The New Bidder When It Comes To Talent

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Wayne RooneyPortland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson made some waves earlier this week in an interview in The Mirror saying “I think he would be a great signing for MLS – 100 per cent MLS would be attractive for him.” That ‘he’ is Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney. Paulson and MLS’s competition, China.

As we all now, China has been a rising force economically for the last 15 years or so. Over the last several years they have started making waves with their signings in the Chinese Super League. Drogba, Anelka, Hulk, and Robinho are some of the big names that have made the move to China (if only briefly).

With growing wealth comes investments overseas. The Guardian recently did a piece on the new Chinese owners breaking into the English football. It also means that there is money to spend. It sounds eerily familiar to the early days of MLS in a lot of ways with the signing of big names if for nothing else but the publicity and ticket sales but with the long range goal of building a competitive league.

Rooney BicycleRooney is a bit of a different animal. There is a lot of top level soccer left in him. While China may be able to offer an overly exuberant amount of money but MLS isn’t exactly sitting on it’s hands when it comes to spending money. Plus several of Rooney’s former England teammates have made successful moves to MLS (Beckham, Gerrard, Cole).

MLS is over the big name signing for the sake of doing it. Now it’s about how that player fits into what the team is already doing or what they want to do on the pitch. China may not have learned that lesson as of yet which could give MLS a key advantage over China when it comes to luring a player like Rooney.

Bottom line, could Rooney make his way to MLS? Absolutely but it will not be an easy decision to leave Manchester United no matter how much money someone like Paulson may throw at him. It’s also clear that MLS and other leagues have a new bidder at the table when it comes to top flight talent and that is China.

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What To Watch: Fri. 3/4 – Sun. 3/6

All times are Pacific.

Friday March 4th

NY Rangers at Washington Capitals – 4pm NHLN: One of the best scoring teams in the league (Caps) go against one of the best defensive teams in the league (Rangers).

LillardPortland Trail Blazers at Toronto Raptors – 4:30pm NBA League Pass: Portland is coming on strong led by Damian Lillard but Toronto on a Friday night is very tough place to play.

 

Saturday March 5th

Tottenham vs Arsenal – 4:45am NBCSN: Great rivalry and it means a lot to who plays European soccer next year.

Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund – 9am FX: Last minute addition by FOX. Now people can watch probably the best matchup of the Bundesliga this season. Oh, Bayern has stumbled as of late too.

Nashville Predators at Colorado Avalanche – 12pm NHL.TV: These two are in a battle for the two wild card slots in the Western Conference.

Anaheim Ducks at LA Kings – 1pm NHL.TV: These two are neck and neck in the Pacific division…oh and they hate each other.

Iowa State at Kansas – 1pm ESPN: Kansas already has the Big 12 sown up but this one is all about seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

UNC at Duke – 3pm ESPN: Heck the last one they played came down to the last shot. This one should too.

Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins – 4pm NHLN: These two could meet in the first round of the playoffs as it stands right now.

Louisville at Virginia – 5:30pm ESPN: The Cards aren’t going to the NCAA Tournament due to a self imposed suspension so they are looking to trip up UVA on their way to a high seed.

UFC 196 – 7pm PPV: Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz and Holly Holm vs Miesha Tate. Good fights made even better by the fact none of these people really like each other.

 

Atlanta Hawks at LA Clippers – 7:30pm NBA League Pass: Forget for a second that both these teams are very, very good and think about Steve Ballmer dunking.

 

Sunday March 6th

Kobalt 400 – 12:30pm FOX: NASCAR heads to Las Vegas which is always a fun race to watch.

Timbers MLS CupPortland Timbers vs Columbus Crew -1:30pm ESPN: First game of the year and it is a rematch of 2015 MLS Cup. You can only imagine how much the Crew want to return the favor to the Timbers. Expect them to come out hard and fast and try to snag an early goal.

Maryland at Indiana – 1:30pm CBS: Indiana has a share of the Big Ten title and look to wrap up the whole enchilada.

NY Islanders at NY Rangers – 2pm NHL.TV: These two are within striking distance of each other and a win here could have dramatic consequences come playoff time.

