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United Soccer Leagues Week in Review 3/22/2009

2009 March 22
by Brian Quarstad

uslMajor League Soccer stole the show this week with the announcement of Vancouver and Portland moving from USL to MLS in 2011. Also, the MLS season opened on Thursday evening with former USL team, Seattle Sounders, selling out their inaugural MLS game against the New York Red Bulls. The Sounders convincingly beat the Red Bulls 3-0 in a very entertaining game. Tim Holt of the USL front office talks about the loss of the teams and USL expansion. There were also a few friendlies this week. Roster moves have slowed but there is still some activity and Miami FC will spend at least one more year in USL-1, as word comes down from Traffic Sports. Read all that and more in this week’s edition of USL Week in Review.

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League News


Francisco Marcos says that there is more Freedom in USL than MLS. The president of the United Soccer Leagues knows full well that his organization isn’t the top level of soccer in the US, yet he points out other advantages.

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On Wednesday, Major League Soccer announced the Vancouver Whitecaps as the newest expansion club to join MLS.

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On Friday, Major League Soccer announced the Portland Timbers as the 18th team to be added MLS in 2011.

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As Portland was announced to be the next MLS team in 2011, Inside Minnesota Soccer talked to some individuals who have both USL and MLS experience to see how they felt about the last of the 3 Pacific Northwest teams leaving the USL.

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USL Chief Operating Officer Tim Holt finally speaks about MLS expansion. But is it enough? Then again, what can USL do?
“Although there will be an undeniable void without Vancouver as a USL-1 market as of the 2011 season, the level of interest in USL-1 from substantial prospective franchise ownership groups is at an all-time high. In several weeks, the Austin Aztex will make their USL-1 debut followed in the 2010 season by the Tampa Bay Rowdies and at least one other franchise to be announced within the next 30 days. We are grateful for the role played by the Vancouver Whitecaps in the development of USL-1 the past several years and look forward to building upon this in the coming seasons.”

“Considering the early success of Seattle Sounders FC and this week’s granting by MLS of expansion rights to two other USL-1 teams, it is evident that the USL professional division has become an important proving ground for not only players and coaches, but also markets and teams in American soccer.”

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Holt talked to Rochester Rhino reporter Jeff DiVeronica from the Democrat and Chronicle, on his radio show called, Kick This! There’s some very revealing news here concerning expansion and USL Live. Yes, USL Live will be back. News will be coming soon. Tim Holt admits that USL Live has been too important to just let it go away. Holt also says the newest expansion team will be in the East.

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Speaking of USL Live for 2009, for some time now the USL Live web site has said, “USL Live is currently under construction in preparation for next season. Please check back later for new content.” If you didn’t know, Turner, who owned USL Live, gave up on the broadband venture last year. There was speculation that the internet coverage of games would be back in some other form this season.

I’m hearing that not only will USL Live be back this season, but it will be free and sponsored by USL league owners Umbro with improved quality. I hope this is true. It is pretty much a no-brainer for the league and Umbro. You need to build support around the league and this is a great way to get folks to tune in to games and create greater team and league awareness. It can also be great publicity for Umbro.

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Now if we could just get the league to have a single website with real time scores and stats for all USL games! I really don’t think that’s too much to ask when some sites map out shots on goal etc… Hey USL, it’s 2009 and we fans are pretty internet savvy, let’s go already.

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The Rhinos will be Twittering live from games this year so you can follow along if you have to go to that second cousin’s, wife’s brother’s 3rd marriage instead of attending your Rhinos match live or watching on USL Live. There are a number of teams that are now Twittering. I know for sure that Whitecaps, Thunder and Railhawks all twitter because I follow them myself. Am I missing anyone?

Perhaps the league itself, (USL-1) should start twittering. I would subscribe to have real time USL-1 scores updated to my phone. Teams should use the free technology that’s available. USL, market yourself and allow people to take more interest in the league and their teams.

