What To Watch Thurs. 11/20 – Sun. 11/23

All times are PST

Thursday November 20th

Kansas St at West Virginia – 4pm FS1: K-ST and WVU may not get into the College Football Playoff but this should still be one heck of a game.

LA Clippers at Miami Heat – 5pm TNT: Still a fun game even without LeBron.

Friday November 21st

Chicago Bulls at Portland TrailBlazers – 7:30pm ESPN: Battle of two of the top teams in NBA.

Saturday November 22nd

Minnesota at Nebraska – 9am ESPN: Key game in the Big Ten West. Both teams coming off of embarrassing losses last weekend.

Arsenal vs Manchester United – 9:30am NBC: The game may not decide the Premier League but it’s still a lot of bad blood between the two.

Yale at Harvard – 9:30am NBCSN: It’s one of the longest running rivalries in College Football. This year the winner walks away with the Ivy League title. It’s also signifies the beginning of the end of the College Football season.

Ole Miss at Arkansas – 12:30pm CBS: Arkansas finally broke through and got their first SEC win in what seems like forever. Now they welcome Ole Miss to town in a must win for both but for different reasons.

Arizona at Utah – 12:30 ESPN: Think the SEC West is tough? Try the Pac 12 South.

Stanford at Cal – 1pm FS1: THE BIG GAME! Winner goes bowling. Cal QB Goff has 4 INT’s all year.

Louisville at Notre Dame – 12:30pm NBC: Notre Dame is reeling and Louisville is no joke.

Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins – 4pm NHLN: An original 6 match up for your Saturday night.

Missouri at Tennessee – 4:30pm ESPN: Mizzou is looking to wrap up their second straight SEC East title. Tennessee needs to win one of the next two to go bowling.

USC at UCLA – 5pm ABC: Battle of LA.

Frankie Edgar vs Cub Swanson – 9pm(ish) FS1: This is a heck of a fight in the Featherweight Division.

Sunday November 23rd

Detroit Lions at New England Patriots – 10am FOX: Can anyone stop the Pats?

Montreal Alouettes at Hamilton Tiger-Cats – 10am ESPN: Eastern Conference Final.

NY Red Bulls vs NE Revolution – 10:30pm NBC: Can the Red Bulls get Thierry Henry to an MLS Cup before he retires?

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks – 1pm FOX: This could decide the NFC West.

Edmonton Eskimos at Calgary Stampeders – 1:30pm ESPN3: Western Conference Final, a chance to get to the Grey Cup and the battle of Alberta all wrapped into one.

LA Galaxy vs Seattle Sounders – 2pm ESPN: Game 1 of two in the Western Conference Final.

MLS 2014 Preview

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The 19th season of MLS kicks off this weekend. Sporting KC will attempt to defend their title against a serious pack of challengers. From perennial favorites like LA, Houston and Salt Lake to the upstarts in Portland and the dark horse in Toronto.

MLS 2014 KICK OFF

Can SKC Do It Again?

Sporting KC may have the most dynamic roster in all of MLS. From Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber in the middle, Matt Besler and Aurelien Colin in the back and multiple attacking options up top. Most of the team remains intact minus Keeper Jimmy Nielsen. It’s up to manager Peter Vermes to keep this team motivated. They way he screams, it shouldn’t be a problem.

NYRB 4 REAL?

The New York Red Bulls finally won a trophy of some kind last season when they walked away with the Supporters Shield. With that monkey off their back it’s time for them to take home and MLS Cup or a US Open Cup.

Like usual, there have been front office and player changes this off season. However, Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill still anchor the Red Bull attack and that means that Jonny Steele and Jamison Olave should get plenty of chances like they did last season.

New York finally found a goalkeeper they can rely on in Luis Robles. If he has a season similar to last year then he could be looking at an All-Star spot.

One interesting addition is Bobby Convey. He can do everything when on and healthy. If he can find a role then his service could lead to even more goals.

Sigi’s Last Stand?

Sigi Schmidt is in the last year of his contract. They previous times this has happened to him he has won an MLS Cup. First in LA then in Columbus. Seattle needs more playoff success but what they really need is an MLS Cup Final appearance.

Seattle cleaned house to an extent but they still have Clint Dempsey, Osvaldo Alonso, and Brad Evans. The added Chad Barrett and Kenny Cooper up top and brought in Chad Marshall to provide leadership and stability in the back. The have all the ingredients to win the cup now they just have to prove it.

The New and Improved TFC

If you’re an MLS fan you may have noticed that Toronto FC made some big money moves this offseason. Enter US National Team Captain Michael Bradley, England National Team striker Jermain DaFoe, Brazilian striker Gilberto and multi-MLS MVP Dewayne De Rosario.

One of the bigger additions might very well be defender Justin Morrow. He’s young but with a lot of MLS experience. Look for him to shut down any counterattacks that come his way.

Let’s face facts, TFC has to get into the playoffs…and win. Missing the playoffs would be a disaster. Getting in and not winning a game would hurt but it’s a foundation to build on.

Porter-ball Round 2

The Portland Timbers last season were something that their avid fan support could be proud off. The won the western conference and went deep into the MLS Cup playoffs knocking off arch rival Seattle in the process.

Now they have to do better.

Portland is loaded with attacking options but everything hinges on Diego Valeri and WIll Johnson. If Valeri can stay on the pitch then watch out. If he can’t and Johnson does not repeat the MVP caliber performance that he had last year then it could be a long season in the Rose City.

Portland has proven that they can withstand key injuries but with manager Caleb Porter’s style of play, injuries are always a concern.

The Heat Is On

DC United had, with all due respect, a horrendous year last year. Manager Ben Olsen is back for another go round and has been given a great tool to succeed with in US National Team forward Eddie Johnson.

