Archive for the ‘Soccer’ Category

May 14th, 2010

Did ESPN Make the Right Decision With a Massive World Cup Investment?

Jeff Grimshaw asked the question and I answered.

 
March 13th, 2010

Thumbs Up or Down: The Week in Sports Television

I’m a little late with this, but here’s the unedited version of my appearance yesterday on The TV News. Apparently, I was a little long-winded, so some of my comments wound up on the cutting room floor in the original version. In any case, here’s the original edit, restored in its full glory thanks to my benevolent director, Jeff Grimshaw.

And here are my show notes:

 
March 11th, 2010

Tomorrow on The TV News

I’ll be back on The TV News tomorrow to talk sports television, and here’s what I’ll be looking at:

Come back tomorrow afternoon for the video.

 
August 27th, 2009

Leonsis Boosts DC United

Over the past few weeks, DC United has been running short videos from Washington-area sports figures urging folks to come out to RFK for the US Open Cup Final against the Seattle Sounders on September 2.  The latest personality to appear: Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis:

I have to admit I’m taken by this campaign, and how many of the local teams are actively working to establish a sense of community between their fan bases.  Of course, not only does it feel good, but as we’ve seen from more than a few appearances by Barra Brava at the Verizon Center, it helps to sell tickets too.

Fellowship aside, we need to realize that United has more on the line than just a championship. Out in Seattle, the MLS ownership group lobbied to host the Open Cup Final at Qwest Field, home ground of the Sounders.  Safe to say, with the way the franchise has been drawing in its inaugural season, I have to admit they made a great case.

After they lost out to DCU, some Sounders fans complained long and hard, and if the crowd at RFK next week is disappointing, US Soccer and DC United are going to have some explaining to do.

And speaking of tickets

UPDATE: The folks at GoSounders.com are spreading FUD about the whole process.

 
October 2nd, 2008

Cruz Azul Too Much For United

Marc Burch #4
WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 1: Marc Burch #4 of the DC United fighting for control of the ball with Cesar Villaluz of Cruz Anul during a CONCACAF game at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC October 1, 2008. (Photo by Allen Clark/www.OffWingPhoto.com)

For more news please visit our some of our friendly DC United blogs:


WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 1: Craig Thompson #28 of the DC United makes a flying kick during a CONCACAF game at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC on October 1, 2008. (Photo by Allen Clark/www.OffWingPhoto.com)


WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 1: Francis Doe #30 of the DC United looks to pass the ball against Cruz Azul during a CONCACAF game at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC on October 1, 2008. (Photo by Allen Clark/www.OffWingPhoto.com)

Click on any of the pictures below to be taken to our flickr gallery for more from the game.

www.flickr.com

Off Wing Opinion's 2008-10-01 DC United v. Cruz Azul (Allen Clark/www.offwing.com) photoset Off Wing Opinion’s 2008-10-01 DC United v. Cruz Azul (Allen Clark/www.offwing.com) photoset

 
September 14th, 2008

DC United Tie One On With Dallas FC (2-2)

DC United and FC Dallas were both coming into today’s match-up looking to improve their chances of claiming a wild-card spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Today’s 2-2 tie didn’t help DC as they look toward a grueling schedule for the remainder of the regular season.

Thabiso Khumalo

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 13: Thabiso Khumalo #17 of the DC United controls the ball through FC Dallas defenders during a MLS game at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC Septemeber 13, 2008. (Photo by Allen Clark/www.OffWingPhoto.com)

For more news please visit our some of our friendly DC United blogs:

Santino Quaranta
WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 13: Santino Quaranta #25 of the DC United controls the ball against Dax McCarty #13 of the FC Dallas during a MLS game at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC Septemeber 13, 2008. (Photo by Allen Clark/www.OffWingPhoto.com)

As always, if you are a blogger and would like to use our photographs please contact us.

