Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia Union’

MLS Predictions: Come October, We’ll See How Badly I’ve Done

March 15, 2011

While everybody’s filling out NCAA Tournament brackets (having worked in college athletics, I can’t bring myself to follow NCAA Division I men’s basketball anymore — doing so makes me feel dirty. Women’s college basketball and Division II and III men’s are another story, since they don’t have the same reek of exploitation), here’s my prediction for how the 2011 Major League Soccer standings will look by season’s end.

The Major League Soccer logo.I’ve decided to list it in a single-table format rather than breaking it down by conference. The top ten will most likely be the playoff teams, unless the Eastern Conference turns out to suck vis-á-vis the West even worse than anybody thinks right now. I won’t guess point totals, other than to say I think things will be very, very tight, especially from fifth to fifteenth place. There will be a lot of teams that will miss the postseason by just a couple of points.

  1. Los Angeles Galaxy
  2. FC Dallas
  3. New York Red Bulls
  4. Real Salt Lake
  5. Seattle Sounders FC
  6. Colorado Rapids
  7. Columbus Crew
  8. San Jose Earthquakes
  9. Sporting Kansas City SC
  10. Philadelphia Union
  11. D.C. United
  12. Chicago Fire
  13. Portland Timbers
  14. CD Chivas USA
  15. Toronto FC
  16. Houston Dynamo
  17. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
  18. New England Revolution
The Hindenburg crashes and burns.

Revs supporters, this is what you can look forward to — provided everything goes well.

One of the things that makes MLS predictions tough is that, as a whole, the league tends to improve quite a bit with each passing year. One team looks to be much improved, but you don’t know whether that’s enough compared to everyone else to make all that much of a difference. This is why I’ll end up saying Chicago and Chivas, for example, will be better than last year, but I still have them winding up 12th and 14th, respectively.

My ordering of teams from about #6 to #15 is basically a crapshoot. Clearly, I think Portland will be the better of the two expansion teams this year. Vancouver seems to be setting itself up to be a heck of a team in a couple of years, but this year will likely be necessary collateral damage from their long term plans. The only other two I see being truly bad are Houston and New England. Frankly, New England will have a season on par with D.C. United’s disaster last year or the Pink Cows’ epic 2009 adventure through the bowels of the standings.

Smashed can of Red Bull.

I'd say they have a shot at the Supporters' Shield or MLS Cup if it weren't for the fact the universe hates them even more than Philly fans do.

Conversely, L.A., Dallas and New York will be the big three this year, with Seattle and Salt Lake knocking on their door. The way things stand right now, the Galaxy have to be the favorites (as much as I hate to say it) with Dallas (as much as I hate to say it) and the Soft Drink Commercials (as much as I hate to say it) giving them a run for their money. Meanwhile, RSL and Seattle will be looking to crack that top tier (and could very well do it, but so far I’m viewing the first three mentioned as the safer picks). So, yes, I’m picking the three teams I despise the most to finish one-two-three.

I wasn’t sure where exactly to put Colorado, as they tend to be a very hot-and-cold team, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt from being the reigning MLS Cup champions and put them sixth. If they do finish that high, it’ll probably be in part because they totally ignore the CONCACAF Champions League and crash out of the group stage in totally embarrassing fashion to MLS (I clearly don’t think the Rapids’ MLS Cup win in 2010 is the same as RSL’s surprise win in 2009: a harbinger of the rise of one of the league’s — and the continent’s — great teams).

I’m going a little out on a limb by thinking Columbus has reloaded in the off-season more than begun a rebuilding process. I saw San Jose play at Philadelphia last year, and they frankly impressed the heck out of me. The ‘Quakes are a very well-coached, well-disciplined team that plays very well together and doesn’t seem to need a lot of big star power. I was tempted to flip-flop their place with that of Colorado; if there’s a “sleeper pick” for 2011, it’s probably San Jose. KC always seems to be on the edge of being a fairly good team, and it’s a total guess of mine in putting them ninth.