Sporting KC vs Seattle Sounders – 4pm FS1:  Two of the better teams in MLS over the last few years and both have gone through some serious player overhauls. We’ll see what happens.

LA Galaxy vs DC United – 7pm UNIMAS: The Galaxy have some big superstars like Keene, Gerrard and Cole. But DC United is has some outstanding talent as well.

St Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild – 5pm NBCSN: The Wild are fighting tooth and nail for a playoff spot and the Blues have struggled a little lately. They need to turn it around to keep their spot.

MLS 2016

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


The MLS season is upon us and while there are a lot questions to be asked and answered this season one thing is for sure, MLS is much improved.

From the players coming to the league,to those that decided to stay, to the stories that MLS now tells. It gets better every single year.

Instead of a “preview” of the 2016 season I think it is better to just watch this well produced piece by the league. It shows what kind of an impact the league has on communities across this country.

Cord Cutting Is Here For The Sports Fan

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


“Cord Cutting” is one of the hip terms thrown around in the cable, satellite and broadcast world. The real question is, is this a viable option for the true sports fan. The sports fan is, after all, why entities like ESPN, CBS, FOX and NBC write checks with three commas in them to leagues to acquire their rights. So the answer is YES you can cut the cord…almost.

SECN on SLING
SEC Network via Sling TV on an iPad.

Dish Network launched Sling TV earlier this year. They keys for Sling TV are as follows: there is no contract, it is $25 a month with the “sports extra” package that includes the ESPN family of networks and is device agnostic. Yes, it is a viable option for the sports fan. While the speed of your internet connection is a factor in how good your picture quality is, overall it’s an easy to use service that allows you to watch all of the ESPN channels anywhere you want on just about any device.

Outside of the ESPN channels, the sports package isn’t anything to scream about. The package also offers beIN sports, Outdoor Channel, Univision IDN and the now defunct Universal Sports. I am not sure that these really qualify for a “sports package” but you get them none the less. So in reality you are paying $5 a month for ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, SEC Network, and ESPN3. ESPN3 is kind of a hidden gem because it can allow you to watch games on ABC which is awesome if you have a bad over the air signal. You can also use ESPN3 and the WATCH ESPN app to watch a second game because your Sling TV account is a single sign on. That means one account, one screen at a time.

Sling TV doesn’t offer rewind functionality or a DVR. These can be annoying but not deal breakers by any stretch of the imagination.

SLING TV
Sling TV on the Roku 3.

If you live out of market then you are still paying for the league apps like MLS Live, NHL Gamecenter, MLB.TV, etc. You can also get NFL Sunday Ticket online in certain markets. The cost is the same as DirecTV but if you have the money it’s an awesome package. All of these apps available on virtually all of the OTT devices, Do your homework though to make sure that the app your looking for is available on the device you are thinking about purchasing.

Twitter

On the positive side, Sling TV’s customer service is pretty awesome especially if you go through Twitter to do it. It’s a pay as you go service but if you pre pay a few months ahead of time then they will give you deal on an OTT player like a Roku or Amazon Fire. I went with the Roku 3 after watching a review by Lon Seidman and despite some minor drawbacks, it’s working out pretty well.

There are drawbacks of course to cutting the cord. If you go the Sling TV route and dump your cable or satellite subscription then you do not get FS1, CBS Sports Network, NBCSN, NFL Network. NHLN, NBA TV, MLBN or your regional sports channels. This means that if you live in a market like San Francisco, Phoenix, Houston, Pittsburgh, etc then you won’t be able to see your local teams in baseball, basketball, hockey and so forth. You’ll also be blocked out by the league packages offered by MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS and be forced to head to your local sports bar or the game itself.

The other drawback is that you are back on over the air TV. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because, well, it’s free. However, if you live in a place with a bad signal then you may not get your basic network channels like ABC or CBS which isn’t a problem until Sunday NFL games roll around.

Something that you may not have thought about ( I didn’t) is the ability to switch quickly between games. On a college football Saturday, I will swap between three or four games at a time. That is very difficult to do if you cut the cord. Instead of changing channels, you are jumping in and out of apps and swapping sources on your TV. It can be annoying but not impossible.

