MLS Archive

7

Why we in Edmonton should see Minnesota’s move to MLS as bittersweet

10659388_10152654651984494_3033798155037099486_nBeing in Edmonton on the day that the Twin Cities officially gets the nod as the next MLS franchise is well, kinda bittersweet.

Let’s face it; the Eddies used to have a decent rivalry with Atlanta a couple of years back because the teams didn’t necessarily like each other very much. But, really, it’s hard to pinpoint who is supposed to be FCE’s rivalry team. Ottawa? No. Except when we play each other, we all kinda cheer for Ottawa because the club is committed to giving Canadians minutes on the field.

But, with the Flyover Cup — a supporter-driven initiative which sees the winner of the FCE/Loons season series get the award — it should be Minnesota who is our closest rival. But, in a weird way, the Loons are kind of like the Eddies’ best frenemy. We’re the cold-weather cities in a league filled with tropical teams; we’re united in our sense of isolation from the rest of the NASL.

And our matches against each other, well, they’ve been excellent. The interaction between supporters has been great. It won’t be forgotten that the Dark Clouds, the main support group for the Loons, raised money when they found out about the fire that devastated the town of Slave Lake, north of Edmonton, back in 2011.

I have a lot of respect for the organization; whenever they’ve come into Edmonton the team has been great to deal with. Coach Manny Lagos has always been open with our broadcast team.

So, it’s kinda like seeing a best friend get married; you are happy for the guy, but you know your relationship will change.

Minnesota United will move to MLS in 2018; and while there will no doubt be those die-hard factions of NASL supporters who will see the team’s move as some kind of betrayal, the fact is this: The Loons’ acceptance into MLS is very, very good for NASL.
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3

MLS deserves praise for explaining why Morrow’s red card wasn’t rescinded

Justin Morrow

Justin Morrow

Major League Soccer is regularly criticized over its lack of transparency; allocation money, draws held to assign players to teams, we’re not even 100 per cent sure of the roster rules governing the 2015 season because, well, they haven’t been posted by the league as of yet.

So, when the league does make itself more transparent, it deserves to be pointed out — and lauded.

Case in point; on Wednesday morning, the league announced that it an independent panel had rejected Toronto FC’s appeal of fullback Justin Morrow’s red card. Two weekends ago, Edmonton-based referee Dave Gantar ruled that Morrow’s slide tackle had denied Columbus forward Ethan Finlay of a goal-scoring opportunity and sent off the defender. The replays looked to indicate that Morrow in fact got the ball on the challenge.

The incident was sent to the review panel, made up of three officials — one from the Canadian Soccer Association, one from the U.S. Soccer Federation and one from the Professional Referees Organization (PRO), the body that administers officiating assignments in MLS.

To win an appeal, it’s not good enough to get two out of three votes. The board has to be unanimous.

And, in stating why the appeal was rejected, MLS was clear that the lack of unanimity was the issue. The league stated the panel members “were not unanimous that the referee had made a serious and obvious error in the send-off.”

So what we know from this is that the opinions on the panel were mixed. Some thought that Morrow should be taken off the hook, and others didn’t. It gives fans some needed insight into the obstacles a team or player must overcome in order to overturn a referee’s decision.
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2

Quintessentially Canadian Power Rankings, Week 3

Marcel de Jong

Marcel de Jong

Four Canadian players made their MLS season debuts (or MLS debuts, period) in the third weekend of the MLS season. That boosts the number of Canadians who have played in the league so far in 2015 to 12.

But, take that with a grain of salt. The two strong leaders in minutes played by Canadians may never ever suit up for the Canadian national side — Philadelphia Union defender Steven Vitoria and FC Dallas strikes Tesho Akindele, who scored this past weekend. Because there is still more than a snowball’s chance in hell that either could play for Canada down the road, they are included in the list.

And five of the remaining 10 have seen nothing more than substitute minutes.

But it is encouraging to see Marcel de Jong get his second straight start (and full 90) for Sporting Kansas City, which puts him in the minute lead for Canadian players who actually have senior national-team caps. And Toronto FC had a bye week, so take the Reds’ numbers with a grain of salt.
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4

Julian de Guzman says he is considering a couple of “concrete” offers from NASL clubs

Julian de Guzman, centre, is flanked by Canadian women's national-team players Emily Zurrer and Desiree Scott at the West Edmonton Mall.

