MLS Archive

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As MLS announces expansion franchises, the temptation to add more playoff teams needs to be curbed

Don Garber

Don Garber

I’ve always been a big believer of a playoff system that might exclude some good teams rather than one that includes mediocre teams.

I preferred it when Major League Baseball went straight to National League and American League Championship Series. Two division winners in each league was enough. Its playoffs were once about best vs. best, and were far more compelling in the ‘70s and ‘80s than they are now.

If the NFL could find a way to lower the number of playoff teams, that would be great. Personally, I’d love to get rid of the divisions, because the law of averages suggests that one of the eight groupings of four teams will be so collectively awful that a 9-7 or an 8-8 team will get into the post season. If it was up to me, top four teams in the AFC and top four teams in the NFC make the playoffs. That’s it.

The NHL continues to worry me, with rumours of adding more playoff teams in seasons to come.

I’m not anti-playoffs like some Euro soccer snobs. I grew up in North America. I’m fine with a league champ being determined after a post-season process. I just don’t think playoffs that are super inclusive are nearly as interesting as ones that are exclusive in nature.

Before the start of the NASL season, commissioner Bill Peterson declared that the league would not increase the number of teams that go to the post-season, even when (and if) the circuit gets to its goal of 18 franchises. The NASL will have four teams go to its “Championship” rounds this season, out of a 10-team league. Peterson vowed that the format would not change.

To me, it’s a great compromise. For the traditional soccer supporters, who believe nothing should be more important than league play, a four-team set-up makes for a very exclusive playoff process. The difficulty of getting into the Championship means that the regular-season games will matter, that there won’t be as many occasions where a team can take a week off. But there still we be a few playoff games satisfy the North American sports fan.
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8

NASL commissioner to meet with CSA execs: To discuss how NASL “can be a better partner” to Canada

Bill Peterson PHOTO: NASL

Bill Peterson PHOTO: NASL

NASL commissioner Bill Peterson will be in the nation’s capital on April 19, when the Ottawa Fury plays its first regular-season match on the Carleton University turf against Minnesota United.

As part of the trip to Ottawa, Peterson will meet with the Canadian Soccer Association officials. His stated goal? To find ways that NASL “can be a better partner” to the CSA. He said that, now that he’s settled in as the league commissioner, he wants to create a closer working relationship with the CSA.

Peterson said the league “will explore options on how we can better align ourselves with the CSA’s professional goals.”

What that means is unclear. The Canadian Soccer Association has a mandate to create a series of regional Division-3 leagues, but the NASL’s role as a recognized Division-2 league in Canada is untouched. But, as the NASL fights for relevance, the optics of going to the CSA with a “how can we help you?” stance definitely scores PR points for Peterson and his crew. Remember that the Canadian Soccer Association’s continuing plea to have Canadians recognized as domestics in Division-1 MLS has consistently fallen on deaf ears. In 2009, Canadians saw an average of 1404.1 minutes per team in MLS; in 2013, that number had plummeted to 1025.2 minutes allocated per team to Canadians, despite the fact that the number of Canadian franchises had gone from one to three in that time.
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2

Plastic Pitch launches on Apple — now available on all IOS and Android platforms

PpitchThe release of Plastic Pitch is complete.

Late Thursday night, we got word from Apple and our developer, MAZ Digital, that the magazine is now live for iPhone and iPad. It’s already available to Android users through Google Play and Amazon, so the rollout is now 100 per cent done.

For those who subscribed through our Kickstarter campaign, your e-mail address is key to unlocking your subscription. Thank you!

Inside, you’ll find a chance to win one of three Canadian national-team jerseys, courtesy of Umbro Canada.

And why should you pick up the first issue? From looking at Canadians in NASL to the BMO Field controversy in Toronto, we’re providing a comprehensive guide to soccer in Canada — through storytelling. No filler. No season previews or match previews or predictions or lists or power rankings, the kind of content that’s made just for the sake of creating content.

Here’s what you’ll find inside!
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4

PLASTIC PITCH has launched! Canadian Soccer. Canadian Stories.

PpitchPLASTIC PITCH is ready for download! The app has been approved and the first issue is set to be enjoyed on your smartphone, tablet or device of your choosing. (OK, not totally of your choosing; you couldn’t use an old Commodore PET.)

Right now, the app is available for all Android-ready devices. You can find it Amazon’s app store. You can find it in Google Play. It should launch on Apple in the coming days. The app download is free, issues are $4.99 (five bucks in Canada, we got rid of the penny, didn’t we?) each or a one-year sub (for issues) is $14.99 ($15).

For those who supported this new and unique Canadian soccer magazine through our Kickstarter campaign or other advance subscriptions, the e-mail address you provided is the key. When you download the app, your subscription will be unlocked by that address.

If there are any issues, please contact teamworkpress@rogers.com as soon as possible, and we’ll work to resolve them. As this is the launch of the app and the first issue, we can’t possibly expect to everything go 100 per cent smoothly.

For those who haven’t subscribed, we invite you to download the app and try the first issue. We think you’ll find it filled with fresh voices, interesting art and, most importantly, no cheerleading. Magazine quality hasn’t been sacrificed. You can still subscribe for as little as $15 for a year (four issues). That’s about the price of a beer and a snack at the stadium.
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0

New Voyageurs’ Cup sked: For NASL teams, short-term pain for long-term gain

PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER/Bob Frid

PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER/Bob Frid

If you’re a fan of FC Edmonton or Ottawa Fury, the Canadian Soccer Association’s announcement of the coming scheduling changes to the Voyageurs’ Cup may have you slightly perturbed. Or angry. Or furious.