There are work arounds for all of these issues of course. First, grab someones log in so that you can stream games from apps like NBCSN and FOX SPORTS GO. Research and invest in a super strong indoor antenna for your local channels. It may sound hokey in 2015 but if you want your local Sunday NFL games then you’ll definitely need one.

Finally you have to address your internet connection. You’ll want the fastest possible speed you can get and no matter what your cable company tells you, you do have a cap. I haven’t hit it yet but even if I do go over it’s a $10 change. That is still significantly cheaper than a $150 cable bill.

The fact is that you can cut the cord and still watch sports. It’s cumbersome but not as impossible as it was say five years ago. It’s cheaper in the long run but the short term costs and hit you pretty good. The fact remains that true sports fans can now be cord cutters too and it’s is only going to get better.

NYCFC: Not Learning From Chivas USA’s Failures

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


When MLS announced the long sought after second New York franchise, New York City FC (NYCFC), we expressed our doubts and drew similarities to another same city franchise, Chivas USA, that eventually folded. We are sad to say that NYCFC is pretty much following in the same footsteps as Chivas USA. Footsteps that will lead to it being the laughing stock of MLS.

Back in 2013 when we posted ‘The Pros and Cons of New York City FC’ we pointed out what we called the ‘Chivas Effect’. It stated:

Last time an ownership group that owned another prominent international football club expanded into MLS it was called Chivas USA. They had the lowest attendance in MLS last season, currently have no regional TV deal, and have been constantly pointed to as one of the worst run clubs in MLS. When they originally came into the league they wanted to use Chivas USA as a farm team for Chivas Guadalajara. Now they are rumored to be on the selling block.

Chivas folded shortly there after. Now NYCFC is laying a similar foundation that Chivas did.

NYCFC has brought in players pass their prime (David Villa, Andrea Pirlo, and Frank Lampard). Granted these are some great players and even after they’ve lost a step they are still pretty damn good. However, they weren’t even together for a full season. Lampard was kept by the parent club, Manchester City, for the entire 2014-2015 season and Pirlo didn’t show up until sometime in July. So manager Jason Kreis had about half a season to work them into the club.

In the spirit of ‘Chivas’, NYCFC fired Kreis after one season. Kreis was, at one point, the all time goal scorer in MLS, helped build a powerhouse in Real Salt Lake and took it to two MLS Cups, winning one of those trips. Apparently he should have melded Pirlo and Lampard into the club better in the 3 months he had with them.

Jason Kreis NYCFC

Kreis was set up for failure. Claudio Reyna is the Director of Football Operations for NYCFC. Let’s be honest about Reyna, he has little experience in the role and it’s pretty obvious that Manchester City is pulling the strings from England. How do we know this? Patrick Vieira was appointed to replace Kreis. A man, while a legend in the football community, has never played a second in MLS and has zero experience in the league. A league that is considered very physical and has a travel schedule that Vieira has never dealt experience. Not to mention that the league plays in four timezones, at elevation and various climates.

If NYCFC really wants to win in MLS then you have to examine how other successful MLS franchises have done it. Teams like the LA Galaxy, DC United, Sporting KC and the San Jose Earthquakes. All of whom have hoisted MLS Cup multiple times. Yes, they have had their lulls but overall, they have been pretty successful MLS franchises.

To get to more specific, how about this: First, get a coach who has MLS experience either as a player or as a coach. The four teams left in the playoffs, their manager was a former player in the league. Don’t do what Chivas did which was change a coach every year (they went through nine not counting the ‘interim’ folks), use your designated players on people who will help your team and not just sell tickets. Finally, find some patience.

There is a whole lot of time left for NYCFC to do the right thing and become a successful MLS franchise. They are currently not doing any of it but when there is this much money involved (they paid MLS $500 million to get into the league) you would have to imagine that they will figure it out eventually. Unfortunately for the supports, eventually may be a few years off.

