Wherein I quibble with a New Yorker piece and the New York pro soccer condition

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Results can be painfully predictable when general market publications dip into MLS waters.

Too often the works are penned by some learned and snobby soccer authority – European or South American, take your pick – who will swear their old schoolboy team could run an MLS club off the field.

They frequently approach these pieces with such a jaundiced eye toward MLS, such a narrow understanding of the growth process attached to pro soccer pursuits here, that all credibility has disintegrated by the first 100 words. And we turn the page.

So I dug in when, by the first 100 words, I could see that a short New Yorker piece sprang from the keyboard of someone who appeared to have a comprehensive domestic soccer background.

In a quick blogging fly-by on the Big Apple’s professional soccer scene, writer Reeves Wiedeman attempts to ascertain why the Red Bulls aren’t ringing the bell on record attendance, nor generally kicking grass and dominating the local soccer talk.

Wiedeman seems fairly familiar with the subject – but some of his conclusions are quibble-worthy. And fairly skinny. I know it’s a blog entry and not a 5,000-word composition. Still, show me a simple explanation to a complex matter and I’ll show you an explanation that falls somewhere been plain wrong and terribly incomplete.

Here’s the quibble list:

First, I just hate the hell out of the headline (“Why don’t New Yorkers watch soccer?”). That has nothing to do with the theme to the piece, but it does speak to one of the media clichés I have spent a professional lifetime beating back: that watching or liking soccer is the same as watching or liking Major League Soccer. Because if you tell me that New Yorkers don’t like soccer, I’ll wonder if you have been to New York. Plenty of natives or newcomers there love them some soccer – they just aren’t necessarily enamored (nor even familiar) with the MLS brand.

Speaking of media-driven clichés: the story says “ … many of the teams with high attendance are in cities with large Hispanic populations.”

Yes. Seattle, Portland, Kansas City, Toronto and Philadelphia have a Latino populace – but more than any other U.S. or Canadian cities?

Los Angeles? Yes. But if the point is that percentage of Latino population has a direct correlation with MLS attendance … allow me introduce you to Chivas USA.

Latinos and immigrants driving MLS attendance is a myth. While we’re at it, let’s just drag out the old media saw about how soccer moms and families drive professional soccer attendance in buzzing markets. Because that’s every bit as inaccurate.

How about this one: “In general, larger M.L.S. markets do less well in attracting spectators.”

That’s just not true. Not even generally. Top U.S. cities by population: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia.

If we talk about attendance in MLS, the L.A. Galaxy, Houston Dynamo and Philadelphia Union are every bit as problematic as the sunniest, finest September day. Chicago doesn’t exactly kill it, but the Fire does reasonably well.

Wiedeman is hardly off base on everything. Logistical challenges in New York are a sure impediment, whether real or imagined.

And to ask the question of whether  “ …New York [is] ready for, or deserving of, a second franchise?”  Well, get in line on that one. Plenty of fans in Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix, St. Louis, Orlando, San Diego, San Antonio, Las Vegas and lordy knows where else are with you there, sir.

Mostly, I quibble with this:

You cannot discuss the MetroStars / Red Bulls condition without addressing years of fan abuse. Abuse in terms of how the organization took fan interest for granted, how they improperly marketed the team and how they threw garbage at their supporters in terms of the product on the field.

And that has zero to do with chances for success or failure of a second team in New York.

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday