Archive for May, 2011

Friday Feature: Bring Out The Bloodhounds….. The Union Need To Find Some Goals

No offense, but there is a better record and more to cheer about at PPL Park in 2011

This is a guest feature by Matt Acconciamessa, founder and editor of US Soccer Daily.

All we are saying…

…is give us a goal…

The chants and pleas of the PPL Park faithful sitting there above this sentence and far too often this young season.

The Union are stringing together great results here early in the season and put together the club’s first ever winning streak, but it would be a challenge to label it scintillating soccer.

Through 9 matches, the Philadelphia Union have managed to score just 6 goals.  It’s a stark contrast to the 2010 side that put together attractive, attacking play in their inaugural campaign, and a statistical comparison of the two seasons (through 9 matches) reflect that.

Before delving into that, it bears mentioning that there was a lot of offseason change in Chester, with several key contributors leaving, a couple of recent signings assuming more prominent roles, and some entirely new faces joining the squad.  Defensively, everything’s “coming up Milhouse“; Carlos Valdes and Faryd Mondragon are two early contenders for the All-Star team, if not the Newcomer of the Year award.

The Union's offense, Homer-Fail Whale-style...

Offensively?  Well, the analogy there would be if Homer laced ‘em up.

Alejandro Moreno and Shea Salinas departed via the expansion draft, Fred through the re-entry draft, and Andrew Jacobson through trade.  Thus far, Carlos Ruiz has been called upon to fill Moreno’s shoes as a target striker, while players like Justin Mapp, Keon Daniel, Amobi Okugo, Brian Carroll, and Kyle Nakazawa have taken on bigger roles in the midfield.

This new crop of players has struggled building chemistry and maintaining possession in the attacking half all season, leading to a noticeable drop off in several notable offensive categories.  Let’s take a look at the numbers:

Statistical comparisons between 2010 & 2011 seasons through 9 games:

Shots per game (’10 to ’11)- 10.89 down to 7.56

Shots on goal per game- 5.67 down to 2.89

Corner kicks per game- 4.22 down to 2.11

Goals (goals per game)- 11 (1.22) down to 6 (0.67)

Goals from the run of play- 9 (81.8%) down to 3 (50%)

Across the board, the Union are failing to create as much in the final third as they did a year ago.  Daniel and Mapp have had some promising moments out wide, but haven’t been able to consistently stretch the defense, leading to a lot of stalled attacks, back passes, and a lack of corner kicks won.  The same can be said in the middle of the park, where there hasn’t been a ton of creative play going forward thanks in part to some conservative lineup selection.

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USWNT 2, Japan 0: Taking A Step To Make Tarpley’s Injury A Footnote

Editors’s Note: Maura Gladys is a former–reformed :>–ESPN writer trialing for the The Shin Guardian. Please use the comment section to let us know what you’d like to hear about the women’s national team as they prepare for World Cup 2011 and another unique hairstyle from head coach Pia Sundhage.

Lindsay Tarpley became a Twitter phenomenon this week...for a regrettable reason.

Going into yesterday’s friendly against Japan, there was speculation that the United States would struggle without their star Lindsay Tarpley, who tore her ACL on May 14 and will now miss all of this summer’s World Cup.

The exquisite play of Heather O’Reilly and some promising flashes from youngster Alex Morgan tonight sought to silence that notion as the US women beat Japan for the second time in five days.

Goals from Amy Rodriguez and Heather O’Reilly were the difference as the US ladies defeated Japan 2-0 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. They now prep for their June 5th send-off match against Mexico–retribution or motivation0–and next month’s Women’s World Cup.

Tarpley’s absence is a blow to the US. Her versatile play and ability to come up big in important games is well-stated and on record (re: 2004 Olympic gold medal game). Tonight it was UNC product O’Reilly providing the salve for Tarpley’s injury.

The winger was brilliant, setting up the United States’ first goal and scoring the second, both of which showcased her attacking creativity and gumption. In the 28th minute, O’Reilly received the ball from Shannon Boxx at the near corner by the touchline, charged towards the goal, beat a defender and cooly slotted the ball to a wide-open Amy Rodriguez.

Side footer.

Score.

———-

In the 69th minute, O’Reilly did it herself. A deke to the right, opened O’Reilly’s left and gave her more than adequate space.

O’Reilly yanked the cord and mowed the grass with a perfect low strike past Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori. The dicotomy of the scoring plays was obvious and O’Reilly–on her game all evening–will need to “own the play” more as the World Cup group state approaches.