Hacking Baseball

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

You may or may not have heard that the Houston Astros were hacked and it was apparently done by their former division rivals, the St Louis Cardinals. It’s serious enough that the Department of Justices and the FBI are investigating and subpoenas have been handed out. While many are wondering ‘who did it’ or ‘why’,  the rest of us are wondering how has this not happened sooner.

HACKING

The Astros were alleged victims of hacking last season too when a bunch of internal information hit the Internet. While it is unclear if this new case is related, what we do know is that in this new case the hackers were able to use an old password of Astros GM and former Cardinals executive Jeff Luhnow.

Regardless of who is responsible, this should be the first of a many hacks we will be seeing across the sports landscape. While this isn’t as severe as Stuxnet or the breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OMP)this is sports after all and not national security but it does, technically, fall under the umbrella of ‘corporate espionage’. One entity was possibly attempting to acquire another’s inside information and in the process gain a possible competitive advantage.

Trying to gain a competitive advantage is half of sports though. From stealing signs in baseball to spying on practices to the New England Patriots ‘Spygate’ (Why do the Patriots always get caught up in ‘gate’ anyway?) Trying to gain an advantage has always been and always will be a part of the sports landscape. The question now is if trying to gain that advantage may violate state and federal law.

The Cardinals may have been able to gain a competitive advantage by gaining access to the Astros ‘Ground Control’ application but with everyone using data analytics these days, this can’t possibly be the first time this has happened. The Oakland A’s pioneered the big data revolution back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s so it is hard to believe that over the last 15 years or so that no one has gained access to or capitalized off proprietary baseball information.

Regardless of who, how or why someone ‘hacked’ into another sports franchises proprietary system is almost irrelevant. What matters now is A) how do you protect the data you own and B) if data was taken did it truly provide a measurable competitive advantage? This is the beginning, not the end of this. The consequences of heavy reliance upon analytics is here so we better get use to it.

The Sunday: A Bad Week

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Dempsey Sent Off

US National team star Clint Dempsey was suspended three matches by MLS for his actions which led him to be sent off during a US Open Cup match last week. Dempsey took the referee’s notebook, tossed it and then picked it up and ripped it in half.

It’s not a good look for Dempsey or MLS. Apparently if a player takes the referee’s notebook it is supposed to trigger a six match ban and is considered an act of assault.

 

Fox Fails At Golf

A couple of topics for discussion during this years US Open at Chambers Bay. Most have to do with the golfers or the course (which a lot of players say is just terrible) and another is with Fox Sports’ coverage. Covering golf is a new thing for Fox and it showed during the tournament. Upsetting fans seemingly at every turn. From the leader board crashing to a vignette of Jason Dufner going to Seahawks practice instead of showing actual golf.

ForTheWin probably has the best summary of the coverage and well worth the read. While some argue that golf needs to get younger no golf fan young or old turns on the TV because you have a drone. They tune in to watch Rory McIlroy nail a 72 foot putt

 

The One You Want Back

Max Scherzer was literally one strike away from having Major League Baseball’s 24th perfect game. That one pitch that ended up hitting Pittsburgh Pirates pinch-hitter Jose Tabata. Ouch. It’s not all bad news for Scherzer, he did get the no hitter and lowered his ERA to 1.76 while retiring 54 of the last 57 batters he has faced. 

The Best Day In Sports. Period.

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

It may be a cosmic event or maybe just plain old luck. Either way, Saturday May 2, 2015 is shaping up to be one of the greatest days in sports history. Just about every major professional sport will be represented and then some. The only question is, is it too much?

Mayweather vs Pacquiao

Let’s start with the one off, the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. They won’t actually start fighting until around 8:30pm Pacific standard time (PST) on Saturday at which point they will truly begin to split the estimated $300 million in pay-per-view money. 60-40 to Mayweather of course. It’s the biggest fight boxing has seen since Mayweather took on Oscar De La Hoya. It will probably be the last great matchup for a generation.

Before this of course is a smorgasbord of sporting events.

The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby will take place around 3:25pm PST. It’s the one time a year that a wide spectrum of people care about horse racing and women get to wear big hats.