D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and Chivas will all be significantly improved over last year, but whether or not that’s good enough to get playoff spots is anybody’s guess. I will say I wouldn’t be surprised if a few or even all of them manage to crack the top ten by season’s end. I went with Philly at the top of that group, not out of personal bias, but rather out of the fact that when you look at the numbers from last year, they probably would have been a strong contender for a playoff spot if only they’d had a decent goalie. As long as Faryd Mondragón stays healthy, that problem’s been solved. If they’d had a decent goalie and held the red card/defensive brain farts to a minimum, they probably would have been in the playoffs as an expansion team last year. A year of experience for this young team and a few more acquisitions look like they’ll help there, too.

Toronto, which has spent every previous off-season retooling its staff and roster to the extent that it’s like getting an expansion team all over again, will see more of the same this year as it once again spent the off-season retooling its staff and roster to the extent that it’s like getting an expansion team all over again. At least this Toronto might-as-well-be-an-expansion team will be a little better than some of the others they’ve had, but it won’t make a difference against an equally improved league.

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El Pescadito Returns to Pennsylvania

February 28, 2011

Last week, the Philadelphia Union signed 31 year-old Guatemalan international forward Carlos Ruiz, a.k.a. “El Pescadito” (“the little fish” in Spanish), throwing a confusing curveball to Philadelphia sports fans. My guess is we’ll be hearing the nickname more around here, since the Phillies already have a Central American player named Carlos Ruiz on their roster (he’s their catcher, hails from Panama, and is nicknamed “Chooch,” which I’m guessing we’ll be hearing a lot more around here now as well).

The Philadelphia Union logo.While the Guatemalan, soccer-playing Ruiz has competed all over the world and is well known in his homeland as the country’s all-time leading goal scorer in international competition and is well known among Major League Soccer fans in this country from his days with the L.A. Galaxy and FC Dallas, what people might not know is that he’s played in Pennsylvania before — in central Pa., particularly.

Way back in 2000, when he was a promising 20 year-old playing professionally for Municipal in Guatemala and a member of the country’s U-23 national team, the North American qualifying tournament for the Summer Olympics was held, bizarrely, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, of all places.

Unlike the World Cup, the Olympics are contested by countries’ U-23 teams, rather than the full national teams. I was actually lucky enough to have met Ruiz back then, as each of the colleges and universities near Hershey basically adopted one of the national teams and hosted all of their training sessions. I was in charge of athletic communications for the school that got Guatemala, and I got to work with them quite a bit in coordinating local media coverage.

HersheyPark Stadium

The scene of the 2000 Olympic qualifiers.

That wasn’t an easy task, as the head coach was a little more than slightly paranoid about anyone from the other teams turning on the local TV news and seeing anything that might potentially give away the tiniest detail about their training sessions and game strategies. For the first day or two, they were more like the Brigadoon national team, as they would mysteriously vanish when cameras approached, and then magically reappear when they retreated. Eventually, we got things sorted out.

On the whole, though, it was a great experience, especially since at the time I was still in my first year out of college and was the same age as nearly all of the players on the team. Carlos Ruiz certainly stood out back then, but I never would have guessed that in another two years he would jump from Municipal to the Los Angeles Galaxy and end up as the MLS Most Valuable Player his first year in the league, nor would I have guessed at the time that he would eventually become Guatemala’s all-time leading scorer in international competition.

His signing now is definitely a good pickup for the Union. After an offseason largely spent finding ways to plug up the obvious defensive holes from their inaugural season, bringing in Ruiz fills another big need, which is taking some opposing defensive pressure off Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga. Even if he isn’t quite at the same level as a goal scorer he was when he played for L.A., he’ll be a helpful presence in relieving pressure. Also, having Le Toux take corner kicks, which seemed kind of strange for much of last year when he was the team’s only reliable scorer, would make more sense now with Ruiz on the field at the same time and Mwanga with a year of pro experience under his belt.

