Daily news roundups

Curtin’s gift, RSL owner says free agency talk a waste of time, more news

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union

The Union face New York Red Bulls on Saturday in the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic tournament final. Kickoff is at 7:30 pm and the game will be streamed.

photo essay of the US Open Cup final by PSP photographer Earl Gardner included a photo of a tearful young Union fan. Unbeknownst to Earl, the young fan was the son of PSP contributor Sean Doyle, who is also the social media director for Reading United (it’s probably safe to say that many, if not most, of us at PSP have never actually met one another in person).

Curtin saw the picture on Facebook and wanted to do something to make him feel better. Curtin told Zeitlin, “I felt the kid’s pain. So I sent him my Open Cup medal. Hopefully I can replace it with one that’s the right color.” How cool is that?

Sean Doyle told Zeitlin of the gesture, “He’s a dad, he grew up here, he gets it. Him seeing a young boy cry because they didn’t quite get the job done, it definitely did something to him that caused him to want to reach out. We live in a sports market that is, for the most part, very jaded. For him to make such a genuine heartfelt gesture like that shows he is totally plugged in with the fanbase.”

If you’ve have the chance to meet Curtin, you will know that his gift is not surprising — he’s a genuinely kind and decent man (and also smart, honest, self critical, and very funny). If his gifts include being able to get the Union to the playoffs, not to mention reach another US Open Cup final, he could very quickly become something of a legend.

In the article, Curtin acknowledges fans are frustrated by the sense that every season feels as if it has been a reset.

I’m a big believer in transparency. I think it’s important to have a good relationship with the fans and to be open and honest with them. I think they respect that. Even if they don’t agree with the moves you make, at least they understand the thinking behind them – as opposed to some things that have maybe gone on in the past…

I understand some of the frustrations with things and some of the personnel moves that have gone on in the past. But we’re trying to get it right. It will take a little bit of time, but I think you’re slowly starting to see a roster form that we can be proud of. Until we win, we’re going to have to deal with the negativity. That’s something we signed up for…There will always be changes and turnover but I want it to be clear that we’re not just hitting the reset button every year.

Curtin also provided some understanding of his thinking behind recent comments about the importance of role players:

I was a blue-collar, just-do-my-job-and-not-try-to-jump-too-far-out-of-my-comfort zone type of player. I knew my limitations. That’s actually something I’m trying to preach to our group. Understanding your role on the team is very important. Everyone wants to be the star, but not everyone can be, unfortunately. There’s a real niche in our league for great role players.

Curtin also said he’s urging the team to be “bastards in the last 15 minutes” to get over the team’s longstanding shortcomings in closing out games.

MLS Multiplex has a preview of the 2015 Union.

In an article at Soccer Gods, Steve Davis considers if Orlando City can be “the league’s next big success story”:

The city seems intent on embracing its new entry into big-time professional sports, guided by the impassioned brand of grassroots support that made Portland, Seattle, Toronto and to some extent Philadelphia such great, immediate MLS marketing triumphs…

Philadelphia’s choice of stadium location remains a bit iffy, and the competition side hasn’t quite been up to snuff. Still, considering an ownership portfolio not exactly blessed with as many commas and zeros as others, Philly and its Sons of Ben brigade has done a commendable job.

Local

The American Soccer League’s Philadelphia Fury will start the spring portion of the 2014-15 inaugural season on the road on April 4 against Western Mass Pro Soccer at Lusitano Stadium. (American soccer history buffs will know Lusitano Stadium was built in 1918 and has been the site of many great soccer games.) AC Crusaders is also on the road to open the season against Rhode Island Oceaneers.

MLS

CBA negotiations

Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen continues to be the only owner in MLS saying anything about the CBA negotiations. In an interview on local radio station ESPN700, Hansen described the players’ focus on free agency a “‘go-nowhere’ conversation”:

When you look at all the owners, they’ve all been in pro basketball, baseball, football, and that was the one thing they all vowed they’d never do is go through that again.

They’ve tried it twice, it’s been defeated by the courts. It’s just a foolish place to waste time. If that’s still open, it’s just foolish.

The rest, there’s some great agreement everyone can reach, but every time I read “we’re going to work on free agency,” well, you know, that’s one of those real waste-of-time conversations.

