ten words or less #109

While things on the writing front haven’t completely picked back up yet — I’ve had a few original pieces pop out of my brain recently — things on the design front have really picked up a bit. In addition to the recently announced Saints Matchday Poster project eating up gobs of my time, there’s also been work on the Women’s World Cup front too with at least one new shirt design and a Canada 2015 wall chart in progress too. So while I’m stoked to be working on all of that stuff, I wanted to apologize for the continued low output on the written side of things.

And as I normally do in these situations, I’ll attempt to bribe you to stick around a bit longer with some of my favorite links from the last week or so in the world of football. It’s working, right?

Other people think we’re worth following on Twitter! – northernpitch.com

Struggling with the end of the season? Here’s why. – theguardian.com

Heineken’s brilliant way to “watch” football at work. – docs.google.com

Serie A needs to do something to increase interest again. – football-italia.net

In case you wondered, “urban” USMNT looks like this. –  hypebeast.com

So far, exploding the Red Bulls front office has worked. – si.com

Ohhhhh… so it’s their fault you bit them. Got it.  – dirtytackle.net

“Brilliant arrogance” defined. – telegraph.co.uk

Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!! – prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com

Are Portland Thorns the first “real” club in women’s football? – theguardian.com

all hands on deck

If you hadn’t noticed, we’re currently at a pretty busy point in the annual professional world soccer calendar.

The European leagues are wrapping up, with Champions soon to be crowned, those doomed to relegation set go down, and various promotion processes all around. The UEFA Champions League semifinalists will be set after today’s final quarterfinal match ups, and by June 6th we’ll know the Kings of Europe. Latin American leagues are now in full swing. International breaks sporadically dot the calendar too, offering friendlies and qualifiers alike.

And that’s just all of the stuff going down abroad. Domestically, the top three tiers of the American soccer pyramid are now in action. The fourth division will start within the next month. US Open Cup kicks off in the next few weeks, too. And for the most part, things are going really, really well. Average attendance is up in all three top leagues, expansion sides are making a huge splash, and TV viewership numbers are up as well. Plus, the USSF is actually paying attention to their own FA Cup for once — hooray!

But even with all of that progress, there’s still work to be done. Compared to the other “big four” sports leagues, attendance isn’t near as steady in our professional soccer leagues. And on the TV front, non-World Cup games still pale in comparison. All that considered, and it’s easy to say we’re clearly still in a transitional stage from fringe to popular sport.

So what am I getting at?

I’ve written before about how it’s on us — the American soccer fan — to drag this sport to where we want it to be. If we want American soccer to succeed, to gain mainstream acceptance, we need to do everything we can to promote the game to those who aren’t yet indoctrinated. Drag people to games in person and at pubs, promise them a beer if that’s what a takes.

And as it turns out, tonight is one of those nights where we need you to do some promotion with us.

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breaking new ground

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WSOTP - Blog - Louisville City Opener.fwGoing into the 2015 season, there was a lot of buzz about a new American soccer team being forced to play in a facility that didn’t exactly suit their needs.

Soccer — after a decade of preaching that soccer specific stadiums was the way forward for the professional game here — would be returning to the baseball diamond for competitive matches once again, and there have predictably been calls for concerns on both sides of the equation.

Baseball stadiums, of course, aren’t really built with soccer in mind. They’re rarely long enough for a standard sized pitch and are just as likely to offer insufficient width at the length they can offer. And while some fans are fairly close to the action, usually down one of the baselines, others — like much of the outfield and behind home plate — are really far away from much of the action. And that’s not even dealing with the need to develop a feasible method for dealing with the infield. Playing on the dirt isn’t an option, and the pitcher’s mound has to be moved in some fashion.

All of that is just from the soccer perspective. Think of what how baseball teams feel about sharing their field.

A player’s need for a clean, perfect playing surface is nearly equal between soccer and baseball, and for the seam reasons too. Imperfections in the surface can drastically affect the direction a ground ball or pass will take. And a season of soccer does arguably chew up the turf far more than your average season of baseball would, even though there are normally three to four times the number of home baseball dates per season than there are soccer ones. And speaking of scheduling games, finding a way to fit soccer into the already packed baseball season schedule can be an arduous task, too.

Now to be fair, those issues alone are more than enough motivation for a club to go looking for a more suitable home. And luckily, the baseball stadium solution has been deemed a temporary one.

If you’re nodding along thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ve heard about all of this New York City FC playing at Yankee Stadium mumbo jumbo before”… hold your horses, just a minute. I’m not talking about NYCFC.

I’m talking about Louisville City FC.

You know: the other, other City team that’s new to American soccer this year.

It’s a little confusing, so hang with me here. Louisville City FC wear purple, white and gold just like the other new City, Orlando City SC. And technically, Louisville City took over Orlando City’s franchise rights in the third division USL when Orlando City moved up to MLS this season. Further muddying the waters is the fact that there are further ties between the clubs, including Orlando City using Louisville City as their MLS-mandated minor league affiliate in USL this season. 

So now that we’ve caught you up to speed, many were not aware that the maiden voyage for Louisville City FC is taking place in a baseball stadium much like New York City FC.

But unlike NYCFC — who are playing at arguably the most famous stadium in all of baseball —  the new USL club are setting up shop at Louisville Slugger Field. For those not familiar with it, it’s the home of the Louisville Bats, the AAA minor league affiliate for the Cincinnati Reds.

I’ve had the privilege of taking in a baseball game at Louisville Slugger Field before — I lived in Louisville for two years, which is also when I founded this site — and it’s a fabulous, intimate, little stadium. The 13,000-seater stadium is a far cry from the cavernous 49,642-seat stadium the new New York team calls home in the Bronx, but still features many of the modern comforts we’ve grown accustomed too without losing its cozy feel. It’s in a great spot in Louisville, with easy access to ample food and entertainment options. And it’s easily accessible… well, it will be once the famed “Spaghetti Junction” of I-71, I-64 and I-65 is finally no longer under construction.

When it was first announced that Louisville might get a team at Slugger Field, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad home ground. So long as it was only a temporary one, that is.

But just the same, the concerns voiced about NYCFC’s use of Yankee Stadium were concerns that I shared about this arrangement, too. And just like the Yankees stars that voiced their own apprehensions about a ground-share agreement, the Bats have voiced their worries, too.

However, none of those concerns proved strong enough to deter Louisville being selected as the landing spot for Orlando’s former USL franchise, and plans proceeded forward with Slugger Field being the eventual home of the club.

So how did the opening day go, at least for the soccer club that is?

Pondcast co-host Jeremy and I made the 125-mile trip down I-71 from Cincinnati to catch the game against fellow USL debutant Saint Louis FC, and I can say with 100% confidence that it went “pretty damn well”.

First off, full credit must be given to the supporters for making opening day for soccer in Louisville the success that it was. Announced attendance stood at an impressive 6067. Although an extremely beautiful looking game with clear, sunny skies, the temperatures hovered in the low 50’s in the sun and a chilling wind blew across the length of the pitch. So it’s possible the weather kept that number from climbing higher than it already was.

The Louisville Coopers — a supporters group that predated the decision to give Louisville the USL franchise — were out in full force, numbering in the hundreds. Sat behind the third baseline goal, they chanted loudly, waved flags and bellowed dark purple smoke. They were further aided by a 80-member-strong contingent from St. Louis, a similarly founded supporters group that goes by the name of St. Louligans. Together, they injected a special buzz and energy that could be felt throughout the crowd.

For the home side at least, that crowd energy filtered down onto the pitch. Though Saint Louis FC looked sharp in the opening half, they never really troubled the home side’s goal. And thanks to a pair of goals on either side of halftime, City sealed the victory in their first ever match with emphatic, backheel-assisted, curling winner from 20-year-old Brit, Charlie Adams.

Did any of my or anyone else’s fears about the surface and small size of pitch play a role at all?

The pitch was certainly small; my guess is it was no more than 105 yards long and 70 yards wide. However, play didn’t look overly rushed or too crowded. So the impact there was minimal, but no different from other small pitches around the country. The surface obstacles, however, seemed a bigger concern.

The largest of those was the pitcher’s mound, which was modified prior to the start of the season to be lowered into the ground and covered with a smooth surface. It falls just outside the third base line penalty area, and is slightly raised when compared against the grass around it. I watched it like a hawk throughout the match, and didn’t once notice it interfering with play. The rest of the infield was surprisingly covered with old-school, traditional Astroturf. It looked decent enough from a distance, and didn’t seem to affect play either. I even pressed man-of-the-match Charlie Adams and Louisville manager James O’Connor after the match to see if either thought the field surface or smaller pitch size was a factor in the game, and both believed it wasn’t.

With a clear win in the stands and a win on the pitch, it’s hard to declare the inaugural professional soccer match in Louisville anything other than a success.

So where exactly does that leave my thoughts on playing in a baseball park?

Much like what we saw with New York City’s debut at Yankee Stadium a few weeks before, it seems that the venue is what the fans and clubs make of it. If you can fill it with impassioned supporters and put a decent product on the field, the limitations of the facility will be minimized. Sure, neither wants (or can) live there forever. But it will do for now.

What’s more important, particularly in the case in Louisville, is that new ground is being broken. There’s never been professional soccer in Kentucky before. Ever.

