Friday, November 19, 2010

MLS Cup 2010: FC Dallas vs Colorado Rapids

Contributing Editor Graham Fox

While Bruce is out living it up in Canada with the rest of you MLS fanaticos, I'm still here in good old Kansas City, home of the, ahem, Sporting Kansas City.

MLS Cup 2010 - This is it folks
Who: FC Dallas vs Colorado Rapids
When: 8:30 Eastern / 7:30 Central
Where: Toronto, Canada
Channel: ESPN / Galavision / TSN2
Twitter: #MLSCup

I detected that not everyone is as excited about this cup final as they should be, but don't let the pessimistic people get you down. There are a lot of great story lines to follow, and both teams have shown they can play exciting attacking football, none more so than FC Dallas who absolutely thrashed LA without mercy last week.

The storyline I love the most is of the coaches, both of whom have slowly assembled winning teams out of losers.

Colorado Rapids
Take Gary Smith. He suffered for years six months (thanks Jason) as assistant coach to Clavijo, and watched as Colorado lost game and after game and mistreated their fans, before finally getting his big chance.

And he did not let his chances slip away. There have been big changes since he took over, beginning with actual organized practices and a team that no longer leaves players out to dry, organizational changes that have placed more emphasis on the fans, and a gradual crescendo that has built to a rancorous cup final.

Gary has assembled a great team full of likable players. The hard headed target man, Conor Casey. The speedster always terrorizing defenses, Omar Cummings. The diminutive but always going full force Wells Thompson. The bearded keeper who fits right into the Denver atmosphere, Matt Pickens. The stolid defender and only Japanese player in the league, Kosuke Kimura. And don't forget the man with the rockets attached to his boots, the man who saw New England fail time and time again to win an MLS Cup, Jeff Larentowicz. He's been gifted one more chance to win the cup.

FC Dallas
A few states away, Schellas Hyndman and his lucky leather jacket have followed a similar path. FC Dallas were horrible, with a coach that claimed they were rebuilding, but without results to follow. After years of trying, FC Dallas was finally able to coax Hyndman away from the college where he had been coaching for 30 years. Their persistence in pursuing him and faith they had has paid off.

Hyndman has slowly crafted a team that never gives up and fight to the bitter end. Claiming a slew of defensive and offensive records this season, Dallas is winning games with flair and style and slowly bringing the crowds back to Pizza Hut Park.

Hyndman's team includes great personalities. Scorer of great goals, spirit of the team, and MLS MVP, David Fierria. Work horse and terrier mixed into one, Dax McCarty. MLS great, first on and off the field every game and every practice, super-sub Jeff Cunningham. Bruiser and goal scorer, Attiba Harris. Speedy and decisive playmaker, Brek Shay. And don't forgot the man in goal who Henry tried to put out of service. Cast off by Kansas City, he's having one of the best years of his carreer, Kevin Hartman.

It's going to be a great game.

Breaking down a Brand: Sporting Kansas City
As a Kansas City fan, er member, I can't let the name change go without talking about it a little. But instead of giving my knee jerk irrational reaction, I decided to talk to an expert on branding.

Curt Cuscino, Principal & Creative Director at branding specialist House of Tears Design broke it all down in an email.

"Curt, you're a branding expert, what's your take on the Wizards rebrand and new logo?"

Curt Responded:
Great question! I actually spent the first part of my morning yesterday reading and researching the decisions behind this, the reasoning, etc because it is just. that. baffling. I even watched the lengthy "reveal" video that the club's president did in P&L (not something I'd normally care about).

We certainly weren't involved in the rebrand or new logo creation, that's for sure, so no worries - I'm honestly not sure they involved any expert in their process from what I can tell, which is absolutely dumbfounding.

In short, the whole rebrand looks to be an ill-fated, epic fail on sooooo many levels. A brand IS more than a logo for sure, so the decisions' consequences go deeper than that, though that could've been so much more compelling (for all the intellectual reasoning they have behind what's there...which is good to just doesn't work).

The main problems as I see them:
- trying to reinvent the wheel on how sports teams are named. Sporting Kansas City instead of Kansas City Sporting? I could be wrong and haven't done full research on this, but how many sport teams in existence are named this way, i.e. Chiefs Kansas City? With that kind of branding decision, it leads a person to believe there will be other branches, i.e. XYZ Agency (New York) leads you to believe typically there is, or will be, an XYZ Agency (San Francisco), right? But this isn't a company like that, and from what I can tell, this is not at all the plans, as you'd expect with a sports they don't have "branches" other than maybe a farm team (though those are usually named differently too).

- Besides the order of the name, the name itself is of course terrible generica - again, had they brought in a branding expert to help with the naming, it might have turned out very differently. People love having a character which embodies a mentality that THEY can connect to. How do you connect to the concept of "Sporting"? That character can define a massive group of people...a generation even. Just watch ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary on the Raiders (produced by Ice Cube of course).

In the reveal, the president seems to try to reason that its "Sporting" because they're about "more than just soccer", such as "...we're about rugby...", but wait? This IS the soccer team's name right? If this is the name of the complex holding the wizards, a rugby team, AND our underwater basketweaving team, then the entire context changes and this generica umbrella name might actually work...but its not. Its the soccer team's name...and nothing but.