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Is another franchise to be announced in the next 30 days? Speculation has started with New York/Long Island being rumored but so is a Pachuca-owned franchise in Florida. Holt says the next team will be East Coast but the league is looking to expand West again.

Another NW franchise? Does this make any sense at this time? It seems the Midwest is ripe for creating USL teams and travel costs would be much lower. This would also open up new rivalries.

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Soccer Lens explains why the Northwest will change the MLS as we know it and it’s the 3 former/past USL teams that will do it.

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USL and MLS, the live experience. An interesting story from Futbolusa.

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DC draft pick Lyle Adams returned from trials in Europe to sign with the Austin Aztex. Going the other way, New York Red Bulls revamped their roster this off-season, but in doing so, they left little room for rookies. As a result, three draft picks from the past two years have departed or are about depart. Babajide Ogunbiyi, the No. 18 pick in the 2009 MLS Draft, is heading to Europe for a trial with Norwegian second division club Nybergsund.

My question is, doesn’t it make more sense for these players to stay at home and play in USL than to play for a 2nd or 3rd division team in Europe? Every USL coach I’ve talked to about this topic tells me that most European division 2 and 3 league players cannot keep up with the quality of USL-1 players. If the player wants to go there for the experience, great! If they want to go to a D 2 or 3 league for better quality soccer, then they’re making a mistake.

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Team News

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aztexlogAustin Aztex
DC draft pick opts to sign with Austin upon return from Europe. Lyle Adams, a Jamaican-born defender who started all four years for Wake Forest University returned from trials in Europe to sign with the Aztex.

Real Salt Lake wins 3-1 over USL’s Austin Aztex in final pre-season game at Rio Tinto Stadium.

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railhawksCarolina Railhawks
The Railhawks beat Wake Forest in a closed scrimmage 1-0.

RailHawks U23, Duke, and Triangle Futbol Club alum Darrius Barnes signed with the New England Revolution!
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charleston Charleston Battery
Battery signs O’Brian Woodbine, Kenji Treschuk and Tyler Hemming. The USL First Division Charleston Battery has added three players to its roster for the upcoming season. Jamaican national team defender O’Brian Woodbine, midfielders Kenji Treschuk and Tyler Hemming all join the Battery pending USSF approval; all three players featured for Charleston in the recent Carolina Challenge Cup.

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clevelandcitystars
Cleveland City Stars
The Cleveland City Stars signed forward Ricardo Pierre-Louis from the Haitian National Team. The prolific scorer won the MLS Cup while spending last season with the Columbus Crew after Columbus selected Pierre-Louis 22nd overall in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft.
Pierre-Louis replaced former Stars midfielder Adam Moffat on the Columbus roster when the Scotsman was injured in June.

The Stars played the Rhinos in the team’s first significant scrimmage. The game ended in a 0-0 draw.

The team also picked up Leo Gibson from the Minnesota Thunder. (See the Thunder entry)

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miami_fcMiami FC
Miami FC officially announced on Wednesday that the team would be staying in the Miami area for 2009. They also announced they may be looking for another field to play at.

We’ve all heard it many times before, but the best marketing a team can do is put an attractive and winning team on the field. The Miami Herald says that’s what Miami FC must now do in a very short amount of time if they are to draw fans. The team also needs to figure out where they are going to play and where they will be practicing. Training camp opens this week for the team.

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Minnesota ThunderMinnesota Thunder
The rumor that had been floating around since last fall is finally fact. Luchi Gonzalaz, former Hermann Trophy winner and Florida native has retired from professional futbol to teach and coach in his home state.

Leo Gibson has been transferred to the Cleveland City Stars for an undisclosed transfer fee. Gibson will join former Thunder teammate and captain Godfrey Tenoff at the club. Besides soccer, Gibson was widely known for the many charitable organizations he helped. He was committed to his church, other Christian organizations and projects that helped his home continent of Africa.

