Tag Archive for 2013 MLS Cup

The top Real Salt Lake moments of 2013, the year of “almost”

So it is the time of year when most blogger/pundits/reporters put together their light of the highlights and lowlights of the past year, so it seemed only fitting that I take a look back at what was a very interesting year for Real Salt Lake.  I started out wanting to look at the 5 best things and the 5 worse things of the year and found that the two lists were very similar and often the events were very intertwined with each other.  For how long the MLS season is, just under 11 months, it was couple weeks that provided a lot of the material for my lists.  Anyhow, here we go:

The Top 5 highlights of the 2013 RSL season

5. US Open Cup run – it seemed as if RSL had destiny on their side as each and every coin flip by US Soccer gave home field advantage to RSL and despite questionable starts in several of the matches RSL was able to advance to the Open Cup final, a level they had never reached before in the tournament. It was in the Open Cup run that we got to see Devon Sandoval really step out of the shadows of being a rookie and show his potential, something that would benefit RSL for the rest of the season.   It was also great to see RSL pull in over 10,000 fans to each of their US Open Cup matches, in fact over the 5 matches RSL averaged over 14,000 fans, showing that a serious run at the USOC actually was important to both the club and the fans.  In almost every match played RSL put out a lineup that featured most of their top players another indication of how the club viewed the importance of the tournament, I hope that we see this same level of commitment in years to come.

4. Extra time win over the LA Galaxy in playoffs – Over the years I think this has become one of the best “non-rivalries” in MLS, from the style of play on the pitch to the way the clubs are run there really aren’t two clubs as polar opposites in the league.  So a highlight of the year has to be eliminating the Galaxy from the playoffs, and to do so in a match where some questionable calls again seemed to be strongly against RSL (hint this match should have ended in regulation time) just put a smile on the faces of all the RSL fans in the stands for that match.  I thought it was interesting how much attention had been given to the combo of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane leading up to the series and how after it the talk was all about the duo of RSL centerbacks Nat Borchers and Chris Schuler.

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RSL vs SKC – 2013 MLS Cup Match Preview part II

So if you missed part one of my MLS Cup Preview you can check it out here.

To continue with my look at he matchups-

  • Midfield – This one is tough as it depends on where Graham Zusi lines up,  if he is in the midfield it is fairly even, but if he is up top as a forward then an edge to RSL.  Another key factor is which Benny shows up, if the Feilhaber of the regular season shows up then RSL is in good shape, if the guy who has stepped up in the playoffs is there, then it becomes a better battle.  Let’s be honest, Kyle Beckerman is better than Oriol Rosell, Ned Grabavoy is better than Benny over the course of the season, Luis Gil is better than Peterson Joseph and Javier Morales and Zusi are a wash.  Yeah I am saying edge to RSL.
  • Forwards – Edge RSL – A healthy Alvaro Saborio is a difference maker unlike anyone that Sporting can offer up, now Claudio Bieler is a damn good forward but his form of recent has been less than ideal. RSL can also offer up a very in form Robbie Findley, who had 6 regular season goals along with subs like Olmes Garcia with 5 goals, 4 assist in less than 1,000 minutes, or Devon Sandoval with 3 goals in under 900 minutes in the regular season, oh and Joao Plata. On the SKC side, I actually like Teal Bunbury and CJ Sapong but they seem to be a bit lost without Kei Kamara in the formation. Soony Saad and Dom Dwyer are wildcards but I give the edge here to RSL.
  • Intangibles – Edge SKC – I get the home field advantage but SKC was just 9-5-3 at home, not exactly dominating, but their 29 to 15 edge in goals scored was very impressive.   Sleeping in your own bed vs a hotel can be a big difference maker, but I imagine some of the weather issues may negate a bit of the home field advantage.  Clearly the SKC front office did their part to try and stack the crowd with as many home fans as possible and it is hard to blame them for that. One advantage RSL will have is experience, it is possible that 6 starters from the 2009 MLS Cup could be in the staring XI for RSL on Saturday (Nick Rimando, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, and Robbie Findley), I don’t believe any SKC players have played in a MLS Cup before.
  • Overall – RSL – I know you will say that is a homer pick, but I think Sporting is a damn good team, however they aren’t the same team without Kei Kamara as they are with him.  Without that spark SKC just seems to be lacking that special factor, for RSL when Sabo went out with an injury it took just minutes for Devon Sandoval to step up and deliver big time results in big matches.  Unless someone does that for SKC on Saturday then I expect that RSL will win this match. 2-1

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RSL vs SKC – 2013 MLS Cup match preview part I

This is what it all comes down to, two teams battling for the right to be called the best team in MLS, the regular season is a grind of toughness but the playoffs are when you have to shine your best when the spotlight is the brightest.  It is funny that a lot of folks had Sporting KC picked early to be here, but very few thought after the off season roster changes that RSL would have what it took to get to this point, but no matter the thoughts in March, it is RSL and SKC playing in December (that is a whole other topic).

It would be hard to argue that these aren’t the two teams that deserve to be here, RSL spent most of the post All Star Match calendar at the top of the MLS table, only to drop to 4th in the final weeks, while Sporting was a top 3 side in the Eastern Conference almost the entire season.  While you might argue that the Eastern Conference was the weaker side of the bracket, it is hard to argue against SKC as a top team in the league.

The two sides faced off once this season in a physical match that ended up being more about what was and wasn’t called by the officials than what the actual play was on the pitch, add in that the match came during  Gold Cup and that RSL was missing 4 players to national team duty and you can toss that 2-1 SKC win into the trash heap.

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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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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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