Highlights from MLS commissioner Don Garber’s preseason Q-and-A

7 Comments
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xasIyVLC1yE]

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber spent just under an hour answering media and fan questions on Tuesday – an interactive state-of-the-league ahead of this weekend’s opening to the MLS season. Here are the highlights from the session, embedded above.

(All responses listed in order they appear in the Q-and-A.)

Growth of Major League Soccer

“Our ultimate goal is to be a league of choice. If we become a league of choice for players and staff and fans, I think we will achieve that goal. A place where American and Canadian players want to play. A place where top international players want to play. A place where fans proudly say that they are a fan of this league, but more importantly a fan of their respective clubs …

“In order to be one of the top leagues in the world, you got to really be the top league in the region. In order to do that you have to have the top players in our country playing in our league.

On expansion, potential new markets

“There will be a time, and that time is probably sooner as opposed to later, where we won’t have expansion questions. The league will be fully expanded. That’s probably years from now … People care about it now because it’s part of the evolution of our league, of our business, but the time is going to come when this fully expanded.”

  • Atlanta: “Discussions with Arthur Blank and his family have been going on since 2008 … We’re getting close. There are ongoing discussions. There’s not a rush to finalize something there. The new stadium that they’re planning is not going to open up for a number of years.”
  • Texas – Austin and San Antonio:It’s premature for both markets … Expanding in Texas, that’s likely going to happen. Where that happens, when that happens, remains to be seen.”
  • Cleveland: “We need more teams in the Midwest … there haven’t been any discussions (about Cleveland) of late … Support the Crew.”
  • Detroit: “We knew there’s been some interest. There haven’t been any discussions. Not sure it’s on the short list, but you never know.”
  • Minnesota: “Minneapolis is on the short list. Lots of interest there. We’ve had a high level of activity with the current Minnesota United ownership group … We think they’re smart. We think they’re focused, and they’re great community citizens.”
  • North Carolina: “Even in my early days — back in [1999], 2000 — we’ve always looked around it, because it is a hotbed of soccer … We’ll monitor it. We’ve said we need to get south of Washington, D.C. Atlanta is a southern team. Florida … is south of D.C. … I’m not sure North Carolina is coming anytime soon.”
  • Sacramento: “I would encourage every fan in that market: support the Republic; get behind it; build that team; build that brand. Show that there’s a real appetite north of San Jose for professional, high-level soccer, and we’ll see what happens.”

Chivas USA

“We said a year ago we would come up [with] a solution to our challenges with our second team in L.A., and we have had challenges. When you’re running a young sports league, you’ve got to accept you’re not going to get [everything] right.u’ got to be bold enough to make tough decisions … and you have to be man enough to say ‘we didn’t make the right decision’ and come up with a plan to fix it. That’s where are with Chivas USA …

“Lots of interested parties. We have not set a price for it because we haven’t decided how we’re going to go about that process, because the first thing we need to do is get the ship back on path.

(Commissioner Garber also mention the University of Southern California as a potential site for a future Chivas USA venue. Answering a question about possible Chivas USA relocation out of Los Angeles, Garber said, “No.”)

On a potential stadium for New York City FC

“It’s tough to get stadium projects done in New York City, perhaps even more difficult than it was six months or a year ago … Short-term, sometime soon they’re going to make an announcement of where they’re going to play temporarily.”

On how the league has improved since he took over

“We are a stable, viable, and productive entity, where in 1999 or 2000, we were all trying to figure out what could this be and what would this be, and whether we can get through the next couple of years. We don’t really worry about that today …”

“We had a handful or owners, and today we have lots of them – more than I could mention … many of them are folks that have come into the league and this is their sole focus …”

“There was only one (soccer-specific) stadium at that time. Now we have 14 of our clubs playing in 15 buildings …”

“The infrastructure has changed dramatically … the big change that (U.S. Men’s National Team head coach) Jurgen Klinsmann sees today, even over a couple of years ago, is the training grounds are more professional, the opportunities for players from a nutrition and fitness perspective, the focus on medical testing — just overall sports medicine — has so dramatically changed because we have the capability to be able to do that.

On a future promotion/relegation system

“No.”

On a single-table competition format

“Now that all the questions are more expansion-oriented, the single-table jockeys have gone quiet over the last year. I think we have a single-table competition with our Supporters’ Shield.”

Mexico block out drama before Gold Cup semifinal vs. Jamaica

Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) After nearly two years as Mexico’s head coach, Juan Carlos Osorio is used to constant criticism of his tactics and lineups. He isn’t surprised by regular calls for his firing from fans, media and former national team players — and that’s just when Mexico is playing well.

“We do our best so that the players cannot feel the criticism,” Osorio said Saturday. “We try not to translate it to the players. We try to maintain the best spirit in the team.”

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

Yet for all of the drama and distraction around El Tri this summer, Osorio is one win from getting a young roster with an ever-changing lineup into the CONCACAF Gold Cup final while he coaches from the stands, thanks to a FIFA suspension.

Mexico faces Jamaica on Sunday night at the Rose Bowl, El Tri‘s home away from home, for a spot in the championship game.

Osorio is already proud of his experimental roster’s Gold Cup success despite a steady drumbeat of criticism from those who don’t like the Colombian coach’s plans or his players’ execution of them. He chose a youthful group for this tournament to build Mexico’s base of experience for next year’s World Cup and the years ahead.

“Our goal is to build a team that can compete at any level,” Osorio said. “We’ve had some losses that have been very difficult, and the scars are there. But at the same time, they show that we’re strong and moving forward, and this team has won much more than it has lost. We are very motivated, and we want to continue building and growing. We want to have more players competing for a spot that can help us. We want to have a present and a future.”

