American Soccer News

Starting this week, I will be a regular contributor for American Soccer News, focusing on the Los Angeles Galaxy and - to a lesser extent - Chivas USA.

Check it out... that site should manage to keep you updated on all things MLS and American soccer much better than this one ever could. www.american-soccer-news.com

We are also in need of a writer to cover the New England Revolution... if you know anyone, please send me an e-mail at themlszone@gmail.com


Season-Ticket Numbers Released

Attention: Our site has moved! For all MLS news and analysis, visit --->

There's an excellent read in the upcoming issue of SportsBusiness Journal - an article focused on Major League Soccer season-ticket sales. Year-to-date, there are 60,783 season-ticket holders league-wide, 16% more than last year at the same time. That number includes partial-season plans and mini-packages and excludes the going-on-4,000 strong in the Bay Area.

Kansas City made the biggest percentage gain, with sales jumping 232%. Perhaps most surprisingly, the David Beckham-led Los Angeles Galaxy suffered the largest drop in season-ticket holders (-15%).

1. Toronto FC - 16,641 (+34%)
2. Los Angeles Galaxy - 7,915 (-15%)
3. D.C. United - 5,976 (+27%)
4. Real Salt Lake - 4,632 (+5%)
5. Houston Dynamo - 4,116 (+87%)
6. New England Revolution - 4,001 (+14%)
7. San Jose Earthquakes - 3,822
8. Columbus Crew - 3,227 (+1%)
9. New York Red Bulls - 3,170 (+33)
10. FC Dallas - 3,002 (-4%)
11. Colorado Rapids - 2,968 (+59%)
12. Chicago Fire - 2,759 (+8%)
13. Kansas City Wizards - 1,539 (+232%)
14. Chivas USA - 837 (-2%)

Overall, the league is healthy when it comes to season-ticket sales. Ten of 13 clubs posted gains year-over-year - only the two Los Angeles clubs and FC Dallas did not add to the momentum from last year. Toronto continues to show the rest of the league how it should be done, adding another 4,200 STHs, despite increasing the average ticket price by $10.

Interest is already running high in the two cities that have been tapped for expansion - Seattle and Philadelphia. Whether either city's numbers can touch Toronto's success at the turnstiles remains to be seen, but early reports out of the Pacific Northwest are a good sign - over 11,000 deposits have been taken for the kickoff of MLS in Seattle, which commences in 2009.

Rapids Shed Five Players, Sign Brazilian

On Monday, the Colorado Rapids announced the signing of Brazilian midfielder Rafael Gomes for the 2008 season. Gomes, 27, most recently played for Clube Desportive Santa Clara of the Liga de Honra (2nd-tier) in Portugal. Prior to that, he played in his home country for the likes of Vasco de Gama, Bragantino, Olaria, and Atletico Mineiro."We welcome Rafael to the team with open arms," said head coach Fernando Clavijo. "His experience playing in one of the top South American leagues and in Europe will add depth to our midfield."

In order to make room for Gomes and become compliant with the salary cap and MLS roster restrictions, the Rapids chose to not offer contracts to midfielder Daniel Antunez and foward Kevin Forrest. In addition, the club waived defenders Chase Hilgenbrinck, Brandon Prideaux and Cliff Wilmes, as well as midfielders Scott Campbell and Jose Cancela.

Dempsey Confident Fulham Will Avoid Drop

Fulham midfielder/forward Clint Dempsey is expressing optimism over his club's outlook for the rest of the 07-08 Premier League season. The former New England Revolution star says he is confident the Cottagers will avoid being relegated, despite their current troubles - FFC sits six points from safety, having taken maximum points from a match just once since early November.
"The reason you come to England is to play in the Premier League," said Dempsey, who has scored six goals in 27 league appearances this season. "It's one of the best leagues in the world and you want to be around that environment week in, week out. You can't really panic. All you can do is go out there and work as hard as you can.