Julian de Guzman, centre, is flanked by Canadian women’s national-team players Emily Zurrer and Desiree Scott at the West Edmonton Mall.

Julian de Guzman has played in Germany and Spain; he’s been a Designated Player in Major League Soccer.

Is his next stop the North American Soccer League?

The veteran Canadian national-team midfielder, at the West Edmonton Mall Friday for the launch of the new red Canada kit, said he hopes to have a new team at the end of March. He’ll be with the Canadian national team for its upcoming Florida camp and its March 27 friendly against Guatemala and its March 30 match at Puerto Rico.

He confirmed that the “most concrete” offers he has on the table come from a couple of NASL teams. He wouldn’t name which NASL clubs have put offers forward, but he said he’s giving them some serious consideration.
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17

Put your money where your mouth is: Would you support a Canadian Div. 1 soccer league?

PP - Spring 2015 FINALThe latest issue of Plastic Pitch has certainly ignited a lot of Twitter debate and comments. Our look at Canada’s role in North American leagues certainly has more than a few of our readers calling for a Canadian-only first division or conference.

To get the issue: CLICK HERE for our Shopify Store
CLICK HERE for Apple
CLICK HERE for Google Play.

Last year, we heard the rumours about the North American Soccer League, the Canadian Football League and the Canadian Soccer Association discussing the formation of a domestic league or division. But, as NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson told us in Plastic Pitch #3, “It really is too early to talk about a Canadian division, but it is not something we think is out of the question. There is enough interest in Canada for pro soccer, I think it is something that could possibly work, but I don’t know when.”

Others have told me that it’s vital that a major title sponsor (think of Barclay’s and the Premiership) would need to come forward, with money that would help offset the massive travel costs. If the travel costs are mitigated, then more potential investors might come forward. But, without that big sponsor, it’s hard to get investors interested in losing the millions they’d need to lose for a decade or so as the league got off the ground. They wouldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
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2

Catching up: Canada’s U-17 loss, Week 2 of the Quintessentially Canadian Power Rankings

Steven Vitoria

Steven Vitoria

The last few days have been a whirlwind; and it’s meant I’ve had to a take the last 72 hours away from soccer.

Getting the fifth issue of Plastic Pitch to release required a massive push last week; as well, I have until the end of the month to finish the final draft of my latest novel for young adults. And, I am writing this post from an Austin, Tex. hotel room; last night, I attended the premiere of Malcolm Ingram’s new documentary, Out to Win, at the SXSW Film Festival.

(Full disclosure: I’m a partner in OTW’s production company.)

I got the chance to meet some incredible athletes, both Canadian and American, who have come out; and, the film is a reminder — to paraphrase Outsports’ Cyd Zeigler — of the power sport has when it comes to social change. It was my pleasure to be in the company of Dave Kopay, the NFL player who, in the early ‘70s, was the first “out” athlete; Canadian women’s hockey goalkeeper Charline Labonte and her partner, Canadian speed skater Anastasia Bucsis; retired NBA centre Jason Collins and Wade Davis, former NFLer and the director of You Can Play.

And, well, when in Austin, let’s just say the whole town carries a mesquite smoke smell. So, yes, the barbecue is fantastic.

But, I did want to take the chance to catch up on a couple of things: The elimination of Canada’s U-17s from the U-17 World Cup picture and the second instalment of The 11’s Quintessentially Canadian Power Rankings. (For more on the methodology, click here).
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11

ISSUE 5 OF PLASTIC PITCH: What is Canada getting out of participating in U.S.-based soccer leagues?

PP - Spring 2015 FINALWhen a magazine comes out, its all shiny and brand-new to the reader.

To the editor, it’s the end to a long process that takes months to come to fruition.

And, Issue 5 of Plastic Pitch, out now, represents our most pain-staking effort. This issue is a labour of love, of passion for the Canadian game — and asks questions about our Canadian identity within the game. It should easily become the most talked-about issue we’ve put out.