Johnson needs to be a rock start. DC has hedged their bets though with the addition of striker Fabian Espindola. Add these two with new addition Davy Arnaud and Sean Franklin and they should make a nice nucleus when you add in existing players Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon.

Now all that’s left is a winning season and a soccer specific stadium to get DC back amongst the elite teams in MLS.

There are a lot of interesting questions to be answered over the next several months and that’s if there are no big player movements. So let’s get this started already!

The Pros & Cons of New York City FC

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Tuesday saw the addition of New York City FC to Major League Soccer (MLS). The majority of owners will be Machester City FC of the English Premier League and a minority, but active owner, will be the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball (MLB). This looks great on paper and MLS is trying hard to sell it to the media and the public so let’s look at the pro’s and con’s of this.

The PROS.                                                                                                                   –Based in NYC. The team will be based in New York City, the world’s financial and advertising center. The NFL doesn’t have a team with a stadium in New York City.

4 teams in the top 2. This gives MLS a 2nd team in the New York TV market and 4 teams in the top 2 TV markets in the US (Los Angeles has 2 teams and is the 2nd largest TV market).

Balance. A 20th team in MLS allowing for a balanced schedule. It also means a natural rival for Red Bull New York.

$500 Million. A partnership with the Abu Dhabi government (owners of Man City) and the New York Yankees and a $500 million dollar investment in MLS. The last MLS expansion club, the Montreal Impact, only paid a $40 million expansion fee.

New York City FC

Now for The CONS.

No stadium deal. In the recent expansion history of the MLS teams were required to have a soccer specific stadium either in the works or ready to go in order to get a franchise. They certainly had a place to play unlike NYCFC.

There is still no team in the Southeastern US. Major markets like Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Nashville are without an MLS club. By comparison the NFL has 8 franchises in this region, the NBA and MLB have 5, and the NHL has 4. This region also has 16 of the top 50 US TV markets.

MLS Empty South

Chivas Effect. 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.

Red Bull New York doesn’t sellout. Red Bull arena, a 25,000 seat soccer specific stadium, in New Jersey that features stars like Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill doesn’t sellout. In fact their attendance was down in 2012 from 2011. They averaged about 73% of capacity. Why would another club, with no history in New York and no stadium do better in the denses sports market in the US?

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

This appears on paper to be a great deal for Machester City and in part for MLS. Man City gets a foothold in New York and how can that not be good for the bottom line? They hired former City player and US National Team Captain Claudio Reyna as the Director of Football and claim that NYCFC will play the same style of football as Man City. But how? MLS is not the BPL. Chivas said a lot of the same things and they went through two head coaches in their first season.

There is a lot of talk about the resources that Man City has as far as scouting is concerned and how they are going to help NYCFC. When has that worked? Dedicated resources are always better than shared resources. Economically sharing resources makes sense from a business perspective but in sports it doesn’t work. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) which owns Toronto FC, the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and the NHL’s Maple Leafs isn’t exactly knocking at the trophy winning door. They probably claim to have great synergies as well but that hasn’t led to hardware.

MLS and Commissioner Don Garber have tried for years to get another club into New York. The only ones who seem to understand it is them. The league would be better served in the long run by expanding into the Southeastern US instead of New York with a passionate, dedicated owner whose sole sports focus is on one club, not two. In the end New York City FC will eventually compete in MLS. How it takes them to get their is up for debate.

5 Things To Watch For This MLS Season

 

 

MLS 2013

 

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

A new MLS season is kicking off in North America. With any new season in any sport there are a lot of question marks. Below are our Top 5 things to look out for during this 18th MLS season.

5. New Coaches: There are 5 new head coaches roaming the sidelines in MLS this season and that now makes 12 former MLS players now managing clubs. Two of the biggest debuts square off in week one. Mike Petke of the New York Red Bulls and Caleb Porter for the Portland Timbers. Both teams have high expectations, a rabid fan base and a longing for MLS post season glory.                                                                                                  

4. The Donovan Odyssey: US Soccer poster boy Landon Donovan has taken a leave of absence from soccer but is returning to the the 2-time defending MLS Cup Champions LA Galaxy at the end of March. Will he be the same player on and off the field? Can he lead, along with Robbie Keane, the Galaxy to a 3rd straight MLS Cup?

3. Can Toronto FC Make The Playoffs?: Only the Red Bulls have gone through more coaching changes than TFC. However, the Red Bulls have been in MLS for all 18 years (formerly known as the MetroStars) while TFC kicks off it’s 7th MLS season on Saturday. They have never made the playoffs and after another off season of sweeping changes it is left to 1st time coach Ryan Nelsen to get this team into the MLS playoffs for the 1st time.

2. Running With The Red Bulls: The New York Red Bulls have arguably the most dangerous player in MLS in Thierry Henry. They’ve shaken up the coaching staff and the team but is it enough to get them their 1st MLS Cup? Maybe. If new signee Juninho  can be half of what he was and the back-line and pull together then they may just be the team the beat. It’s a lot of ‘if’s’ but in the sports saturated New York market the Red Bulls have to win. Not just for the team but for the league.

1. No Beckham? No Problem: The loss of one of the world’s sports and entertainment icons shouldn’t slow down MLS or the LA Galaxy. The Galaxy will get Donovan back after a few games and they still have the man who lead them all the way to the MLS Cup glory in Robbie Keane. The league on the other hand is entering it’s 18th season and is bringing in more and more top talent from around the world. There is only one David Beckham but the level of play, energy and popularity of the sport are growing and with all due respect to Becks, he probably couldn’t have taken the league any further.