The events that we are use to seeing this time of year are of course Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the NBA Playoffs, NHL Playoffs, and the NFL Draft.

The NFL Draft is the only event where there isn’t any actual sporting activity happening. But this is a football nation and people will be glued to the draft (even the later rounds which will be happening on Saturday). It will be the first time that the Draft has been outside of New York City and the second time that it has been held in the month of May.

Yes, this may go down as the greatest day in sports history. Is it too much though? That’s for you to decide for yourself. There certainly won’t be a lack of options on Saturday that’s for sure. Our advice is to pace yourself and try to find a couple of people to split the $100 Mayweather vs Pacquiao ppv.

What To Watch Thurs. 4/9 – Sun. 4/12

All Times Are Pacific.

Thursday April 9th

The Masters 1st Round – Noon ESPN: A tournament unlike any other….and it’s steaming online at themasters.com.

Frozen Four: Nebraska -Omaha vs Providence – 2pm ESPN2: Well since the hardwood Final Four is finished, let’s get on the ice.

Frozen Four: Boston vs North Dakota – 5:30pm ESPN2: Next!

LA Kings at Calgary Flames – 6pm NHL Gamecenter: The Kings need to win out if they want a chance at the playoffs. They have to win this one against a possible playoff opponent.

Portland TrailBlazers at Golden State Warriors – 7:30pm TNT: Two playoff bound teams just tuning up for the post season.

REMOTE-contrast

Friday April 10th

The Masters 2nd Round – Noon ESPN: It’s the Masters. Even if you hate golf you’ll still know who wins this. And it’s only the second round!

NY Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins – 4pm NHL Network: The Pens need to get their act together if they want to be in the playoffs.

 

Saturday April 11th

The Masters 3rd Round – Noon CBS: The cut is down and now it’s time to get down to business.

San Jose Sharks at LA Kings – Noon NBC: The Kings have to win out and get some help if they want any chance of defending their title. The Sharks would love nothing more than to prevent that from happening.

DC United vs New York Red Bulls – 4pm MLS Live: The top two teams in the East square off. Oh, and they don’t like each other.

Frozen Four Final – 4:30pm ESPN: Let’s find out who is college hockey’s best team!

 

Sunday April 12th

Manchester United vs Manchester City – 7:55am NBCSN: A Manchester Derby on a Sunday morning.

The Masters Final Round – 11am CBS: It’s the final round of the Masters. It’s usually pretty awesome.

Portland Timbers vs Orlando City FC – 2pm ESPN2: Kaka visits the friendly confines of Providence Park. Sure the Timbers Army will make him feel welcome.

LA Galaxy vs Seattle Sounders – 4pm FS1: Arguably two of the more entertaining teams in all of MLS. Neither is 100% but it’s still worth tuning in for.

Boston Red Sox at NY Yankees – 5:10pm ESPN: Well if you’re going to watch a baseball game this early in the year it might as well be between these two.

The Travels Of Adu

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Freddy Adu was deemed ‘America’s Soccer Savior’. He was supposed to be for soccer what Michael Jordan was for the NBA and what Wayne Gretzky was for the NHL. It hasn’t worked out that way. So what happened and where is he now?

FREDDY ADU

What happened? That’s tough to answer. No one really knows. Was it not enough nurture vs nature or vice versa? Either way Adu didn’t turn into the American soccer’s first Jordan or Gretzky. Once he left DC United (his original club) nothing ever seemed to stick including playing time. He’s appeared in less than 100 games since 2006.

Where is he now? Well Adu signed on with a Finnish club, KuPS (Kuopion Palloseura). Whether he will see any action at all is still up in the air. Since he was traded from DC United, Adu has been with 10 teams across eight countries. He only saw significant playing time with one club over that time. Ironically, that club (Philadelphia Union) was in MLS.

Where does Adu go from here? It’s hard to tell. He is only 25 years of age. That’s a good 10 years before he is ‘over the hill’ in the soccer world. The fact is Adu needs to get on the pitch. He needs to play and find that rhythm of being a starter. If he can do that then he may have a chance of winning back part of those initial (and unfair) expectations.

Grantland Article on Adu