The 11’s Top 11 stories of 2012

Sports fans are natural-born stats junkies. And at The 11, we love to look at the analytics for this site, too — to continually check what stories are resonating with readers.

So we went under the website’s hood and looked at the numbers. And, we were able to rank our 11 most-read stories of the year. Now, we present them in reverse order.

Of course, as the authority on second-division soccer in Canada, we skewed very heavily to FC Edmonton and Ottawa NASL expansion stories, as these are the kind of items you won’t find anywhere else. There are other excellent sources for NASL news, but our uniquely Canadian perspective gives us a niche all to our own.

So, here are the Top 11 stories of the year:

11. FC Edmonton confirms Clarke Stadium move, shows off new black-and-blue look (CLICK)
Unfortunately for FC Edmonton, this story’s optimism was, well, unfounded. The planned renovation of Clarke Stadium didn’t happen in 2012, as permitting issues prevented the additional stands from ever going up. FCE played in a stadium that could seat just 1,200 for the entire NASL season, something it promises to have remedied for 2013.

10. Confident Gigolaj wants to be a starter for FC Edmonton (CLICK)
As a bit of a Cinderella story, Elvir Gigolaj’s story was popular not only in Edmonton, but with our readers across the country. It’s the story of a St. Mary’s University striker making a splash at the CIS nationals, then making the jump to the pro ranks. FC Edmonton was the only Canadian pro team to scout the CIS Championships. So many good plotlines. But Gigolaj had to wait till the last day of the NASL season to get his first start — and he scored.

9. MLS salaries: The winners, the losers, the bargains (CLICK)
Because MLS is so cloak-and-dagger about salary numbers — at least when compared to other North American pro sports leagues — it’s a big deal when the players’ union finally releases the salary figures. If MLS teams were up-front about contract numbers, allocation money and the other financial in and outs, then we’d all be able to better follow and cover the league. But, when the info is released by the union, it creates a feeding frenzy — and we’re not sure if that is good or bad for the league.

8. With Canadian franchise success, MLS feels more and more like the NHL (CLICK)
The fact that MLS Cup, between two American teams, did a far better per capita rating on Canadian TV than on U.S. TV, our points made in this article are only made more forceful. With Edmonton and Calgary remaining the fastest growing cities on the continent, and the Canadian economy continuing to outstrip the American economy, the push for more Can-con in MLS will one day be too strong to resist.

Former NASL commissioner David Downs

7. NASL commissioner speaks about Ottawa, FC Edmonton and Canadian expansion (CLICK)
David Downs has since stepped down as league commissioner, but he was always candid about the state of second-division soccer in North America. But, since Bill Peterson took over as NASL commissioner, it’s clear to see he’s bullish about the Canadian market, and he’s already talked about Calgary and Winnipeg as potential cities for the league.

6. FC Edmonton will not challenge Whitecaps’ signing of Jalali (CLICK)
After being one of Canada’s top performers at the U-17 World Cup, Edmonton’s Sadi Jalali made a deal with his hometown team; if his planned move to Europe, didn’t work out, he’d return to play for FC Edmonton. So, when he returned from Europe and appeared with the Whitecaps Reserves, we had a controversy. And, the conclusion to the story? In late 2012, Jalali returned to FCE.

5. Richmond-based club asks for court injunction to stop BCSA-Whitecaps deal (CLICK)
TSS Academy is a for-profit academy in the Metro Vancouver area — and isn’t a full member of the provincial body for that reason. Feeling that it’s been subjected to a double-standard, it claimed that a promotional partnership between the for-profit Whitecaps and the non-profit B.C. Soccer Association was an unfair barrier to TSSA.

4. Finally official: Juventus-PSG match in Montreal has been cancelled
(CLICK)
Big teams from Italy and France will always skew your search results. Not really a groundbreaking story — but it speaks to the popularity of the two mega-clubs.

3. FC Edmonton signs CIS players, offers tryout to former D.C. United defender (CLICK)
The popularity of this 2012 preseason FC Edmonton article speaks to how much Canadian soccer fans want to see more professional opportunities for CIS players. St. Mary’s star Elvir Gigolaj finally scored his first NASL goal at the end of the season, and he’s slowly been worked into the professional ranks by the Eddies.

2. Canadian teen Petrasso to leave for QPR this week (CLICK)
In the winter of 2012, Queens Park Rangers public-relations department denied that former TFC Academy players Dylan Carreiro and Michael Petrasso were in London to audition for the club. But, by the end of March, it was clear that both were waiting to be cleared to play for the English side. Now, the pair are part of the U-21 side. In fact, on Dec. 17, Carreiro scored in an 8-2 win for QPR’s U-21s over Colchester United’s U21s. Petrasso was on the bench, and another Canadian — the demoted Junior Hoilett — scored a hat trick.

Christina Pedersen

1. The Call will be added to the lore of Canada-U.S. matches (CLICK)
It’s telling that the most popular story on The 11 this year stemmed from the outrage over Canada’s 4-3 loss to the United States in the semifinals of the women’s Olympic soccer tournament. But it’s also telling that no other women’s soccer story finished in the top 11, including the bronze-medal match. That shows how much Canadians are galvanized by our sporting rivalry with the United States. That this semifinal had an officiating controversy and a game for the ages from hat-trick hero Christine Sinclair only added to our national ambivalence. We celebrated the Canadian team, but were outraged by the calls made by referee Christina Pedersen. And, the fact that the opponents were the Americans made it a perfect storm of media and casual-fan interest. It speaks a lot to our national psyche and how we see ourselves against Americans. Had the other women’s soccer stories been close in popularity, we wouldn’t say this: this was a spike, not the crest of an upward trend.

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About Steven Sandor

I'm currently the colour commentator for FC Edmonton broadcasts on Sportsnet, NASL.com and TEAM 1260. I've covered the Toronto FC beat for four years, worked for the Edmonton Aviators of the USL for a season, covered the Edmonton Drillers of the NPSL and started covering Canadian World Cup qualifiers in 1996. I've covered the CONCACAF Champions League and the U-20 World Cup. I'm passionate about soccer in North America.