more closed minded than before - I watched part of the game - quality looked good - crowd was good - I'm glad that their are aspirations for female players - still, not my cup of tea.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | March 30, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

hueybahr: Maybe in the summer I would agree with you. In the meantime, buy sunglasses?

Posted by: Reignking | March 30, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I might want to remind folks who think Houston is ripe for relocation due to their shared stadium situation with the U of Houston college-pointyball team might want to think again, since they recently announced that most of the financing is in place, and a location has been selected as well. They are planning to break ground later this year.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6337950.html

Posted by: SportzNut21 | March 30, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Columbus - again - when I think Ohio right now I think disaster on jobs and housing front. Anything near their 5 year average is a win for them.
_________________________________________

Columbus is not typical of Ohio. (Cleveland and the Rust Belt are farther from Columbus than Philly is from Washington.) It is a white-collar city that has more in common with Washington that you might imagine. If anything, its downside for football purposes is the relative lack of ethnic diversity (unless you count Appalachians as an ethnic minority).

Posted by: universityandpark | March 30, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

"lack of ethnic diversity"

I thought they had Eastern Europeans, Western Europeans, and Northern Europeans.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | March 30, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

SportzNut21, you missed the story from the next day by the same reporter
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/6339016.html

Posted by: undrafted | March 30, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"lack of ethnic diversity"

I thought they had Eastern Europeans, Western Europeans, and Northern Europeans.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | March 30, 2009 11:46 AM
__________________________________________

That's the Rust Belt along Lake Erie and the border with PA and the northern panhandle of WV, which is precisely what Columbus is not.

Posted by: universityandpark | March 30, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

This was also Dallas' second home match in two weeks. Also, that's a bad looking team too, and by all accounts a pretty crappy front office when it comes to selling tickets.

As for their stadium location, they didn't bet on anything. Frisco was the one twon in the Metroplex willing to work with them on a stadium, it's not like the City of Dallas was giving them land next to the Cotton Bowl.

Posted by: EricB1 | March 30, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

To clarify my earlier post, Columbus has relatively few people of eastern (and southern) European ancestry, compared with, say, Cleveland or Youngstown, And I don't recognize northern and western Europeans as different groups, because they're all descended from the Vikings, who really got around.

Posted by: universityandpark | March 30, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I was at the Colorado match and while there were empty seats I believe 13K is a reasonable number. Not bad for a COLD night that coincided with international fixture. My only complaint is where front office has put supporters section.

Posted by: BellusLudas | March 30, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

on TFC @ Crew - It's unfair to assume that Crew fans were at fault here. I am a passive person--never been in a fistfight in my whole life--and, importantly, I was SOBER. After verbal provocation by TFC fans, I was very, very close to throwing the first punch of my life.

Notable: also provoked were the children I was with.

You can say what you want about your stereotypes about Crew fans. But I think any readers out there with the smallest willingness to brawl would have done so in the face of what we Crew fans had to go through. I don't mind a "Who are ya?" chant on the way out, but "F your country" and the throwing of projectiles at a SILENT person walking out of the stadium with children is deplorable.

TFC fans: I know it was likely a 'few' bad apples. But, for example, when the racial slurs came out during a Crew game, I still admitted my embarrasment about the situation even though I was in no way involved or sympathetic. I am yet to hear one TFC fan say that they are embarrased, or that they'd like to reform.

Posted by: russellc | March 30, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

DC United attendance was doubtless affected by a huge number of youth travel tournaments. We have five season tickets, and I could find nobody able to use them. I asked a ton of people. Additionally, a lot of our friends who are regulars with and without season tix decided against going because of tournaments their kids were in. We ended up with a re-scheduled tournament game at 9 PM Saturday. Others were concerned with getting the kids to bed, and three added hours of rain and cold were not appealing to parents who had been outside all day already. Attendance for DCU does not worry me right now.

Posted by: 1of11 | March 30, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I was at the TFC Columbus game and it was really not a big deal. I few clowns in the crowd from both sides, but 98% of the people were civil and having fun. The writer from the paper sounds more like a sensationalist that is frustrated by the result.

Posted by: zoran1 | March 30, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Interesting about Hartman passing Meola - I'm guessing Hartman has had more minutes. Anyone know?

Posted by: regularfan | March 30, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

@swansuite

You've got it mostly right.. but this time around,.. these fans aren't fairweather..

I dare any SOUNDERS season ticket holder to lapse on their option for next season..

There are THOUSANDS of locals waiting in the wings.

Posted by: JimJoint | March 30, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Houston & DC are markets that are too big to leave. Red Bulls probably lose alot of money playing at Giants stadium, but they too are just too big of a market to walk away from. Besides, Houston and DC have shown that they can attract a crowd. KC has never ever shown that it can get a crowd. If there is even a hickup in progression towards a stadium there, Garber should step in and say "head to the other side of MO". People last week were proclaiming the death of the galaxy fanbase for last sunday's game (18k) in the post-Beckham period. Perhaps it does relate to sunday afternoons. Saturday night is soccer night. If MLS is going to lose money, I'd rather they lost money in big markets that have potential then in small markets like KC where the option is between a small drain or a large drain.

Posted by: alespar415 | March 30, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

That was a cheap shot at Crew fans Steve. I took my 7 yr old son the long way around to avoid the TFC fans. You would think they would have been happier with the tie. Remember the words of caution from Father Guido Sarducci. "Canada is this huge nation...just looming over us". Plz post a Youtube link if u have one.

Attendance is always lame EVERYWHERE at the start of the season. Seattle is going to sell out because its Season One for them. Lets see where they are in 5-10 yrs.

Posted by: crewfanscott | March 31, 2009 2:34 AM | Report abuse

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