And even though the home that professional soccer plays out in isn’t ideal, I’m pretty sure the fans in Kentucky will take less than ideal over nothing at all.

ten words or less #107

The process I follow when collecting the links I use for these Ten Words or Less posts, the first one is normally saved as a draft within hours of the previous edition going up. Sometimes, others are added to it quickly and we have to rush this out faster than I had planned for. Other times, it takes a while to accumulate them and I fend up filling the links below up with fluff. You tell me which scenario this edition is after hitting up the links below.

Even legends lose their cool. – gfycat.com

Can’t wait to get Marcelo Claure together with Vincent Tan. – longform.org (via Howler)

Fan burnout is real. – wsc.co.uk

Great idea that will never happen: US boycotts Qatar 2022. – deadspin.com

Dope design runs deep in football. – 8by8mag.com

How do you say “moneyball” in Dutch? – theguardian.com

A winter MLS schedule isn’t just stupid because of weather. – americansoccernow.com

That other Bradley’s excellent look at the current US landscape. – jeffbradleyblog.blogspot.com

Excellent soccer blogging. – farpostfooty.com

Poor journalism aside, there’s still some truths in here. – fusion.net

ten words or less #105

WSOTP - Blog - Derby Saturday 2015.fw

You might have noticed the slight uptick in activity on the site over the last week, with four new posts going up. That’s not that busy, but it is when compared to the previous few barren weeks that preceded it. Things have finally slowed down a bit at work after the turn of the new year, and my now 13-month-old daughter has become slightly more self-sufficient. As such, I finally have time to write again. Which has been nice.

And honestly, he timing of this slight increase in free-time couldn’t have been any better. A hot-ticket weekend of derbies in Europe — and of course, WSOTP will once again be hosting further watch parties at Cincinnati’s Rhinehaus bar for the North London and Merseyside Derbites this weekend! MLS preseason is also in full-swing now too, meaning the trickling faucet of stories on the domestic front has suddenly morphed into a busted, gushing fire hydrant. I already have a half dozen articles in the works, so hopefully you’ll see the fruits of those labors in the coming days.

In the mean time, be sure to come join us this weekend for the Derby action if you happen to be in Cincinnati. If you’re not, the latest links round up will have to suffice.

Me, every Super Bowl. – foxtrot.com

Well this is awfully crappy of Manchester United. – thesportsbible.com

Why expanding the MLS playoffs is a bad idea. – soccergods.com

Qatar’s World Cup template had a Beta version in handball. – slate.com

The MLSPU’s take on the ongoing collective bargaining agreement talks. – orlandosentinel.com

Someone get me all of these sneakers, please. Thanks. – theoriginalwinger.com

Maybe something is finally brewing in Miami… – miamidade.gov

Watching someone’s greatest moment ever is fun. – vine.co/FilGoal

The story behind Toronto landing Giovinco. – torontosun.com

ten words or less #99

WSOTP - Blog - Winter Is Coming Scarf.fwThe weekend is upon us, and the football will be coming thick and fast. Tomorrow morning we kick things off with a little Liverpool v Chelsea treat and the weekend is capped off off with some MLS Playoff action. And somehow, someway, I have to manage a way to watch as much of it as possible and NOT have my wife divorce me. I just keep reminding her we’re only a few weeks away from the end of the MLS season, and that seems to be working… for now, at least.

Also, a huge FYI. That official WSOTP scarf pictured above that still remains on pre-order? Yeah, we’re dropping the price. They’re now just $18. That’s two whole dollars we’ve lumped off the cost to encourage you to buy one. (If you ordered one earlier, worry not, you’ll be getting some money back.) We’ve also added an options for picking up the scarf from me personally so you don’t have to pay for shipping. And for those who have been concerned that WSOTP is getting rich off of your purchases, all profits go right back into the site — hosting, domain registration, and podcasting equipment isn’t free and has come directly out of my pocket for the last 5 years. So your moneys will be utilized to continue bringing you the wonderful content you’ve come to know and love. Plus it’s getting cold out again, and we want you to stay warm. So click here to buy one, please! 

Once your done with that, feel free to check out some of my favorite links from around the interwebz from the last week and a half.

