in review: MLS jersey week 2014

MLS  Jersey Week 2014 Review

It’s been an odd off season in MLS. Unlike years past where there was a definite lull in the amount of stories and headlines coming out of the league during the winter months leading up to the season, there was a near constant flow of announcements this time around. From Toronto FC’s seismic signings to a twin pair of expansion announcements in Florida, the league taking over a troubled franchise in LA and now preseason friendlies over the last fortnight, it’s just been non-stop.

So with this being the final week before First Kick 2014, that’s meant it was time for the league-mandated kit reveals to fill up our newsfeeds as well. And that, of course, means it’s time too for me to give you the second edition of my reviews of each of the new shirts dropped around MLS.

Looking back at last year’s review, I noticed a few points of interest. First, I was incredibly harsh in my reviews of some of the shirts. Some of the shirts I gave poor marks to grew on me over the season, though a few still fail to impress. Secondly, the actual club reveal events were often the first time we had seen a majority of the 2014 2Jersey Week reveals.

This year, that’s a completely different story.

Of the full nineteen MLS clubs dropping at least one new shirt for the 2014 season, sixteen’s shirts had were leaked before their planned release dates. And though I’ve had an extra full week to form my opinions about how they look this year, I didn’t get the explanation for some of their design decisions ahead of time — not to mention the high resolution pictures needed to truly judge the kits. So I wanted to give the clubs/adidas a chance to explain themselves before I ran them through the ringer.


Houston Dynamo
Location BBVA Compass Stadium
Public Event
Shirt Secondary
Purchase Link Dynamo Team Shop
Grade C
Jersey Week 2013 Primary and Secondary
2013 Grade(s) C and C-

SECONDARY: Click to zoom.

Though I said I’d go easier on my kit ratings this year, how is it that I give a C right out of the gates? For the new away shirt for the Dynamo, it boils down to the lack of change from last year’s 2013 secondary shirt. The orange sleeve panels have made way for an extra stripe of light blue piping at the cuff. A slightly revamped collar also makes an appearance, as does a “lenticular” — or 3D — crest. Overall, there’s nothing wrong with the shirt itself; it just isn’t enough of a change to earn them a better grade. That said, praise should be handed out for the new kit’s stellar hooped socks.

Los Angeles Galaxy
Location Website Launch
Shirt Primary
Purchase Link Team LA Store
Grade A
Jersey Week 2013 Secondary
2013 Grade(s) C

PRIMARY: Click to zoom.

In a lesson that the US soccer federation hasn’t quite learned yet, the Galaxy have wisely stuck with their sashed shirt design. And this year’s striped sash is particularly pleasing. The eleven stripes — meant to represent the XI on the pitch — taper to give the shirt a feeling of positive, upward movement. Plus, the over used “quasar” effect from last year’s shirt designs has been minimized and moved to the inner neck taping, leaving us with a much more clean design. Easily one of my favorites of the bunch.

Portland Timbers
Location Pure Space
Public Event
Shirt Secondary
Purchase Link Portland Team Shop
Grade B
Shirt Third
Grade A
Jersey Week 2013 2Primary and Secondary
2013 Grade(s) C and C-

SECONDARY: Click to zoom.

THIRD: Click to zoom.

For the second year running, the club that Paulson runs dropped two new designs. In fact, Merritt even leaked some teasers of the shirts a few months back over social media — naughty naughty. The secondary kit gets an overhaul just a year after the last refresh, with a two tone, red-to-black gradient design. A closer look shows that a tiny rose-thorn pattern is interlaced in the shirt’s fade and a secondary rose-shaped logo for the jock tag pay subtle hommage to the “Rose City” moniker. But the real gem is the new third kit. An excellent, modernized throwback that hearkens to the team’s NASL days. Classic colors, clean lines, and a simplified logo help this shirt to ooze retro cool. Bonus marks to the Timbers for including smart little infographics explaining the designs of each shirt.

Seattle Sounders
Location Century Link Field Pro Shop
Private Event
Shirt Third
Purchase Link Seattle Pro Shop
Grade B-
Jersey Week 2013 Primary and Secondary
2013 Grade(s) C and C-

THIRD: Click to zoom.

Ever attempting to be at the bleeding edge of MLS branding/marketing/identity, Seattle were the only team to give their new shirt a name: Pitch Black. Admittedly, the black pairs well with the accenting “radiant green” and makes for a strong, bold look. So why not a higher grade? While a good look, there’s just nothing that imaginative about it outside of slick, marketing-friendly color names. Not only that, but it’s not too different from their current second kit. I’m also a bit disappointed they chose to use the radiant green instead of black as the primary colors for the shorts and socks… but who would the Sounders be if they weren’t trying to burn our retinas while watching on TV?


