As midseason nears in the MLS, I was wondering how the players were to be selected to the all-star game?
RM:The teams were selected by a vote of MLS head and assistant coaches. Lothar Osiander and Thomas Rongen are the All-Star coaches by virtue of their teams leading the conferences. The game will be July 14th at Giants Stadium.
The league office is considering having the fans vote for all-stars next season. Nevertheless, we will be polling the fans for their all-star votes this month and will run the results in SA. We know the fans know better.
I've heard that the U.S. Open Cup competition involving A-League and USISL teams will also include four MLS teams this year. Can you tell me more about the tournament? Where will the games be played? Will the winner be eligible to represent the U.S. in international tournaments? Which MLS teams will be participating?
RM:There's no decision yet on MLS teams competing for next year; this year's tournament is already underway, and the U.S. champion is eligible to represent the U.S. in CONCACAF play.
Teams from all over the country enter the Open Cup, which is open to all teams, not just A-League and USISL, and progress from local to regional competition, with the four regional winners meeting to decide the champion. There are six classificiations: Open, Over-30, and Amateur in both men's and women's divisions. The finals will be played in July.
For more information, call the U.S. Soccer Amateur Division at (201) 861-6277. Fax: 201-861-6341.
Hello, my name is Marcus, and I play goalie. I am a really big fan of Jorge Campos, and I was wondering if you know any numbers or any kind of resource where I could find his uniform replicas to order?
RM:Marcus, I'd ask at your friendly neighborhood soccer store if they stock Campos jerseys, and if not, how they can be ordered. You can also call TSI Soccer, which carries all MLS merchandise,. at 1 (800) 842-6679, and the LA Galaxy at (310) 445-1260.
How come you have yet to recognize Manny Motajo of the LA Galaxy as one of the unsung heros of MLS? If you had to play in front of Jorge Campos and your team had lots of shutouts, you'd think you were great! Come on, folks. Just because he's an obscure player from Nigeria by way of Howard doesn't mean he's not great. P.S. He's a great coach, too.
RM:I've seen most of the L.A. games this year, Ellen, and although Manny's not a bad player, Robin Fraser and Dan Calichman and Mark Semioli have been playing better. Perhaps this is because Manny was a forward as a young player and still isn't as sharp defensively as his back-line mates. But, he's a starter for an unbeaten team, so there's no question he's doing a solid job. And as you say, he's also a good guy.
I am confused about the time-in-possession statistic reported for MLS games. Every minute of the game is accounted for by one team or the other. Yet obviously some of the time the ball is not in play or in clear possession by either team. How is this statistic generated?
RM:Who knows? Actually, the ball is deemed in possession by the last team that touched it, up until it is touched by a player on the other team. But how they can click that stopwatch on and off when the ball is ping-ponging in midfield is beyond me. Remember, these are just estimates, not computed to the precise second, although such exact measurements can be made by digital tracking and a computer. But why bother?
To use an example from American football, when a team punts the ball, it is considered to have possession until a player on the other team catches it, or fumbles it, as the case may be. Same with an interception.
Phehello Anthony Mahasele
Grahamstown, South Africa
Can you please give me some information on how the South African players Doctor Khumalo and Shaun Bartlett are doing?
RM&PB:Bartlett is doing so well several foreign clubs have already asked MLS about buying him! He scored just this past Wednesday, but that wasn't enough to keep Colorado from losing 3-1 to Los Angeles. Both players missed several games when they returned home to lead Bfana Bfana (the South African national team) over Malawi in World Cup '98 qualifying, and their MLS teams struggled during their absence. Khumalo has played decently for Columbus, and he has been a real team leader. Columbus has won two straight since his return.
Geoffrey M. Huntley
A friend and I were discussing various players in MLS and national teams, and we began wondering what some of the "stars" were pulling down in salary. Not to be nosey, but many of the other sports regularly publish their players salaries or contract perks. We were curious whether our U.S. players were being compensated in like manner as those abroad or in other profesional sports.
RM:The official MLS maximum salary is $175,000 per year, but many of the top stars are making much more than that. However, no MLS player is earning anything close to the staggering sums paid to Michael Jordan, Deion Sanders, Barry Bonds, etc., and most of them make much less than their counterparts in major European or South American leagues.