"I think we'll be out of relegation and I think you'll see Fulham in the Premier League next season. For the most part, the team is together. We joke around a lot and everyone seems to get on well with each other."

The U.S. international is one of five Americans currently on the squad, joining Eddie Johnson, Kasey Keller, Carlos Bocanegra and Brian McBride on the roster at Craven Cottage. Several other American players are in danger of playing in the Coca-Cola Championship next season, including Bobby Convey and Marcus Hahnemann at Reading and the Derby County duo of Benny Feilhaber and Eddie Lewis.


FC Seoul Downs Galaxy in PKs

The Los Angeles Galaxy were defeated in penalty kicks by Korean side FC Seoul in an exhibition game on Saturday night. The friendly marks the latest loss in a disappointing preseason tour of Hawaii and Asia that has seen the Galaxy win just once - over Sydney FC in the third-place game of the Pan-Pacific Championship.

Alan Gordon put Los Angeles ahead in the 20th minute, floating a quickly-taken free kick into the box to an unmarked Alan Gordon, who chested the ball into the air before volleying it past Seoul keeper Kim Ho-Jun. It wasn't all good news for Gordon, however, as the Galaxy forward had to be removed later in the game with an injury.

Ruud Gullit's team would only hold the lead for 10 minutes as the troublesome Galaxy defense continued to give away multiple chances to the opposition, eventually culminating in a goal after former Newcastle defender Celestine Babayaro was judged to have taken down a Seoul player in the penalty area. Jung Jo-Gook calmly nailed the resulting PK straight down the middle and past a diving Steve Cronin to level the score.

The game went to penalties after ending in a 1-1 stalemate, with David Beckham being the first LA player to step up to the spot. His effort would hit the back of the net, but the four following Galaxy attempts were all turned away by Kim Ho-Jun, propelling FC Seoul to victory after their second successful try.

"We were disappointed to lose on penalties, but penalties are like that - there has to be a winner and a loser," said Beckham. "The overall play of the team in the first 30 minutes was good, some of the best football I've played with the Galaxy."There were some positives to take away from the match, namely the precision long passes shown off by Beckham and ability of recently re-acquired forward Carlos Ruiz to create chances for an offense that was dull at best in 2007.

However, Los Angeles must now deal with another injury to a potential starter (Gordon); forward Edson Buddle earlier suffered a dislocated shoulder during the Pan-Pacific Championship, leaving the shaky crop of Galaxy forward looking even more thin as the MLS regular season draws closer.

Before focus can be turned to the upcoming season, Los Angeles will take part in two more exhibition matches on their whirlwind tour of Asia: Hong Kong United in Shanghai on Wednesday and then the finale against Hong Kong Union on March 9th.


Philadelphia Franchise a Reality

Major League Soccer has awarded its 16th franchise to the city of Philadelphia, ending months of competition between the City of Brotherly Love, St. Louis, and - most recently - Miami for the increasingly coveted spot in the league. The news was made official at a press conference on Thursday with key members who made the deal possible, including the 1,000-member-strong supporters club Sons of Ben.

"It took us 12 years to bring the world's most popular sport to the City of Brotherly Love," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. "Today I am proud to officially announce that in 2010, Philadelphia will be joining Major League Soccer as the league's 16th team."

The new club will play their home games in a brand-new waterfront stadium to be built in the Philly suburb of Chester, following the model of other cities that have chosen to build soccer-specific stadiums in suburbs within shouting distance of their major metropolitan areas. The plan is for a 20,000-seat arena that will cost roughly $115 million, the centerpiece of a broader $500 million development project.

"We're going to build a team, a stadium, and we're going to lift some trophies along the way, and have some fun, so get ready," said Nick Sakiewicz, chief executive officer of the triumphant ownership group. "The Philadelphia area wanted soccer, and today they got soccer."

Though the team won't play their first game for another two years, season ticket deposits are currently being accepted at www.MLSPhilly2010.com, as well as at (877) MLS-2010.