Chicago Fire
Location Hyatt Regency Chicago
Private Event
Shirt Primary
Purchase Link Fire Fan Shop
Grade D
Jersey Week 2013 Did not participate.
2013 Grade(s) n/a

PRIMARY: Click to zoom.

Poor Chicago. Not only were they deprived of a shirt launch during Jersey Week 2013, the long wait for a new home kit this year sees them launch probably the worst one of the bunch. And it earns that distinction for a number of reasons. Firstly, the Fire have a strong traditional design with a red shirt with a white bar across the chest, which has now been ignored two home kits in a row. Instead, the club/adidas chose to build upon the last shirts’s blatant betrayal of the white bar by turning it blue and extending it over the entire top third of the 2014 edition. Secondly, the Fire attempted to explain that the look is a nod to the city’s fire engine’s, but the color scheme is off. If you ask me, it actually looks as if the color template was more of a nod to their sponsor.

Columbus Crew
Location Bar Louie
Private Event
Shirt Primary
Purchase Link Crew Team Shop
Grade B-
Jersey Week 2013 Did not participate
2013 Grade(s) n/a

PRIMARY: Click to zoom.

Another side that didn’t participate in last year’s Jersey Week fun, the Crew decided to add a new primary shirt for 2014. And while it won’t wow you, it’s still a decent enough shirt, even if very basic. The black bands on the sleeves is an odd choice, as it could either make sure everybody on the pitch looks like the captain and/or like a permanent memorial band. That said, the fading diamonds screened into the bottom half of the shirt provide a subtle Bavarian feel to the shirt, which is fitting considering Columbus’ Germanic heritage. But the lack of jock tag or special monikers does hint at the fact that this is simply a holdover shirt until the Crew get their brand makeover in 2015.

Impact Montréal
Location Theatre De L’Olympia
Public Event
Shirt Primary
Purchase Link Club Boutique
Grade B-
Jersey Week 2013 Third
2013 Grade(s) B+

PRIMARY: Click to zoom.

Much like Seattle and Columbus before it, the new Impact home shirt’s mark took a hit due to a relatively reserved and simple design. However, just like those other shirts, the subtle changes to this year’s shirt are enough to keep them from receiving poor marks. The former home jersey had about 8 million fleur-de-lis screens all over the front of it, with the Mont-Royal cross formed in the negative space in their absence. This year’s shirt flips the script, minimizing the use of the fleur-de-lis screenings to center the cross upon the club crest to much greater effect.

New England Revolution
Location Royale Boston
Public Event
Shirt Primary
Purchase Link Patriots Pro Shop
Grade C
Jersey Week 2013 Did not participate.
2013 Grade(s) n/a

PRIMARY: Click to zoom.

Perhaps simplified shirts was something MLS had high on their agenda, as yet another club in the Revolution gets a simplistic overhaul to their home kit. So again, we see this a shirt take a hit to it’s grade for boring-factor alone. And while a simplified, enlarged logo does help the Revs’ cause, the humongous sponsor logo on the chest seems to take priority over all else. (TANGENT: How the hell is it that the Revs don’t have their own dedicated team store? Instead, they’re shoved into the Patriots team shop like the second rate club the Krafts treat them.)

New York Red Bulls
Location Stage 48
Private Event
Shirt Secondary
Purchase Link NYRB Team Store
Grade C+
Jersey Week 2013 Primary and Secondary
2013 Grade(s) C and C-

SECONDARY: Click to zoom.

I’m not going to go on and on about another simple jersey design, so know why the Red Bulls’ newest away shirt started off with a lower grade. And just like the Revs’ shirt above, it takes a further knock for featuring an extraordinarily large sponsor logo on the chest. But the one redeeming quality of the shirt is the is the unique “New York” line font jock tag strip along the bottom edge of front. Though the larger “New York” on the back does reek a little of insecurity ahead of neighbors NYCFC joining next season.

Philadelphia Union
Location Dave & Buster’s
Public Event
Shirt Primary
Purchase Link Union Shop
Grade B
Jersey Week 2013 Third
2013 Grade(s) A+

PRIMARY: Click to zoom.

Simplification that actually improves the design makes its return to Jersey Week. The Union dropped a lot of the light blue accents that had been a feature on the last home jersey in favor of a more basic and clean gold and navy template. And while it may seem rather mundane from the front, when you see the shirt flipped around you’ll see the true beauty of the upgrade… pinstripes. Those pinstripes inconspicuously wrap around the front of the shirt forming the two thin stripes that border the larger central one, though you would never be able to tell from looking straight on. Bonus points for sticking with the same theme the club have rocked since it’s inception.

Real Salt Lake
Location Rio Tinto Stadium
Private Event
Shirt Primary
Purchase Link RSL Team Store
Grade B-
Jersey Week 2013 Did not participate.
2013 Grade(s) n/a

PRIMARY: Click to zoom.