At World Soccer Talk, Simon Evans asks, “does MLS face the prospect of a damaging long-term strike, possibly wiping out the 2015 season?” He concludes, “Probably not”: “a strike looks likely but the odds are stacked against the union – and that usually leads to a short dispute.”

Other league news

DC United was thumped 5-2 in Costa Rica by Alajuelense in CONCACAF Champions League play. No doubt kind of humiliating, don’t you think?

Promoters have scheduled a Argentina-El Salvador friendly at FedEx Field for March 28,  the same day DC United hosts LA Galaxy at RFK. Not cool.

Claudio Reyna says NYCFC still wants Xavi Hernandez. Bully for them.

NYCFC have signed SuperDraft pick Connor Brandt. Looks like they’re trying to convert him from midfielder to left back.

NYCFC announced on Thursday they have surpassed the 14,000 mark for season ticket sales.

Orlando City is not far behind, announcing fewer than 1,000 season tickets remain for its inaugural season. The team has capped season ticket sales at 14,000.

San Jose have signed Portuguese defender Paulo Renato.

San Jose Mercury News wonders if the Earthquakes’ new stadium, which is set to host its first game on Saturday when LA Galaxy visit for a preseason friendly, is the “best soccer venue in America?” No stadium that is horseshoe shaped and thus open behind one of the goals should even be in the best soccer venue conversation — even if it is the site of a large outdoor bar area — so I’m going to go with a no. Click here for pictures of the stadium (were the mismatched seat colors an inspiration for the new US second kit?).

Simple works.

Simple works.

Toronto have released pictures of their new first kit. I’m down with its simplicity.

At ESPN, Graham Parker considers whether MLS is ready for the kind of international scrutiny that will come from something like the recently announced SKY Sports deal in the UK. “[T]he league might find that a bi-weekly examination of its technical qualities from those who bother to pick it out among the clamor of Sky’s regular offerings is not the kind of scrutiny that will show it in the most favorable light.”

The second part of the interview with Soccernomics co-author Stefan Szymanski is up at Hudson River Blue (click here for part 1). Szymanski argues MLS “has always been about the old North American Soccer League. It’s always been about saying, ‘we won’t make the mistakes that they made.’ I actually think that’s a misreading of history.”

He goes on to say, “The NASL was not such a big failure. In many ways, it was actually quite unlucky. NASL was doing fine, but broadcast contract negotiations failed in 1983. If they were living in the multi-channel environment we’re in now, they would have got a broadcast contract, and they would have continued.”

Putting aside the irrelevance of an argument based on an unprovable hypothetical (“If they were living in the multi-channel environment…they would have continued.”) how is that a league that went from 24 teams in 1980 to 12 teams in 1983 was “doing fine”? And the lack of any substantive national broadcasting deal before whatever negotiations Szymanski is referring to in 1983 (ABC showed a total of 18 games between 1979 and 1981; the league had no national broadcasting contract in 1982, 1983, or 1984, its last season) was just “unlucky” rather than driven by market forces? Szymanski makes no mention of how too rapid expansion, combined with the quest for “name” players from overseas, resulted in the unsustainable overspending that preceded the collapse of teams across the league, all of which is very well documented. Forget that it took 12 years — and the US hosting a World Cup — for a new first division professional league in MLS to appear because NASL “was not such a big failure.” Bunk.

MySanAntonio.com has obtained copies of a letter sent by Mexican Football Federation president Justino Compeán to MLS commissioner Don Garber “that strongly endorses” the San Antonio Scorpions for inclusion in MLS.

US

The US begins play in the CONCACAF U-17 Championship today against Cuba (6 pm: Fox Sports 2, Univision Deportes, Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer 2Go). You will recall the team includes several players with area connections. MLSsoccer.com has a guide to the tournament.

At Soccer America, Mike Woitalla considers whether the U-17 team surpass the 1999 team that included, among others, Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley. The 1999 team finished fourth at the U-17 World Cup and is the only US U-17 team to win a knockout stage game in the tournament. Soccer America also has a look at the US U-17 team’s success in the CONCACAF tournament.

Picking up on tweets from KING5 reporter Chris Daniels, Kevin Baxter reports at the LA Times, “prosecutors in Kirkland, Wash., plan to appeal a judge’s decision to dismiss two charges of fourth-degree domestic violence” against Hope Solo. Briefs for the case are expected to be filed in July after the Women’s World Cup with oral arguments beginning in September. You can view King5 reporter’s tweets here and here.

The nominees for the 2015 class of the National Soccer Hall of Fame have been announced.

Elsewhere

The International Football Association Board, the world’s governing body for the Laws of the Game, will vote today on whether a fourth substitution should be allowed. Goal.com notes,

Initially, the additional substitute would be restricted to extra time in knockout matches. But if it is voted in at the International Football Association Board (IFAB) meeting in Belfast on Friday the next step is widely expected to be an extra substitute in 90-minute matches — certainly in time for the Qatar World Cup in 2022 — when games could be played in extreme heat.

Also at Goal.com, why a winter World Cup will result in chaos.

At the Guardian, Paul Doyle reviews some of the proposed changes to the Laws of the Game that will also be considered by the IFAB.

At the New York Times, Richard Sandomir looks at why FIFA gave Fox the broadcasting rights for the 2026 World Cup without offering the rights up for bid.

Jerome Valcke, the organization’s secretary general, said the deal with Fox was made to avoid facing a lawsuit from the media giant over shifting the 2022 Cup from the heat of the Qatari summer to the late fall and winter. The admission was surprising, but it made sense…FIFA executives would prefer to keep their organizational secrets out of the American court system.

ESPN has a look at the three candidates challenging Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency.

What’s the Europa League without scenes of fan violence? In Ukraine, the match between Dynamo Kyiv and French side Guingamp was halted for 15 minutes “when a group of masked fans fought their way past stewards in a bid to attack supporters of the tiny French club.” After the visiting supporters were evacuated, Kyiv fans began to fight amongst themselves. Kyiv won the game.

Last week’s match in Rome between Roma and Feyenoord resulted in 23 arrests for violence after pitched battles between Feyenoord fans and police. Police in Rotterdam arrested 42 people before and after the return game on Thursday. The game itself was halted when Feyenoord supporters threw objects on the pitch, including an inflatable banana. Classy. Roma won the game.

Reuters reports, “All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) vice presidents are calling for world soccer’s governing body to launch a fully- fledged probe into their own president Ganesh Thapa before his self-imposed four-month suspension runs out next week.”

Two days ago, a video was posted on Vine that appears to be surveillance footage of a couple having sex in the center circle of the pitch at Charlton Athletic’s Valley grounds. As of this writing, the video has been viewed more than six million times. On Thursday, Charlton admitted the whole thing was a publicity stunt to promote the clubs “Score at the Valley” program, through which groups can rent the pitch to play on. Well played, Charlton, well played.

Check out the latest Footy on the Telly for listings of live soccer on TV, online , and on satellite radio for the upcoming week.

19 Comments

  1. Alexander Schaefer says:

    If the only refuse to give the players free agency,then I, and hopefully most of the fans, support a strike.

    • I’m resigned.
      Free agency is not the problem.

    • I won’t support a strike. I understand why the players want free agency, but flat out unrestricted free agency could hurt the league and teams financially. There is a middle ground and the players need to be open to finding that. I think the best move is a restricted free agency or a bidding system this CBA, and after a few years with the new tv money get it next time after theyve had a chance to hash it out.

      • How does free agency hurt the league with a salary cap?

      • Because a salary cap doesn’t change the fact that LA or NY is a more attractive place to live and play, and the wealthier teams can still afford to buy more players. There’s a strict – and low – cap now and there’s still huge financial gaps. And if the league wants to keep the Dempseys and Bradleys they have to keep allocation money or raise the cap to $10 million, and either way LA, Toronto and Seattle can afford more players than the KC, Columbus and Philly. Free agency should exist, but it should be partial now and full-blown next time.

      • The league is proposing no free agency now and no free agency next time. Hence the disagreement; hence the impending strike.

      • You’re talking about the DP rule negatively effecting parity within the league, this has nothing to do with free agency and the salary cap. I still don’t understand how free agency would financially destroy a league with a salary cap…

  2. It’s great that Curtin wants transparency. The problem comes when both he and Sak deny responsibility for bring in Mbohli. Assuming Curtin is telling the truth, he’s basically forced to call his boss a liar in public. That may not work out so well in the long run. (Or maybe both are telling the truth and Mbohli wrote the contract, forged a couple of signatures, and isn’t really a member of the Union…)

  3. old soccer coach says:

    Ownership is making it clear that they wish to restrain trade in labor. They are no longer a struggling infant industry. They have existed for twenty years. They have strong competition for expansion franchises for which they are charging 100 million dollars. They count among their owners some of the wealthiest sports ownership groups in the world. They have new, more lucrative TV contracts. They are doing well enough that teams are building new soccer specific stadiums. The era of team owners controlling players careers as antebellum slave owners controlled their slaves ended when Curt Flood overturned baseball’s reserve clause in the 1970s. Would EPL style free agency destroy the league? Yes. But structured free agency as practiced by other North American sports has bankrupted none of their franchises. Refusing to talk is antedeluvian. At a layman’s level of understanding and observation, Ownership’s stance is worthy of the 19th century Trusts the Sherman Act was designed to control.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Exactly. If the owners relinquish control now, they won’t stand to gain as much. The league is healthy and getting healthier (from a financial standpoint), as owners with less control, they stand to make less. Period. They aren’t walk away from that.
      .
      For the record I don’t agree with my statement, and I feel that is not the way to make MLS a “top” league as Garber wants, but I see the side the owners have chosen. Protect your investment at all costs, especially when it’s about I make you even more money – TV contracts, expansion fees, etc.

    • I’ve noticed a subtle shift in some comments about free agency from the league (pretty much just Garber and the loudmouth from RSL are talking). It’s gone from “we can’t have free agency because we are trying to protect our financially fragile league” to “we can’t have free agency because that’s not the system our owners/investors signed up for.” They must have finally figured out the first comment doesn’t hold much water with a salary cap.

      I still think the owners are going to dump some kind of very restricted “free agency” system into their best & final offer this week. The owners have ignored free agency all this time because they didn’t want to have a protracted debate on it, and certainly didn’t want it based on the players’ terms. So, wait for the very last minute and give them something resembling it- at the least, they’ll be able to say they made a huge concession by doing so. It’ll be up to the players to decide if it’s enough at that point.

      • Business first. Football second. This is a big why that our game will never be good enough to compare favorably to other nations- despite the best hopes of a Don Garber.

    • “But structured free agency as practiced by other North American sports has bankrupted none of their franchises.”
      .
      I agree with your overall point, but this statement isn’t correct. The Pittsburgh Penguins spent time in bankruptcy. I believe at least one other team has as well. In addition, in hockey, the league had to take over the Phoenix / Arizona team, because of financial issues. And MLB took over the Dodgers (and should take over the Mets) because of financial troubles. Baseball, of course, also owned the Expos / Nationals for a while.

      • Let’s not forget about the Marlins Semi-decade Fire Sale Event.
        Unrestricted Free Agency sounds great, but it leads to the MLB situation now, and the need for Euro FFP Regulations.

        If you can set up an NFL-like hard salary cap, you can protect your franchises from being stupid. And that’s the big concern. The danger is that someone in Columbus might decide that they can keep up with Seattle or LA, and they end up going bankrupt when it goes bad.

        These guys have learned from history. No one wants to see a repeat of the 1980’s NASL.

      • Yeah, the Marlins thing is a different – but important – beast. In that case, there was an owner, and he was capable of paying; he just chose not to. Then, as I recall, ended up owning the Red Sox…
        .
        I think you also bring up a good point about the hard cap. Because right now, MLS has a “soft” cap because of the DP rules. Jay Sugarman could decide tomorrow that he’s going to pay Messi $50 million a year to play here. The cap hit for that is only $400,000. And the likely outcome would be either Sugarman would go bankrupt or he’d be committed to a mental hospital.
        .
        And that’s really the problem in the MLS system – wealthy teams get to circumvent the cap, at least in regard to their 3 highest-paid players. And who Toronto, LA, Seattle, and NY can afford for those 3 “slots” is a lot more than the Union, Columbus, Chicago, etc can afford – for various reasons.

      • Agreed. This is more about player autonomy/choice and less, I think about big clubs spending big dollars. That isn’t going to change regardless.

      • Right. And my original point was to just counter OSC’s comment that the “typical” American system hasn’t caused any team to go bankrupt. That’s happened, and almost happened, a few times. That was my starting point…

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