We have a very full report of USL-related news in this week’s edition of USL Week in Review. USL is talking to another city in Texas about expansion for USL-1. USL Live hit full stride, but in my opinion it was more of a fast limp. The Rhinos say that their stadium can be named after you for a grand! A USL-2 grad gets USL-1 Player of the Week honors and Goal of the Week to boot. Austin Aztex had their inaugural USL-1 game, as did the Cleveland City Stars, but with very different results, and 8 games on the slate for this coming week. All of that and more, in this week’s USL Week in Review.
My friend and host of Major League Soccer Talk, Kartik Krishnaiyer, interviewed me, Brian Quarstad, in looking ahead to the league season with his MLS Talk 2009 USL-1 Audio Preview Podcast. Krishnaiyer is one of the most knowledgeable and intelligent soccer commentators and writers I know. I always enjoy his insightful perspective on the game. In this podcast he also interviewed Cleveland City Stars new manager Rod Underwood and Miami FC Director of Public Relations Ignacio Rodriguez, both discussing their respective teams’ upcoming season.
The USL has evidently started preliminary discussions with San Antonio, Texas about starting a USL-1 franchise. The Austin – San Antonio rivalry would be great and the market seems to be about the right size, but USL is looking for public funding for a stadium and that’s a hard sell in this economy.
USL Live, a frank review
Seth Witkowicz, Marketing & Communications Manager for USL said there were 1000 users registered in the first 24 hours of service a week ago Friday. They are currently working on gathering stats on usage which I hope to get from Seth this coming week.
First of all let me say I’m very thankful for USL Live — that I can watch every game for free either on demand or live. Because of this I feel sort of bad about entering into a fairly critical assessment of USL Live so far. I think it’s important to demand high standards from the league. This is the one chance they may get to convince folks USL is a decent and entertaining league.
The production standards of USL Live so far rate from OK to horribly unwatchable. I watched the Thunder vs. Aztex game last night and there wasn’t any audio the whole game. I know they have bugs to work out and these things will get better. I wasn’t actually that critical of the fact there wasn’t any audio. The production standards were perhaps lower than amateur quality which was a far worse problem. The Aztex seemed to use one camera from atop the stadium and second at the 20 yard line that was hand held. It was like watching a soccer game at sea. I couldn’t help feeling a bit of motion sickness after a while, especially with the hideous gridiron lines on the field waving back and forth. The camera would tilt left, then right and then the producer kept doing fade-outs from one camera to another. I kid you not — fade outs on camera switches in a soccer game! Oh, and almost every corner kick was out of focus and they often missed the action as the camera didn’t pan fast enough to keep up with the ball.
One Thunder supporter left this message on a discussion board, “I tried to watch at home, but gave up after 5 minutes. My dedication to the Thunder is not strong enough to make it through a broadcast like that.” Are you paying attention USL? The Aztex seem to be a pretty classy organization and I would expect they will get these production issues handled sooner rather than later.
On the Islanders broadcast I thought the play-by-play was decent as was the color commentating but the majority of the game was shown from a nearly ground level camera instead of the traditional halfway-line camera perched high up in the stands. Yes, they did have a camera like that but it was so wide that when they switched to it you could hardly recognize the ball on the field.
The RailHawks did a fairly good job with the overall production of the broadcast again. They just need to get their play-by-play guy to quit screaming into the mic or get some better equipment with mic limiters.
So there are definitely bugs to be worked out. Perhaps USL needs to hire someone to do some sort of production guidelines and training for each team with suggestions for producing a soccer broadcast. Again, I know Seth and the team worked very hard just to get USL Live up and running in time for this year’s games.
I’m still having problems logging back in on Safari and Firefox from a Mac but Camino seems to work OK.
Let’s make sure we let USL know what we’re having problems with and expect that the quality will get better throughout the season. Again, thanks to the league and Umbro for making this possible at all. Let them know you appreciate the feature but you know they can do better.