One of the few shirts to not actually leak out ahead of Jersey Week was Real Salt Lake’s new primary shirt. It’s a familiar look for RSL, what with their standard claret body and blue sleeves. But the addition of what the call a “gold crown bar” streaking across the chest provides an element of interest. It’s an odd design that I originally didn’t like, but it’s grown on me a little. Though I still feel like this would have made a better training top instead of an actual kit. If nothing else, it provides a completely different look to anything else currently gracing pitches across the league.

Sporting Kansas City
Location Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport, Public Event
Shirt Secondary
Purchase Link Sporting Style
Grade A
Jersey Week 2013 Secondary
2013 Grade(s) A-

SECONDARY: Click to zoom.

The other shirt that didn’t leak out ahead of the big announcement was Sporting KC’s new secondary shirt. And I must say, the reigning MLS Cup champs picked an excellent shirt to drop… and probably my favorite new shirt over all. A hooped design alternating between navy and sky blue is the primary feature of the shirt, although the club will be keen to point out the new silver star above the crest representing their latest Cup triumph.


Colorado Rapids
Location Website Reveal
Shirt Primary
Purchase Link Rapids Pro Shop
Grade B
Jersey Week 2013 Primary and Third
2013 Grade(s) B+ and B

PRIMARY: Click to zoom.

The Rapids opted to replace the new home shirt they debuted last year — a slightly hooped variant that composed of season ticket holder names which I really liked — and simplified it like many other MLS teams have this year. But, taking a page from the third kit dropped at last year’s Jersey Week launch, the home kit now also features a screened “C” design that pays homage to the state flag of Colorado. That flag itself is emblazoned on the bottom of the shirt at the jock tag. And, honestly, it really helps to tie the entire kit line together.

Vancouver Whitecaps
Location The Commodore Ballroom
Private Event
Shirt Secondary
Purchase Link VWFC Store
Grade C+
Jersey Week 2013 Primary
2013 Grade(s) C+

PRIMARY: Click to zoom.

A basic, unoriginal shirt design point deduction not withstanding, I have to give credit to the Whitecaps for opting to use screened logos on the shirt to create a wave effect. But while the concept of paying tribute to Vancouver’s surrounding ocean in that way sounds really cool, in execution it just doesn’t look as great as it sounded. Though I will admit the addition of a more silver accent color to the kits’ three stripes and logos does help to add a more classy look to the shirt.


FC Dallas
Location Fashion Institute Gallery
Public Event
Shirt Primary
Purchase Link FCD Team Shop
Grade B
Jersey Week 2013 Did not participate.
2013 Grade(s) n/a

PRIMARY: Click to zoom.

Another shirt that’s grown on me since it originally leaked out is FC Dallas’ new home shirt. Gone are the familiar, distinctive red and white hoops that have given the team their nickname. In their place, subtle dark red hoops of various widths contrast with the traditional bright red — lending the shirt a bit of a Southwest vibe that fits right at home in Texas. The reason for the all-red makeover? The club are literally trying to “own the color red” in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area with their new club slogan “Red for 90″. A bit corny, but the shirt isn’t so bad.

Toronto FC
Location Real Sports Bar & Grill
Public Event
Shirt Secondary
Purchase Link Real Sports Online Shop
Grade B+
Jersey Week 2013 Primary
2013 Grade(s) C

PRIMARY: Click to zoom.

Full disclosure: I’m a sucker for grey kits, and this shirt is no different. Featuring a shade the club are calling “onyx”, the design is accented by 9 rows of increasingly spaced maple leafs to call out the dominant design that’s featured on the epileptic-inducing home shirt debuted last season. If this weren’t the Crew’s Trillium Cup rivals, I’d be tempted to shell out for this. That said, if this had been in any other color, I’m not so sure I would find it quite as appealing.


Chivas USA
Location Web Announcement
Shirt Primary
Purchase Link Chivas USA Shop
Grade C
Jersey Week 2013 Secondary
2013 Grade(s) B-

PRIMARY: Click to zoom.

Forever the afterthought and again without a special event to unveil their newest shirt. And with the club recently taken over by the league and due for a complete rebranding in 2015, it’s not really that surprising that this year’s home shirt is pretty much a “meh”. Red and white stripes, navy collar. And though there’s nothing particularly great or bad about this shirt — hence the grade — the shirt could prove a collectors item given it’s the last ever Chivas USA kit in MLS history.

Right you are, eagle-eyed reader. The reason for that? Two sides actually jumped the gun in releasing their 2014 kits. The nerve. Anyway, it’s only fair that I judge them now as well.

