Archive for MLS Playoffs

Back to Practice for Real Salt Lake as MLS Cup looms

After a few days off to celebrate the holidays, RSL returned to practice on Sunday with a spirited 90 minute session that featured a variety of drills.  It was good to see Alvaro Saborio back to what appears to be close to full fitness, Chris Wingert was also an active participant but I believe he is still in some pain from the rib injuries suffered in the first leg against Portland. Devon Sandoval missed practice but Jason Kreis was confident (as was RSL PR man Sam Stejskal) that Devon would be ready to go by MLS Cup.

The drills started out small with smaller groups taking on each other in passing and possession drills and the scale kept getting larger and larger as practice went along, towards the end the keepers and groups of players broke off and started working on taking and defending PK’s (a sure sign that we are in full playoff mode).

Listening to a number of players and Jason talk after practice the group is fully aware of the task in front of them, they seem very focused while someone remaining relaxed.  Perhaps that is the veteran influence as RSL has a good number of players from the 2009 MLS Cup win on their roster (Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert, Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy, Javier Morales, and Robbie Findley) and with 6 straight seasons of playoff runs and this years US Open Cup run, every player on the roster has dealt with high pressure situations. That experience should provide a calming effect next Saturday as the big match hype has to be dealt with.

I was able to catch up with a couple of players after practice, first up is Lovel Palmer:

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It appears #TicketGate continues for MLS Cup (Updated)

So the only question remaining behind all of the #TicketGate issues is who does blame for bad policies, poor reactions, and overall the mess fall on.  Is it TicketMaster, MLS or Sporting KC? I from the start have believed that SKC has been responsible for the majority of the mess, but it has been funny to have SKC fans try to defend their club by saying it is all on TicketMaster, who created a bad code, turned on sales before they should have been, and yes even made up the policy of only selling in the KC market.  Of course I know that none of those are true, I many years ago worked for TM and they are just a vendor who does what their clients tell them to (that still leave a SKC or MLS question.  One fan asked TM about the blocking out of market sales for the General Public portion of MLS Cup sales and here is their response:

TM policy

I know that is small, so here is the text of the TM response:

Thank you for reaching out to us regarding tickets for:
MLS Cup 2013 – Sporting Kansas City v. Real Salt Lake
Sporting Park, Kansas City, KS
Sat, Dec 7, 2013 03:00 PM

We understand your frustration and wish that we could assist you, but unfortunately, the venue/promoters for the game have set up “geo-limiting” for this game. (geographical limiting)

This means that only fans who have their billing address in the state where the game is taking place, may purchase tickets.

Please note that Ticketmaster do not own the tickets that we sell. We sell under contract for the venue/promoters and as such, we have to follow their rules and instructions for the event.

If a fan who has their billing address in the geo limited state, resells tickets, you can purchase tickets from them and attend the game.

We hope that you are able to get tickets for the game.

If you need anything else, we’re always here for you – just reply to this email or visit Ticketmaster.com.

So that should at least clear up anyone who wants to blame TicketMaster for the issues involving the sales of MLS Cup Tickets.  The original post is after the jump:

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MLS Cup is a week away and Real Salt Lake is getting ready

Well as unlikely as it may have seemed back on March 3rd when RSL started the 2013 season that the team with a fairly complete overhaul of their forward corps and loss of several key players, the reality is on December 7th they will be playing for MLS Cup. Coming off their 1-0 win last weekend at Portland, RSL has taken a few days off for the holidays to rest and recover before starting up practice again this weekend.

The break between the two legs of the conference finals and then a two week break between that and MLS Cup, means that both Chris Wingert and Alvaro Saborio are having a chance to recover from their injuries, both could return to action for MLS Cup, but I question if that would be the best move for the team.  I think it will be hard for Jason Kreis to change much from the guys who played in the two legs of the conference finals, given the 4-2 home win and the 1-0 road win.

Much of the attention has been focused on RSL fans trying to find a way to get tickets to the match and the drama of TicketGate, where we saw SKC lie about a hacked ticket code, then pull back to saying it was a unreleased code, to finally admitting it was a valid code for SKC STM’s (season ticket holders) that was leaked and used by some RSL fans to secure a couple hundred tickets that were intended as supplemental tickets for their STM’s.  I do get SKC being upset at the code being leaked, but given the fact that more tickets from their STM’s have ended up being scalped on the secondary market than were “compromised” to RSL fans the cancelling of tickets seems like a knee jerk over reaction.  Ticket codes always leak and there will always be some who sell their tickets on the secondary market at inflated prices, it seems to me to lack much moral compass to be upset about one and respond by cancelling tickets, while doing nothing to deal with the scalping at outrageous prices.