That’s because it’s no secret that the U.S. central midfield of Carli Llloyd and Shannon Boxx haven’t quite hit their grove just yet. At times during the game, lack of central organization saw the US get stretched out of shape and leave dangerous gaps between the mids and the defenders.

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Bradley’s (Final) Clipboard: Gold Cup Roster Edition

Update: 5/20:

Bocanegra...in his 30s...still going too hard all the time...

New category here at TSG…we’ll call it CRI (Conjecture, Rumor, Innuendo)

Nick Rimando on Twitter late Thursday:

@NickRimandoNick Rimando

@BocaBoca3 good chatting today man, looking forward to hanging.
The second handle of course being that of US captain Carlos Bocanegra…..hmm.

Update 05/19:

• Hans Backe has come out today and said that Juan Agudelo will be traveling for the Gold Cup

• Peter Vermes acknowledged a Teal Bunbury call-in as well.

Revised projection below…

Update 05/18, What We May Have Learned:

Slightly different form for this camp, huh?

• Charlie Davies’s injury closes his Gold Cup campaign in 2011.

• Jay DeMerit is back in the fold now that he’s healthy. Ask yourself this question. You have a choice of Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson and Tim Ream tracking either Javier Chicharito or Simeon Jackson (Canada) around all night. Who do you want on the backline? Precisely.

• Ricardo Clark is likely out; Maurice Edu and probably Sacha Kljestan are in. The latter two names can be very focused on the Gold Cup run without any club matches to worry about.

• Similarly, Herculez Gomez or Edson Buddle makes it. Teal Bunbury’s been quiet of late and wasn’t able to get into the March camp. Is it possible that Bunbury won’t be called in for matches against Canada and at LIVESTRONG park? I’m still a fence sitter here.

• I’ve noted a column below called “Tweeners” that we’ve used before at TSG. Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle from the last camp series was Bob Bradley generating offense from the back with an overlapping or going-forward Timmy Chandler and Eric Lichaj. Should Bradley like to institute this you may see a striker dropped and Bradley just got 4-2-3-1 on occasion or push Clint Dempsey up as is customary.

Our last guess before we see the roster:

G: (3) Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Marcus Hahnemann

DEF: (7) Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Tim Ream, Jonathan Bornstein, Clarence Goodson

TWEENERS: (2) Timmy Chandler, Jonathan Spector

MID: (7) Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu, Sacha Kljestan, Alejandro Bedoya

FW: (4) Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Herculez Gomez, Teal Bunbury

BUBBILY: Eric Lichaj, Benny Feilhaber

The skinny: 05/19:

Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo are a go.

That leaves Eric Lichaj on the bubble and I’ve now moved Benny Feilhaber there. Feilhaber is coming off some injuries and just getting into the flow with New England. I’m taking a flyer on Feilhaber on the bubble if only because of the history of those injuries. Why not try someone new–now that Stu Holden is out–in the “tucked-in” midfielder role.

Benny as well plays in MLS and he’d be taking away Feilhaber from his team just as he is getting used to his new teammates.

All aboard! Roster cutdowns begin anew in Bob Bradley's 2nd cycle...

Our 3rd entry 4th entry in what is sure be a long-running journal all the way to Brazil 2014.

Here is our first entry in October 2010. January 2011 was our next scribbling.  And our last, post-Argentina, post-Paraguay journal here.

This one, digging Gold…Gold Cup that is. We’ll skip our best eleven (to draw out suspense) and move right to the player position battles that, when I began writing this, I thought were pretty well set.

Wrong.

Kickoff

Obviously a much different situation here than the 2009 Gold Cup. The summer of 2009 perhaps Bradley’s best coaching term after his team’s dreadful bookend performances against Italy and Brazil in the Confederation’s Cup group stage. If you recall, Bradley nearly went Cinderella with “A” team down in South Africa, eventually getting undone by Fabiano and Brazil at the Confederation Cup.

It was Gold Cup 2009, where Maryland product Clarence Goodson starting making his name...

Immediately after that was the Gold Cup where Bradley cobbled together a “B” team that saw Charlie Davies cement his “A” team spot, unearthed Stu Holden as a more than viable midfield option and–through injury to Jimmy Conrad–gave Clarence Goodson the opening to jumpstart his national team career. (Goodson’s 7.5 sub rating appearance revs his US team candidacy)

A 5-0 Finals shelling by Mexico was erroneously poorly received in the press, but had Mexico playing their near best eleven.