San Jose Earthquakes
Location San Pedro Square Market
Public Event
Shirt Secondary
Purchase Link Quakes Team Store
Grade C+
Shirt Third
Grade C+
Jersey Week 2013 Did not participate.
2013 Grade(s) n/a

Primary: Click to zoom.

SECONDARY: Click to zoom.

Dropped way back on January 31st for the club’s 40th anniversary celebration and new brand unveiling, the Earthquakes were justifiably the first club to reveal their new kits for 2014. According to the press release, the shirts are meant to “reunite” the histories of clubs several eras. The red away shirt is aims to link the club to it’s NASL days, while the blue with black sleeves recalls the club’s initial rebirth in the MLS era. While I like both concepts, the fault-line inspired screened design is used so much that I’m literally looking at it in the middle of an earthquake. It just comes off a little overboard.

DC United
Location Pinstripes
Private Event
Shirt Primary
Purchase Link DCU Team Shop
Grade C
Jersey Week 2013 Did not participate.
2013 Grade(s) n/a

PRIMARY: Click to zoom.

I’ve said it a thousand times already in this article, and I’ll say it again with D.C. United’s newest kit. There’s practically zero customization aside from a nifty, tire tread-esque United eagle on the jock tag. If you took the club’s raised crest off the shirt, this wouldn’t look any different than a kit your own team could order to wear in your Sunday League. Yes, I’m aware they club’s tradition features predominantly black shirts, but you would have to think they could do something to make this shirt a bit more interesting.


So, what shirt do you like best? Disagree with any of the grades I dolled out to the new shirts? Be sure to let me know in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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WSOTP pod: episode 11

WSOTP Pod: Season 1 Episode 11

WSOTP Pod - Season 1 Episode 11

who do the WSOTP pod hosts think will sit atop the pile after this year’s MLS cup playoffs? listen in to find out.

Episode 11 of the #WSOTPpod is a doozy. Hosts Jeremy Lance and D.J. Switzer dish their normal wrap up of all of the weekend Premiership action, per usual. But with the MLS regular season now concluded in spectacular fashion, we take a step back to consider the season as a whole, the biggest winners/losers and make predictions on who will hoist the MLS Cup in just over a month’s time. We also take some time to consider the rules of supporting a second team and offer our thoughts on the World Cup seeding processes. So buckle up your seats kids, this will be a wild ride.

Click here to subscribe to the WSOTPpod on iTunes.

ten words or less #79

yeah, the premier league is back... but so is deuce.

yeah, the premier league is back… but so is deuce.

Football is back! Well, it actually never left. After all, we’ve had a litany of international matches and MLS league action to keep us entertained all summer and then some. But for most people — myself included — the soccer equivalent of the main course was finally served up over the weekend in the form of the return of the British Premier League. It was a super interesting opening weekend with some really interesting results… but I’ll be dishing about those in full in the next episode of the WSOTP Pod which is due to go up later today.

But while you’re patiently awaiting that to go up, I figured I could keep you entertained with the latest roundup of links that tickled my fancy over the last week or so. And while some deal with topics across the pond, many focus on all of the glorious football we’ve been feasting on all summer.

Duece’s one day media blitz was insane. -

GoPro view of Manchester City training is freaking awesome. –

Who’s submitting their CV for the vacant England U-21 job? -

Brian Phillips entertaining dive into the USMNT’s sexy ugly past. –

I was interviewed about NYC pro soccer by a Brazilian blog. –

Bradford City only like fat people. –

I never figured this would be soccer’s “in” in America. –

An excellent proposal for an EPL All-Star game. –

Kyle Martino has some really interesting thoughts. –

When it rains, it pours. –

in review: MLS jersey week

Ahhhhh. Take a second and breathe in that cool refreshing spring air. Mmmm… it smells like First Kick, doesn’t it?

MLS Jersey Week 2013

hopefully this is the start of a new yearly tradition in major league soccer.

Well if it doesn’t, it certainly should. In fact, I’d be a little surprised if you weren’t subliminally thinking about MLS right now, as the league’s marketing has been awfully hard to ignore this winter/spring. With an advertising campaign that’s been plastered all over the place — TV, print and all the various electronic outlets — the league is doing its best to not let you forget that the 2013 season is about to kick off.

My favorite promotional gimmick though has to be Jersey Week. Though the name sounds worryingly like ill-advised partnership with some Guidos from the shore, it’s actually a week-long unveiling of all the 12 new kits that will be adorned by MLS clubs this season. Though as regular readers know, I’m a sucker for gear, so it probably shouldn’t be that surprising that this would pique my interests.

Adidas and the clubs worked closely on what they wanted out of their kits this year, meaning that many fan’s calls for something different to spice up the MLS jersey scene might just be met. Said Maribeth Towers, MLS senior VP of consumer products in a league statement, “Jersey Week will celebrate the soccer jersey. Every stitch, every minor detail, every shade is designed in collaboration between the club and our partner at adidas.”

