Stadium Issues Not a Worry for San Diego: The argument for a soccer specific stadium is impeding the growth of the game in the San Diego region

(Written by Ryan Ginard @RyanGinard)

It was last weekend when our coach broke it to us that the annual post-season cup tournament would not be going ahead this year, and this would be our final game of the season until we kicked off again later in the year.

Granted this was a blessing in disguise for everyone’s ageing hamstrings, but the reality was that there was no more recreational outdoor soccer for a good 6 months, which is a lifetime for those that understand the fun and camaraderie of amateur soccer played every weekend across fields nationwide.

So why was it cancelled you may ask? Well surprisingly enough it wasn’t the prevailing issues of cost or lack of grounds, quite the opposite. The reason for the postponement was that coaches throughout the league had refused to participate due to the quality of the fields. The fields!

Kids worldwide are playing on dirt patches, dangerous streets and the worst favelas with the ongoing risk of violence and buried mines, and we are complaining about a grass field a stone’s throw from Ocean Beach in San Diego. But let’s put the hardships of other nations to one side, that’s a whole other discussion.

The main culprit of many injuries and shanked shots from 2 yards out is that of Robb Field. It’s a field that has long been neglected and ravaged by gophers and thousands of people, and playing sports there daily is funnily enough a great analogy for soccer in America’s Finest City.

Sure there’s plenty of potential and lots of talk about fixing the problem, but no one stumping up the cash to get it done.

And that’s where we begin our soccer specific stadium (SSS) argument and provide reasons for a reality check for many local supporters that believe that it is the instant fix for soccer in the area. Like every major piece of infrastructure, building strong foundations are paramount.

Also, before we continue, let’s get one thing straight. There is no chance a team can plug and play in MLS from San Diego.

The old adage ‘Build it and they will come’ is an immature and naïve approach to soccer in the region and very problematic. The evidence of this worldwide is there for all to see.

The Australian A-League, which is similar to the U.S. in its growth and direction, has seen 3 expansion clubs become defunct with one of those (Gold Coast United) having a billionaire owner and a brand new 25,000 seat stadium, which could only attract a home crowd average of 3,300. To put that into perspective, this is what the PASL Champion San Diego Sockers gets for indoor games.

Soccer is not a get rich quick scheme. It’s a unique business model that requires a professional approach.

The National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), while being a great option for ambitious clubs because of its low barriers to entry, also has a big problem that is often masked by its steady influx of new teams. NPSL teams are coming and going at an alarming rate (over the past 5 years over 29 clubs have folded) and this ongoing issue continues to erode the reputation of the league.

We mention the NPSL as this is our highest representation of teams here in San Diego. Our current clubs believe that a new stadium is indeed the key to growth. San Diego Boca has even gone as far as a community petition and working with consultants to create an artist’s impression of what it will look like, while the San Diego Flash have long mentioned on social media that they have everything in place for a stadium except for the land to build it. These are both examples of putting the cart before the horse.

And herein lays the problem. These clubs have scared off any other players in the market with big plans and ideas, and years have passed with them being no closer to achieving their dream. In fact it isn’t even on the horizon, with the council committed to sorting out the home of the Chargers before it looks into any other stadium proposals.

This has ultimately left San Diego in the wake of other soccer markets in its ongoing development. We all know the progress of the New York Cosmos and the Orlando franchise with their financed and council approved locale. While people have always known the next franchise was destined for the East Coast, San Diego thought it had to be the next cab off the rank, but sadly this is not the case.

It was just this week that Sacramento has been added to the mix. Elk Grove Council have voted yes on the acquisition of land and a potential $100 million stadium and has now positioned themselves as the next viable Californian team to enter the upper echelons of pro soccer in the U.S.

The harsh reality is that these stadiums cannot happen without the money to build them, and these clubs currently don’t have the capital to make it happen, regardless of their vision. It is optimistic at best to think that a multi-millionaire backer will appear and cough up the funds and not want full control of the club and its direction, or that crowd funding is going to be a potential x-factor.

That’s where the Flash is in a bit of a quandary. If this big backer joins the club, he isn’t going to want to listen to another 50 investors. There model is indeed unique and they are probably the best placed team to make pro soccer in San Diego a reality, but they have now been around for a number of years, still play in the fourth tier and haven’t articulated their plans past the NPSL. If they haven’t made it now with the influence and extensive contact list at the disposal of their trump cards Warren Barton and Eric Wynalda, every year that goes past has been a missed opportunity.

It’s the clubs and not the stadiums that are most important issue at this time. Regardless of what people say, we have more than enough stadiums to get the ball rolling.

Firstly let’s move away from high school venues as an option. If clubs are serious of moving to USL PRO or the NASL, they need to go big or go home. We have the Torero’s Stadium at USD which has a capacity of 6,000. Heck, why not go the whole hog and use Qualcomm Stadium? The ageing home of the San Diego Chargers was only 2 years ago confirmed as a venue for the U.S. World Cup bid for 2022. Using just the Field and Plaza levels will open up to 30,000 at the very least and it’s available!

So that negates the stadium issue for the immediate future. Next.