Bradley took 7 defenders, 8 middies and 5 forwards to the 2009 tournament, including none other than Freddy Adu, who didn’t last through camp.

This year, a different story and much closer to 2007 when Bob Bradley assumed the helmsman role. 2011’s Gold Cup winner gets important ticket punch to the World Cup dress rehearsal, the Confederation’s Cup in Brazil 2013.

That and the important step of getting the 2014 World Cup journey off on the right foot.

Interesting footnote here is that the 2011 Gold Cup roster could have as many as 12 players on it who made the 2007 roster.

The schedule

June 7, 2011 U.S. Men vs. Canada 8 p.m. ET Ford Field
Detroit, Mich.
June 11, 2011 U.S. Men vs. Panama 8 p.m. ET Raymond James Stadium
Tampa, Fla.
June 14, 2011 U.S. Men vs. Guadeloupe 9 p.m. ET LIVESTRONG Sporting Park
Kansas City, Kan.

The Depth Charts:

Goalie: (1) Tim Howard (S), (2) Marcus Hahnemann (3) Brad Guzan

You're in good hands....with Howard

The skinny: As always, Tim Howard–he of the Everton Toffees not the MLS anywhere in the near term–mans the pipes. Marcus Hahnemann has moved up to primary back-up, even if he likes to a wear a baseball cap sometimes. The third spot is the only that is not inked yet.

Brad Guzan has his nuptials and David Yeldell has been in for one camp. Dominic Cervi’s club status continues to be topsy-turvy.

Wait, does anyone else think that maybe, just maybe, Brad Guzan was sending just a small message to Bob Bradley that he sick of just sitting around on the national team level. I mean, why not schedule your wedding for end of May? Just an idea. Likely way offbase….but conspiracy theorists unite.

Stateside, the Chicago Fire’s Sean Johnson has underwhelmed this year and finds himself off the map while Nick Rimando will likely be needed full term for Real Salt Lake.

Your likely three? Again the triumvirate of Howard, Hahnemann and Guzan. If Guzan can’t make a game or so due to his wedding that may be acceptable. Should Guzan be left out completely, I expect David Yeldell to get the nod.

———–

DEFENSE: 

Starters: Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra

Bench: Timmy Chandler, Tim Ream, Jonathan Bornstein, Eric Lichaj

Fence sitters: Omar Gonzalez, Chad Marshall

The skinny:  Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra were two of the top five Yanks in minutes played in 2010 World Cup qualifying. They start as does Steve Cherundolo–who free from nagging injuries–and playing at dominant level since mid-2010.

Clarence Goodson makes his return to the Yanks and flip-flops into Jay DeMerit’s spot.

DeMerit’s got a dreaded groin injury–just about the last thing you want a central defender to have. With the image of an Oguchi Onyewu rushed back to early to service in 2010, DeMerit is allowed to recuperate and play for Canada…that is the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Tim Ream is best candidate to supplant any of the starters, but Bob Bradley won’t go with him in Game 1 against Canada (though I could see Ream getting the start against Spain in a “let’s see how you do when we turn up the heat kid” sort of way).

"Hey buddy, it's really nice having you around here"

For the bench, the dynamic Charlie-in-a-bottle Timmy Chandler mans the right with “fan favorite” Jonathan Bornstein on the left.  TSG fave Eric Lichaj sneaks into the final spot in the role of “John Spector O’Shea.” Lichaj can play out on the left or right and my guess is Bradley gave him a little run centrally against Paraguay to see how we could handle that spot. Not a natural, but not terrible either.

With Lichaj’s flexibility so goes Omar Gonzalez who stands as the last player left on the playground. Injuries and the Galaxy’s good fortune as the 2010 MLS season ebbed did in Gonzalez this go around.

———–

MIDFIELD:

Starters: Landon Donovan, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey

Bench: Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Jonathan Spector, Alejandro Bedoya

Fence sitters: Ricardo Clark, Sacha Kljestan, Mix Diskerud, Dax McCarty

As for the starters, that’s the easy part here.

We’re going to assume that Bob Bradley goes 4-4-2 (or really 4-2-2-2). Bradley seems to favor the 4-4-2 against CONCACAF opponents.