Besides, I’m of the opinion that he still has quite a few productive years left. While he struggled to score in the first half of the 2010-11 Greek Super League season for Aris Thessaloniki, somebody doesn’t score three goals in a handful of Europa League games over that same span by being washed up. Context is certainly going to be key for Ruiz’s scoring opportunities, and potentially having Le Toux and Mwanga on the field at the same time will definitely create opportunities for him.

Philadelphia-New York, the USA’s Answer to Millwall-West Ham

October 18, 2010

If there is any place in the United States most likely to spawn legions of angry, bitter, European-style soccer hooligans ripped to the gills on Yuengling and setting fire to stuff just for the hell of it, it’s probably Philadelphia.

— Me, almost three years ago (then, in the comment section to that post, some wag humorously predicted that Philly would someday be the site of the first MLS fan fatality).

The time is right to trot out that blast from the past after yesterday’s final Philadelphia Union home game of the club’s inaugural 2010 Major League Soccer season, which took the form of a 2-1 win over the stupidest soda commercial of all time New York Pink Cows Red Bulls.

The reason it’s fitting to bring up is because of the security measures taken by the Union’s management for that game, which were unprecedented in the entire history of sports in Philadelphia. Here’s the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The roughly 400 New York Red Bulls fans who made the trek to PPL Park on Saturday were herded like cattle into the visitors’ section . . . Once they were in, they were there to stay – surrounded and confined in that area by security for the duration . . . They had their own concession stands, their own restrooms, their own smoking area. “These fans hate each other,” noted one Union security guard.

Right now, Philadelphia and New York probably share the most intense — and ugliest — soccer rivalry in the United States, and probably one of the craziest in all sports in the U.S. (although if I had to guess, I’d say it will probably be superseded by Seattle and Portland next year once the Timbers begin playing in MLS).

How the bad blood between Philly and New York escalated so quickly to the point that the Philadelphia Union felt the need to add extra security and keep the entire contingent of RBNY supporters groups physically separated from the rest of the stadium to such an extent that they’d even have segregated concession stands and bathrooms is an interesting story.

Millwall fans in their natural environment, surrounded by cops in riot gear.

Millwall fans in their natural environment, surrounded by cops. From guardian.co.uk.

Long before the Philadelphia Union existed, and well before MLS even announced in February 2008 that the city would get an expansion team, a group of soccer fans from the Philadelphia area decided that if the region was ever to get a local team for them to cheer on, they would have to first demonstrate that a robust fan culture was already in place. So, they created a supporters’ group, the Sons of Ben (SOBs for short, with typical Philly grace), for a team that didn’t even exist and wasn’t even on the drawing board yet. These are the magnificently crazy people who today fill up the entire River End of PPL Park in Chester. One of their regular activities in those early, pre-Union days was heading up to the Meadowlands en masse, where the Red Bulls played back then, and spending the entire game taunting the home team and its fans.

Of course, this didn’t sit well with the long-suffering fans of New York which, despite being one of the original MLS teams that began playing 15 years ago, have yet to win a single title. No MLS Cups (the playoff championship), no Supporters Shields (awarded to the team that finishes first overall in the regular season standings — the equivalent of a league title in Europe), and no U.S. Open Cups (like the English F.A. Cup). The Red Bulls are 0 for 45 in opportunities to win a trophy — actually 0 for 46 if you count their hideous performance in the continent-wide CONCACAF Champions’ League last year. They’re practically in Chicago Cubs territory already.

Red Bull New York logo.

Someone should keep them away from the vodka.

So, it’s the New York fans who actually became the first to transform into “angry, bitter, European-style soccer hooligans,” although I doubt they’re drinking Yuengling. After years of hearing these weird Philadelphians calling themselves SOBs and pointing out that their non-existent team has won as many championships as their own has, something snapped in Red Bull Nation’s collective mind when the Philadelphia Union played New York for the first time.