- the logo design itself...everybody has an opinion, and that's fine. One of the main concerns though, aside from stale color choices and what apparently is "S" and "C" which after tons of thought, I could not make sense of (the president reveals that this both means "sporting club" AND is a loose allusion to the medical symbol with the snakes wrapping around the pole...the demonstrate health being important...what?!) - is simply the way it reads. If we're going with this abnormal ordering of "Sporting Kansas City", which is doomed for all kinds of branding dilution with some fans saying KC Sporting, others saying Sporting KC, others saying Kansas City Sporting...the logo reinforces that it is "Kansas City Sporting" (reading top down, like anyone would). So right out of the gate, they've created confusion and inconsistency...further evidence that they probably did this all in-house.

- did I mention it looks strikingly similar to the MLS Eastern Conference mark?

- What do you cheer? "Go Chiefs!" Ok, that's doable. Do we yell "Go Sporting!" or "Go Sports!"? Wouldn't we feel a little silly if we were at a baseball game yelling "Go Baseball!"? When creating a brand name like this that is so huge...used in so many ways, you have to think of every possible usage, and the fans and event environment are most definitely one.

I could go on... but did I answer your question?

Yes Curt, you sure did.

You can't have Canada without the Trailer Park Boys.

Call Sign
You can always email me at or find me on twitter.

Thanks to everyone who followed my live Twitter coverage of the Wizards big surprise reveal. I had a great time covering it, a lot of people followed my feed, and I met a lot of cool people.

See you on Monday.


Anonymous Neal aka Lightning Striker said...

Graham, thanks for getting the professional's insight in to the new KC branding.

Thanks for covering for Brucio while he's in Toronto certainly in the center of the mayhem, and enjoying every moment.

Peace and futbol.

9:29 AM  
Blogger blackswan photography said...

you are awesome!

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Dieter said...

Is there any possible way to get Curt's response to Robb Heineman?

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Ed said...

rancor |ˈra ng kər| ( Brit. rancour)
bitterness or resentfulness, esp. when long-standing : he spoke without rancor.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Graham said...

Thank you for defining the word. I hope you learned something.

5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Curt is obviously not a football fan because some of the most famous clubs in the world are named this way. Sporting Lisbon anyone? Also, the intention is precisely to NOT be a character. The Wizards was a really dumb name that wasnt reminiscent of a football team. Characters and mascots aren't a big tradition in football like traditional American sports. Often a club is simply referred to by their colors- I.e. The Reds, the Whites, or the blanco neri.

6:49 PM  
Anonymous joe the curmudgeon said...

Ahh, but Anonymous, there are plenty of teams with Nicknames, however unofficial, in football around the world. The Gunners, The Hammers, The Red Devils, Hotspur, Rovers (two teams), Wolves, are the obvious English sides I can think of in 1 minute.

Agreed, there is Sporting Lisbon, we all know that, and perhaps that is part of the image problem with MLS. Since Salt Lake used Real, and that was confusing since it was obviously nicked from Madrid, and the colors, too! And DC United. What exactly did they Unite from?

Since in America there are about 5 team sports that pull more weight than professional soccer, and in any give market you will have a pro Football team, an NBA team, an NHL team, an MLB team, maybe indoor football, WNBA, Major League Lacrosse, not to mention colleges that may use the same base name, ie Miami Hurricanes, you can see that team Nicknames are indeed important as a differentiator in the marketplace. It's crowded out there.

Not every soccer club can be an FC, either, as even Pro American Gridiron football teams use that name, offially. Such as Chicago Bears Football Club, Inc. - that's right. They could be BEARS FC, if they so wanted.

I think Wizards was an OK name. Great soccer players truly are Wizards at the game. You see Nasri's goal this morning? I don't like him, but it was a thing of beauty. David Beckham's free kicks - he's a wizard. I for one, will miss the name. Heck, I miss when they were called The Kansas City Wiz! heh.

12:44 AM  
Anonymous M. said...

Was gonna comment, but I started writing and had a lot to say, so I turned it into a blog post. Much love to all Dunorders, even when they slam good stuff.

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Dominghosa said...

I have no problem with Sporting. I agree the brand expert doesn't seem much of a soccer fan.
Sporting isn't a nickname and the team doesn't need a nickname that the fans are spoon fed.
As said in this section, an unofficial nickname can be adopted for the team. Sporting Kansas City doesn't need an actual nickname, they may well just be known as "The Blues." It'll be up to the fans to decide that, which would be preferred.
It's better than "Wizards."
I do have a problem with the loo. It's terrible.

7:15 PM  
Anonymous Dominghosa said...

loo = logo

7:16 PM  
Blogger Graham said...

You are all correct, he is not a soccer fan at all. But I thought it was still an valuable reaction from someone not connected to soccer, and a more detailed and intricate perspective than any non-soccer fan in Kansas City has given.

It provoked some good discussion, and a whole blog post, mission accomplished :)

7:49 PM  

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