That puts the regulars in their customary positions, being Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley. The fourth in this case we’ll go with Jermaine Jones as Senior Bradley bets he can dictate the tempo a little more to what-is-tough-to-argue inferior group stage set of opponents.

The Deacon Jones of the US midfield...

On that role of Michael Bradley: Even with Mo Edu, Jonathan Spector, Jermaine Jones and Sacha Kljestan getting more 2011 club minutes in central midfield, Bradley’s role (whether you like it or not) is the lone constant for the Yanks in central midfield. There is something to be said for the consistency that comes with a player never being injured and Junior has at least that going for him (courtesy TSG commenter DTH for that one.)

As for the back-ups and spot starters, that’s the tightest and most interesting discussion of the USMNT Summer 2011.

Coach Sweats extends his trust again to Benny Feilhaber who now flies the flag of MLS with his selection. Mo Edu would otherwise start if it were a 4-5-1. Those two are locks and if you recall the pixels of ESPN, they were also Bob Bradley’s favorite post-halftime crew to create a spark off the bench at World Cup 2010.

A controversial selection perhaps, Jonathan Spector has proven his best fit is the midfield….at least at the club level.

Specs, with a new lease on life at Upton Park...

Ironically, Spector–a former forward who was converted to fullback at the Manchester United academy–is probably the best fit for the advanced role Mo Edu partook in against Argentina. Spector’s strength from his time with West Ham is making advancing runs ahead of the ball for West Ham. In fact he’s excellent at it, making highlights all season for either goals or near-misses after Hammer skipper Avram Grant moved him to the midfield.

For me, Spector is the most interesting selection for Bob Bradley.

It’s clear that while positionally disciplined, Spector does not possess the corner defense speed to adequately, against top level international sides, hold his own on the corner. Will Bradley continue to favor dutiful workers (Robbie Findley  as well) who merely adhere to the game plan but don’t possess the innate physical prowess to thrive at the global level? Will Bradley move Spector to the midfield or continue to shoehorn him in at the back? A few weeks will tell.

Rounding out the midfielder Bradley has a choice between Sacha Kljestan, who is sporting a sharper haircut and sharper defense these days or the lone true winger in Alejandro Bedoya, a big body who can run at people off the corner and make a cross. The very poor man’s Antonio Valencia. (Shh, it was just fun to write).

With Benny Feilhaber back in action, he makes Kljestan redundant. Add in Bedoya’s surging form right now and we think that Bradley chooses Bedoya in a squeaker of a selection.

Ricardo Clark–scouted recently by Bradley–finds himself just on the edge as Mo Edu is younger and, in turn, makes him redundant.

Mix Diskerud is not quite there yet.

The one caveat we’ll put here is Spector. If you believe him a defender alone, then Lichaj could get dropped while Kljestan or Clark added upfield. Entirely possible.

———

FORWARD:

Starters: Jozy Altidore, Herculez Gomez

Bench: Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury

Fence sitter: Edson Buddle

Sorry Charlie...

Elephant in the room! Sorry, but no Charlie Davies. No how, no way. First, unless you’re seeing Davies for the first time with DC United, some things are apparent.

First, the speed is not there. Davies isn’t nearly beating his defenders as often as he did with the US national team during World Cup qualifying. Add in that we’re talking about MLS defenders here and that question about his pace grows larger.

Secondly, Davies hasn’t necessarily been reluctant, but he’s hardly encouraged authoring and receiving contact. I’ve seen Davies attempt to gain the corner without engaging the defender’s hip more often now than in 2009 when we would size up his defender and select how he would beat them.

Beyond questions of his production (three of his six goals are from the spot), Davies is just not international caliber yet.

Jozy Altidore of course if first on the depth chart. Bob Bradley will again ask the hulking striker to play target man though Jozy is much more tuned to drift outside than inside. (At some point, Bradley will have to acquiesce that his near four year plan here is not bearing fruit).

A lot to juggle for a teenager...

Juan Agudelo is next up. He of more caps than any other striker over the last 6 months. Amazing but with his current sub role and youth, Bradley keeps him on the bench to start Game 1.

Herculez Gomez then gets the call and the start.

Bob Bradley has always trusted Gomez and knows he’s going to get a hard worker who can occasionally conjure up some magic. Teal Bunbury takes the final spot. Hey Bob, if you’re looking for your best target striker of this list, that would be Bunbury.

Speaking of target men, Edson Buddle once again finds himself not making a big enough statement to make his case.