Mamadou “Futty” Danso was in Minnesota and training with the Thunder this past week. Futty was looked at by DC United this spring. The big central defender is reported to be looking good and saw time in their scrimmage on Saturday.

The Thunder beat the U-18 Shattuck Academy team in an indoor scrimmage on Saturday the 21st, by a score of 1-0.

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montreal_impactMontreal Impact
For a fourth consecutive year, the Impact will do their pre-season training at a soccer complex in Sunrise, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale. The team will be there from March 21 to 31. During their stay, the team will play three exhibition games, Sunday, March 22 (4:30 p.m.) against the Honduran national team, Thursday, March 26 (7:30 pm), against a Haitian selection and Sunday, March 29 (5 pm) against their USL First Division rivals, the Miami FC.

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timberslogoPortland Timbers
On Friday, Major League Soccer announced the Portland Timbers as the 18th team to be added MLS. Portland will join Vancouver who were announced on Wednesday to be moving into the league in 2011.

The Oregonian says the MLS stadium bill for the Timbers still has a $15 million gap.

Goalkeeper Steve Cronin recorded four saves to pick up the shutout as the Portland Timbers battled Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls to a 0-0 draw Friday in a pre-season exhibition match at the University of Portland’s Clive Charles Soccer Complex. The Timbers face the University of Portland Pilots in their next pre-season exhibition March 27 at the Clive Charles Soccer Complex.

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islandersPuerto Rico Islanders
The Puerto Rico Islanders buried another opponent in CONCACAF Champions League “El Cementerio Centroamericano” defeating Cruz Azul 2-0.

Coming off of an impressive 2-0 defeat of Mexican giant Cruz Azul in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, the Puerto Rico Islanders travel to Austin next week (Friday, April 3) to take on the Aztex at Nelson Field.

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rhinosRochester Rhinos
The Rochester Rhinos officially opened their 2009 training camp. Jeff DiVeronica reports in from the Democrat and Chronicle and says, Rochester Rhinos open pre-season with roster spots up for grabs.

As reported in the City Stars news, Jeff DiVeronica reports this time on the Rhino’s 0-0 draw with Cleveland.

DiVeronica again, but this time with his podcast and where he talks to USL Chief Operating Officer Tim Holt, Scott Palguta and Rhinos coach Darren Tilley on Kick This!

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whitecapsVancouver Whitecaps
Announces their move MLS in 2011.

Vancouver enters the fray as they become an immediate rival to Seattle and Toronto in MLS.

It seems to me Vancouver already has a rivalry with Seattle and Portland. They’ll all be MLS opponents starting 2011.

4 Responses
  1. Nathan permalink
    March 22, 2009

    Man, this is really top drawer stuff. Thanks for all your hard work.

  2. Erik Erickson permalink
    March 22, 2009

    Hey BQ – great stuff!!

    I think US players go to Europe, not because the quality of play in the 2nd or 3rd divisions is higher than USL 1, but simply because there is more opportunity for the players to advance their careers. With relegation and promotion, everyone pays more attention to the “lower” divisions than they do here. That’s my .02 at least.

  3. Jon M permalink
    March 22, 2009

    That’s super news about USL Live – hope it comes to pass!

  4. March 23, 2009

    Erik, Agreed, there may be more chance but there is also far more competition and Americans are still discriminated against in Europe. Ask just about any footballers from the States that has gone over there. The other factor is they do pay more and some of these guys just want to do it for the experience which is also totally cool. Just to say you played in Europe is great but it doesn’t mean that much to US coaches anymore because they know the truth of the levels of play.

    The other thing that many players who have been to Europe talk about is how much they enjoyed the culture of football there. So much different than here. That and the intensity seems to be ratcheted up a notch over there. Something you hear quite a few players talk about when they come back to the States. With so many good players and deep benches, every practice matters. Those are good qualities to learn and come back with.

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