Daily news roundups

Playmaker is priority No. 1, MLS TV ratings below the WNBA, more

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

Philadelphia Union

Echoing comments he made in the interview with PSP editor Dan Walsh, John Hackworth tells MLSsoccer.com’s Dave Zeitlin that the team’s No. 1 priority in the offseason is signing a playmaker. “We’re looking all over. The good news is we have some resources this year. Last year we didn’t have that.”

Hackworth also said he would like to add “two, three or four guys that can really increase the talent and level of our roster,” adding, “There were some guys on our list last year that we couldn’t get. And they’re on our list again.”

Four Union players make this list of the 50 most accurate passers in MLS: Keon Daniel (No. 18), Jeff Parke (No. 37), Amobi Okugo (No. 45), and Brian Carroll (No. 48). At No. 121, Sebastien Le Toux is one of “only five players classified as forwards (according to MLSsoccer.com)” to satisfy the criteria of attempting a minimum of 750 passes while playing a minimum of 17 games.

Given the vagaries of what is classified as a pass — Opta, for example, counts an unsuccessful cross as an unsuccessful pass but does not count a successful cross as a successful pass — it comes as little surprise that the passing numbers in the article do not accord with the passing numbers one can find (or assemble) elsewhere. The passing numbers used in this year’s end-of-season player reviews here at PSP, assembled by PSP contributor Jim Prestifilipo and which attempt to correct some of the peculiarities of the Opta data, rank Jeff Parke as the most accurate passer on the Union with a completion rate of 81.8 percent, followed by Amobi Okugo (80.9%), Brian Carroll (80.4%), and Keon Daniel (80.1%).

The Brotherly Game looks back on Zac MacMath’s growth over the 2013 season.

Local

The Harrisburg City Islanders are one of three clubs being honored by the USL for completing ten years in the league. A press release on the announcement says, “The City Islanders have been one of the more successful members of USL’s professional divisions since joining the USL Second Division in 2004.”

MLS

Here’s further confirmation that the league is struggling to attract TV viewers. Sports Business Journal reports that the WNBA average more viewers on ESPN than MLS. “Regular-season games averaged 231,000 viewers, a figure that is higher than Major League Soccer’s regular-season game averages on both ESPN/ESPN2 (220,000 viewers) and NBCSN (112,000 viewers).” The report continues, “To put the comparison in context, though: WNBA games primarily were held during the week in prime time; the MLS games typically were held on weekends and outside the prime-time window.”

MLS Executive Vice President Dan Courtemanche touched on ratings concerns in an interview with the CUNY Sports Report,

What’s important to note is that we work closely with all our broadcast partners to really increase our viewership for MLS games through a wide variety of promotional avenues. Cross promotion is a great example: NBC Sports network will promote MLS games during Premier League games and MLS  promotes Premier league games, so it’s beneficial to both leagues. But moving forward we are in discussions with all our current partners about renewing our agreements and we’re looking to get innovative as to how we can continue to increase our fan base and have them watch more games. As we increase our fan base we need to work with our TV partners to promote those games on TV to have a consistent date and time for viewing and we are certainly looking at a variety of options for the future. And finally we need to make sure we have a first class production with on-air talent who know the game and are connecting with our fan base.

You’re not alone if you think the two-week break before the second leg of the conference finals is stupid (or, for that matter, such scheduling affects the TV ratings). RSL coach Jason Kreis says, “I’d prefer not to wait two weeks to play our next match. I’d like to continue this team’s momentum because we’ve had so many starts and stops this year, they’ve been really tough to deal with…It is what it is, so we’ll just do our best. [Portland have] got a two-week break as well and so we’ll probably both be dealing with a little bit of rustiness in the match.”

Seattle Sounders general manager and part owner Adrian Hanauer admits that the Clint Dempsey signing may have had a negative effect in the locker room. “Clint is a strong personality. He’s going to be an absolutely fantastic personality for this team, but when you inject a strong personality in the middle of the season, it changes the dynamic a little bit.”

New York Red Bulls head of global soccer Gerard Houllier says that 2014 may be Thierry Henry’s last season with the club. “It’s a bit too soon to say. He’s going to be 37 and we’ll see how things go next season. It’s his last chance to win the MLS Cup.”

At Goal.com, Keith Hickey writes that the recent comments by Vancouver’s Darren Mattocks illustrate the lack of player power in MLS.

