Tag Archives: USL-1

The Sweeper: Montreal Impact Win USL-1 Crown

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The Montreal Impact defeated the defending champions Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 at Stade Saputo yesterday to win the USL-1 Final 6-3 on aggregate.  First half goals from Tony Donatelli, Joey Gjertsen and Roberto Brown were all Montreal needed to win, although Vancouver defender Shaun Pejic’s controversial red card in the 29th minute for hauling down the last man in the area probably helped a mite.

Although there was some controversy concerning calls made in both legs, few could deny that on the basis of Montreal’s 6-0 post-season record they didn’t deserve their two-leg win.  The storyline this year leading up to yesterday’s first all-Canadian final though is beyond belief.  It was only back in March of this year when, after winning the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Mexican club Santos Lagunas, Montreal gave up four goals in forty minutes to lose 5-4 on aggregate.

It was the sort of loss that can throw clubs into total chaos, and it seemed for much of this year that Montreal were heading down that road.  After posting a worst-ever opening season record in May which led to coach John Limniatis getting sacked and replaced with assistant coach Marc dos Santos, things went from bad to worse after Montreal suffered a horrible 6-1 defeat at home to Toronto FC in the Nutrilite Championship.  The defeat handed Canadian CONCACAF qualification from the Vancouver Whitecaps to Toronto FC, the latter club needing to score a seemingly impossible four goals or more to go through.

Football being football, somehow the Impact found the “mental toughness” to ignore past failures and on-going league turmoil to win the Division 1 championship.  Liverpool FC fans, take note.

Worldwide News

  • In case you didn’t know, Liverpool FC lost 1-0 to Sunderland from a Darren Bent strike that should have counted as a Liverpool beach ball own-goal. The Guardian’s John Ashdown reminds everyone that the rules state the goal should have been disallowed.  So with all the renting of garments over a silly beach ball, why is Rafa Benitez the only one pointing out that Liverpool actually didn’t play very well?  Or that it was the same Sunderland that narrowly missed out on defeating Manchester United at Old Trafford?
  • Heading into MLS‘s final stretch, figuring out all possible playoff qualification outcomes is giving the stat crunchers an MLS Cup-sized migraine.  As the 24thminute points out, teams chasing the final playoff spots basically have to win away from home to keep their seasons alive.  Best not think about tie-breakers…
  • Back to the Guardian now and Paul Wilson’s piece on Birmingham City‘s owner, Carson Yeung, and why flashing wads of transfer money isn’t always a good idea: “McLeish, not exactly accustomed to throwing money around, is going to have to both persuade players to take a chance on Birmingham, while insisting to selling clubs and agents that he is not prepared to go above a certain price.”
  • Media naval gazing corner: Andrew Buscholtz at Sporting Madness is doing an excellent job reporting back on a sport blogging conference in Las Vegas.  Of particular interest is his latest installment on increasing blogger access to professional team, even if some clubs grant it so that bloggers, as one panelist mentioned, can become better “brand evangelists” for a particular club.  Missing from the debate is any mention of the further degradation of living wage sports journalism.
  • If the future of African football needed a boost heading into the World Cup in South Africa this summer, it sure got it when Ghana beat Brazil 4-3 on penalties after 0-0 scoreline after 12o minutes in the U20 World Cup final yesterday.

Richard Whittall writes the no-access blog A More Splendid Life.

The Sweeper: USL-1 in Crisis

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Details are sketchy, but Brian Quarstad’s Inside Minnesota Soccer reported on Saturday that USL President Tim Holt sent an email to three USL-1 clubs in the Team Owner’s Association (TOA)—Minnesota, Carolina and Miami—terminating their player contracts, which was followed by news from David Fellerath at Triangle Offense that the three club logos had been removed from the USL-1 main site.  It appears the decisions were made because the clubs, along with current USL semifinalists Montreal and Vancouver, did not renew their contracts with the league (there is speculation that Montreal and Vancouver’s contracts weren’t voided in part because of their progress as semifinalists).

The TOA member clubs’ refusal to renew with USL stems from a dispute dating back to last August, when USL was purchased in a last minute bid by non-USL club owner NuRock Soccer Holdings.  Before that the TOA had been working to work out a way to buy the USL, thereby breaking its single-entity structure, giving the clubs more control of the league and making it more ‘FIFA friendly.’ Non-club-owner NuRock’s purchase of the league effectively wrecked those plans and the TOA threatened to pull out of USL altogether.  After a month of stale negotiations and no club renewals by TOA members, Tim Holt’s mass email effectively called ‘the TOA’s bluff.’

While reports vary on what exactly will happen next (the Kartik Report lays out the consequences of a ‘break away’ league scenario), this sort of brinkmanship on the eve of playoff semifinals doesn’t reflect well on the league.  Yet there’s another, happier angle to this story: it was unearthed and confirmed by dedicated local football bloggers like Quarstad, calling USL-1 and TOA reps for much-needed answers.  This sort of scrutiny wouldn’t have existed five or ten years ago, mostly because the inner intrigues of USL, even with its wider implications for American club soccer, would have fallen on deaf ears in the traditional press.

So, while USL-1 fails, local American soccer bloggers pick up the pieces, FTW.

Worldwide Stories

  • Dennis Wise is Modern Football incarnate: he went over his own club manager’s wishes to satisfy some player agents representing South American players, which led to Kevin Keegan’s resignation and now, his £2 million settlement.
  • It took Sigi Schmidt’s Seattle Sounders to finally break the Columbus Crew‘s 22 home game unbeaten streak in a weird game that saw Guillermo Schelotto miss a penalty.  Yes, the league is that tight and unpredictable, as Ives breaks down over at Soccernet.
  • Sulaiman Al-Fahim is selling a portion of his Portsmouth portion to a wealthy Saudi consortium headed by Ali al-Faraj, reports the Guardian, which will herald untold success at Fratton Park for years and years to come.  Or not.
  • Are old strikers as intensely brilliant as they say they are, or are they a bunch of whingeing old cranks (I’m looking at you, Gerd Müller)?  Ian Plenderleith breaks it down for us at When Saturday Comes.
  • And if you haven’t read a match report on the Chelsea Liverpool game, please go directly to Run of Play author and Pro Vercelli’s most storied manager Brian Philips piece on how Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba learned to stop worrying and love the ball.

Richard Whittall minds the shop like Vince at Nabootique here when he’s not crimping like Howard at A More Splendid Life.