USL weekly Review Video? I wonder where the USL got the idea of doing a weekly review? Any guesses? There is much room for improvement here as well. First of all, don’t use the audio of all the screaming play-by-play guys who are sending the audio meters way off the charts with distortion. (See last suggestion) I think many USL play-by-play guys have an “11″ on the audio control of their mics. Also, what’s up with the long blank spot at the end of this video with the narrator practicing his introduction over and over again at the end of it? It’s a mistake no doubt, but why would you put something like this online without checking and editing? I wouldn’t put anything on my blog with those horrible production standards and I would think USL would have much higher standards. It’s embarrassing.
Rochester Rhinos President of Business Operations Salvatore “Soccer Sam” Fantauzzo is a nominee for the Class of 2009 Frontier Field Walk of Fame. Fantauzzo is currently in his second season in a management role for the Rhinos and his first as President of Business Operations. Previously, “Soccer Sam” has filled such roles with the Rhinos as Assistant to the General Manager, Director of Marketing, Advertising Sales Executive and Broadcaster. A native of Rochester, NY, he is best known in soccer circles as being the co-host of his own Soccer Radio Show “Kick This” the longest running year-round soccer radio show in the United States which airs every Saturday at 11:00 a.m. on Hot Talk 1280 WHTK. In addition, he has hosted the “Soccer Sam” TV show featuring news and highlights of Rhinos, USL, MLS and local soccer matches.
Inside Minnesota Soccer’s friend James Weise from Rochester gave us a little insight into Frontier Field and the Walk of Fame. Frontier Field was the second home to the Rochester Rhinos. The Rhinos were actually the first team to play there in 1996 as the primary tenant, the AAA baseball Rochester Red Wings played the entire season at their former home, Silver Stadium. The Rhinos played at Frontier Field from 1996 through 2005. The Frontier Field Walk of Fame is a Hall of Fame located at the stadium. There is a wall with plaques to honor the people that have a prominent role in sports that have been played at Frontier Field.
Speaking of the Rhinos, they have a contest going where you can have the stadium named after you for $1000.00. See Rochester section for the whole story. If you want to see what naming rights go for at other minor league stadiums and arenas go here.
What does Juan Ponce de León (1474–1521) a Spanish Conquistador and Explorer have to do with the Puerto Rico Islanders and Miami FC?
According to the Orlando Soccer Supporters Club, the Ponce de León Cup will be an annual competition between USL-1 teams in Puerto Rico and Florida. I love this idea!
While the concept of the cup itself was created in 2009 (and the first official cup will be awarded in 2010) the teams have been competing for it (retroactively) since 2006, between the two USL-1 teams already in the rivalry region: Puerto Rico Islanders and Miami FC Blues.
I reported here previously that the Puerto Rico Islanders were going to have an English version of their site on the 16th of April. There is still no English version available as of this morning.
Miami FC’s President Aaron Davidson writes an open letter to the Miami Sun Sentinel. In the letter he says, “In fact, I predict that South Florida will become one of the best markets for US professional soccer because once our international soccer passion is redirected towards Miami FC, there will be no stopping us.” Davidson told me in an interview he did a few weeks previous to this letter he didn’t know if Southern Florida was really a good market for soccer. He said on paper it should be, but it certainly hasn’t proven to be so far. Evidently Davidson is a bit more positive this week.
Carolina Railhawks Mark Schulte earns Player of the Week honors and guess who received Goal of the Week honors? Oh yea, it’s Schulte again and it was a heck of a strike. You can go to USL Live to see the video highlight of the goal. (There’s no way to link directly to it.) By the way, remember that comment about the audio levels? Well, a word of warning, turn your audio down a bit before watching this or your speakers might blow out. Again, must be that #11 volume control on his mic.
GAMES THIS PAST WEEK:
Nicholas Addlery scored twice against his former side to lead Puerto Rico to a 2-1 victory over Vancouver in a championship rematch Saturday. Elsewhere, expansion Austin earned a point, 1-1, in their debut against Minnesota and Cleveland fell in their USL-1 debut, 3-1, at Miami as Diego Serna notched a goal and two assists. In the Carolinas, the RailHawks posted their first-ever win over Rochester while Charleston and Montreal finished scoreless.
GAMES THIS COMING WEEK:
Games times are listed EST.