(more…)

 
July 13th, 2008

CD Guadalajara Outshines DC United

Here are a few shots from DC United’s losing effort against CD Guadalajara. We will be posting up more a little later today. Last night’s game was the 2008 SuperLiga opener, United lost to CD Guadalajar 1 – 2.

RFK stadium lost power in half the stadium last night during play. The outage delayed play while the lights had to reset themselves and come back on. This provided an opportunity for some photos that would typically have to be staged or “Photoshopped.”

Gonzalo Martinez

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 12: Gonzalo Martinez #23 of the DC United stretches in the dark after half of the stadium lost power during a SuperLiga game against CD Guadalajara at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC July 12, 2008. (Photo by Allen Clark/www.OffWingPhoto.com)

We will have more coverage of this game posted later today. If you are interested you can also check out OffWing Photo, where we also have more pictures from the game. You can also see more photos from the event by visiting our complete photographic game coverage on our Flickr site.

Goalie Zach Wells

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 12: Goalie Zach Wells #1 of the DC United misses the ball during a SuperLiga game against a CD Guadalajara at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC July 12, 2008. (Photo by Allen Clark/www.OffWingPhoto.com)

As always, if you are a blogger and would like to use our photographs please contact us.

 
April 27th, 2008

United Cruises To Victory Over Real Salt Lake, 4-1

For more on the United’s victory check out our coverage on OffWing Photo.

 
April 9th, 2008

Decisive Decisions

If DC United wants to win their tie tonight with Pachuca they are going to need to make more decisive decisions in the offensive third. DC united must win tonight if they want to advance in the CONCACAF Champions Cup. I am beginning to believe Pachuca stands for players who fall down hurt after every challenge. The hometown boys are keeping pretty good possession in the first half, but hesitation on runs and shooting has seen the score sheet remain 0-0. To pull the game out in the second half Gallardo is going to have to take control of the midfield and get his wings running. I hope Soehn has told Emilio to stop missing sitters and remind him he is a goal scorer. The good news for DC is that Pachuca scored both of theirs in the first leg in the second have.

Final thoughts after the final whistle.

(more…)

 
April 6th, 2008

D.C. United vs Toronto F.C.

DC United hosted Toronto FC tonight at RFK Stadium. The Nationals got a new stadium and left so good riddance to their pitching mound messing up the grass. The nice thing about this game is that the team names make sense, you feel like you are watching a football match (I am talking to you Fusion vs Mutiny). Hopefully they won

 
April 5th, 2008

DC United v. Toronto FC (Second Half)

Gallardo_2a_20080405.jpg

Photo by Ellen Blanchard

More photos after the jump plus be sure to check out more pictures from tonight’s game on our flickr page and also our Photoshelter account

(more…)

 
April 5th, 2008

DC United v. Toronto FC (1st Half)

Barra Brava_1a_20080405.jpg

Photo by Ellen Blanchard

More photos after the jump plus be sure to check out more pictures from tonight’s game on our flickr page and also our Photoshelter account

(more…)

 
November 10th, 2007

Arkansas Bends Under Pressure Of Photo Policy

Drop by OffWing Photo to get the latest news on Arkansas Activities Association’s (AAA) rule that they own the copyright to all media (photo, video, audio) taken at state championships and to charge fees ranging from $35-$50 for press credentials to events. This policy as written would also apply to parents and fans taking pictures in the stands.The AAA is the sponsoring organization of championship games for public and private schools in Arkansas.

Check out the latest photos from OffWing photographers by visiting our Photoshelter gallery.

Also stop by our new sister website OffWing Photo where we focus on photography, especially sports photography.

 
October 13th, 2007

D.C. United vs Chicago Fire

A crisp fall evening brings two former MLS Cup winners together tonight. RFK’s parking lot is filled with soccer balls, grill smoke and the “occasional” adult beverage. I think all DC United fans would love for the team to have their own intimate stadium, but I can not help but wonder if people will miss the open spaces and ample parking available to them at RFK.