As the teams played each other twice over four days in April at the Red Bulls’ home stadium (first for the MLS regular season, then for the U.S. Open Cup) New York fans threw rocks and bottles at a bus carrying Philadelphia fans and managed to shatter one of the windows. So, at the teams’ first meetings, the tension between their fans had already escalated from verbal taunting to physical violence.

Adding insult to injury, this year the Red Bulls were knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup by the USL-2 Harrisburg City Islanders, a Philadelphia Union third tier minor-league affiliate.

Fast-forward to July, when the Union hosted an international friendly match against Scotland’s Celtic F.C., and a group of people from — you guessed it — New York City, decided to light a bunch of flares in support of Celtic in PPL Park near the end of the game.

So it comes as no surprise that, given the history of violence that already exists, said the Daily News, “police and event staff littered the Red Bull area with a keen eye on anything that went beyond insults. Union president Tom Veit felt the need to keep things safe required extra vigilance.

‘”It’s necessary. We have an obligation to our fans to keep it safe and enjoyable,” Veit said. “So with that said, I’d rather have a lot of guys standing around doing nothing, than a few having to do something.”‘

While the source of the violence so far has clearly been from New York fans, I suspect the decision to partition the stadium yesterday was also probably rooted in a desire to prevent any reprisals from Philadelphia fans, who naturally had the New Yorkers heavily outnumbered.

I can only wonder what’ll happen next year.

All Your Base Are Belong to Chivas

September 4, 2010

The Google Translate Logo.Google Translate can be surprisingly amusing. Guffaw inducing, even. Don’t get me wrong; being a typical product of the United States’ educational system, I’m very grateful for its existence since English is the only language I can read in any manner vaguely resembling competently. If you don’t have the luxury of grabbing someone at your leisure who can speak a language you don’t understand and demanding that they tell you the meaning of what you’re attempting to read, a computerized translation program is really the only way you can get the basic gist of some text written in that language.

So it was that I was looking at the web site of the Mexican Premier Division’s C.D. Guadalajara the other day ahead of the team’s game here against the Philadelphia Union. The site is, naturally, in Spanish, so I had to call on Google Translate to come to the rescue. Hilarity ensued.

For starters, the club’s site had a page with helpful info for its fans about Philadelphia. While I’m sure its contents are perfectly coherent in its original language, here’s an example of what The Google’s high-tech algorithms do to it:

It is the largest historical, cultural and artistic in the United States, and in the same way an important industrial port on the Delaware River, extending to the Atlantic Ocean.

Philly extends to the Atlantic Ocean? AWESOME! I always suspected that in some dank pit in a long-forgotten government archive building exists some highly official 18th century document explicitly spelling out how New Jersey has no right to exist. What do the folks in Chivas Guadalajara’s front office know that we’ve all forgotten here? Ed Rendell needs to get on the horn with them pronto so that we can seize all of Atlantic City’s gambling revenue for ourselves!

The C.D. Guadalajara logo.

The Goats, Keepers of the Knowledge of How to Rid the World of New Jersey.

The Philadelphia primer page has nothing on Google’s mangling of the match report, though:

Because although it seems difficult to understand, the Herd did most exhibited the collective game of ball control and arrivals at goal, but it was the Union that after a defensive inattention rojiblancos, used to mark which ultimately would be defined as a victory for the MLS table.

From the start of the match, Guadalajara showed a greater collective game, which immediately paid off in opportunities in the area of the Americans, since only two minutes of the meeting, Omar Bravo hit a ball in the crescent, which tried to resolve by half scissors, however your shipment was just above the cabin of the Union.

What is this mysterious “shipment,” and when did sports teams start getting hunting cabins in Potter County? Would half of a pair of scissors be a letter opener, and did Omar Bravo use one to try to deflate the ball? How the heck is that legal? Google, please enlighten me, because right now, it seems difficult to understand.