——–

And there you have it, maybe….

Jay DeMerit’s Face Says It All

A man is who is facial hair is.... (Rollie Fingers, 1985)

A lot of press around the Jay DeMerit story and rightfully so. It’s a beautiful tale as a Wisconsin soccer god and good guy grabs his knapsack and heads to Europe in search of a “football” career on the very island that birthed the game.

But there is another tale here; one that often goes untold. That of a companion, a lover, and a fighter who bristles at the cold.

That of a stubbily sidekick who’s been there–through thick and thin, literally–by Jay’s side, er, face rather. His name is…well you’ll learn that below.

These are the golden days for Jay’s sidekick. He is often quoted on Twitter and he’s showing up in pictures left and right. Dos Equis wants to feature him in their advertising. Inter Milan is rumored to be making a $35M transfer bid just for the mustache annex.

People are clearly talking, but he’s not letting it go to his roots.

TSG was lucky enough to gain perhaps the biggest exclusive since, since….Tiger Woods? Easily. This one involves the slight fear of a razor, not a four-iron.

Jay DeMerit’s Beard….it’s your show:

TSG: First of all, there are rumors floating around all over the Internet, from salon message boards to straight-razor secret societies. How old are you?

The Beard: First of all, thanks for giving me a chance to be my own beard self. Its tough livin’, with this guy taking the spotlight all the time.

As of today, I am exactly 30 days old. So in beard years, thats like four.

Chopper: If I could, I'd piss excellence

TSG: What sort of impact have you had on Jay’s life? Is it more than a warming effect?

The Beard: I believe Jay’s been opened up a whole new world thru me, Chopper (Jay: That’s what I call him sometimes).

I was around for a bit during the Packers Superbowl run, so technically I just bring nothing but victory, which I know Jay likes. I actually coined the whole “winning” thing before that Chaz Sheen fella.

TSG:  So let’s be honest here, do you understand half the sh*t that comes out of Jay’s mouth?

Chopper: Jay likes to think he’s all witty and funny, which I agree with. But I don’t particularly like it when he spits all over me while yelling during his games.

TSG: Okay, do you understand half the sh*t that goes into Jay’s mouth? And be professionally groomed here, there are kids reading.

Chopper: As for what he puts in it? Well, he is a well-trained athlete so he uses only premium fuels such as salads, fruits, fish and carbs. On the weekends though, watch out, you never know what he’s gonna be putting down there cuz Jay’s crazy and likes to have a good time.

Jay DeMerit

Chopper: I wish I could have been there for you that day. I just wasn't mature enough yet to stand up, united, for you. A piece of me....died, died that day.

TSG: So the relationship you have with Jay, is it more like Mork & Mindy, Laurel & Hardy, Robbie Rogers & Sacha Kljestan or Bob Bradley & Sunil Gulati?

Chopper: I like to think we get along well. Though we are different, we have a respect for each other and our mutual goal. Kind of like a Starsky and Hutch. And we even have the car…

Great duos in time: PB&J, Wapner & Rusty, Ponche & John, and Jay & Chopper doing their best Starsky & Hutch...

TSG: Name some of the beards or follicle colonies that you’ve idolized throughout history?

Chopper:  Being from the great woods of Wisconsin, I have an affinity for woodsmen such as Johnny Canuck, Paul Bunyan and Grizzly Adams. During the designer stubble phase, I look to Tom Ford or Hugh Jackman for inspiration.

TSG: When Jay’s documentary comes out will you make a reappearance?

Chopper:  When–and if–the great people of this world make this documentary happen, of course I will make another appearance, but only if the people that made it happen want me to.

TSG: How do the ladies like the beard? Wait, have the ladies met the beard?

Chopper: Do the ladies like the beard? Haha, stupid question. Next.

TSG: Do you intend to go away for awhile and what will be your last act?

Johnny Canuck, inspiration for Chopper's latest maturation

Chopper: I am here for victory purposes and goal setting only. So yes, of course I will be back.

Jay DeMerit’s Beard Chopper, Jay DeMerit, Ranko and Nick are trying to make Jay’s story, “Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Documentary” happen. It’s a story that deserves a wider audience, one beyond even soccer.

You can donate to the cause here. You can join their Facebook page here. TSG was the first to report on the Jay DeMerit documentary.

———-

The trailer

Outakes

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Bob Bradley Starts Talking Gold Cup

US Coach Bob Bradley, Fifa style.