(more…)

 
September 27th, 2007

Solo Speaks Up About Being Benched

The most controversial story coming out of the U.S. women’s 4-0 loss to Brazil in the World Cup semis was coach Greg Ryan’s decision to bench goalie Hope Solo in favor of veteran Briana Scurry. Hope was 4 and 0 coming into the match with 3 shutouts, but Ryan felt Scurry’s 12-0 past record against Brazil was enough to give her the start.

In the end their loss has made people question Ryan’s decision, and no one was more vocal than Solo. “It was the wrong decision, and anyone who knows anything about the game knows that,” Solo said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that I would have made those saves.”

While it may not have been the best idea to speak ill of her coach and teammate, it was refreshing to see Solo speak her mind on the matter. Much like Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s outburst probably wasn’t the best way to handle the situation, it was impressive to see him so strongly defend his players. Hope Solo voiced her opinion about what happened, instead of giving some cookie cutter comments about how the team played well and gave it their all. Her response wasn’t politally correct, and it was a nice change. It might not have been handled in the manner it should have, and was a little selfish, but it also took a lot to step up and speak her mind and express how she felt.

 
September 11th, 2007

Remember Sunday?

Do you remember where you were two days ago?

I do and I have the pictures to prove it. Sunday I had the opportunity to see the DC United come out strong against the New England Revolution, winning it 4-2.

Here is Emilio following his tying goal after United was down 2-1 early in the second half.


WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 9: Luciano Emilio #11 of the Washington DC United celebrates following his goal against Matt Reis #1 of the New England Revolution at RFK Stadium in Washginton, DC September 9, 2007. (Photo by Allen Clark/OffWing)


WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 9: Marc Burch #4 of the Washington DC United heads the ball during a soccer game with the New England Revolution at RFK Stadium in Washginton, DC September 9, 2007. (Photo by Allen Clark/OffWing)

There are more photos from where these came from (total of 14), see more photos from the game and other events OffWing has covered by visiting our online gallery.

 
August 30th, 2007

Healing Anthems

Liverpool FC vs. Everton FC is a rivalry that divides the City of Liverpool and sometimes even families. It is more intense than any Yankees / Redsox or Redskins / Cowboys game. However sometimes the passion of fans is directed in the right direction. Rhys Jones Story.

“The theme from Z Cars

 
August 13th, 2007

Beckham Bad for Business?

Ever since the news broke earlier this summer that David Beckham had signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy for a reported 250 million over 5 years, he has been hyped as the man to bring soccer into the U.S. mainstream. Many people in LA hoped to see “Beckham transforming the Galaxy and American soccer in the same way that Wayne Gretzky transformed the LA Kings and US ice hockey in 1988.”

But through his first 7 matches he hasn’t done a whole lot of anything, and it’s begun to upset a lot of fans. Over at CNBC.com Sports Biz’ Darren Rovell is beginning to wonder if the MLS and soccer in the US will end up worse off with the addition of Becks.

Here are the stats everyone now knows on Beckham’s first seven games. He’s only been on the field for 33 out of a possible 630 minutes, or 5.24 percent of the time.

That’s surely angered those who have sampled soccer through Beckham, whether it was the people that went to games or some of the record 1.5 million people that tuned into ESPN’s broadcast of Beckham’s debut that was promoted to the hilt only to see Beckham trot out for a promotional 12 minutes.

For those who have “seen” him in person, it’s undoubtedly worse. They go to a game, buy a Beckham jersey and in some cases — like the folks in New England who didn’t see him play –have bought a four-pack of tickets just to see this game and then he doesn’t show up. The buy-four-for-one package most recently happened with LeBron James during his rookie season when he went on the road. The difference is that LeBron played in these cities. He played in 79 of 82 games that year.

Last week in DC it was clear that many fans were upset with the result of seeing Beckham play a whopping 21 minutes at the end of the match. Just ask Bobby Boswell what he thought of the way ESPN handled things. And the third largest stand-alone attendance in New England Revolution history saw Becks spend the entire game on the bench. “The mass exodus with 10 minutes remaining spoke volumes about the interest in soccer vs. the interest in celebrity.”