Tue, April 21, 2009
8:30 pm Vancouver Whitecaps at Austin Aztex Nelson Field
Fri, April 24, 2009
7:30 pm Minnesota Thunder at Charleston Battery Blackbaud Stadium
8:00 pm Montreal Impact at Miami FC Blues FIU Stadium
8:00 pm Rochester Rhinos at Puerto Rico Islanders Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium
Sat, April 25, 2009
8:30 pm Cleveland City Stars at Austin Aztex Nelson Field
10:00 pm Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps Swangard Stadium
Sun, April 26, 2009
2:00 pm Minnesota Thunder at Carolina RailHawks WakeMed Soccer Park
6:00 pm Rochester Rhinos at Miami FC Blues Lockhart Stadium
From the Austin Chronicle, Pro soccer arrives in Austin Saturday.
The team also made the local TV news, including a very good extended interview with experienced coach, Adrian Heath. (I love his comment, “I think people are starting to see, we have a proper team here.“)
Austin drew the Thunder 1-1 on Saturday evening with a goal by defender Lyle Adams with a 30 yards worm burner. A great attendance for Austin, 4,891 for the opening match.
I was contacted by Tim Candon of the RailHawks who is doing a lot of interactive social media for Carolina and doing a pretty nice job of it as well. He has started a team blog, RailHawksReport.blogspot.com where he posts a lot of information throughout the day. He’s also started a Facebook page with content as well.
The Cary News tells us that after a precarious early life, Sallieu Bundu is making a new way. Bundu’s trek ends safely in the RailHawks’ nest.
The Carolina RailHawks defeated the USL Second Division’s Wilmington Hammerheads 2-0 on Tuesday night at Legion Stadium. Mat Watson scored the first goal for the Railhawks. It seems Watson has had a pretty busy week. He joined the RailHawks on Tuesday – hours after the birth of his first child in Baltimore – in time to make the trip to Wilmington for an intra-divisional friendly with the Wilmington Hammerheads. Fifteen minutes after checking into the contest, he belted a masterful strike from 18 yards to give the RailHawks a 1-0 lead. John Cunliffe added another goal three minutes later, and Carolina picked up a 2-0 win. Tuesday’s busy day for Watson came on the heels of leading his indoor team, the Baltimore Blast, to its second straight MISL championship on Saturday, where he also scored a goal in the Blast’ 13-10 win.
RailHawks improve to 2-0 for season — Bundu, Gardener team up for goals. The News Observer with the story.
The Railhawks game report. Where are the box scores?
Battery hopes Frankie Sanfilippo is the answer.
The Battery drew the Montreal Impact in a 0-0 game giving keeper Dusty Hudock his second straight shutout.
Cleveland City Stars
The Cleveland City Stars have signed two rookies, midfielder Eric Carpenter out of Bethel College and forward Kolby LaCrone from Marshall University. Both players have risen through the ranks after initially attending the City Stars open tryouts.
The Cleveland City Stars rounded out their roster this week with a group of recruits. Defenders Ibrahim Kante and Stephen Cruickshank and midfielders Pato Aguilera and Steve Gillespie join the City Stars as they head to Florida for the inaugural USL First Division game against Miami FC on Saturday.
What’s really interesting about this press release is the biggest news is buried in the bottom of the press release. In fact I missed it the first time I read it and didn’t catch it until I was writing up this week’s USL Week in Review. What’s the news? Goalkeeper Chris Seitz was loaned to Cleveland City Stars from Real Salt Lake. The catch? Only for this one game. The release said, the 6-3, 236 pound Seitz will be on loan from Real Salt Lake for tonight’s match before heading back to MLS competition next week. Most USL teams wouldn’t want a player on loan like this as they would prefer their own keeper. Does this mean the City Stars are not happy with their starting keeper and may be still looking around for the answer?
Cleveland lost to Miami FC 3-1 on Saturday evening, another team that is still throwing a roster together at the last moment. Joshua Boateng was sent off with a red card in the 43rd minute, not helping the City Stars’ cause.