Bob Bradley snuck into a Detroit Free-Press piece three days ago on the first Gold Cup game in Detroit:

“I would say that, for sure, there’s a nucleus of good players that will continue to be there for us — Timmy Howard, Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo and Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley and Landon (Donovan). I think there’ll be a strong carryover for our team that was in South Africa, but at the same time we’ve begun the process of introducing some new players.

“Juan Agudelo has started and has had some initial success. Timmy Chandler played well in these last two, against Argentina and Paraguay, and I think (he) is an exciting player moving forward. It’s all about transition, and all of that has been done with a real eye for putting together the best roster possible for the Gold Cup.

“Tim Ream, who also plays for the Red Bulls, is a player that now has come into our team and I thought did well in these last games.”

TSG: The TSG read? Michael Bradley is the point person in the middle, independent of injuries or playing time. You’re going to see Juan Agudelo, Tim Ream, Timmy Chandler on the Gold Cup roster–though there was little doubt those players would be there. The whole article can be found here.

More: Bradley’s Clipboard: Gold Cup Roster Addition

Survey: On MLS Ticketing

A few weeks ago, I questioned the merit of the New York Red Bulls and other MLS teams using Groupon, the popular group discounting site, to move tickets.

Who wants a ticket discount? Actually doesn't work that way...

Working in Silicon Valley (and mind you Groupon is based in Chicago), we’re deluged with tech companies and “tech-hopeful companies” (companies who have one feature, but lack a true business model) all the time and there is often a pre-disposition by existing brands to glom on to the latest tech company or partner su jour just for the brand equity value so they can say they’re hip or on the vanguard of technology.

In terms of Groupon–the current tech high flyer–I reasoned that fans would be conditioned to wait to purchase MLS tickets until they became available on Groupon and that season ticket holders would be upset–and clubs would face a backlash when they saw fans could wait and buy hugely discounted tickets and maybe get some goodies to go with it.

Groupon, I reasoned, would only be good for building an email list and marketing to fans after the Groupon offer.

Turns out–as is typically the case–I was half-right, half-wrong. First on the right side, many teams do use Groupon just to build list and question the long-term viability. However, most fans–those I talked to were the hard-core passionate type on Twitter–actually were fine with the offerings just to increase support for their team.

Didn’t expect that.

Given that TSG preaches statistical or experiential evidence above all, we reached out to a few ticket departments at MLS hops and got quite an education.

Below, a compiling of answers from the Chicago Fire, FC Dallas and Sporting KC on MLS ticket sales and ticket philosophies.

A huge thanks to the respective Director of Sales at each organization, specifically Jake Reid of Sporting KC, Kris Katseanes of FC Dallas and Mike Ernst of the Chicago Fire (with support from Communications Manager Brendan Hannan.)

Let’s go.

On ticketing sales, have sales thus far been in line with what was forecasted at the beginning of the year? If possible, please offer your season ticket projections versus year to date.

JR, Sporting KC: Right now sales are exceeding expectations for the year for our season tickets.  We had hoped to be at 10,000 by the home opener on June 9th, and we have already surpassed that figure.

KK, FC Dallas: Sales have been great, and we have surpassed our renewal and new FSE goals.  Through four games, we are a bit ahead of our overall group sales plan. (*TSG note: FSE stands for Full Season Equivalents. It’s the number of seats guaranteed to be sold per game before groups and individuals buy tickets.)

ME & BH, Chicago Fire: The Club set a record for most new season tickets sold in a year. Through four games, our paid attendance is up 19% over 2010.

*TSG Note: Important to remember that the US economy on average is better in 2011 than in 2010.

What’s a challenge that is unique to marketing and selling tickets for your specific team?

JR, Sporting KC: We have at an extremely busy year with the rebrand of the team, the new stadium being build, and starting the season with 10 straight road games.  Our biggest challenge thus far has been selling season tickets without having a home game until June!

Super Bowl shuffling...just a part of Chicago's challenge...

ME & BH, Chicago Fire:  The Fire face the challenge of playing in one of the most saturated sports markets in the United States. Chicago contains a number of storied sports franchises. The competition for the sports entertainment dollar can be a challenge in our market.

KK, FC Dallas: Relevance in the marketplace…going head to head with long-standing traditions of the Cowboys, Mavs and Rangers…we’ll get past it, but it is the biggest battle we face.

On average how does team performance impact ticket sales in MLS soccer in season?