While Beckham’s lack of ability to play in his much-hyped matches can be begrudgingly attributed to an unfortunate ankle injury, Rovell also noticed something odd with the ticket sales for Beckham matches.

The sneaky behind-the-scenes story with the Galaxy is that, although there is never a guarantee that a player will play in a game, they put a “Beckham might not play” disclaimer on their Ticketmaster site for all their games, before he even came over to play, leading me to believe that they knew exactly what they were selling to fans. As far as I know, no team in the history of sports has ever gone out of their way to put such a disclaimer on a ticketing site.

So the MLS, ESPN, and Los Angeles Galaxy promote matches where the great David Beckham will be playing, then fit in a disclaimer that he might not actually play. His ankle injury, which occurred on June 6th and was re-injured in his last game for Madrid, didn’t come to light for most American fans until after they had already bought tickets to his matches. Says FoxSoccer.com’s Nick Webster;

I think we

 
August 13th, 2007

More Advice for ESPN From Bobby Boswell

Following up on his interview with Dan Steinberg the other night, D.C. United’s Bobby Boswell had some further advice for the folks in Bristol:

Example: On SportsCenter on Friday they said Beck Ham

 
August 10th, 2007

Bobby Boswell Lays The Smack Down On BSPN

Dan Steinberg was out at the D.C. United training facility today to talk to the players and get some more reaction to the Beckham extravaganza, and he wound up getting an earful from D.C. United defender Bobby Boswell on the way ESPN — or BSPN — handled the event:

“I’ll tell you what [makes me mad],” he said. “If you watch SportsCenter today they were showing [highlights]. It was an ESPN-covered game. You would think they would show the highlights of the game, but the highlights were when Beckham warmed up, when he went in, a free kick…and then they just show him kind of after the game.

“And my whole point is, the goal was an exciting shot, there’s a red card, there’s a dirty foul: that’s cool. There’s a lot of chances. How do you just show him and they say, ‘Oh, they lost 1-0.’ What did anyone get out of that, you know what I mean?

[...]

I watched Chelsea when they played L.A.; I don’t care about him taking his shoe off. I am absolutely baffled how Eric Wynalda–guys that have played the game–are just riding this thing like they don’t give a damn. It just baffles me. It’s a shame, man. That’s not going to do soccer any good in this country, to have stuff like that.

As we’ve already seen, ESPN isn’t really about sports anymore, just the way MTV isn’t about music anymore. Remember, ESPN is about, “Who’s Now” and whatever they have to do to maximize the value of their broadcast properties.

When anyone connected to the NHL talks about the “WWL” disrespecting the sport, this is what they’re talking about.

UPDATE: After last night’s game, I chatted up Aaron Stollar and Dave Lifton of Screaming Eagles about the circus last night, what it means for MLS and more than a little bit about D.C. United and their prospects for the rest of the season.

Oh, one other thing: Neither Dave nor Aaron think Landon Donovan will be in a Los Angeles uniform next season.


Stollar and Lifton, August 9, 2007
Uploaded by emcerlain

Don’t forget, I’ve got three other clips over at AOL Video from last night:

Outside RFK Stadium at David Beckham’s Debut
David Beckham Press Conference
A Transatlantic Flight to See David Beckham

SATURDAY UPDATE: Dave writes in with some notes on the Donovan situation:

The reason for Donovan leaving is because, under the Designated Player rule, every MLS player who was already making over $400,000 would, in 2008, become a Designated Player. There’s an exemption for this year, so Donovan, Ruiz, Johnson, Mathis, and one or two others will become DPs next year.

Every team started off this season with one DP. You can trade them, but you can’t have more than two. So, in order for LA to keep Donovan, they will need to trade for a second DP slot, and they don’t have anybody else worthy. Therefore, he has to go, and San Jose is the natural option.