In a recent article I read that MLS is considering getting new jerseys next year. Did these guys finally realize how ugly most of these uniforms are, or is this just wishful thinking on my part? In other countries, soccer teams have shirts that are basically one color. What a concept! They don't have these strange six colored mesh jerseys with huge fire-breathing horses on the front. I understand that the US may want to be different than other countries, but I think there is something to be learned from these people who have been doing this for a hundred years. I guess my question is: Is there a chance that MLS will get better, more traditional jerseys in the near future?
RM:The new jerseys will be modifications of the same motifs you see now. Nike, in particular, feels it must break ground to give its teams and the league an identity, and frankly, has no compunction about offending people if it makes them talk about its product. But look at it this way: some of them can't get any worse.
However, the trend in European and South American club jerseys is for two-color shirts, and some right gruesome sights have been seen in recent years (Arsenal's horrible black-and-yellow-triangles away strip of a few years ago being just one example.) And how about this: L.A.'s home shirt of black-yellow-teal-red looks like swamp sludge, but its white jersey is real classy. Still, to see a brilliant midfielder like Carlos Valderrama wearing a pastel color splash adorned with a bat offends me, too.
Given the obvious superiority to most MLS teams displayed by the LA Galaxy, it seems reasonable to ask how they stack up internationally. Do you think that LA is good enough to threaten the best Mexican teams? And, in any case, will the MLS champion play in CONCACAF club competitions? Also, will we forfeit the spot in the Cup Winners' Cup?
RM:Too soon to tell how LA shapes up, and we don't think the other nine teams have tossed in the towel just yet.
We've already suggested the Mexican League champ and the MLS champ square off, perhaps in a charity match, but with players being called up for World Cup qualifiers it may not be feasible this year. It's still a great idea.
MLS participation in U.S. Open and CONCACAF competitions is still under discussion, there should be some answers forthcoming in the next month or so. Personally, I think MLS teams will be too busy the next year or so to be worrying about U.S. Open Cup, the gateway to CONCACAF play. I can't see the Hunt family worrying about if the Crew or Wiz will be drawn into a tough group with Guatemalan or Costa Rican teams.
San Jose, Calif.
How does one go about petitioning for a review of the goals and assists of a given game? I've tried the league office but I never seem to get any feedback and it is clear to me that mistakes are being made. Case in point:
KC's first goal against the Crew (on June 8). Preki got the assist but Chung made the pass. Fantasy Leaguers have something at stake!
RM:The league reviews all scoring decisions, which are made by the team P.R. directors working the games. In some cases, assists and goals have been changed or taken away. Contact MLS communications at (310) 772-7505. In the case you cite, the MLS office reviewed the game tape and changed the assist, and this should be reflected on the individual stats, so rack up those points accordingly.
Michael C. Thometz
Am I the only person who thinks that Ty Keough and Phil Schoen try to find the most negative thing they can say when they do ESPN games with the US National Team? I get the feeling that Keough thinks he should be the US coach and that the team would do a lot better if only he were on on the sidelines calling the shots. I do not want a homer but I would like balanced reporting that is critical of both teams and complementary to both teams. If FIFA believes in Fair Play maybe ESPN should believe in Fair Commentary.
RM:Funny, but here in the office, we respect commentators willing to hand out criticism when warranted as well as give praise when deserved. Fair means fair, not flowery. Keough's incessant babbling irritates us and at times he's completely off-base, but when you lambast him because he sees deficiencies, it sounds to me that you do want a homer waving the red-white-and-blue. How can you bang the drum when you lose at home 2-0 to Bolivia? Should he praise Jeff Agoos for being slow, or Eric Wynalda for playing poorly?
If you want to hear real homerism, listen to the cheerleaders hired by MLS teams like Colorado, New York/New Jersey, and Washington for their local broadcasts, or give a listen to Anson Dorrance's commentary as "we" (i.e., the U.S.), takes on the world.
U.S. National Team
What are the television ratings for the U.S. national team on ABC and ESPN (including those for U.S. cup '96)?Also, whatever happened to U.S. international Hugo Perez and olympian Steve Snow?