JR, Sporting KC:  Certainly team performance will always play a factor.  However, I believe with season ticket sales most of the buying process comes down to value (cost savings vs single game tickets), extra benefits, and the level of service they receive throughout the year.  It’s tough to judge how team performance has affected us, because our fans have yet to see us win or lose at home.

ME & BH, Chicago Fire: MLS is like any other sport in that there is a correlation between ticket sales and team performance. We feel the biggest impact from team performance in our Ticketmaster and Walk Up sales. (*TSG note: “Ticketmaster” sales are likely those that come from marketing a “Geo”…as in a city…and not the specific team as the Fire do on their tickets page of their web site.)

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Bullets: On FIFA’s Presidency, Run DMB & The Food Network

• Honestly, what’s left? Sunil Gulati out Monday saying that CONCACAF won’t influence how the US votes in the upcoming FIFA presidential election.

Gulati played the game all wrong. (Photo credit: The Villager newspaper)

Our sentiments? Big deal. Why not just vote with CONCACAF? What is gained now?

Without getting flowery and nationalistic, the United States and it’s soccer foundation as is this country’s heritage and what it stands for should have stood up and questioned the voting process that awarded both Russia and Qatar the forthcoming World Cups. They should have stood up when FIFA awarded the World Cup to a country that does not treat females or those of diverse sexual orientation equally.

That’s not sour grapes for the US. That’s a legitimate beef. What would have been lost?

Not being influenced by CONCACAF now? Hollow, just hollow.

• MLS: Juan Pablo Angel gets his 2nd goal of the season on what you might call a frenetic play and MLS Soccer poses the question Tuesday: “Are the floodgates open?”

Class, everyone together now: TSG Axiom: “You can’t look at observations in isolation, you have to look at the whole body of work.”

What does that mean here? JPA has hardly looked liked the lethal striker that once threatened teams by his lonesome up top. Two goals, 12 games, and assuming a pick-up in familiarity with his teammates. That makes, what, 7, 8 goals on the season. That’s not DP worthy unless you are creating chances. Sorry.

•  In the other dressing room: Three goals and a Player of the Week award weren’t expected of Justin Braun when he entered the line-up Sunday, but the Salt Lake City native certainly had the ability to produce. Last year, starved of service, Braun still went 9 and 3, goals and assists respectively with little around him for Chivas.

Braun’s late arrival in the starting line-up is just about the only place that new Coach Robin Fraser has erred this season.

That said, it also a reminders that in the domestic league tough defense and grit still win over attacking football…if you don’t have the pieces. (Exceptions: Real Salt Lake and New York Red Bulls, maybe)

• Hell of an ending in Findleyville between Swansea and Nottingham Forrest Monday. I’m looking for the video. It’s worth it.

Lagasse

Bam!

• Media: A caution to Fox Soccer and ESPN from….the Food Network. The Food Network has done a decent job over the past decade realizing the following: That if you build your brand around stars, they have the leverage and can command beaucoup dollars in contract negotiations for the very fame that exposure on the network gave them. The Food Network saw this with Emeril Lagasse among others.

With ESPN and Fox consistently pushing their audiences to follow Taylor Twellman, Alexi Lalas and Kyle Martino respectively on Twitter, they’re sort of making the same mistake.

Fox Soccer, however, is worse off for this strategy. While ESPN still brings a fair amount of production value (maybe not promotion) to their broadcast, Fox brings neither and they run the risk of letting institutional network walk out the door when another network (Versus, an MLS Soccer Network?) eventually comes calling.

SportsCenter is a format. Soccer In America is lipstick on the proverbial….and I’m not buying it Fox.

• An injured Charlie Davies will be out for a few weeks and insights into Bob Bradley’s psyche are again rainchecked in 2011.

First Stu Holden gets banged up and US fans don’t get to see line-up selections at full force against Argentina and Paraguay. Now Davies is out and the question of whether he would have been chosen likely moves to the back burner.

Very interesting questions on the Gold Cup roster and according to US Soccer, you’ll get your answers by May 23rd.

• Jermaine Jones’ occupation location is up for grabs this weekend. Blackburn plays against Wolverhampton in a battle to stay in the Premiership. A win guarantees EPL revenues next year for the victor, a lose and some help will be needed to avoid the Championship.

A loss and Jermaine Jones unequivocably heads back to Schalke (which he may be anyway).

More coming…

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