And now, mostly just for my own amusement, here’s the first paragraph of this post after being run through Google Translate from English to Spanish and back several times over:

Google Translator can be surprisingly fun. To induce laughter. Do not get me wrong, being a typical product of the U.S. educational system, I am very grateful for their existence since English is the only language that can read in any kind of responsibility vaguely similar. If you do not have the luxury of having someone in your free time you can speak a language and demanding that they do not understand the meaning of what you say you’re trying to read a computer translation program is really the only way to ensure that basis of a text written in this language.

International understanding is truly just a click away.

[Not So] Great Scots!

July 20, 2010

Three New York residents apparently comprising some of the Glaswegian diaspora’s finest, described by The Philadelphia Inquirer as “boneheads,” Philadelphia Union president Tom Veit as “idiots,” and Chester Police Chief Joseph Bail as “fools” running on “brown bottle courage,” took it upon themselves to set off some flares (a big no-no in any stadium in the United States) in support of their team’s losing effort in the Philadelphia–Celtic F.C. friendly Wednesday night.

The story interested me at first because, for once, here was some stupid, loutish, alcohol-drenched behavior taking place at a Philadelphia-area sporting event that wasn’t the product of local fans. My immediate reaction was, “HOLY CRAP!!! IT WASN’T US!!!” That’s right up there with “Man Bites Dog.”

It interested me even more once I saw the video of the incident and noticed that it took place just a couple of rows directly behind where I sat during PPL Park’s previous game between the Union and San Jose just four days prior. That makes me feel safe . . .

Who wants to bet they’ll be back when the Red Bulls come to town?

Fact Check in Aisle 16

June 30, 2010

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here, thanks to a combination of general life craziness and a computer hard drive crash, among other things.

The giant killers of USL-2

At any rate, in case there’s anybody out there who still reads this blog, I have a question for you. I don’t know the answer off the top of my head, and I’m too lazy to do my own research. Since the “professional era” of soccer’s U.S. Open Cup began in 1996, which is the most successful third tier team against Major League Soccer competition?

The reason I’m asking is that I have a feeling the answer may be our local team up the road — the Harrisburg City Islanders of USL-2,  founded in 2004. If you can verify that for me, your prize will be a warm fuzzy feeling for contributing to the vast body of incredibly accurate true facts found on the Internets, and you can look that statement up on the Internet to see just how true it is.

Last night Harrisburg City eliminated The World’s Stupidest Soda Commercial, a.k.a. the New York Red Bulls of MLS, in the round of 16, with a late extra time goal in the 117th minute to win 1-0 and advance to the cup’s quarterfinal round. It’s actually the third time the Islanders have made it to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals in the last four years, and it’s the club’s third cup win against an MLS team during that span. Other victims have included D.C. United and the New England Revolution.

There’s a write-up of last night’s game, along with video clips and pictures, from Pennlive.com’s Derek Meluzio here. The win was especially nice from a revenge standpoint because Harrisburg is now Philadelphia Union’s minor league affiliate, and New York knocked Philadelphia out of the U.S. Open Cup in the MLS qualifier rounds in the spring.

For what amounts to a semipro team that plays its home games in a park on Harrisburg’s City Island surrounded by a deck and a few portable bleachers to knock of an MLS team at all is quite an accomplishment, but for the team to do it on a regular basis over the last half decade or so is amazing. One only need look at the differences between the Islanders’ home field and Red Bull Arena to see just how much of a disparity exists between the top tier and the third tier in soccer in the U.S.

The Charleston Battery of USL-2 also beat the MLS Chicago Fire in another cup game last night, but Charleston only moved down to the third tier this year after spending its whole existence in the second division before now. Other lower-tier teams, like the Rochester Rhinos, have also been historically successful against MLS teams in the U.S. Open Cup, but Rochester, like Charleston, has always played in the second tier, not the third tier.

Independence + Union = 1970s Oakland Raiders?

April 21, 2010

A “criminal element.” That was Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach Chuck Noll’s description of the Oakland Raiders’ defense in 1977.

After seeing last week’s games on TV, it’s my belief that maybe, just maybe, Philadelphia’s two professional soccer expansion teams, the Union and the Independence, are supposed to be the respective MLS and WPS equivalents of the Raiders teams of yore.

