Saturday, February 26, 2011

A List of Storylines I’m Excited About During the 2011 MLS Season

Contributing Editor Graham Fox

The start of the MLS regular season is almost here, and I’m pumped. The stream of information has really increased as more teams latch onto social media and spreading the love. More video, more interview, more pictures, more personal interactions with the fans, the whole scene is something I love watching.

More than that, it’s got me excited to watch all the great story lines develop. Here is a list, in no specific order, of a few of my favorites.

1. New Teams
There aren’t a whole lot of years left when we’ll get to experience new teams in the league. In fact, baring teams moving to different stadiums and renaming, we only have two more team to go until we hit that magical 20 number (omg Cosmos).

It’s always great to see teams and fans gain an identity within MLS. I’ll always remember when Toronto scored their first goal and the air was filled with flying seat-cushions turned Frisbees. What a great spontaneous and hilarious celebration. From my seat in Kansas, I laughed and cheered on the excited new fans.

How will all the new players and coaches mix together? There are always one or two players who excels far more than our expectations, and always a couple that crash out hardcore.

2. New Stadiums
Three stadiums that haven’t seen MLS action enter the fray this season. Portland at PGE Park, Vancouver at Empire Field and BC Place Stadium, and Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Stadium.

Portland has completely renovated an old stadium, and it looks glorious and fun. Vancouver may be in a temporary stadium, but it has some charm, and their permanent home, BC Place Stadium, is being fit with a retractable roof! Both of these stadiums are new to me even if they are familiar to local fans, and it will be great to see the supporters groups filling the stands.

Sporting is the latest team to open up a soccer specific stadium, and man it is going to be beautiful and loud. The many pictures and videos you’ve seen really don’t do it justice. Every time I drive by the area where they are building it, I can’t help but stop and wander around the stadium. After years of wandering in the desert, Sporting has a home. Too bad Conrad can’t be there to open it up.

3. Teal Bunbury, Juan Agudelo, and other Up-and-Coming American Stars
USA fans love watching exciting young talent grow, develop, and score goals. I can’t help, and I know most of you can’t help, being exciting about any National team players developing, getting starts, and struggling for playing time. Sweden, Denmark, Greece, England; the teams that have American players I follow and cheer for.

So having stars develop in America (Agudelo, Dax, and others) and in my own backyard (Bunbury) is amazing. Go USA! Will Bunbury or Agudelo become stars or will they wallow in mediocrity?

4. Charlie Davies
After Charlie’s tragic accident and futile bid to play in the world cup, MLS fans are ready to welcome back Davies with open arms. In the past a proven goal scorer at both the domestic and international level, it will be exciting to see if Davies can complete his comeback in MLS, get fit, score goals, and then head back overseas to bask in international glory.

5. New Designated Players
How important will that star player be? Will they laze around the field and get fat or actually help their team? Will they be spoiled rich dicks or helpful professionals? Will they actually make an impact on the field? Omar Bravo is the first name that comes to my mind. He’s got a great pedigree, and I can’t wait to see him play against Chivas USA.

Don’t forget Angel! Now in Cali, he’s got a brand new setup. Will he get back on the goal scoring wagon? Will we see any defenders as DPs?

6. Booing David Beckman
Why is Beckman so easy to hate? Why does he have such a punchable face? It all stems from him being a dick. Last season, when the Galaxy came to Kansas City the whole crowd booed his every touch, English National team fans screamed obscenities at him, and the Cauldron taunted him with cries of “Hey Beckham, shake our hand.”

Did that level of hate appear at other stadiums? I never heard much about it, but I know when the Galaxy come to town, and if Beckham isn’t off training with Swanze City, the whole crowd will be booing him every time he touches the ball.

7. Gary Smith in Colorado
Gary came in, cleaned up shop, and took a team without a DP to the top and won an ugly MLS cup. Can he repeat?

8. Toronto FC's New Management
Will the mess from the North have a hope or a prayer now that they are under new management? Can Aron Wilt and their celebratory adviser flourish? The fans certainly think they deserve a decent team that makes the playoffs. Will this be the year?

9. The Northwest Rivalries
This is going to be fun. Portland vs. Seattle vs. Toronto vs. Vancouver. Some of these matches are going to result in some mean, red card producing play and I’m going to love every moment of it.

10. Will Wondolowski have a second breakout season?
Golden boot winners tend to have a hard time keeping up their record goal scoring pace in the post-golden boot year. Suddenly, the eyes of the media and the defenders are on you. Marking is tighter, double teams appear out of nowhere and shut you down. Those easy goals that helped you start scoring don’t happen. It’s a different type of battle for every goal. Can Wondolowski buck the trend and score the goals to go along with his new, fat(?) paycheck?

11. Will Dallas’ Young Gun Movement Pay Off?
Under Hyndman, FC Dallas has been signing young, home grown players at a record pace. As one commentator said, it’s almost like he’s creating his own college team. We may not see the storyline come to a conclusion this year, or even for years to come, but I’m going to be watching their young academy players and FC Dallas’ homegrown player strategy closely.

12. What are you looking forward to?
There are thousands of storylines out there, some major, some obscure. Tell me your favorite!

Do I really like a jam band?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done, nice piece. Concur I will be looking forward to many of the same things. Should be an interesting year for the MLS. One other thing that will be interesting is if labor strife takes out one of the other major sports leagues can MLS capitalize on that opportunity. Also can Columbus or RSL make the Champions League breakthrough.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most looking forward to seeing all three PNW clubs competing for the Samsquanch Cup again. Those three clubs playing against each other have always been must see matches.


1:08 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

I agree with the Anonymous #1 -- I'm thrilled to see RSL taking CCL seriously. I want it to mean something!

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, I could kiss you right now!!
I put up flyers for their shows around here when they came around about a decade ago because my buddy had jammed with them.
Not sure if Vince is still working behind the scenes for them but that band made it on touring, touring and touring...
Made me smile to see the clip and made my day.

>BC Place Stadium, is being fit with a >retractable roof!

Im not sure about their 30million dollar temp stadium that will be torn down but Swangaard was a quaint 4,000 seater and BC Place is a cavernous monstrosity.
IMPOSSIBLE to get any kind of atmosphere.
Think the old Metrodome or Skydome in TOronto.

You managed to really explain the Beckham backlash in one easy sentence.

Toronto will fail again. Getting a high profile german who has little experience in the MSL isnt very helpful unless you want to make it LOOK like youre doing something.
Id rather have a management thats been around the league, that knows the ins and outs, has contacts in colleges, national programs and other pro teams.

But once again, lets get some outside guys show these peasants how its done.

Why not... thats how it works in the media where still to this day, I think there exists a rule which says you have to have a certain amount of UK analysts or commentators to cover the MLS becayse americans and canadians are just too darn stupid to understand the easiest game in the world.

The inferiority complex towards the english whose own youthsystem is a mess is kind of funny.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Graham said...

Thanks for the great comments everyone, I'm looking forward to tomorrows Champions League clash as well.

See you next week with a story about my brothers time in Spain playing pickup around the country.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Wow, UM and duNord have crossed paths! Add in the fact that Can is the Music of the Moment and I think I finally discovered the nexus of MY universe. (BTW, Jake in UM is a Can fanatic.)

I look forward to all of these story lines, but mostly a repeat attempt from the ever-understated Rapids! 18 days and counting . . .


And, for what it's worth, I am more of a Wizard Burial Ground guy: Rawk!

11:21 PM  

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