The MLS rights system (uncannily similar to the hated “reserve clause” that Major League Baseball players struggled for a century to obliterate) denies free agency, penalizing players who came up through the American system, removing from them the right to determine their worth on the open market without moving abroad…

The current system hurts domestic players and forces many mid-level players – the spine of any domestic league – overseas for the prime of their careers. When the collective bargaining agreement expires next December, it’s time for MLS to open the checkbook and loosen its grip – in other words, to start acting like a major league.

DC United chief operating officer Michael Williamson said of the team’s upcoming tour of Indonesia in December, “These matches will provide global exposure for our club and league in a market where soccer is ingrained in the daily lifestyle of the region.”

According to the Daily Mail, “David Beckham has arrived in Miami to finalize a deal to launch a Major League Soccer franchise in the Sunshine State.”

A press conference is scheduled for Thursday for the announcement of a new partnership between MLS and the Caribbean Football Union. The Jamaica Observer reports, “It’s believed that the MLS will support a program of young elite footballers from the Caribbean and provide an opportunity to attend the MLS’ annual talent scouting scheduled for Florida in January 2014.”

US

In a Q&A at USsoccer.com, Jurgen Klinsmann describes he thoughts behind the roster for the Scotland and Austria friendlies. “In general, we want to use these two friendlies to see a lot about our players. The main goal is to do well and beat both Scotland and Austria, but also to reconnect with certain players to see where they’re at…The main objective is getting results and evaluating the players six, seven months prior to the World Cup, having a close look at a kid that we haven’t had with us yet, Erick Lichaj, and see how he’s doing in training, get to know him a bit, and get a feel for his character.”

Landon Donovan says that being left off of the USMNT roster will give his ankle time to heal. “That is a little bit of a blessing, and I’m probably going to need the full time to let it heal. My aim is to take at least the next four weeks and probably six weeks and let the ankle heal and then get myself ready [for the preseason].”

Donovan is unsure if he’ll be ready for the January camp. “We’ll see what happens. I have to speak with Jurgen and [see] if that’s something he wants me to be a part of.”

It’s official: Tab Ramos, in addition to signing a contract extension as the US U-20 MNT coach, has been named US Soccer’s Youth Technical Director, confirming an ESPN report from last weekend.

Football as Football re-imagines NFL team identities as soccer crests. The Philadelphia Eagles one, which is apparently done in the “Spanish-style” is, how do you say in Spanish, “terrible”? What’s that, it’s the same spelling in English and Spanish but just pronounced differently? Ok, then.

Elsewhere

At Goal.com, Tom Marshall reports that while new Mexico manager Miguel Herrera is confident ahead of today’s Intercontinental World Cup Qualification playoff against New Zealand (3:30pm: ESPN, Univision Deportes, UniMás, WatchESPN, ESPN3, Univision Deportes.com), Mexico fans aren’t so sure. More on the Mexico team from ESPN.

FIFPro has called on Sepp Blatter and FIFA to help free French-Algerian footballer Zahir Belounis, who is trapped in Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup. A statement from FIFPro says, “Stranded in the Gulf nation, together with his wife and two daughters, the 33-year-old has been repeatedly denied an exit visa until he agrees to drop legal proceedings against his former club, Al-Jaish, over a claim of almost two years of unpaid wages.”

Agence France-Presse reports, “World Cup local organizing committee CEO Ricardo Trade says Brazilians have a perfect right to demonstrate during the tournament, as long as it doesn’t spill over to mistreatment of tourists.” Trade says, “The protests are democratic in a democratic country — save for the violence, which nobody wants to see…They (protesters) are demanding health, security, schools, education — these are legitimate public desires…Protest for what you believe is fair; the country is growing and needs to do better in terms of social inequality. But let’s not forget that we are bringing over an important event for your country. Treat the people who come here well.”

UEFA has fined Ajax $$33,500 after fans displayed a banner containing a religious insult in last week’s Champions League match in Amsterdam.

Former senior FIFA executive Jérôme Champagne tells the Guardian that more debate is needed before the 2015 election for the next president of federation, arguing that the election “will determine football until 2025 or 2030.”

On Tuesday, FIFA announced the worldwide extension of the bans handed out by the Italian Football Association to 26 players and one match official related a match-fixing investigation over the summer.