But if LA manages to get another DP, they’ll be even worse. Under the rule, $400,000 counts towards the $2.4 million cap, so if you have two DPs, you’ve got 1/3 of your total salary being used on two players. As it is, they only have 24 players on a 28-man roster. But hey, they’re the superclub, right?

Right.

 
July 5th, 2007

Do The Galaxy Know Something We Don’t?

For a number of months now, Soccer fans all across the U.S. have been buzzing at the prospect of David Beckham’s imminent debut with the LA Galaxy of MLS. But if you’ve already put down cash expecting to see Beckham once he hits North America, you might be in for a rude surprise.

Buried inside a Darren Rovell column on Tiger Woods’ failure to show up for a golf tournament in Michigan — and like most sensible folks I’m willing to give Woods a break for skipping it to be present for the birth of his first baby — is an aside that should have soccer fans thinking twice:

I wonder if anyone who bought tickets to the Buick Open this weekend could claim they bought it because of this ad from weeks ago and try to get their money back. It features Tiger Woods and Woods isn

 
June 27th, 2007

Landon Donovan: Star Of The Gringos

Here’s a screenshot of Landon Donovan being interviewed on Univision following Sunday’s 2-1 defeat of Mexico in the Gold Cup Final:

gringographic.jpg

For those of you wondering what “Estrella De Equipo Gringo” means, it’s roughly “Star of the Gringo team”.

Does anyone remember how we were all told that “Houston 1836” was offensive to Mexicans? I didn’t think so. Funny how that’s turning into a one-way street.

Thanks to Big Soccer, Brian Cook and With Leather for the links. And I think With Leather has the right idea — it’s time to start embracing this “Gringo” thing when it comes to the U.S. Men’s National Team.

UPDATE: Sideline Views says the Mexican locker room may be imploding in the wake of the Gold Cup loss. Cry me a river …

For a look at the postgame celebration, click here.

 
June 27th, 2007

Female Reporter Manhandled In Crew Locker Room

Andrea Canales writes for a variety of Soccer publications and even has a blog of her own. Over the weekend while trying to do her job in the Columbus Crew locker room … Just read it, I’ll be here when you get back.

Tap, tap, tap.

I’ve worked plenty of D.C. United matches this year, and done it side by side with more than a few female reporters. That an incident like this would happen in 2007 is unacceptable. For some reason, though plenty of blogs have covered this, it hasn’t broken big in the MSM. I hope it does soon.

Thanks to D.C. Sports Chick for the pointer.

CORRECTION: The incident actually took place in the Columbus Crew locker room.

UPDATE: I asked Andrea if anyone at MLS or the Crew had said anything to her about the incident. Here’s the response:

Yes, they have, actually. The funny thing is that MLS is really a very media friendly league. There are hardly any primadona players who refuse interviews, for example. I’ve been contacted by league officials and even the commissioner now knows about the situation.

The Crew press people were very apologetic and at the same time, perplexed when they called me, because they said Marcos is a really nice guy, and that there have been women reporters in the Crew locker room before – at least once, they said, and he didn’t seem to have a problem.

But they weren’t trying to excuse it, and they said they’d talk to him and the entire team as well.

Really, I’m less concerned about an apology than I am about it just not happening again.

And the congregation said, amen.

 
March 29th, 2007

The Bobby Boswell Web Launch Party

I missed the launch party for Bobby Boswell.com (even though I RSVP’d), but Dan Steinberg and the D.C. Sports Bog crew didn’t:

If you watch carefully, you’ll see our friend Liz Chang made the cut.

 
March 15th, 2007

Match Night In Washington: D.C. United vs. Chivas Guadalajara

The second step in Off Wing’s season-long journey into the life and times of Washington’s soccer team, D.C. United, takes place tonight as the Red and Black host one of the giants of Mexican soccer, Chivas Guadalajara, in the first leg of a CONCACAF Champions Cup draw.