The Union of Major League Soccer have been getting into card trouble from the very beginning; we all know that. From piling up three ejections in a preseason game against FC Dallas, to the season opener at Seattle where it took the team less than 40 seconds to get its first regular-season yellow card and less than a half of play to get its first red, it became very obvious very quickly that this would be a rather physical team, to say the least.

Still, I don’t think anybody would have predicted that defender and team captain Danny Califf would deliver an on-the-run clothesline to Dwayne De Rosario to get a red card in the first half against a sad-sack Toronto FC side Thursday night, thereby helping to blow a game the Union really should have won. You can see it close up in the video below at around the one minute mark.

Upon watching the replay, Califf said, “After seeing it, I would have thrown myself out.” The thing that Califf was lacking on that play was the wiliness of Philadelphia Independence defender Heather Mitts.

I admit that, at first glance, the roster for the Independence of Women’s Professional Soccer did not scream, “goon squad.” Sure, one of the team’s defensive starters didn’t get to play in their opening game because she had to serve out a suspension from getting red carded in the WPS title match the previous season. Sure, they’ve also got a player who’s nicknamed “The Beast.” Sure, in their opener against Atlanta, the Indies racked up a lot more fouls than the visitors, but it didn’t seem like an overly physical game. Then they went to Boston on Sunday.

It took just six minutes or so into the game for Mitts to outdo Califf, as she managed to get former Breakers teammate Kristine Lilly in a brief headlock, spin her around, and pull her down, all in one quick motion, and all in the box. And here’s the best part: while the referee immediately called a penalty kick for Lilly, the call was reversed right away. Turns out Lilly was offside just before the Mitts mugging occurred. The result? Philadelphia got the ball, and Mitts got away with the whole thing. That’s how you play defense, kids.

Take a look at the foul that somehow didn’t end up as one in the beginning of the video below, and “recognize awesome” (although probably not in quite the same manner the WPS marketing folks hoped you would):

At around 4:15 in the same video, you can see another Independence player, Jen Buczkowski (who happens, like Califf, to be a team captain), flatten a Boston player for her second yellow card in the game, resulting in an automatic red card and ejection. The difference between Califf’s red and Buczkowski’s is that latter occurred so late in the game that it didn’t have a chance to make an impact on the final score, which was a 1-1 tie. Once again, the Independence seem to indulge their violent impulses more intelligently.

It’s probably fitting that the Philadelphia teams are playing in such an aggressive, and perhaps overly-aggressive, style. After all, if there’s anything sports fans have historically loved around here, it’s goons and teams that are basically a collection of oddballs and psychos. Plus, one of the things MLS and WPS have been lacking is a team in a villain role, one that everyone — except its borderline sociopathic followers — loves to hate.

Every great pro sport needs a Snidley Whiplash, and Califf and Mitts came close to at least supplying the whiplash part. American soccer fans, it appears your old-school Oakland Raiders are here at last.

Update: The apparent essence of Philadelphia soccer has been distilled into a single image. The Independence front office actually just posted the photo below on the club’s Facebook page with the caption, “Okay, we can admit it…we may have gotten a liiittle lucky with the offsides call on Sunday.”

Heather Mitts gets Kristine Lilly in a choke hold.

From the Philadelphia Independence Facebook page.

At Least We’re Not Dorks

April 16, 2010

So Toronto FC’s fans finally got to see their team get its first win of the season last night, at the expense of the again man-down Philadelphia Union. At least we can say that we’re not this collectively dorky:

"Win You Must," Say's Toronto's Yoda.

From Yahoo Sports.

It’s a Big F#$&ing Deal

April 8, 2010

I have no idea how the Philadelphia Union has managed to get Joe Biden to be part of the opening kick ceremony during the club’s first ever home game at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday night, but they somehow pulled it off.

The Philadelphia Union logo.

Joe the Biden in the house, y'all.