That’s because, to accommodate the change to a new summer schedule for the Voyageurs’ Cup, no NASL team will be able to try and qualify for the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League.

But you shouldn’t be angry. Anything but. Really, the new scenario is the best thing the NASL teams could have asked for.

OK, let’s backtrack to the announcement made earlier Friday. To try and make more the Amway Canadian Championship — which has been plagued by poor ratings and terrible gates as it went head-to-head with the NHL playoffs — more fan-friendly, the CSA is moving the tournament to the summer, starting next year.

This year’s tournament, which begins April 23 with the first of a play-in two-game series between FC Edmonton and Ottawa, will go ahead as normal. The winner of the five-team tourney gets the Canadian spot in the upcoming CONCACAF Champions League.
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1

If not resolved by April, PRO referee lockout could also affect the NASL season

pro_logo_headerMajor League Soccer has a slate of replacement referees who will look after this weekend’s First Kick matches.

But the decision by PRO, the body which assigns the officials, to lock out its member referees, doesn’t just affect MLS. Remember that NASL also takes its American-site officiating assignments from the PRO pool. Last season, there were many cases where a PRO referee would look after an MLS game one week, and an NASL game the next.

The NASL doesn’t begin play till the second week of April, and the league has declined to make any official comment on the referee situation. But, it did confirm that the dispute will not impact games played in Edmonton or Ottawa, as the Canadian Soccer Association, not PRO, handle the referee assignments for those matches.

But, when FC Edmonton opens the NASL season in Tampa Bay, and the Ottawa Fury visits the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (both on April 12), there’s a growing possibility that those games won’t be overseen by PRO refs.

Sources have told The 11 that NASL is working to have a contingency plan in place in case the first-choice referees aren’t available to work in the league’s eight U.S. stadiums.
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0

Folan’s experience a bonus for FC Edmonton

Caleb Folan

Caleb Folan

It’s an odd pairing; FC Edmonton’s teenage defender Marko Aleksic, trying to mark 31-year-old veteran Caleb Folan in training.

But, Folan, an Irish international who is in Edmonton as a trialist, doesn’t miss the chance to pass on a little instruction to the teen. Even though Folan is in Edmonton to prove his worth to the NASL club, he still takes time to pass on some knowledge to the younger players on the team.

Folan’s gregarious nature hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“He’s an interesting player, we’ll see how things work out,” said FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller. “He brings a different dimension to the team. Here we have Marko, a 17-year-old, and he’s picking up a 31-year-old with Premiership experience, with international experience. He’s not just playing against Marko, he’s helping to coach Marko.”

Folan has made many stops in England, including Wigan Athletic, Hull City and Chesterfield. He’s also played in Asia. He’s played in World Cup qualifiers for the Irish national side. But, to fans in North America, he’s most familiar for the 2011 season he spent with the Colorado Rapids, where he played in 26 matches and scored six times.
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0

Ongaro won’t be with FC Edmonton in 2014

Jordan Ongaro

Jordan Ongaro

Jordan Ongaro’s bid to join his hometown NASL team has been unsuccessful.

FC Edmonton confirmed Friday afternoon that Ongaro’s trial has come to an end, and that no contract was offered to the PAC-12′s leading scorer from the most recent NCAA campaign.

Ongaro arrived back in his hometown two weeks ago after he was released by the Montreal Impact. He was a fourth-round SuperDraft selection of the Impact, but was let go before the Impact headed down to Florida to take part in the preseason Walt Disney World classic.
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0

Former Red Devil Ritchie Jones chose FC Edmonton over San Jose

Ritchie Jones

Ritchie Jones

Ritchie Jones had a good a pretty good idea that he’d be spending the tail end of the winter playing in North America, for a Canadian coach.

The question: Would it be FC Edmonton boss Colin Miller? Or would it be Miller’s old national-teammate, Mark Watson, now the coach of the San Jose Earthquakes?

Jones, a former Manchester United prospect, decided to go with NASL over MLS; not only did FC Edmonton offer him the certainty of a contract over a San Jose camp, but after speaking with Miller, the midfielder decided that heading to Alberta would be the best next step for his career.

“I spent time with San Jose Earthquakes last summer and they wanted me to come back for their preseason,” said Jones after an FC Edmonton training session at Commonwealth Fieldhouse. “But, since I talked to Colin, I felt Edmonton was the right place for me.”
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5

FC Edmonton turns down a couple of loan offers from the Whitecaps

Whitecaps-FC-big-e1329410722765-116x150The Vancouver Whitecaps have an affiliation deal with the USL-PRO’s Charleston Battery in place, but that hasn’t dimmed their close relationship with NASL’s FC Edmonton.

On Monday, FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller confirmed that his club has already turned down two potential loan offers from the Whitecaps for the 2014 season. The reasons? FC Edmonton is already very deep in one of the positions played by one of the players who was offered. And, the other simply didn’t fit with the club.

“Bob (Whitecaps’ president Bob Lenarduzzi) and his staff know that their players need to be on the first team or on the fringes of the first team for us to consider them at the moment,” said Miller. “That’s how strongly I feel about the quality of our squad.”

Last season, the Whitecaps loaned defender Carlyle Mitchell to the Eddies; he was a standout performer in NASL, but was recalled to Vancouver just before the end of the spring season. A Whitecaps’ injury crisis forced his recall, and then he played so well, he wasn’t sent back.

Mitchell is still a major booster of the Eddies; his recommendation was key in central defender Kareem Moses coming to the team in 2014 — along with a personal endorsement made to Miller by current Trinidad and Tobago national-team coach (and former Canadian national-team coach) Stephen Hart.
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