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Another day, another version of the truth for #TicketGate

You know that someone is lying or being less than truthful when their story keeps changing, and for Sporting KC that is exactly the case.  First it was that someone hacked a code that hadn’t been released yet, then it was that the code was only to be used by SKC staff to help those who couldn’t use their unique code on Ticketmaster to buy their tickets.  Of course neither of those made any sense and I didn’t buy them for a second as they left more questions than answers.  Now we get a new story, and one that I believe is much closer to the truth, on KCTV’s website there is a story that contains the latest version:

Sporting season ticket holders were given a special code by Ticketmaster so they could go online and buy tickets. The only problem was that somehow Real Salt Lake fans got their hands on the code and started buying them online before the code got to most Sporting fans.

“Once it went viral you can imagine what happened. The majority of their fans bought upward of 1,000 tickets. We shut it down as soon as we found out about it,” said Jake Reid, the chief revenue officer for Sporting.

In all about 200 Sporting season ticket holders were affected by the stunt. Ticket managers have been working the phones to make sure the ones planning on going to the game got their tickets.

“Once we figured it out, we worked with Ticketmaster and figured out what had happened and closed it down and refunded the tickets. Obviously for us it’s intended for our season ticket members,” Reid said.

They go on to mention that this was for a block of about 5,000 tickets, which is in addition to the SKC STM’s being able to purchase (with their unique code) the same number of tickets as they have season tickets.  So they have their 10-11,000 season tickets plus this 5,000 tickets and they were worried that maybe up to 1000 of those 16,000 might have been bought by RSL fans with the leaked code.  Of course if you read their own words, about 200 SKC STM’s were impacted, so that means they had bought tickets so that means less than 800 and probably less than 500 of the tickets had actually been bought by RSL fans using the code.  Which happened as a result of a leaked code, you know when a SKC fan put the code out online to let their friends buy tickets with it (which is OK I guess since they live in KC) and then it leaked.

What strikes me as funny/sad about this is the way SKC as an organization have reacted, first they put together a plan that had big holes in it, using a generic code and thinking it wouldn’t get out of their control to be used by others.  By others I mean scalpers, others in KC who may not be STM’s, and yes maybe by some RSL fans.  It happens whenever generic codes are used and something that anyone who attends evens knows about, but I guess not SKC.  Once their plan got out of control, their reaction was first to panic, which lead to them telling people that the code was hacked and that it had never been used or released to anyone.  Well that wasn’t the truth as Ticketmaster doesn’t allow codes to be used outside of their authorized dates and times.

Then they decided that what realistically was about 5-600 tickets purchased by RSL fans was worth cancelling 1000 tickets and creating what will be chaos on match day as many of those tickets have already hit the secondary market.  The correct reaction in my opinion would have been to shut down the code and acknowledge a mistake and work to ensure that the remaining 4,000 plus tickets they wanted for their STM’s went to them (they actually did this yesterday afternoon via those unique account codes) and to move on.  Yes it would have meant that several hundred RSL fans would have had tickets to the match in a crowd of the 18-20,000 SKC fans that weren’t part of the annoyingly small 1,000 allocation.  Would that have been the end of the world?  Nope, but it would have been a way to prevent a huge black eye for SKC and MLS, which is what this has turned into as they have tried to paint RSL fans as hackers and villains.

Once their two versions of the story didn’t stop the questions they went to MLS and complained and got them to make a statement about a secure link that RSL fans weren’t authorized to use, of course we all know that generic codes on the general ticketmaster MLS Cup ticket page isn’t anything near secure.  Now there are 5-600 RSL fans who bought tickets using a code leaked by a SKC STM (why would they leak it, if not to allow “unauthorized” people access) who made travel plans, booked hotels and planned vacation time at work. So while I understand some SKC fans being upset that a few hundred of the 15,000 available tickets went to RSL fans, the reaction to the issue was far greater than the reality of the situation.

Hundreds or thousands of tickets to MLS Cup have or will make their way onto the secondary market like stubhub and craigslist (there are already over 500 on stubhub.com alone, another 200 plus on tickets now) and where do you think those tickets came from?  I can tell you SKC STM’s who are clearly more interested in how they can make a profit than actually showing up to watch their team play for a championship.  Those tickets can be bought by anyone, including RSL fans, so it seem to me that the real issue is that SKC is worried about RSL fans being able to buy tickets directly from them for the actual price and not inflated secondary market prices.