Tonight I’ll be in the box, Ellen Blanchard will be on the sidelines with the camera and Kris Herrell will be in the stands with the Screaming Eagles. With some luck, we ought to be able to get some video footage tonight as well.

For all of your match preview reading, see The DCenters, DCUnited.COM, Ian Penderleith, Washington Post, Washington Times, The Offside: DC United, UnitedMania, DCist

With the weather as nice as it is right now, I’m expecting a huge walk-up crowd for tonight’s match. D at The DCenters is predicting a big turnout from fans of Chivas, as this may very well be their only East Coast appearance in a long time. Expect a noisy and raucous crowd, one far larger than the one that showed up at RFK earlier this month for the second leg of the draw with CD Olimpia.

I’ll have more from the press box when I arrive at the stadium.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY… To D.C. United defender Bobby Boswell. He’s 24, and looks to have a sense of humor:

Be sure to check out the Web site too.

GREETINGS FROM RFK: As I trudge through the stadium parking lot on my way to the press box, I couldn’t stifle a chuckle. How could it have possibly happened that D.C. United would once again have the good fortune to be playing a side from Guadalajara (currently 84 degrees and sunny) in the midst of a full-blown late Winter storm?

Right now the rain is coming down pretty hard and the temperature is 48 degrees and dropping. If this keeps up, we ought to have a nice, sloppy field in time for the second half.

Some other notes: Brian Carroll has been called up to the U.S. Men’s National Team Training Camp:

U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach Bob Bradley has named his training camp roster in preparation for the team’s March 25 and March 28 friendlies versus Ecuador and Guatemala, respectively. D.C. United midfielder Brian Carroll has been called in alongside 10 other domestic players and 13 who ply their trade abroad. He will be available for selection in United’s return leg against CD Guadalajara on April 3 in the semifinal round of the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup.

The team also announced a pair of signings:

D.C. United announced that the team has signed goalkeeper Shawn Crowe and forward Brad North to developmental contracts. Crowe, a three-year starter at Florida International University, was D.C. United’s first pick in the 2007 MLS Supplemental Draft and the 11th overall. North was taken in the second round (24th overall) of the 2007 MLS SuperDraft after four successful years at Northwestern University.

For those of you wondering, indeed, Crowe did play with Boswell at Florida International.

Back to the pitch tonight: Ben Olsen, Jamie Moreno and Bryan Namoff were all yellow-carded in the previous series against C.D. Olimpia. One more card for any of them and they’ll sit out a one match suspension.

There are plenty of Chivas supporters in the house tonight, and they’re making their presence felt already. We’re still better than 30 minutes away from kickoff and they’re already in full throat.

Then again, while United is already on the pitch and warming up in a driving rain, Chivas is nowhere to be seen. Not a good sign.

Are Chivas the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of Mexican Football? I guess we’ll find out.

FINAL UPDATE: With things looking as grim as the weather, Olsen draws a foul at the edge of the penalty area giving Gomez a free kick. One Emilio Luciano header later, and the game is tied 1-1 in the 91st minute. More thoughts by mid-day tomorrow.

 
March 9th, 2007

The Last Second Soccer Goal

This video is getting all sorts of play on Digg:

Please hold any discussion of stoppage time, etc.

 
March 2nd, 2007

At RFK With D.C. United

By the time I had reached the top of the escalator at the Stadium-Armory Metro stop on my way to D.C. United’s CONCACAF Champions Cup match with C.D. Olimpia of Honduras last night, the first drops of a cold rain had begun to fall on Washington. It was all too appropriate for a night out on the town with D.C. United, a sports franchise that I will always associate with horrible weather and first class results.

I’m talking about watching them win their first title in a miserable Winter monsoon in Foxboro; enduring the first cold snap of the Fall to see them beat New England in the thrilling 2004 Eastern Conference Final, what some have come to call the greatest match in MLS history; and my first Soccer match ever at RFK, the 1997 MLS Cup Final when 50,000+ fans showed up in a driving rain to see Washington play Colorado for the title.