RM:Both the U.S.-Ireland and U.S.-Mexico matches drew ratings of 1.6, which is disappointing -- the network hoped for a mark in the range of 2.0 and 2.5. The city-by-city overnights for the Ireland match ranged from a 1.3 in New York to 3.5 in Detroit; the range for U.S.-Mexico ran from 1.6 in Detroit to 4.2 in Washington and 4.1 in Los Angeles (on tape-delay).
U.S. Cup ratings on ESPN and ESPN2 were: Bolivia-Mexico 0.3; U.S.-Bolivia 0.6; Mexico-Ireland 0.5; Ireland-Bolivia 0.4.
MLS matches on ESPN2 are averaging a 0.4 rating, which is slightly better than the network's 0.3 average for regular season college basketball and slightly lower than the 0.5 average for regular season NHL and college football telecasts. The New England-Los Angeles game June 6 pulled an audience of 0.8 going up against an NHL playoff game. The three MLS games shown on ESPN have averaged a 0.6, with the inaugural game April 6 drawing the top rating of 1.0.
Hugo Perez returned to his native El Salvador to play soccer and devote himself to his religion. Ken Snow was drafted by the Kansas City Wiz in the last round, but was cut early in preseason. His brother Steve is supposedly working in a pizza parlor in Chicago.
Coral Gables, Fla.
How often and how timely are nielsen reports? I want to know and find that even USA Today ignores them.
RM:Nielsen ratings are computed weekly, and the top-rated shows can be found on most TV pages of daily newspapers. They are listed in USA Today in Section D in the middle of the week. Complete listings can be found on weeky trade journals. The most critical period are the "sweeps" periods in May and November, on which most advertising budgeting and buying decisions are based.
If you want complete listings regularly, I'd call your local major newspaper and ask to speak to the television reporter -- I'm sure they can be found somewhere on the Internet or in a convenient publication.
What do you think about Tom Dooley on the National Team? He is 35 now and will be 37 by France 98--couldn't his current spot on the National Team be better used to give a younger player more experience?
RM: Dooley, as he showed at U.S. Cup, is still one of the top American players, despite his age. Head coach Steve Sampson is desperately searching for players to step in as the older players like Dooley, Caligiuri, etc. run down. He'll be watching MLS games and the U.S. showing at the Olympics to evaluate replacements, which, as you say, are needed.
Also, what's the status of an MLS Highlight show on ESPN/ABC?
RM:Next year, maybe, there will be a weekly highlight show. ESPN is planning on airing an MLS playoff preview and some sort of highlight show during the playoffs, as well as a championship match preview.
Aspects of Soccer
When I played soccer many years ago, a legal charge was hands at side. Why don't referees enforce this law? Arms are always reaching out and holding back.
RM:In the pro game, referees permit much more grabbing and pushing than is allowed in the lower levels of soccer -- a situation you'll find in football, hockey and basketball, too.
However, emulating the pros in youth or high school soccer will usually draw a referee's whistle and a foul call. And if you watch the top professional defenders, they are also excellent tacklers -- often they use just enough leverage with their arms to get a foot to the ball. Unless they blatantly throw an attacker to the ground or clearly hold him back, the referee will allow play to continue -- since the attacker is usually pushing at the same time!
In soccer, is there any significance to the jersey number that a player may have? My son's soccer team was assigned numbers by the position they play. The trainer said he was using the "World Cup" numbering system.
PB:The traditional numbering system was based on a 2-3-5 formation, in which #1 was the goalkeeper, #2 and #3 were defenders, #s 4, 5, and 6 were midfielders, and #s 7 through 11 were forwards (read right to left). However, each team now has its own World Cup numbering system for the 22 players on its roster. For example, Argentina numbers its players alphabetically (except for the top keeper, who wears #1).
The system of numbering players varies from country to country, but your son's coach might also be thinking of the traditional English system:
|1 -- GK|
|2 -- right back|
|3 -- left back|
|4 -- center back|
|5 -- center back|
|6 -- midfielder|
|7 -- forward|
|8 -- midfielder|
|9 -- forward|
|10 -- midfielder|
|11 -- forward|