Returning from Miami FC’s 2008 campaign are defenders Chris Williams, Cristiano “Kaká” Dias, and Walter Ramirez; midfielders Jarryd Goldberg, John Pulido, and Leo Inacio; and forward Connally Edozien. In fact the Miami FC added a slew of players on Tuesday.
The team had a nice season opener against the Cleveland City Stars 3-1. The Miami Herald reports with photos.
The Miami FC’s game report.
The Thunder also announced the signings of Forward Leonel Saint-Preux and Defender Chris Clements. Saint-Preux has signed a two year contract, while Clements has signed for three. Saint-Preux played for his native Haitian National Team during qualifying for both the Olympics and the World Cup. In February of this year, he played in a preseason game with the New York Red Bulls, during which he scored 2 unassisted goals against the Kansas City Wizards in a 4-4 draw. Saint-Preux is regarded as one of Haiti’s most promising football talents. Clements was a 4-year starter at Tulsa and the Columbus Crew selected him with as the 60th pick overall in this year’s MLS draft.
IMS did a preview of the game. Minnesota Thunder News and Notes -Week 2-
Minnesota Thunder 1-1 Austin Aztex – Teams Draw in Texans Inaugural Game. Saint-Preux scored in his opening game with his new team and looks to be a player to watch in the future.
Jonathan Greenfield will join the Thunder this week shoring up the defense.
The Montreal Impact registered a 3-0 shutout win against the Syracuse University Orangemen, Tuesday in Syracuse, in its 15th and last preseason game of training camp.
The Impact made some interesting final roster moves this past week. First, they signed Belgian defender, Zanzan, a native of Togo, as well as Gambian forward Pa Amadou Gai for the next two seasons. Zanzan, a 28-year old left defender, played 35 games and scored two goals with the Togo National Team. He made his debut in Togo and played the last seven years in the Belgian first division, notably with the clubs Daknam, Lokeren and FC Brussels. Before joining the Impact, he played with CS Otopeni in Romania. Gai is a 24-year old Gambian forward. Since 1997, he played first division in Gambia with Bakau United, finishing last season as the team’s top scorer. In 11 games this season, he scored nine goals. He also played for the U-17, U-20, U-23 and Senior Gambian national teams.
The Impact also announced that young defender Alex Surprenant and midfielder Pierre-Rudolph Mayard will start the season with the club’s reserve team the Trois-Rivières Attak. The organization also announced that Brazilian forward Severino Jefferson had been released.
The Impact tied the Charleston Battery 0-0.
The Portland Timbers announced the club will play host to the reserve team of renowned Mexican side Club América in an international exhibition match on Sunday, May 31, at PGE Park at 5 p.m.
The Portland Timbers closed out their sixth week of preseason training camp Friday with a morning training session at PGE Park. Week 6 proved to be a busy week for the players and coaches, filled with training sessions, photo day and a preseason scrimmage on the road.
The Timbers were idle again this week and have yet to play a game. They will begin league play next Saturday the 25th against the Whitecaps at Swangard Stadium.
Puerto Rico Islanders
The Islanders defeated last year’s USL-1 champion the Vancouver Whitecaps with a score of 2-1, both goals scored by Nicholas Addlery.
Nicholas Addlery, the Jamaican striker, is on fire! He has scored 5 goals in 5 games since joining the Islanders!
Rochester tied the University of Buffalo, 1-1, at Rhinos Stadium to close its preseason with a 4-0-4 record headed into Saturday night’s USL First Division season opener at Carolina.
Jeff Di Veronica writes the story, Welcome to “Your Name Here” Stadium. Yes, for a measly $1000.00 you could have the Rhinos stadium named after you! Even Deadspin.com picked up this story.
Devo weighs in on the game with some extra tidbits of news about the Rhinos.
The Rhinos have a new look to their web page.
The Rhinos fall short to the RailHawks 1-0.
Faith, salvation and the Gospel according to Ansu Touré: Daily brushes with death in Liberia and his flight to freedom left Ansu Touré with a profound appreciation of life. A story from the Province.
Nicholas Addlery scores a brace against his former team as Vancouver fall to the Islanders 2-1.