It’s our biggest issue ever, and all of the features relate back to a central theme: Is Canada benefitting from having teams in U.S.-based leagues? Is it the way forward, or do we need to find a new solution?

Inside, you’ll find:

• A look at a history of promises and pledges MLS has made to Canadian soccer fans, many of which we’re still waiting to see followed through;

• Paul Hamilton, David Monsalve and Shaun Saiko talk about the difficulties of being Canadian players in a North American league. You’ll read about contract offers that skirt minimum wage. You’ll read about Monsalve’s trial with the Jacksonville Armada, and how the team looked for ways to get him U.S. status so he wouldn’t count as an import. And Saiko opens up about a move from FC Edmonton to the Montreal Impact that went from being a sure thing to blowing up.
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13

Introducing our new quintessentially Canadian MLS power rankings

mls-primary_colorLong-time Canadian international Iain Hume had an interesting take on Saturday’s “Canadian” MLS season-opener at BC Place between the Whitecaps and Toronto FC.

In a tweet delivered just as the game kicked off, Hume used the #farce hashtag to sum up his feelings about the game. With each team starting just one Canadian — Russell Teibert for the Whitecaps and Jonathan Osorio in TFC red — Hume wanted his followers to know he wasn’t happy.

But, looking at the rosters throughout MLS, you can’t help escape the feeling that Hume could tweet out #farce week after week. And, in the spring issue (#5) of Plastic Pitch, we’re going to take a cold, hard look at the leagues we share at the United States and how we’re treated. The issue, which will be out later in March, will ask the hard question: Does being in MLS or NASL or NWSL really benefit Canadian soccer?

And, in keeping with that theme, we’re going to launch a new sorta power-rankings system. Sure, most power rankings are just throwaway click-bait; the kinda of mind-numbing stuff we promise ourselves we’ll never have to write again each time we bang one out.

But this one is different. Throughout the year, we’re going to rank MLS teams (and NASL, too, once the season starts in April) on how many minutes they give to Canadians. We’re not going to wax poetic about U-23 teams or developmental sides; for Canadian soccer to move forward, we need to see players regularly moving from developmental squad to first team, not just more and more Bryce Aldersons (and, look for our interview with Alderson in issue 5 of Plastic Pitch). We also don’t really care that some teams might have a Canadian warming the bench. To benefit our national program, we need our players getting first-team minutes.
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2

Free agency lite: A small step forward in new Major League Soccer CBA

mls-primary_colorThe players went into the Collective Bargaining Agreement process looking for some form of free agency. Major League Soccer and its owners said that free agency would never happen in their single entity system.

The compromise that was reached on Wednesday will ensure that no labour stoppage will delay the 2015 MLS season. But it’s hard to judge just what this new agreement in principle will do to the North American player market. According to reports, free agency will be granted to players who have eight years of service in the league, and are 28 years of age or older. But, the salary increases these “free agents” can earn for themselves will be capped.

So, in terms of owners opening the door on free agency, it’s barely open a crack. The lock is off, though — and it will be up to the players to kick it down when this CBA expires five years from now.

1) If you go into free agency, and the raise you can potentially earn for yourself is capped — well, that’s not really free agency, is it? It’s a reasonable facsimile of free agency. The league already has a salary cap — which would prevent GMs from overspending on the free agent market; capping the potential increases only adds another barrier for the player.
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3

Atlanta, Georgia, Canada: Porter joins the Silverbacks

Kyle Porter

Kyle Porter

Kyle Porter has returned to the NASL.

The Atlanta Silverbacks announced Wednesday that they have signed the Canadian international. Porter will be reunited with fellow Canadian former FC Edmonton teammate Dominic Oppong, who signed with the Silverbacks last month.

Porter spent the previous two seasons with the DC United organization, but spent much of 2014 with the MLS team’s USL affiliate in Richmond. He was released at the end of the season.

Before that, he spent two seasons with FC Edmonton, scoring a total of 12 goals; the Eddies offered him a new contract, but he chose to pursue a what turned into a successful trial with DC United and the Eddies pulled the offer off the table.
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