Crew Trade Ward for Nico

The Columbus Crew have acquired forward Nicolas Hernandez from the Colorado Rapids in exchange for Generation Adidas defender Tim Ward and a third-round pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft.Hernandez, 28, is coming off a down year with the Rapids in 2007, scoring just once and adding a single assist in 21 games with 17 starts. In the previous year, it was a different story, as the Argentinean forward racked up seven goals and six assists in 30 games. Nico's performance in his first year with Colorado earned him the team's MVP award.

"He is busy and a very active player who can play a number of positions," said Crew head coach Sigi Schmid. "We felt he was a dangerous player, a good acquisition, and the price was right. We think of him more as a striker, but a striker who can combine well with Guillermo (Barros Schelotto). He's going to have the ability to read what Guillermo is doing and play off that."
Ward, 21, has struggled to see playing time with the Crew defense, appearing in just six games in 2007. He has posted three assists in 30 career games going back to his days with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in 2005. He has also represented the United States at various youth levels, including at last summer's Under-20 World Cup.

"Timmy is a player who needs to play now," said Schmid. "Looking at the options we have at outside back, we didn't think we could give him the playing time that is appropriate to what he needs."

Earthquakes Land O'Brien

The San Jose Earthquakes have added a key offensive weapon to their arsenal, trading away their first-round pick in 2009 and an undisclosed amount of cash to Toronto FC for All-Star midfielder Ronnie O'Brien.
For O'Brien, 29, it will mark his second-straight campaign with an expansion team, having played for Toronto in their inaugural season last year. Prior to being traded to TFC, the right-sided Irish midfielder played for FC Dallas from 2002 - 2006. He has made 121 career appearances in Major League Soccer, scoring 12 goals and contributing 42 assists. In 2007, a knee injury limited O'Brien to 13 games (0 goals, 4 assists). He has also been named to the MLS All-Star Team for four years running.

"He's not afraid to shoot, not afraid to take players on," Quakes General Manager John Doyle said. "He's an offensive player. He's another player in this league that you pay to come watch."

Toronto has expressed concern over O'Brien's fitness, with Mo Johnston indicating that the player's health was one of the main reasons that the club decided to part with him.

"Ronnie's a hell of a player when he's healthy," said Johnston. "He's one of the best in the league, if not the best. But he was injured a lot last season. (The trade) gives us an opportunity next year to go into the market again and have two first-round draft picks," Johnston continued.


Olympic Qualifying Roster Announced

United States U-23 Men's National Team head coach Peter Nowak has called 24 players into camp in preparation for the upcoming 2008 Olympic qualifiers. Headlining the roster are several players who have seen time with the senior squad, including Benfica's Freddy Adu and MLS sensation Jozy Altidore.
In 2004, the United States failed to make the Olympics after losing to rivals Mexico in the semifinals of the qualification stages. This time around the Americans' path to Beijing begins on March 11 against Cuba, a game that will be played in Miami. Their next opponent will be Panama on March 13, and they will close out the group stage of qualifying two days later with a date against Honduras.

Seventeen players were picked from Major League Soccer, two from Germany, and one each from leagues in Denmark, Mexico, Sweden, Portugal and England.

Nowak will commence camp in Bradenton, Florida on March 1st.

GK: Dominic Cervi (Chicago Fire), Tally Hall (Esbjerg fB), Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake)

DF: Maurice Edu (Toronto FC), Hunter Freeman (New York Red Bulls), Kamani Hill (Vfl Wolfsburg), Patrick Ianni (Houston Dynamo), Michael Orozco (San Luis), Mike Randolph (LA Galaxy), Nathan Sturgis (Real Salt Lake), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)

MF: Arturo Alvarez (FC Dallas), Benny Feilhaber (Derby County), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Sal Zizzo (Hannover 96)

FW: Freddy Adu (Benfica), Jozy Altidore (New York Red Bulls), Chad Barrett (Chicago Fire), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake)