Where the rubber meets the road in MLS attendance

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Here’s why bad management just crushes a team:

Attendance is generally a pleasant tale these days in MLS, where the gate isn’t always great, but it tends to be pretty good.

For instance, Major League Soccer attendance passed the 5 million mark for 2012 last weekend. That’s not going to scare Major League Baseball, of course, but it’s a happy place for a league where growth keeps chugging along.

Individually, too, it was a good weekend for MLS club. Most clubs, at any rate.

Here are the numbers for weekend matches in Round 29.

  • Seattle Sounders: 38,948
  • Los Angeles Galaxy: 27,000
  • New England Revolution: 24,364
  • Real Salt Lake: 20,524
  • Montreal Impact: 20,521
  • Chicago Fire: 19,172
  • Vancouver Whitecaps: 18,992
  • Philadelphia Union: 17,666

Those are all reasonable figures, which included four sellouts and a season-high in New England. But then there’s one more: D.C. United, which had a huge match against Chivas USA.  On a Sunday evening as the playoffs approached, a match that once would have drawn perhaps 18,000 to RFK attracted just 11,770.

That’s what happens when a club cannot get it together; United has not made the playoffs since 2007, an awful reminder of how this club’s management has bungled matters in a league where, statistically, it has always been easier to make the playoffs than to miss.

But this isn’t just about D.C. United. Take a look at the league’s current attendance report (which, curiously, is listed alphabetically rather than according to leaders as other categories are):

source:

What you see are four clubs drawing fewer than 14,000 a game. No, the slowpokes of this herd aren’t the usual suspects, the notoriously under-achieving markets like Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Kansas City, etc. (Yes, yes, I know SKC is an attendance winner now … )

The three bottom clubs include two teams that were always seen as “strong” markets: New England and D.C. United, along with Chivas USA. (The other sub-14,000 average belongs to San Jose, where capacity is listed at 10,500 but matches played elsewhere elevates the number.)

Conclusion: Yes, market factors do speak loudly in crowd counts and brand presence in a given city. But so does performance, in front office marketing and in competitive matters.

Speaking of which:

Toronto, perpetually in the ditch in competitive matters, is clearly suffering. The numbers still look good – but who are we kidding? We see the matches and the gaping swatches of red in the BMO Field stands, compelling evidence that fans have turned increasingly apathetic.

A lively market can clearly sour. The difference, of course, is that favorable market factors make it easier to rally the gate counts once competitive breath is found.

Probably, anyway. I suppose we’ll know eventually.

WATCH: Camila’s wicked swerving goal for Brazil

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The Tournament of Nations got underway earlier Thursday, with Brazil and Japan drawing 1-1 in Seattle.

While some in the crowd may’ve been waiting to see the United States women’s national team and Australia in the second game of the twin bill, they got an absolute treat from Brazil’s Camila.

[ MORE: Galaxy’s season-changing signing ]

The Orlando Pride midfielder is yet to scoop up 10 caps, but blasted this 25-yard goal home with a wicked outside bend.

The aesthetics are terrific.

LA Galaxy’s second Dos Santos signing is a season-changer

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Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.

The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.

Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.

Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.

Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).

Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).

Joey Barton’s gambling ban lowered by almost 5 months

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Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.

Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.

Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:

The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.

“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”

Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.

We may see him on the field in August 2018.

FIFA fines Qatar after players’ political support for Emir

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.

[ MORE: Nainggolan staying at Roma ]

The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.

FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.