Archive for the ‘MLS’ Category

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


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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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A Little Puffery, But: Chicharito vs. Agudelo

Juan Agudelo may not be starting for the Red Bulls tonight (or in the future for that matter), but you knew with the hype surrounding the teenager that, thrust onto the Gold Cup stage this summer, he would be forever linked to Mexican superstar Chicharito.

Will the be a tete-a-tete this summer or will it be a case of Derek Jeter vs. Rey Ordonez. (NY fans know exactly what I’m talking about.)

(Was waiting for this video to hit–had it in my Google Alerts).

TSG’s All MLS Salary Value Team + More MLS Notes…

MLS 2011 salaries came out this week and if you’re a buyer who is the anti-Microsoft (picking up Skype for the cool premium of $8.5B) then here is the team for you!

Steady Stefan Frei gets the nod at keeper...

The eleven starters below are not the absolute cheapest at each position, but together with a modest bench they could theoretically achieve a top-4 finish.

You can find all the salaries here.

G: Stefan Frei, Toronto ($150 guaranteed)

The skinny: Most quality keepers fetch at least a base of $150. Frei is 33% cheaper on average.

Some may argue that DC United’s Bill Hamid is a find at $55K annually. He’s yet to command his box. Can’t go top four without commanding your box. Frei does that and more.

DEF: Sean Franklin ($111.1K guaranteed),  Omar Gonzalez (183K guaranteed), Tim Ream ($62.5K guaranteed), Jair Benitez ($171K guaranteed)

The skinny: Quite a tight ship backline there. Bookends of Sean Franklin and Jair Benitez are fast and in their prime. Franklin is the bigger bookend bargain at just $111 annually while Benitez is closer to a league mode at $171K only there are fewer selections at leftback. (Had we done this last year,  Benitez’s, what, $52K salary would have been a lock.)

Gonzo still a value...

Tim Ream and Omar Gonzalez pair in the middle and are a little letdown; I really wanted to go elsewhere (like a George John) and make than my pick. End of day, in MLS, good value for both Gonzalez and Ream. Ream, obviously more so.

I also seriously debated Jamison Olave at $275K, but decided Gonzalez at a discount fiscally was not much of a discount physically.

MID: Brek Shea ($133K guaranteed) , Jeff Larentowitz ($165K guaranteed) Juninho ($100K guaranteed), Marco Pappa ($125K guaranteed)

The skinny: I’m not sure there is a bigger bargain in the entire league right now than Marco Pappa. He’s that good and that cheap. Same with Juninho who slots into the center midfield with my one reach, Jeff Larentowitz making the most at $165K.

TSG: Positively giddy over the play of Perlaza lately...

STR: Jorge Perlaza ($100K guaranteed), Sebastien Le Toux ($175K guaranteed)

The skinny: I’ve flipped for Jorge Perlaza. Yet another Colombian making a difference in MLS.

In fact, I’m going to try to reach out and get an interview with him. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he plays hold-up better than probably any player right now in the league. He’s also got some speed and makes smart runs off the ball and he’s not afraid to unleash a shot to keep the defense honest.

Sebu Le Toux is off to a tough start this campaign, but I’m not sure the front formation is locked down for the Union. He’ll find his way and he just edges out Chris Wondolowski (175K) up top.

Some other observations on MLS salaries:

• FC Dallas looks like–if it can steady the ship in David Ferreira’s absence–poised for long-term success. Players like Eric Alexander, Fabian Castillo and George John making less than $50K on the campaign!

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Eberted: Okay, You Got Me Dynamo

Okay, Houston Dynamo. You got me. Will Bruin, TSG’s rookie of the year pick, with an absolutely terrible goal celebration this past weekend as he rung up three on the beleaguered DC United defense.

Now Dynamo–like most MLS teams–put their PR into overdrive.

You have to admit MLS is on the vanguard of this social media thing.


Your pick?

The 11th Minute Salute For Steve Zakuani

The tradition continues….

A stirring tribute to injured winger Steve Zakuani as the Seattle faithful give a call-and-response Saturday at home in the 11th minute of their 3-0 win over Toronto FC to the player who’s leg was snapped in two last weekend.