In all of this, the one thing that Sporting Kansas City hasn’t done is acknowledge they made a mistake, a mistake the inconvenienced hundreds of MLS fans both in Kansas City and in Salt Lake City. Instead they have pointed fingers, blamed imaginary hackers, and shown with their actions that they reacted like children instead of a real professional sports franchise.  I wonder if the Chiefs would have reacted this way if a couple hundred tickets ended up in the hands of Bronco fans for Sunday’s big game?

That’s How I See It

MLS Cup #Ticketgate deepens as tickets invalidated and questions arise

I thought it was time for a new post with udpated info on what is turning out to be a real mess for MLS, SKC and the fans.  So MLS just published the following information:

Ed. note: The following is a statement distributed by Major League Soccer on Wednesday.

For the first 16 years of MLS history, the MLS Cup was played at a neutral site. It was a format that worked in the formative stages of the League. But after ongoing discussions with our Clubs, players and fans, MLS moved to a competition-based Cup format that provides the higher-seeded Club the opportunity to host the League championship. This change provides the host club, their players and fans, with a special and memorable opportunity to celebrate a season-long achievement in their home market.

As part of this format change, in conjunction with our clubs, a policy was created to provide the visiting Club an allocation of 1,000 tickets for distribution to its staff, players, partners and fans. The visiting club determines how they will allocate this block of tickets to their various constituents.

Real Salt Lake will announce how they will allocate their 1,000-ticket allotment later today.

Earlier this week, a limited number of RSL fans gained access to a secure link that had been established solely for Sporting Kansas City season ticket members to purchase MLS Cup tickets. Because RSL fans were not authorized to use this link, the purchase orders were not fulfilled.

Of course their is a problem with that statement, it isn’t true.  Here is an image of the email that was sent to SKC STM’s last friday:

SKC STM MLS Cup email

 

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MLS Cup now stained by “Ticketgate” for many fans (Updated)

Another Update:

Orders are now being invalidated:

invalidated MLS Cup order

 

This doesn’t deal with the hundreds or perhaps thousands of tickets that were printed yesterday by those who believe they bought valid tickets or may have resold those printed tickets.

Update:
So I have been told by an inside source that Sporting KC is considering claiming that the code “13stmcup” was hacked and that tickets were purchased using that code before they should have been.  I find that claim interesting as teams traditionally email presale codes days in advance of the actual “on sale” time and Ticketmaster only turns on codes during the specific times and for the specific seats that the code is valid for.  It seems like reality may be somewhere in between.

The question for me comes down to this, was this the code for SKC Season Ticket Members to buy their seats for the event?  I don’t believe it was, two SKC STM’s told me they got a unique code for their specific seats, that this was for additional seat purchases.  So if that is the case, then these tickets were “assigned” to any particular fan, but were going on sale with a presale code emailed to select fans to allow them to purchase remaining seats after the STM seats were bought.  If that is the case then these tickets would have been bought for friends, family member, co-workers and such, some would have been bought to be resold, so why does it matter who got the code (which was leaked likely by a SKC STM) and bought tickets?  At this point your STM’s got their seats and this was to fill the rest of the stadium, should someone who lives in KC get better access to a league event like MLS Cup than someone who lives in Salt Lake City?  I don’t believe so.

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Real Salt Lake advances to MLS Cup

So at the start of the season not many folks would have picked RSL to make it to MLS Cup, by the middle of the season it looked as if RSL was on track to sweep the trophies available to them this year, and heading into the final weeks of the season it looked as if RSL was in real trouble with a 2-2-2 record in their final six regular season matches.  Yet as has been seen almost every season in MLS history, it is about getting hot at the right time.  RSL was able to hold the LA Galaxy to a 1-0 win in the first leg of their playoff series and then able to dominate them in the second leg and secure a 2-0 win in extra time to advance to the Western Conference finals.

It would be more matches against the Portland Timbers that would decide who would advance to MLS Cup, it would be the 5th and 6th matches between the two teams this season (including US Open Cup action).  The first leg saw one of the more intense matches of the MLS season as both sides were swinging for the fences early and often, and despite giving up the first goal of the match RSL battled back and secured a 4-2 win at Rio Tinto. The second leg was again a match played at a frantic pace, but with RSL withstanding every offensive attack the Timbers could manage and with Robbie Findley cleaning up a loose ball in the area and putting it past Ricketts giving RSL the 1-0 lead that would be the final score as the Claret and Cobalt advanced with a 5-2 aggregate total.

