MLS Gets a Tan

photo credit: joncandy via photopin cc

photo credit: joncandy via photopin cc

I wrote a few weeks ago that the idea of a hiatus for Chivas USA was the best possible solution to Major League Soccer’s biggest problem. But a good idea requires proper execution. At the time, little was known about the plan, including, importantly, the identities of the new ownership group that will be responsible for bringing LA2 back to life.

Yesterday on Fox Sports’ Champions League pre-match show, Grant Wahl ended the mystery in revealing the owners who will spend more than $100 million to buy the second MLS franchise in Los Angeles. Wahl provided four names: Henry Nguyen, Peter Guber, Tom Penn, and, most notably, a certain Vincent Tan. You may know him as the infamous owner of Cardiff City.

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Fox’s Premier League Piggyback

If you watched the LA Galaxy-New York Red Bulls game Sunday night on ESPN2, you may have been caught off-guard during halftime by the familiar sounds of the Champions League anthem. ESPN, as you surely know, hasn’t shown the Champions League since John Terry’s famous missed penalty against Manchester United in the 2009 final. And yet, there was the anthem, silently accompanied by the news that Atletico Madrid’s match against Juventus will be on ESPN2 this Wednesday.

As it turns out, when ESPN sublicensed the Champions League from Fox to show games on, they also nabbed the ability to show certain games on television. This is good news, because it means more soccer on your TVs. But I got to wondering: wouldn’t Fox want to keep a game featuring the reigning champions of both Spain and Italy?

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Bloody Confused, by Chuck Culpepper

“It was like childhood, but with beer.”

For many Americans, soccer’s appeal comes from being something new. It’s a change of pace to explore something new again after learning all there is to know about baseball, basketball, and football. I imagine there are British fans of the NFL who feel the same way.

That sense of newness is the driving force behind Bloody Confused, by Chuck Culpepper. Where Michael Agovino latched onto soccer in a fit of adolescent curiosity, Culpepper was a veteran of American sports reporting before soccer and England caught his eye. As a reporter, he had grown tired with American sports, filled as they are with flaws and cliches. It’s a problem he describes as “common sportswriter malaise.” While he came to find that English soccer has plenty of flaws and cliches, he found the learning process refreshing.

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The Western Conference Playoff Race

Yesterday, I addressed the chaos that is Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference. The Western Conference is significantly better than the East at the moment, but as a result, it is more stratified and less interesting. Where the East’s playoff race features a variety of possible outcomes, the intrigue in the West is down to two teams: Portland and Vancouver. The Timbers took a big step last weekend with a 3-0 win over the Whitecaps, but a two-point lead with five games left is hardly secure.

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The Eastern Conference Playoff Race

Say what you will bout playoffs in soccer. I personally think that allowing 10 out of 19 teams to make the playoffs is excessive, and running the risk of devaluing the regular season. But, because of that playoff system, there is intrigue in places like Philadelphia and Toronto, for teams that would otherwise be going through the motions of a mid-table finish.

In MLS’s Eastern Conference, the weaker of the two, five teams are fighting for the final three spots, with five games remaining. Because of the unbalanced schedule, they play each other regularly. It is going to be a fun fight to the finish.

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XI: The Weekend of September 21st

-Both sides left a little disappointed when Manchester City drew 1-1 with Chelsea on Sunday. Everyone, that is, except the neutral viewers. The home side will regret not getting all three points over the title challengers, while Jose Mourinho and Chelsea will be upset that they let a 1-0 lead slip with City down to ten men. Frank Lampard scored the equalizer for City against his former club, after coming on to applause from both sets of supporters. He refused to celebrate it, and even seemed reluctant to discuss it after the game.

-Manchester United appeared to be in the same form that saw them defeat QPR the week before. They led 3-1 at King Power Stadium against Leicester City, thanks in part to a preposterous chip from Angel di Maria. But a questionable penalty cut their lead in half, and the Red Devils proceeded to melt down. Leicester scored three more times, winning 5-3. United supporters will be justifiably upset with Mark Clattenburg, but there are causes for concern with a back line that prominently features Jonny Evans. And that is not news.

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Soccer on US TV 9/19-9/21

Friday, September 19th

10:00 PM: Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids, NBCSN

RSL has already won the first two matches between these two rivals, clinching the Rocky Mountain Cup for 2014. But there is a lot at stake here nonetheless. RSL currently leads FC Dallas by a single point as they hope to avoid a one-game play-in match. Colorado, meanwhile, trails the final playoff spot in the west by six points with six matches remaining. A loss here might just kill off their hopes.

10:30 PM: Tijuana vs. Santos, ESPN Deportes (Spanish)

10:30 PM: Morelia vs. Pumas, Azteca America (Spanish)

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