16 Comments

  1. ICYMI: Gus Poyet was on SiriusXM FC this morning talking about Jozy Altidore. He said some encouraging things like, “We haven’t done a good job of getting the ball to Jozy in front of the goalie,” and that he will be in attendance at the USMNT v Scotland game to watch and see what they can do to mimic Jozy’s success with the US. He said it was a big priority for Sunderland to allow Jozy to be one of the best strikers in the BPL. Promising, supportive stuff.

  2. I know it is a fools errand to get any specificity out of any MLS rule but does anyone know how exactly the Impact designated player rule works?
    My initial impression is that the team will cover any expense up to a million dollars on a young offensive designated player. But does that mean if a player has a 1,000,001 dollar salary the league covers the first million and the Union pays 1$?
    That can’t be right….

    • This is just a guess but maybe they split it and the league will pay up to a million?

    • I’m under the impression that the league matches what the union pay up to 1 million. so i 1 million dollar salary costs the Union 500k with the league picking up 500k. I may be wrong though that’s just how i understood the concept

    • That sounds about the way I heard it, Rob. Also, the player still counts up to the max $295k (or so) against the salary cap like all DPs. They also have to meet some criteria to be considered an “attacking player,” but who knows what that is.

      • I should clarify:
        .
        Designated Players over the age of 23 carry a salary budget charge of $368,750, while those between the ages of 21-23 count as $200,000, and DP’s 20 years old or younger count as only $150,000 against a team’s salary cap. Each club now owns two designated player slots that they can no longer include in trades. Clubs also retain the right to purchase a third Designated Player slot for $250,000.

    • It’s a match. That generally means that whatever the team puts in, the league will match it, up to a maximum of $1 million. So if the Union spend $900k, the league will spend $900k.

      Though I didn’t mention it in the article the other day, I also confirmed this with a league official.

  3. The lack of consistent stat reporting is a nightmare. I read that MLS article and even that was unclear as to how they defined a pass or if the MLS writers realize the inconsistencies produce from OPTA.
    .
    Another being in the tackled/possession lost stat, which for some reason includes failed passes.

    • Ed Farnsworth says:

      The day I realized I should subtract the unsuccessful passes number from the tackled/possession lost stat to get a sense of non-passing related turnovers was a good day.

      • Yeah. took me about a month to figure it out, because the stats didn’t match the game footage. Had to re-do the metrics as a result.

  4. OneOneWolfpack says:

    This probably isn’t the best spot to open this up, but here’s a question:
    .
    How many of the current 19 clubs, plus the new ones scheduled to come in, would be successful and sustain long term (10+ years) if all financial restraints were taken off? 10, 12? More?
    .
    I personally think now is the time. Let these teams go. If a few fold I think others will take their place. I think this constant fear of failure (for the MLS as a whole) is holding the whole growth, TV ratings, level of play/players for this league as a whole. I believe that there would be 15-18 successful and financially strong teams in the league. All just my opinion.
    .
    Thoughts?

    • if we had a pro/rel pyramid teams like Chivas would be in the 2nd (or 3rd?) division where they belong. And I bet you’d have another team from the pacific northwest in the top division.

      pro/rel would be difficult to implement but an ambitious 10 year plan would get it done. You’d just have to set economic triggers to encourage investment. The problem is it would be ambitious and MLS plays it safe.

      Another problem is MLS owners like the safety of the franchise model with no fear of relegation.

    • Many teams would struggle outside the propping up of revenue sharing and strict financial controls. Chivas would collapse. DC United might go under too. New England might choose to fold. Columbus might go under because they haven’t fully revamped their club for MLS 2.0. (They’re more MLS 1.5.) The league would lose momentum if one or more teams collapsed. Television prospects would get worse. A downward spiral would begin and potentially take the rest of the league with it into a full collapse, aka the NASL.

      Bottom line: I don’t think the league is ready yet for that. Give it 10 years, maybe less, and it should be.

      Mind you, I’d love to see Chivas disappear. New England would get replaced by a stronger Boston franchise eventually if the league remained afloat. But losing historic clubs like DC would devastate the league.

  5. people don’t want to watch soccer leagues that aren’t single table and don’t have promotion/relegation.

    • I don’t believe that there are people who don’t pay attention now that would start if it was single table with pro/rel.

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