Everybody showed up, and though the weather was miserable that night too, nobody left before the final whistle. Everyone stood and sang for the full 90, and their persistence was rewarded with United’s second consecutive championship.

In short, it was everything that American Soccer could be, and it bonded me permanently to United and the beautiful game, completing a process that had been creeping up on me since childhood. Somehow, despite the fact that I grew up as the son of a son of Glasgow and grew up in the shadow of the greatest team in the North American Soccer League, the Cosmos, I never played organized Soccer as a child, and didn’t pay much attention to the game until I was an adult.

But the 1994 World Cup changed all that. After just one match between Mexico and Norway at RFK, I started to surrender to my inner soccer monkey. A few weeks later in the evening after work, I was out playing pickup games with college friends on an improvised pitch on a lawn in front of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, eventually turning myself into a semi-respectable recreational goalkeeper. I can still remember feeling disappointed when MLS announced that it was going to delay its launch until 1996. Didn’t they know I wanted them on the pitch right now?

Luckily for me, one of the charter franchises would be right here in Washington. Like a lot of American transplants, I carry a divided set of sports loyalties. In baseball, I’ll never give up on the New York Mets and always look forward to their visits to Washington when they seem to bring a little bit of Queens with them every time. In football, I maintain an uneasy balance between the Jets, who still have a hold on my heart, and the Ravens, who have a hold on my wallet. In hockey, I made a clean break from the Islanders to the Caps during the 1998 run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

But with D.C. United, the relationship is pure and a whole lot less problematic. By the time MLS made its debut, I had already lived in Washington for 11 years and there was little doubt where my loyalties would lie. The Cosmos were long gone, and there would be no Metrostars for me. Toss in the fact that United’s original head coach, Bruce Arena, grew up about 10 minutes from me back on Long Island, and I was ready.

And in return for my loyalty, United has delivered. Save for a brief period that marked the fall of head coach Thomas Rongen and the well-intentioned but ill-fated tenure of head coach Ray Hudson, United just wins and keeps on winning. Two straight titles to start, and four overall — the latest in 2004 — along with a handful of other domestic and regional championships.

But for a team that was just one win away from another appearance in the title game, this was a rather tumultuous offseason. Despite the fact that United might have won the Supporter’s Shield for finishing first overall in the regular season, this is still an American sports league where the playoffs are all that matters. And while the team jumped out to a huge lead in the standings by the halfway point, the second half of the season was a tad more problematic, especially when it came to finishing around the net — something that was never more apparent than when the team dominated the run of play against the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference Final, yet still managed to lose, 1-0.

The result: Say goodbye to head coach Peter Nowak (replaced by United assistant Tom Soehn) who led the team to that 2004 title, but decided to seek greener pastures as an assistant with the U.S. Men’s National Team. Teen wonder Freddie Adu, who had spent much of his tenure with the team as an antagonist of Nowak’s, was unceremoniously shipped out of town, along with the goalkeeper from the 2004 title team, Nick Rimando. And finally, fan favorite but oft-injured Alecko Eskandarian will now be plying his trade North of the border with expansion franchise FC Toronto.

So what should we expect from United this year? Well, in the words of Screaming Eagles correspondent Aaron stollar, who I sat with in the press box last night, perhaps the best team in the history of the franchise.

The reason is all up front. Joining United this season from the same C.D. Olimpia team it played last night is 28-year old Brazilian forward Luciano Emilio, the man who is going to have the duty and sheer joy of capitalizing on all of the balls he’s going to be fed from Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez. In about four and a half seasons in Honduras, Emilio won three scoring titles, including scoring eight goals in seven games in the Central American club championship.

In the first leg against Olimpia in Honduras, United won easily 4-1. With all the pressure off at home last night, the team contained an early surge by Olimpia and limited the visitors to just one goal in the first half, eventually settling in for a 3-2 victory, 7-3 on aggregate.