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Real Salt Lake find victory over the LA Galaxy and something more

Rio Tinto Stadium has always provided a good home for RSL, while not every match sells out the team draws a good crowd no matter the conditions or opponent being played.  Since the team moved to their home stadium, the club has never really suffered from a bad season, they have made the playoffs every year since the move.  That is 6 straight seasons for those of you counting, the longest streak in Major League Soccer, and getting close to the league record.  Four times in those 6 seasons RSL has made it to a conference final and on Sunday they will start their bid to play in and win their second MLS Cup title, which is a very good record for a team not even 10 years old yet.  On Thursday night, something interesting happened at Rio Tinto, something that has happened a couple times before but not nearly as often as some of us would like.  The crowd and team both seemed in sync with an energy level and passion that is rare in sports, that combined desire to help the other in whatever way possible.  You could see it in the eyes of the players on the first couple attempts on goal that went unsuccessful, you could hear from the fans in the stands who were perhaps as loud as I have ever heard them (despite it not being a sellout crowd), it kept building all night.  Sometimes it was positive and passionate, like the Seba goal and a few times not so positive, like the wrongly called off goal (even if you want to call Borchers offside, it was passive at best), but it was loud for the vast majority of the match and at points louder than I ever remember it being in the past.

The end result was a very entertaining 2-0 RSL win, or pair of wins.  It is hard enough to beat the Galaxy in an elimination match but last night RSL had to do it twice as Toledo made a mystery call on what should have been a Javier Morales goal that would have ended the match in regulation.  Instead RSL was forced to play 30 additional minutes and get another goal to end up with the deserved result, and while some may say it all comes out in the end, we saw Alvaro Saborio pick up an injury in that extra time, and had a majority of our players forced to play 30 minutes more with their next match just 3 days away.  We may never know what really happened on that call, or what impact the extra 30 minutes will have on RSL as they host the Timbers on Saturday, I do know my heartbeat was faster in those extra 30 minutes than it probably should have been.

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Who is going to win the Supporters’ Shield? What the numbers say

So one thing is clear in all sports including MLS, there is no place like home.  In MLS the home team wins most of the matches, no team in the league this year has won more matches on the road than they have at home.  In fact only Toronto FC with 2 road wins and 2 home wins are even close, the top teams in both the East and West all get a result in a majority of their home matches.

 

  • Real Salt Lake – 8-2-3 at home, 5-6-3 on the road
  • Montreal – 9-1-3 at home, 3-6-2 on the road
  • Los Angeles – 8-1-2 at home, 4-8-2 on the road

and on and on, so while one could spend a lot of time trying to analysis in depth the remaining schedules of MLS teams, looking at who they play but to be brutally honest I think that simply looking at how teams have performed at home and on the road so far this year provides a great deal of insight on how they likely will perform for the remainder of the year.  Now it isn’t bullet proof, we have seen teams get hot down the stretch or go cold but averages are fairly good indicators.  So let’s take a look at the how things look like:

Real Salt Lake has average 2.08 points per match at home, and 1.28 points per match on the road thru their 27 matches played earning 45 points.  RSL has 4 remaining home matches so if trends stay the same they would earn 8 more points at home, they have 3 more matches on the road and should get 4 points on the road.  So with 45 points earned and a projected 12 points, RSL will likely end the season with 57 points.

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Real Salt Lake faces a brutal August, brutally important

Real Salt Lake has 12 MLS matches left in the regular season, half of those will be in August and 4 of them will be against 3 Western Conference opponents (at Colorado, at LA Galaxy, at Portland, Portland at home), 3 matches at home (Houston, Columbus, and Portland).  With just 6 MLS matches scheduled in September and October(who makes these schedules?) RSL will need a strong August to keep the top spot in MLS locked up heading into the fall.

As if that wasn’t a big enough month you can toss in the US Open Cup semifinal next Wednesday when RSL will host the Portland Timbers, the winner will host the Open Cup final. It has been clear that Jason and the team have made the US Open Cup a priority, not only does allow the most direct path back to CONCACAF Champions League but it also is the quickest way to a trophy (well other than beating the Rapids on Saturday for our 7th straight Rocky Mountain Cup) and that is something this team seems really focused on this year.

The upside for RSL is the return of the rest of our Gold Cup participants, lets be honest there aren’t many teams that if you took away 4 starting players for a month, would have been able to hold on to the top spot in MLS, then add in the injuries and it would be even less likely.  So with Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran, and Nick Rimando back the starting lineups should be even more formidable going forward.  There is also the issue at centerback as Carlos Salcedo continues to get healthy, Chris Schuler gets closer to a return, and newcomer Brandon McDonald fights for minutes, hopefully getting all 3 of them might let us get Nat Borchers a little bit of rest over the tail end of the long summer.

Let’s take a look at those August matches a bit more closely:

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