November 25, 2016
Life of the playoff party
By Brian Trusdell
Soccer News Net Writer
Gold plate the invitations
Not that it will be a major surprise to the suits on Fifth Avenue or other close followers of the league, but if Major League Soccer really wants to make sure its playoff attendance numbers remain high, it needs to assure the Seattle Sounders and Montreal Impact are invited to the party.
Tuesday’s two conference final first legs drew 103,701 combined to CenturyLink Field (42,774) and Olympic Stadium (61,004). That boosted the total for the 14 games of the playoffs so far to 382,701, about 6,000 short of the league-record of 388,289 for 17 games – which it attracted last year.
The average attendance so far is 27,336, 15 percent higher than the previous record of 23,824 in 2012.
MLS’ average playoff attendance took a jump in 2009, the year Seattle entered the league, from having never surpassed 20,000, to having never fallen below it since (except once – barely – in 2010).
The vagaries of MLS fan support are still evident with playoff crowds ranging from the 12,773 that showed up at RFK for the D.C. United-Montreal Impact first-round game to Montreal’s near record crowd (the 2002 MLS Cup final between Los Angeles and New England still holds the mark at 61,316.)
Even Montreal’s uneven support was demonstrated by the relative paltry 15,027 – the second smallest crowd this year -- that showed up for the home conference semifinal against NYC FC at Saputo, which holds 20,801.
Maybe Montreal’s secret is inviting the Quebecois to party at a 40-year-old building where the grounds crew doesn’t even know how wide a penalty area is.
Another DP that didn’t
With the expansion and re-entry drafts upcoming, MLS clubs have been disclosing who they want to keep, who they don’t (or at least not at their contracted salary) and which players (or contracts) they’re trying to forget.
Pedro Morales is one Vancouver is apparently trying to bleach bit. His 31 goals and 22 assists in 85 games is not atrocious, but at nearly $1.5 million for a 31-Chilean midfielder, his nine goals this past season wasn’t six times more than the five it got out of Christian Bolanos ($253,500). Or apparently worth 23 percent of the club’s overall payroll of $6.5 million.
Vancouver still has 24-year-old defender Matias Laba as a designated player at $720,500 guaranteed this past season. The club’s other DPs in its history have been Mustapha Jarju, Barry Robson, Kenny Miller, Octavio Rivera and Eric Hassli – guaranteed hall of famers each.
Elsewhere, among the more curious announcements of players whose contract options were not picked up by their clubs was goalkeeper Steve Clark at Columbus. The 30-year-old Clark has started 100 of 102 games for the Crew since moving from Danish club Honefoss in 2014. And although his 1.59 goal against average was sixth-worst among MLS goalkeepers this season, his $238,333 salary certainly isn’t out of whack with that
Shortly after the Impact beat Toronto in the first leg of the Eastern Conference final, and Didier Drogba announced that he would not return to Montreal next season, a commenter to one of the many stories written about the revelation labeled the Ivory Coast striker a “DP diva” and asked for others to contribute to the top five list.
The 38-year-old Drogba earned his title by signing with Montreal last year – knowing that six MLS teams play on artificial turf at home all or part of the time, including the Impact – and then refusing to play games on artificial turf.
Other suggestions for MLS’ biggest DP divas included Jermaine Defoe and Steven Gerrard. But the suggestions failed to incorporate some of MLS’ early divas – before the DP designation came to be.
Players such as Lothar Matthaeus, who was photographed lounging on a beach in Saint Tropez with his bikini-clad girlfriend when he was supposed to be receiving treatment on his injured back; or Jorge Campos, who demanded a Ferrari after his first game.
One of only 10 men to play in 350 games and one of only three to play 150 for two different teams, Jack Jewsbury will be using his experience as the new director of business development for the Portland Timbers.
Jewsbury, who announced his retirement Sept. 18 after a 14-year career, will lead the club’s corporate partnerships department, developing new sponsorship opportunities.