Mexico has won three of the last four Gold Cups, beating Jamaica 3-1 in the 2015 final. These teams also met at the Rose Bowl 13 months ago during the Copa America, when Javier Hernandez scored an early goal in a 2-0 win.

West Ham-bound Chicharito is among several tested veterans not participating in the Gold Cup. Mexico has struggled to replace his offense, scoring half of its six goals in this tournament back in its opener.

“We are all motivated and ready to give our all for the team,” said midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro, who got the only goal in Mexico’s 1-0 quarterfinal win over Honduras. “We all want to be part of this.”

Osorio will watch from the crowd while serving the fifth game of his six-match suspension for what FIFA deemed aggressive behavior toward officials during a match against Portugal in the Confederations Cup, where Mexico finished a disappointing fourth.

[ MORE: Mexico beat Honduras, book their place in semifinals ]

Mexico and Jamaica played to a 0-0 draw 10 days ago during Gold Cup group play in Denver. El Tri dominated possession, but Mexico’s fans booed their own team after it failed to find the net behind stalwart Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake.

Mexican fans booing their own team is nothing new, but El Tri can also count on wild support from Los Angeles’ vast Latino population.

Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore acknowledges his Reggae Boyz are underdogs, but he believes his players raise their level whenever they get the chance to wreck the plans of the U.S. or Mexico, the pre-tournament favorites.

“I think our confidence is high,” Whitmore said. “We don’t want to be overconfident going into the game. We know the Mexican team has a lot to offer. It is a team that we have to give a lot of respect, based on what they’ve been through over the years.”

Jamaica is also playing without top talent, including Wes Morgan, Giles Barnes and all of its England-based players. Darren Mattocks, the Portland forward who has excelled in the Gold Cup, also could miss the semifinal due to an injury, Whitmore said.

Jamaica showed its offensive potency last Thursday with a pair of beautiful goals in a quarterfinal victory over Canada. Whitmore plans a “totally different approach” from the defensive caution with which Jamaica played El Tri earlier in the month.

“We try to be mean in conceding goals, and that’s been working for us,” Whitmore said. “We want to be still disciplined. We want to be compact in defense, but on the other hand, I think the transition game in defense is important if we want to get past this Mexico team.”

FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT vs. Costa Rica — Gold Cup semifinals

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The last time the U.S. national team faced Costa Rica, the final score was 4-0 in favor of the home side, in San Jose (not the one in California). Six days later, Jurgen Klinsmann was fired and replaced by Bruce Arena.

On Saturday, it’ll be Arena’s USMNT which takes on Los Ticos with a place in the 2017 Gold Cup final on the line. One of Mexico and Jamaica, who’ll face off in the second semifinal on Sunday, comes next.

When: 10 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

[ LIVE: Gold Cup scoreboard ]

Arena has made five changes to the team that beat El Salvador 2-0 in Wednesday’s quarterfinal. Incoming are Graham Zusi (for Eric Lichaj), Matt Besler (Matt Hedges), Jorge Villafaña (Justin Morrow), Kellyn Acosta (Gyasi Zardes) and Jordan Morris (Clint Dempsey).

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

West Ham sign Arnautovic from Stoke for club-record fee

Photo credit: @WestHamUtd
Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) West Ham signed attacking midfielder Marko Arnautovic from Stoke for a club-record fee on Saturday.

The fee wasn’t disclosed, but British media said West Ham paid an initial 20 million pounds ($26 million) that could rise to 25 million pounds ($32.5 million) for the 28-year-old Austria international.

Arnautovic is West Ham’s third signing of the summer, after right back Pablo Zabaleta on a free transfer and goalkeeper Joe Hart on loan.

“We have brought in three players with vast Premier League experience this summer,” West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan said, “and that was one of our key targets.”

Arnautovic, who has 62 caps for his country, joined Stoke from Werder Bremen in 2013. He scored 26 goals in 145 appearances for Stoke.

MLS Snapshot: 10-man NYCFC too much for McCarty-less Fire

Photo credit: @NYCFC
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): New York City FC spent 78 minutes at a man disadvantage, fewer than 72 hours after drawing MLS-leading Toronto FC midweek, against the second-place Chicago Fire on Saturday. It the end, this week shall go down as the back-to-back which put to bed any lingering questions regarding NYCFC’s MLS Cup-contending credentials. Four points from two games against the league’s top-two teams — Patrick Vieira’s side (37 points) now sits a single point back of Chicago, two back of Toronto. As is typically the case, David Villa’s fingerprints were all over Saturday’s win at Yankee Stadium, as the reigning MVP scored the opening goal (in typically stunning fashion) before so nearly setting up one or two more as the back-and-forth, frantic second half wore on. Frederic Brilliant scored what turned out to be the winner just three minutes later, as David Accam canceled out Villa’s opener to make it three goals scored in seven minutes.

[ MORE: Clint Dempsey goes for USMNT goals record, back home ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Kappelhof slides through Herrera, no penalty given — Maybe VAR will be good?

12′ — Herrera sees yellow again, and he’s gone — Herrera’s first yellow was questionable, but there’s no doubt about the second, just four minutes later.

47′ — Villa smashes on the full volley for 1-0 — This is approximately the 197th time I’ve written the phrase, “David Villa, take a bow,” since Spain’s all-time leading scorer came to MLS.

50′ — Brilliant heads home in traffic for 2-0 — It takes guts to put your head into a sea of flying feet the Brilliant does here. Fortunately, his face is intact and the Frenchman was duly rewarded.

54′ — Accam hits and prays, makes it 2-1 — Don’t think; just hit it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Villa (47′), Brilliant (50′), Accam (54′)