But as you might expect, some were smart-looking, “take my money already” designs, while others were… umm, questionable. Let’s take a look at each, and let me pass judgement over them like I could do better.

Continue reading

let’s not overextend ourselves

In fifty years time, when looking back at this period of American professional soccer history, we’ll remember one of two ways. The first, more optimistic way we’ll view it will be as an era that set the shape and scenery of a successful professional soccer pyramid in this country. The other, more foreboding way we’ll view it is as a period of over-expansion and errors in judgement that destabilized the pyramid. I apologize if that seems a little grim — and it might easily be a bit of an exaggerated reaction — but that’s the type of precipice that professional soccer sits on in this country.

Proposed New York Cosmos Stadium

the much debated NYC2 project just got a kick in the pants from a competing plan from the new york cosmos.

Seriously though, stop for a second and take a look around: expansion is rampant.

MLS has added five new clubs in the last five years, and plans to add another by 2016. The revived NASL, entering only its third year season, has seen four of its nine sides founded in the last two years and expects to add three new teams next season. Even the third tier USL Pro has welcomed six new clubs in the last three seasons, and will also add another in one next year. In all, that’s a mind-boggling 20 new professional soccer teams in our country in a seven-year span.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it as much as the next fan. It’s exciting to witness this burst in interest and attention the sport first hand. Three growing, vibrant leagues. Nearly two dozen soccer specific stadiums scattered across the country. Several television networks exclusively dedicated to airing matches. Bars that open in the wee hours of the morning so fans can gather to watch and cheer in unison. Massive interest in the men’s in women’s national teams. All of this, achieved just in the last few years.

But I worry, perhaps irrationally, that it’s too much too soon. Despite the exceptional growth in demand for professional soccer, can our country sustain a near exponential growth in supply? I think it can, and clearly many investors do too. But there’s enough evidence there to make me at least a little concerned.

Take, for instance, the NASL’s New York Cosmos recently announced plans for a $400 million stadium on Long Island. The exciting project presented by CEO Seamus O’Brien showed off a gorgeous 25,000-seater accompanied by a retail and hotel development. All of which sounds great, until you remember that the announcement comes on the heels of MLS’ own $300 million stadium announcement just up the road in Flushing, Queens.

New York Soccer Specific Stadium Map

can new york city, despite it’s size, really support three teams with their own stadiums?

MLS has long been hellbent on adding their 20th franchise in New York, and for quite a while, the Cosmos looked the front runners. But thanks to poor front office organization prior to O’Brien’s arrival, Garber and MLS steamed ahead with developing plans of their own, and several other bids appeared to leapfrog the Cosmos to fund and occupy the new site. And though the Cosmos have maintained that while they would love to one day play in MLS, they also claim they aren’t planning their entire future on it. So with plans to build their own stadium despite the already-approved, MLS-sanctioned stadium and competitor popping up around the corner, the Cosmos look like they’re steaming ahead and plotting their own future outside the top flight.

But assuming they do win approval to build a new stadium on Long Island, and MLS get’s their proposed NYC2 franchise and stadium, that means New York will then sport three separate soccer specific stadiums of roughly the same size. On the Westside of town, there’s the already extant Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. And when both of NYC2 and Cosmos have their homes built, there will be another two on the East side of town. Considering the well-publicized struggles experienced by the Red Bulls in trying to fill their arena, it’s easy to see why this might be problematic. Even with better public transport links and friendlier locations, it’s not a stretch to imagine even a city of New York’s size not being able to put 75,000 butts into those seats week in and week out. I’d like to be proven wrong on this, by the way.

Sparce Fan Attendance at Red Bull Arena

red bull arena hasn’t been the easiest place to fill, and it’s the only joint in town at the moment.

There might, however, be a solution to this potential problem of soccer over saturation. While the Cosmos might seem content to play out their future in NASL, it would be pretty delusional to think that they don’t still aspire to play in MLS. Regaining their former glory, a definite goal in their revival, would legitimately be mission impossible from the depths of Division 2. Even if they have their own shiny new stadium, nobody’s going to give them the respect they want when there’s not even one of the most influential clubs in their own country.

Perhaps their presser unveiling fancy architectual drawings was nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt at recapturing the momentum in the race for NYC2. Though the Cosmos group might have lost the considerable advantage given to them through brand recognition and a sizable head start in planning, like Stuart telling everyone “look what I can do”, this stadium play could cause MLS to stand up and take notice that Cosmos bid is still alive and kicking. Given that the group is confident that they could privately fund a project of this scope on their own, it might be enough to convince Garber to give the their coveted 20th spot to the group that’s been there from the start.

The theory might be a long shot, but to me at least, it sure as hell makes a lot more sense than trying to pack three competing entities into a market that’s not mature enough to support it yet. If I’m wrong, however, the clubs stand the chance of cannibalizing the support base and ensuring nobody achieves the success they could have with less competition.

It’s for these reasons that decisions such as these carry so much weight. The fate of entire franchises, and even the leagues they play within, is dependent upon their long-term success.

And if the leagues and those planning them don’t think these things through carefully, and overextend themselves in the process, we just might be looking back in 50 years time with great regrets instead of great joy.

ten words or less #50

real madrid's cristiano ronaldo showing off his leg

there's been no word yet on whether cristiano will have to cover up his oily thighs when visiting madrid's new island resort in the UAE.

We’ve finally made it to the half century mark for my TWOL series. And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure if I should be celebrating that milestone, seeing as how the series exists simply because I’m a blogger who is too lazy to write his own original content all the time.

Admittedly, I’ve been a bit stretched lately due to an increased workload in my real world job, and moonlighting as a guest blogger on some other sites. But that’s no reason to ignore this space, so my deepest apologies if you’re feeling neglected. I do have some pretty interesting original content in the pipeline for you… though the ten links below will have to suffice as I continue to fine tune the new posts for the limelight.

See WSOTP (#11) on The Football Attic’s “League of Blogs”. –

Liverpool has Pinterest: not shocking considering how soft they’ve played. –

We need this in the U.S. far more than the UK. -

Have you ever wanted to control Arsene’s Swedish dance moves? -

Why MLS should avoid foreigners with a long wrap sheet. –

Real builds $1b resort, removes logo’s cross to appease locals. –

Your side can’t score? Remind them where the goal is. –

For nerds only: Kit Supplier statistics from around Europe. –
(warning: PDF download link)

Ronaldo vs Nadal: part of me wishes this was real. -

Pardew likens Ben Arfa to Messi… a.k.a “a stretch”. –

ten words or less #48

london 2012's "the albert"

for a ball with such an awesome name, couldn't have adidas gone with a slightly less faded 80's design for the official ball of london 2012?

With less than 30 minutes until kickoff between Spurs and United, I’m a literal train wreck. I’m stressing over Tottenham’s extremely weakened line-up squaring off against a solid looking starting XI for the Red Devils, and the potential repercussions of fielding such a weak squad in such an important match.

The only thing that could keep my mind from going into complete meltdown mode was to finish up this week’s TWOL post… though admittedly, it’s just a temporary reprieve for my fingers from the endless nail-biting that awaits over the next two hours.

This is how you know footballers make too much money. –

Every Euro 2012 Kit… who’s your favorite? –

Sadly, this might be the best pitch in Cuba. –

Chelsea are sunk because of… Napoli’s three in the back? –

MLS eyeing Florida for expansion; apparently doesn’t learn lessons. –

French kiss… quite literally. –

I will actually watch more Crew games because of this. -

Suprisingly relevant Will Ferrell link: he apparently loves Chicharito. –

If this happened to me, I’d literally shit my pants. –

How can one properly celebrate while sitting? Answer: you can’t. –

a winter abroad

Two months. Eight weeks. Sixty days. It’s not a whole lot of time no matter how you look at it. But it seems to be the magic time span these days, at least for MLS players it seems.

aston villa's robbie keane and everton's landon donovan

by allowing its most prized possessions to go on loan each winter, is MLS playing with fire?

Whether urged on by Klinsmann’s pleas for American players to get more time in competitive playing environments, or spurred on by the past successes of the short-term moves of MLS-bigwigs, the growing fad in American soccer is to get yourself a two-month, winter loan to Europe.

There have been no shortage of temporary moves to Europe this MLS off-season. Of course there have been the hyped moves involving the loans of high-profile players like L.A. Galaxy duo Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane — who have moved to Everton and Aston Villa respectively — and Red Bull’s Thierry Henry return to Arsenal. But there have been lesser heralded moves too, such as West Ham’s move for F.C. Dallas defender George John and L.A.’s Omar Gonzalez heading to Nürnberg.

A number of other players are trialing or training with European sides to gain some experience, and hopefully attract a foreign bid or two. I’ve written a good deal about Brek Shea’s two months with Arsenal, but there have also been shorter training stints for at least fifteen MLS players. That’s included youngster Juan Agudelo at Stuttgart and Liverpool, Robbie Rogers and Kyle Beckermann at Kaiserslautern, and Tim Ream at Bolton and West Brom, just to name a few.

With the temporary moves coming for players all over the MLS spectrum — from established stars to up-and-comers — it’s promising that there appears to be a growing demand for the league’s improving talent pool. It’s a sign Europe’s elite sides are starting to at least consider that we’re a country capable of producing a decent amount of quality players worth having a look over.