You should stop laughing at the San Marino national team. – vice.com

Puma had to choose a specific zipper just for Wenger. – youtube.com

So how did we end up with LAFC? – si.com

How did I not know this academy existed? – businessweek.com

Want proof that FIFA and Russia are in cahoots? – reuters.com

So African players are just a commodity? Got it. – soccergods.com

DC’s new stadium most expensive in MLS history? – wjla.com

Gary Neville and I agree: defending is dead. – telegraph.co.uk

A magnificent piece of writing on Manaus’ World Cup. – deadspin.com/howler.com

Now contemplating auctioning my daughter’s support to the highest bidder. – whoateallthepies.tv

pic of the week 8/25-9/1

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Alan Irwin Dildo on Transfer Deadline Day

In the long run, despite a record $1.3 billion spent by English Premier League sides during the summer window, yesterday’s Transfer Deadline Day will ultimately be remembered for the almost incomprehensible amount of loan deals hammered out in the dying hours. But even if most moves were loans, we were still treated to the normal imagery of players holding up their new sides’ and grinning for the cameras for so long that their cheeks begin to ache. Too, we got to once again see Harry Redknapp delivering parking lot interviews and dropping quality soundbites. But the most saturated image we were inundated with on Deadline Day — as it has been every year since Sky Sports started ramming it down our throats — is of the grizzled remote reporter standing outside the training ground giving us the minute-by-minute updates on the happenings at clubs around the league.

This season, however, the fans added a little bit more spice to the action. For reasons unknown, the spice added by the fans appeared to be sex toy themed. And in the image above, we see Sky’s Alan Irwin — reporting on Tom Cleverley’s on-again-off-again loan move to Aston Villa — getting a purple “Deadline Day Dildo” in the ear. We’ve got video of it too, just in case you want to take it all in. Elsewhere, a sex doll was tossed at another reporter.

Why sex toys? Who knows. But I laughed on both occasions. Here’s just hoping that supporters continue to up the ante in this January’s window. If they’re in need of ideas in the same genre, perhaps they could hire Wayne Rooney’s famous lady of the night to blow kisses at the camera the entire time.

weight off the shoulders

Tottenham Defender Eric Dier

As a Spurs fan, the last few years have been difficult.

The raised expectations over the last two to three seasons as we’ve watched Spurs try and fail to qualify again for the Champions League has been frustrating. We all got a taste of the good stuff in the 2010/11 quarterfinal run, and ever since then we — the supporters and the club — seem to have settled for nothing less. Two seasons ago, we nearly made it back but missed out thanks to Chelsea pulling off the impossible. The near miss saw Gareth Bale depart for Spain and Champions League glory last season, as we struggled to swallow the initial failure of the whole “selling Elvis to buy The Beatles” experiment.

And while there were some enjoyable moments in those almost-achievements, I have to admit the ride along wasn’t an entirely enjoyable one. It was stressful. Every match seemed do-or-die. Every dropped point seemed to sting a little more than it should.

I know I wasn’t the only one who was feeling it; even the crowd at White Hart Lane seemed to be experiencing the same nervousness. A ground that used to be known for its boisterous support suffered from an anxious hush, finger biting and fans turning on one another when things didn’t play out like any of us would have liked.

It just wasn’t that fun.

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surveying american soccer fandom

After a sizable break during the European close season this summer, save a few special edition live recordings down on Fountain Square for the World Cup, the WSOTP Podcast will be back in action here in a few week’s time. And with a sizable bump in the number of followers we’ve acquired due to the game finally catching a gust of wind here in the States, we thought it would be a good time to figure out just how everyone supports the sport of soccer here in the U, S and A.

As such, my podcast co-host and producer, Jeremy Lance, put together a short survey to give us a good look at the American soccer fan. But for us to really get a clear picture, we need as many of you as possible to fill the thing out. Whether a long-time fan or a relative n00b, we want — no, need — you to fill this thing out.

It shouldn’t take you more than a couple of minutes to complete, and it’s completely anonymous. And we’ll be sharing the results on the first episode of the second season of the podcast, which will be available for your listening pleasure the week before the Premier League season kicks off at the end of August.

So hit the link below, and thanks in advance for your data!

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE “AMERICAN SOCCER FANDOM” SURVEY

your duty as an american soccer fan

Much has been made of the incredible interest in the World Cup here in the United States.

The tournament on the whole averaged 4.5 million viewers over all 64 matches, a 36% increase from the 2010 World Cup four years ago. We also saw records smashed for single game viewership several times: the first was with the US-Portugal group match with 24.7 million, while the second was the Germany-Argentina Final with a total of 26.5 million viewers.

Easily at an all-time high, the continuing upward trend in interest in the tournament and the sport in general has prompted many to ask questions like “Has soccer’s time come in the US?” and “What needs to be done for the sport to continue to grow?”. They’re pertinent questions, and ones that certainly need answering.

And to answer that question, I’ll turn to one of our greatest ever American’s:

“Ask not what soccer can do for you — ask what you can do for soccer.”  
– John F. Kennedy

Okay, so maybe I distorted that statement a little bit. But JFK’s most famous quote is incredibly relevant point when modified to address soccer’s situation in this country.

If we — and I’m talking about the existing fans of soccer in this country — want to continue to see our favorite sport climb in popularity and gain the respect and recognition in the US, it’s on us to make that happen.

Yup, soccer’s eventual success in this country comes down to you and me.

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