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.

Kane named England captain, set to break record

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Call him captain Kane.

The FA confirmed on Tuesday that Harry Kane would captain England at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where he’ll break a record for being the youngest England captain at a World Cup. At just 24-years of age, Kane appears wise beyond his years and has over the past World Cup cycle developed into arguably the best striker in the Premier League, if not one of the top center forwards in the world.

The previous youngest England captain was the late, great Bobby Moore, who was 25-years old at the 1966 World Cup – hosted of course by England.

Considering the overall youth movement within the England ranks, this comes as a smart decision from manager Gareth Southgate. Though strikers aren’t usually made captains, he leads the line by example and has displayed great leadership for Tottenham over the last two years. In addition, should he remain consistent in his club and country form, he could be an England captain for another eight years or so.

In the last two World Cups, England has gone with the veteran hand for captain, with Steven Gerrard wearing the armband for both. But England was knocked out in the Round of 16 in 2010 and didn’t make it out of the group stage in 2014, which, combined with the shocking defeat to Iceland in Euro 2016, necessitated a change in management and culture.

Arsenal, Puma drop new kit for upcoming season

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Arsenal will have a new home kit next year, but there’s a bit of a twist compared to the old reliable we know and love.

Puma and Arsenal released the club’s 2018-2019 home kit on Tuesday morning, featuring a red and white top with a “pulse” design through the center, which displays different shades of red to symbolize the heartbeat of the club, and lighter red on the white sleeves. White shorts and socks will accompany the home outfit.

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Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Hector Bellerin and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang all modeled the new kit, giving a hint that the quartet could be in Arsenal colors next season.

The uniform also uses Puma’s “seamless evoKNIT” technology, making it easier for players to play in while running across the pitch. The club has picked the marketing campaign “#WeAreTheArsenal” to drive sales.

Will the new kits bring Arsenal more success next season? Time will tell.

Short-handed Galaxy beat Impact after Ibrahimovic red card

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MONTREAL (AP) Playing a man down after Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic got a red card in the 42nd minute, the Los Angeles Galaxy got past the Montreal Impact 1-0 Monday on a goal by Ola Kamara.

The Galaxy (4-6-1) ended a four-game losing run. Montreal (3-9-0) has lost three in a row, all by shutout, with the last two coming at home.

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Ibrahimovic was sent off after slapping Michael Petrasso, who had stepped on Ibrahimovic’s foot while marking him well away from the ball. After consulting video, referee Ismail Elfath showed Ibrahimovic the red card and Petrasso the yellow.

Both went down after the slap, and Ibrahimovic was limping as a trainer helped him off the field.

With 10 men, the Galaxy stayed back in the second half, looking for counterattacks.

In the 75th minute, substitute Emmanuel Boateng headed a ball forward that Kamara took on the run. He beat Marco Donadel and Jukka Raitala with a cut into the middle and scored his team-leading fifth goal on a low shot from inside the penalty area.

Montreal had some chances, including back-to-back shots in the 55th minute by Alejandro Silva and Raheem Edwards that were blocked by goalkeeper David Bingham.

Reina faces hearing over links with trio connected to mafia

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ROME (AP) Outgoing Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been summoned to a hearing at the Italian football federation over his association with people with links to the mafia.

Reina, along with Paolo Cannavaro and Salvatore Aronica, is to face the FIGC’s disciplinary committee after an investigation by Naples’ anti-mafia department.

It is reportedly one of the reasons why Napoli decided not to renew Reina’s contract, with the former Liverpool goalkeeper set to move to AC Milan on a free transfer.

The FIGC says Reina “has had and continues to have inopportune association and friendship with Gabriele Esposito, Francesco Esposito and Giuseppe Esposito.” It adds that that includes holidays and “an exchange of favors.”

Cannavaro, who had two spells with Napoli, retired at Sassuolo last year. Aronica also spent several years at the southern club before joining Palermo in 2013.