Zakuani, on twitter: “Experienced the most emotional 1 min of my life today.”

Very cool to see this tradition continuing especially for Steve. One day TSG will relate the tale of how the Charlie Davies salute came to past (let us know if you want to here). The genesis of it was started with… brother.

Rimando & Alvarez: Your Real Salt Lake CCL Primer

TSG’s Jay Bell gets on the horn with RSL’s key men

Last weekend I got a chance to speak with a couple of Real Salt Lake players about their CONCACAF Champions League final against Monterrey. I was able to speak with Arturo Alvarez (AA) for the second time in just over a month and I was also able to chat with RSL’s head man between the pipes, Nick Rimando (NR).

Time dictated that I was not able to present the interviews in their entirety, but what you see here is the bulk of their answers from my conversations with them. Both guys opened up about the first leg, the substitutions, the atmosphere, the second leg, Jason Kreis and having the support of MLS clubs, players and fans behind them:

Arturo Alvarez...First leg match in Mexico

AA: “I think we approached that match just like any other match.”

“We went in there with the mentality to get the win, get a result and I think we’re really happy with it at 2-2.”

Familiarity with the underdog role

NR: “We seem to do well when he have that underdog role. I think if we keep doing well in these competitions and in the league, we’re not going to have that role anymore. We’re okay with having it. We’re okay with going into games with not so much pressure on us and just going out there and showing these other teams and the rest of the world that we can play with the best teams and we can get results when we need to.”

AA: “I think Monterrey probably came into this series as the favorite to win this tournament or at least win these championship games. We’ll take the underdog title and we’ll make the most of it. We know the kind of team that we are. We never gave up.”

On Monterrey’s early substitutions

AA: “I was surprised that the moves were made really early. It happenedjust right after they scored. We didn’t really know what to think about it. We did learn I guess, that they were injured though.”

“At first, I really didn’t know what to think.”

DeNigris, golazo!

AA: “Those two players for them are key players for their team. De Nigris scored the goal, but I think whenever you’re in the final, this Monterrey team will have an important player brought in.”

NR: “You could take it as a disrepect sort of thing or they think that they had it in the bag. But reading the paper later, they were both injured and are going to be out for several weeks. You can’t really blame the coach unless that’s not the truth.

Whenever you sub early like that, two of their offensive players. I also thought it kind of took away from their game a little bit. They score a goal, you kind of get a rhythm going and you get a fire going in you. I think that is kind of the opposite that happened there. You get a hold of the game, you have some opportunities, but again, its the coach’s decision.

If someone is hurt on our team and he needs to come out, I’m sure Jason will do the same thing.”

Inevitable rationalization that the substitutions saved RSL

AA: “I don’t think the two early substitutions affected the game in any way. I think they kept possession. At that moment we just worried about ourselves and just made sure that we were playing our game.”

NR: “For me, I look at it as an opportunity to capitalize on taking out two players and for them not to get into a rhythm. And that is how we took it as a team. We really didn’t stop think about ‘they’re taking them out, this is disrespectful.’ We just carried on playing and that’s what we did. We played our game and fortunately for us it came at the right time. They took those players out and we started to keep the ball a little bit, play the ball around, got our opportunities and ended up scoring.

If it helps us, sure, I hope they do it again so it helps us. Any way we can get some help and any way that we can get some goals and to take the rhythm away from the opposing team, I’m okay with that.”

Line of reasoning that RSL is lucky to face a Monterrey squad without key players in the second leg.

Rimando, triumphant...

NR: “We’ve proven that we can play without players who are out with red cards or injuries. We’re going to see who’s, I guess, deeper. We’re playing without Beckerman. We’re playing without two players as well. We’re going to have some players that are going to come in and show how deep we are. If you are a good club and you want to go to that next level, you’re not just going to do it with 11 players. We know that. Monterrey is still a good team without those two players.

They’ve proven to be a good team. We’re not taking them lightly and I am sure that they’re not going to take us lightly.”

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