However, I do have to wonder if all of these moves are the greatest thing for MLS.

For most of the young players, the moves will end up being nothing more than glamorous learning opportunities. Their goal will be to make the most of the time training with a different class of players, therefore raising their game or at least picking up the habits of higher level professionals. They’ll get the extra competitive football experience that the Jürgs says our country’s set up is lacking, and hopefully they’re return to their MLS clubs with a sharper knowledge of the game, and everyone will be happy.

But while MLS seems content to allow it’s shining gems to go out and grow themselves, it feels like they’re turning a blind eye to the fact that it’s also a great opportunity for the finest young talent in the league to showcase themselves to other, wealthier employers. I mean I can’t imagine a single one of those players not going into those trials/loans/trainings thinking: This is the chance I’ve been waiting for… I better not blow it!

This open door policy has already seen Robbie Rogers turn his brief spell in Germany into a transfer to Leeds United. Tim Ream’s time with Bolton also looks to have paid dividends, as the Wanderers look set to spend their Gary Cahill money on a transfer for the ginger-tinged Red Bulls defender. George John’s loan terms with West Ham have an option to buy if he manages to impress during his two months at Upton Park, so he could be off too.

They’ve got a name for this type of issue: talent drain. And with MLS seemingly giving its blessing for foreign sides to take a free look at their best players, it comes off as them accepting their place as a stepping stone league. This flies in the face of the Commish has stated on several occasions, which is to turn Major League Soccer into one of the preeminent tournaments in the world.

robbie rogers at leeds united

it seems that robbie roger's short term move to europe this winter has paid off... for now at least.

Now maybe MLS does a much better job reinvesting the millions in transfer money they rake in during these sales than I’m giving them credit for, and if that’s the case, I’ll happily eat my words. But in the mean time, I’m going to assume that it’s still a bit of a risky strategy.

And all of that only takes into account the youngsters. What about all of the veteran, star players tacking two months onto their seasons; how can their departures possibly hurt the league?

First, Klinsmann’s desire to see American players securing loans or training spells in Europe is centered on his belief that the MLS season is too short. That does hold true for many players who teams don’t make the playoffs, or exit them early. Problem is, all of the high-profile loans have involved players whose teams made deep playoff runs. Keane and Donovan were both directly involved in the MLS Cup game winning goal. Hell, Keane hasn’t really had a break from training since the beginning of the last European season when he was still with Spurs. So none of them are in a position where they’re lacking for matches or sharpness, especially when you consider that Donovan and Keane are also still logging serious minutes with their respective national teams.

Ultimately, star players being loaned out during the MLS close season does nothing but put extra miles on their valuable legs. And extra miles on (mostly) older legs usually end up leading to one of three outcomes: 1) increased susceptibility to injuries, 2) burnout or 3) both.

Don’t believe me? It’s already happened, twice.

The gigantic risk MLS exposes itself to is best embodied by David Beckham rupturing his Achilles tendon playing for Milan two winters ago. Beckham’s move was supposed to help him earn a place in the following summer’s England World Cup squad — something MLS considered of great benefit at the time — ended up costing the league dearly when he was forced out of the entire MLS season. Regardless of the size of potential media-exposure gains the league would have received from Beck’s participation in South Africa, it was likely dwarfed by the lack of match-day ticket revenue the league missed out on by not having him play.

For those saying “Well that was over two years ago,” this isn’t something that only occurs in the past. As it turns out, MLS has already suffered one winter-loan casualty so far this season. And ironically, it’s not even one of their big guns that’s gone down injured. Instead, it was L.A. Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez, a younger player who should have become a regular feature in the USMNT’s back line in 2012. But thanks to a collision with “American” teammate Timmy Chandler during his first training session after signing a 2-month loan with Nuremberg, the MLS Defender of the Year will now be out for at least the next seven months… a.k.a. most of the upcoming MLS season.

an injured beckham on loan to milan

losing beckham for a season apparently hasn't phased MLS at all. but, will lightening strike twice?

And though the loss of Gonzalez won’t really hit MLS in the pocketbook the way Beckham’s absence did, it will undoubtedly be a big hurdle to overcome in the Galaxy’s defense of their crown. But if MLS end up losing Donovan, Henry and/or Keane to injury during their loan spells, it will hurt them both on the field and off.

Let’s assume the trend of taking MLS players on loan continues to grow next season (I’d be willing to wager that it probably will), the amount of risk they’ll expose themselves to each off-season will go up exponentially. I’m not sure how great of a scenario the league could be getting themselves into unless the think about these types of moves in a bigger picture.