The upside to this is that no matter what your political leanings may be, you have to admit this is probably the highest recognition domestic professional soccer has ever received in the United States. The fact that the Vice President is doing the opening kick at a Major League Soccer game is a watershed moment for the sport in this country. No matter what you may think about the guy, this is a big f#$&ing deal. Heck, I’d be excited about it even if the Vice President in question was Sarah Palin (shudder).

The downside to this is that the security presence at the game, as well as in the area surrounding the Linc, is going to be a big f#$&ing nightmare.

The upside to the downside is that the rumors I saw on Facebook of some people who will be in the same section as me wanting to bring flares into the stadium probably won’t pan out now, so at least I no longer have to worry about my hair getting lit on fire by beer-lit pyromaniacs. Still, it would have been fun to have that extra element of Euro-craziness at the game.

Oh, Bother.

March 17, 2010

Ives Galarcep is reporting, as of three hours ago, that the Major League Soccer players’ union will begin striking Monday if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement isn’t reached by then. Since Mr. Galarcep is also a regular columnist for Fox Soccer, I think it’s safe to assume that he has access to some pretty credible sources.

The Major League Soccer logo.

Will the 2010 season begin?

This just isn’t looking good. Although he does leave some glimmer of hope, since he also reports that negotiations between the players union and the league are still going full bore.

The weird thing about all of this is that this is the first big professional sports labor tussle I’ve ever seen where both sides genuinely seem to have very good and very valid points, and both sides are making arguments that make a lot of sense. The problem is that each side’s very good and very valid points are almost totally incompatible with one another. And, let’s face it, this isn’t the NFL or Major League Baseball, which could afford to take the hit of a work stoppage and come out okay on the other side.

Here’s Galarcep from a recent Fox Sports column:

Regardless of who is right or wrong, neither side can truly afford a strike. You can argue that league owners stand the most to lose, but neither side wins if the league’s foundation is shaken. There won’t be a winner or loser if a strike happens. Even if players are ultimately blamed for pulling the trigger on a strike, both sides will shoulder the blame for letting such an important season be ruined.

Look no further than the scheduled season opener on March 25 between the Seattle Sounders and expansion Philadelphia Union for evidence of the potential impact of a strike.

With a sell-out crowd [my addition: in Seattle, the Sounders actually outdrew baseball’s Mariners in average attendance per game last year at way over 30,000 in Quest Field] all but assured and the enthusiastic fan base in Philadelphia poised to make the cross-country trip to celebrate their team’s birth, the season opener could be a historic moment for the league, but a strike could wipe that out and do irreparable harm.

The expansion Philadelphia Union has already sold over 10,000 season tickets for 2010 and is well on its way to reaching its self-imposed ceiling of 12,000 season tickets. The soccer specific stadium that’s currently under construction on the Chester, Pa. waterfront and set to open at the end of June only has a seating capacity of 18,500, making sell-outs as far as the eye can see all but certain, provided the 2010 season actually happens and starts on time.

If it doesn’t happen, how many of those season ticket holders do you think are going to be angrily demanding their money back? And, of those, how many do you think will ever end up going to games in the future?

If Major League Soccer implodes due to its current labor problems, the real tragedy of all this will be for the people of the long-suffering city of Chester, Pa., home of the Union’s new stadium. Chester has been the picture of urban blight for the last half century. The new stadium is meant to be the first piece of a redevelopment effort for Pennsylvania’s oldest city following decades of neglect beginning on the Delaware River waterfront. What will happen if Chester is left with a white elephant soccer-specific stadium for a stillborn club in a dead league, rotting alongside everything else that’s been rotting there for the last 50 years?

Those who look at the current MLS labor situation and want to say, “It’s soccer. Who cares? It doesn’t matter to anybody except a few weirdo, hard-core fans,” had better take a long, hard look at Chester first.

Those among the players and among the owners who insist that digging in your heels, not backing down, and not blinking is the best way to go at this point had also better take a long, hard look at Chester first. And then blink. Please.


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