In the two games against Olimpia, United scored seven times, with Emilio accounting for three of those scores. In the postgame press conference, Emilio admitted that it was hard to tap into his “killer instinct” when playing against his former club, which led me to wonder: If Emilio could score three goals in two games before his killer instinct kicked in, what might he do once it started to flex its muscles?

His teammates are already sensing that something special might be in the offing for the rest of the season.

Ben_Olsen_01_2007_03_01.jpg
Photo by Ellen Blanchard

Ben Olsen has a good feeling about 2007.

“The addition of Emilio has me quietly very excited about this,” said long-time United midfielder Ben Olsen after the game. “They obviously have some guys they’re looking to get to get us deeper, but we’re excited and we’re off to a good start and we have to make sure that when we get chances against the big teams that we make something happen.”

That next chance will come on March 15, when CD Chivas Guadalajara, arguably the most popular side in Mexican soccer, will visit RFK for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions Cup semi-final. It’ll be a real test for United that’s sure to draw plenty of Chivas supporters from hundreds of miles away.

As for the rest of the MLS, if early indications are predictive of future success, I’ll just say this: Same old United. Same old stormy weather.

 
March 2nd, 2007

DC United vs. CD Olimpia (Game Photos)

Well as Eric mentioned tonight was a night of firsts — the first night that Off Wing had two teams covering two different sports and the first night Off Wing used their press credentials at DC United. So without further adieu lets see how the game looked:

Winning Goal — Scored by Luciano Emilio

Luciano_Emilio_01_2007_03_01.jpg

Photo by Ellen Blanchard

More Photos after the Jump — Also be sure to check out even more shots from tonights game at the Off Wing Flickr Album

(more…)

 
January 26th, 2007

Glasgow Celtic To Play MLS All-Stars

MLS announced yesterday that the 2007 All-Star Game will be played in Denver, where a group of the league’s best players will take on Glasgow Celtic.

Here’s hoping Glasgow Celtic returns to America better prepared than last time. Or perhaps MLS is counting on them not to?

 
January 11th, 2007

David Beckham Comes To America

What folks have expected for so long has finally come to pass, as David Beckham has signed an enormous contract to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy in MLS. My friend D over at DCenters is having a hard time caring:

I just don’t feel much at all. It’s sort of like Dice-K signing with the Red Sox. It’s a big deal for some, especially Boston fans, but I don’t feel like it significantly impacts the team I support. I’m sure AEG will make its money back on this. I think Beckham makes them better. I’m sure this brings all sorts of attention to MLS… and yet I just don’t care. What’s wrong with me?

I was curiously unmoved as well. I’m old enough to remember what it was like when Pele came to the Cosmos in the old North American Soccer League, and the effect of signing an international star, both on and off the field, will be considerably less significant this time around.

Think about it: Back when Pele joined the Cosmos at the end of his career, the talent gap between him and the rest of the league was enormous — and his impact on the game simply earth-shaking. It wasn’t just that he was the best player in the league, it was that he was the best by several orders of magnitude.

But Beckham is walking into an America that’s 30 years more mature when it comes to producing talent on the pitch, and the gap between him and the rest of MLS is significantly thinner than it was between Pele and the heart of the NASL. Sure, we’ll “ooh” and “aah” from time to time, but he won’t dominate play to anywhere near the extent that Pele did back in the day.

What MLS is providing Beckham is the prospect of one last immense pay day, and perhaps a way to establish himself in America for the rest of his life — a place where he’ll never be hounded the way he is everywhere else on earth, even if he were to pot 40+ goals a season in MLS.

Given all of the other marketing opportunities that Beckham will open up, I’m sure that Phil Anschutz will find a way to make back the $1 million per week he’ll be dropping on Beckham. But will it put MLS on the map and make it a major sport? While I’m sure I’ll find my way to RFK when the Galaxy come to town next season, something tells me the rest of America will shrug its shoulders and move on without taking much notice at all.