We're Going Stag

It seems we’re going in alone. As expected, Philadelphia has become home to the 16th MLS franchise and will not begin play until 2010.
That means Seattle will be the lone expansion side in 2009. Seattle will be one of kind, forever.

Remember all those Seahawks-Buccaneers comparisons back in the early days, or those constant reminders of the Mariners’ failings while the Blue Jays were winning World Series in the Nineties? Rockets and Sonics, more of the same. Admit it, it stung.

Going alone brings freedom for all. Just be yourselves. Be loud and faithful and enthusiastic and be unlike any fans, anywhere in the world.

So let’s enjoy it and make the most of it, both club and supporters. Let’s puff-up the chest, walk through the door and make a great first impression.

Odd, Isn’t It?

It’s the nightmare of every scheduler, from intramurals to co-rec: an odd number of teams.

With 15 teams in 2009, the MLS calendar will always have one club taking a weekend seat on the sidelines. It also means an unbalanced conference configuration–unless, of course, someone gets wise and goes to a traditional single table format following this season.

Bye weeks are weird. When the Seahawks go quiet for that one Sunday each autumn, people seem at a loss. Should I work in the yard? Watch another team on TV? Get to know those people at the dinner table? (Yes, no and emphatically Yes!) Everyone just seems to lose the rhythm of life.

Hopefully the ’09 MLS bye week will allow the Seattle club and supporters to have a midseason get-together. You know, meet the family. Maybe a potluck. Or better yet, perhaps some big community project with all hands on deck. It could happen.

And it could happen again in 2010, because other cities are antsy about joining the gang. To this point joined at the hip with Philadelphia, St. Louis could be ready then. So, too, Miami or perhaps Portland.

Would MLS want an odd number? Would adding three teams be excessive (the NASL once added as many as six one season, and that didn’t go so well)? It will be interesting to see it unfold.
One Potato, Two Potato

Grab a stool at your favorite pub Saturday morning (6:30 a.m. kick) and see if somehow Fulham can staunch the bleeding in the face of Rooney, Ronaldo & Co.

Given Antti Niemi’s record and the late goal allowed last week, it might open the door to Kasey Keller’s first team return. If so, against Man United Keller will need to summon the magical forcefield he used to deny Brazil and Romario, lo, those many years ago.

Fox Soccer Channel starts the weekend with Arsenal-Villa, a pretty attractive pairing actually. Back to the bar (or GolTV), from Spain at 11 it’s fourth-place Atletico Madrid hosting Barcelona, which is now hot on the heels of Real.

Sunday’s FSC slate starts early (6 a.m.) with Juve-Fiorentina, followed by Everton-Portsmouth.

The Champions League returns next Tuesday. Milan hosts Arsenal in the second leg at the San Siro. They were scoreless in the first game. The delayed viewing of Barca-Celtic is on ESPN Classic at 2 p.m. Wednesday’s game is Chelsea-Olympiakos with the teams having drawn 0-0 in the first leg.

Early numbers of out Philadelphia show that over 2,500 season ticket commitments were made to the Sons of Ben web site before the team was announced Feb. 28. The sales slogan: “Two for a Ben,” or two for $100. Clever, but maybe outdone by one suggestion for a Toronto-Columbus regional rivalry. Among the finalists: The Buck-Loonie Cup…A Ligue 1 attendance record of 75,000 could be set Saturday evening at the Stade de France, where champions Lyon face Lille…MLS officials are not only getting owners with more wherewithal but also greater star power. Boxing great Oscar De La Hoya now owns a 25-percent share of Houston. He joins D.C. United minority owner Christian Laettner and our own Drew Carey on the high-profile entertainer/jock list…Across the pond, the North American owners of Liverpool may have a language problem. Apparently George Gillett of Canada wants to sell his half of the team to Dubai International Capital, and co-owner Tom Hicks of Texas is not happy about it. He also contends Gillett cannot do so without the approval of Hicks.…According to Joe Roth’s remarks in an interview with Washington CEO, Seattle is closing in on a TV deal with two different regional networks to air games in 2009…The kids will be lifting the Washington State Challenge Cup this weekend at Starfire…Goalkeeper Tally Hall of Gig Harbor got the call for the U.S. U-23 National Team, which begins Olympic qualifying Mar. 11 in Tampa. After leaving San Diego State in 2006, Hall now plays for Esjberg of Denmark…The Sounders’ ace keeper, Chris Eyelander, re-signed this week. Eyelander led USL Division 1 in saves during his second season with Seattle.