Look, these loans and trials are ultimately a good thing if they lead to the development of better American players. I’m all for them leading to more American players playing in more competitive leagues in Europe, and the added benefit we could see from the increased levels of experience. But I want to make sure that such moves aren’t undercutting MLS’s mission and efforts to develop better American players. We need to protect the investments we’ve made so far, and that protection requires a wide variety of issues to consider. Here’s hoping MLS and US Soccer did their homework before allowing this policy to become more common place.

In the mean time, we can’t do anything other than sit back and see how this season’s off-season MLS moves shift out. Obviously, I’m hoping that nothing but great news. Trust me when I say that there is nothing I want less than for me to look back in two months and say “I told you so.”

an open letter to rafa márquez

spoiled cry baby, rafa marquez.

Sr. Rafael Márquez Álvarez
Red Bull New York
600 Cape May Street
Harrison, NJ 07029

Señor Márquez:

I am writing with regards to your actions following your recent match against Real Salt Lake at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday, September 21, 2011. As a fan of Major League Soccer — and the sport of football in general — I felt that your blatant disregard for proper professional etiquette has brought great shame upon your club, your league, and yourself.

Perhaps your home fans were a little harsh on you during that match, booing you every time you touched the ball. I can see how that would rattle some players. But then again, maybe they were somewhat justified in their booing seeing how you have been mailing it in all season despite collecting the third highest paycheck in the league. You’re also a veteran professional, used to playing in front of 90,000 fans at the highest level of the sport, so I would wager that you’re more than capable of handling some boos here and there without having to show them a childish, obscene gesture.

Maybe you were frustrated because your squad shipped 3 goals in the first 21 minutes to your Mormon-country visitors, which helped to drop your squad into the outside-looking-in position for this year’s playoffs. Though then again, you haven’t really been playing like you want to help your team make the playoffs, highlighted by this awful bit of defending by yourself in said game. So with your performances in mind, I don’t think it’s very fair for you to say “there isn’t an equal level” between you and your teammates, and that the loss was to blame on the rest of your back line not being able “perform at the same level.”

Not that I should have expected anything different from you, and that’s my fault for assuming that you had abandoned your previously wicked ways. After all, you’re the same guy that was red carded for a mid-air headbutt on Cobi Jones in 2002 World Cup knockout round, and again for charging Tim Howard and kicking him in the head during a 2009 World Cup Qualifier at Crew Stadium. You also publicly insulted Landon Donovan’s family during a 2004 interview, which is by most accounts, a pretty classy move. Let’s also not forget that you cheated on your first wife with your now second wife.

Long story short, Rafa, is that you need to quit being a gigantic prick and get over yourself already. When Jimmy Conrad claimed you were arrogant a few years back, he hit the nail on the head perfectly when he said, “we’re apparently a step below or a whole level below whatever he thinks in his own mind.”

Well, I hate to break it to you big boy, you’re not better than the U.S., MLS, Red Bull or anything else for that matter. Nobody cares that you used to play for Barcelona, all they care about is how you are playing now for your current side. And since you’re the one who put pen to paper on an MLS contract two years ago, you’re also the one that has to deal with whatever perceived unhappiness you’re experiencing. Despite rating yourself as a highly desirable commodity, I don’t exactly recall any clubs of importance clamoring for your signature over the summer transfer window.

Don’t like how your teammates are playing? Maybe you should try using all of that experience you’ve picked up over the years to help educate them .Don’t like being booed by your own fans or berated by the press? Maybe try playing a little bit harder. They boo because they expect more of you and your $4.6 million a year contract.

I’m sure in your 15 years of professional experience — from Atlas, to Monaco, to Barcelona and New York — that you’ve faced some pressure heavier than this. After all, this only MLS, right?

Time to grow up, big boy.

D.J. Switzer
wrong side of the pond

ten words or less #24

alejandro faurlin and neil warnock celebrate QPR's possible promotion.

perhaps faurlin (left) and QPR won't be enjoying the spoils of the premier league next season

the steam is running out of my team’s, and it’s seriously impacting my interest in the rest of the their respective seasons. real madrid are (deservingly) eliminated from europe. tottenham are (predictably) pissing away their season of “living the dream.” it’s hard as a fan of both clubs to watch on with both having very little left to play for besides pride (although if tottenham lose out on the europa league to liverpool, i might suffer an aneurysm).

forgive me my tears, for i am only human.

so as we prepare for a weekend full of title and relegation-deciding matches, here’s a quick round-up of some interesting reads from around the world of football.

no, no, no, no, no. screw clattenburg. – dirty tackle @

someone should not get paid for this. -

it pains me to post, but another artistic masterpiece. –

this is a huge step forward for MLS. –

how the hell did the ball move like that?!?! -

have to admit, i’m a little envious of this guy. –

busquets is a disgrace: more evidence. –

QPR are all smiles now; maybe they shouldn’t be. –