Devoid of politics and the strange urge of franchises to get the team on the park to make money, what San Diego needs is an investment/leadership group that focuses on soccer for the region yet supplements the big picture with comprehensive business plans, funding models and continued growth of the game at the local level. Perhaps following the lead of future NASL franchises in Ottawa, Indianapolis and Virginia, by establishing the business side and delaying its on-field introduction is a more viable option for a local entity.

As mentioned above, soccer is a unique business model and engagement is a two-way street. A team needs to capture the imagination (and support) of clubs, parents, fans and administrators region wide to have an impact. Based on current evidence this will not happen via an NPSL route, but through a franchise that utilizes the potential of the city through action, not through words, including finding a way to fix Robb Field.

San Diego has everything a club needs already. Sadly, it just hasn’t found a way to connect all the dots.

The Second Leg

 

Not sure what I can write about this match that hasn’t already been written from a tactical point of view. Lineup predictions, formational preferences, and the impact of the two legendary managers have all been published, copied, pasted, reworded, recycled, occasionally refreshed and all together lost all meaning as the match looms nearer and nearer. I was trying to explain the significance of the occasion to my manager at work; trying and struggling mind you. She’s a lovely woman but she hasn’t the faintest idea of why I was so devastated to have been scheduled to work today. How do you explain love? How does one define excitement? How to articulate the sheer monumentality? To say this match will be more explosive that Team Yusuke v Team Toguro in the Dark Tournament is something of an understatement. More convoluted than House Stark v House Lannister? You bet it is.. but that is not quite explicative enough to do the match justice. Is it akin to two gladiators going at it in a bout to the death? Yeaa but nahh. Its Manchester United at home to Real Madrid circa 2013. I don’t think any sort of metaphor, simile, comparison, or explanation would suffice to accurately delineate the wash of emotions we’re all feeling today. It the Champions League. That says enough. Today I’m just going to sit back, watch, and enjoy this one. And stay sober because I still have work tonight -____-

Shout out to Ryan Giggs though! 1,000 matches and counting! Just hope he’s not starting…

 

LEAKED

A photo of what may prove to be the 2013/2014 Manchester United home shirt has been circulating the web today. This one features a black turned down collar and looks to have abandoned the “table cloth” look of this season’s home kit. I like it. Do you?

2013/2014??

TACTICS TACTICS TACTICS

By Martin Barrio

The Spain Italy match has been the one of the most anticipated games since the draw for the Euro cup was held. Today’s game proved to be a battle between the coaches rather then the teams. With plenty of time to prepare and strategize for this game, both Del Bosque and Prandelli must have thought of numerous plans to break the other team down or try to get a favorable result. Today we saw the fruition of all their hard work and preparation for this game.

Spain

As many of you know, Spain has probably the best team on paper and they have the results to prove it. They are the reigning European Champions from 2008, and more recently the World Cup in 2010. Their players and footballing philosophy have remarkably produced what is arguably the best Spanish national side in their history. Their style involves possession of the ball for long periods of time to wear their opponents down mentally, and then catch them when they make a mistake; something like how a snake charmer lulls a serpent with his flute before trapping it. Today was no different, albeit with a the lineup that was more surprising then usual. Their formation on paper was a 4-6-0, with Xavi, Iniesta, Silva, Busquests, Xabi Alonso, and Fabregas all starting together for the first time. Most football fans were shocked and bewildered by the lack a of a recognized striker, and as such missed the true genius and overall picture with this selection. Italy have a proven reputation of being the most difficult side to break down; their traditional view of the game has always been to play solid, organized defense and try to catch their opponents on the counter. Del Bosque made the decision not to try to break through the Italian wall with a sledgehammer, but rather to slowly chip at it over and over until it crumbled.(insert clever metaphor about vines of ivy and castle walls here) This 4-6-0 formation was intended to keep possession of the ball and tire the Italians until they could not keep their organization and shape, then bring on Torres and Navas to provide the requisite force to finish the Italians off. However the out of form Torres could not finish his glorious chances leading to undeserved criticism once again. The strategy was genius, just poorly executed. Many feel that Spain must change their strategies, however they created numerous chances especially towards the end. They still have the best midfield in the world and their style and philosophy does not need to change. The only criticism Spain deserves is for not calling Roberto Soldado.

Italy

The Italians once again come into a competition under the oh-so-familiar cloud of match-fixing scandals back home. Buffon recently has tried to unite the country and asks for their support in this upcoming campaign. Certainly a successful run in the European Championships will give the media more favorable storylines to write about. The Italians have always been recognized for their superb defensive abilities and their strong organization. They don’t really have any super-star players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, etc., but no other national side is united and strong as a team like the Italians. Coming off a despicable performance against Russia, many questioned the success the Italians would have in this upcoming tournament. However, today’s strong defensive performance certainly has silenced many doubters. Prendelli’s Italy also featured a surprising line up, a 5-3-2 with shockingly Cassano and Balotelli as forwards. The Azzuri brought back an old strategy with two central defenders in the back line and De Rossi playing sweeper just in front of them to cut the diagonal runs of the Spanish players through the midfield. The right wing-back Maggio and left sided attacker Giaccherini were drafted in to provide width in midfield. Some would argue this line-up involved three defenders, however upon further analysis, those outside “midfield” players seemed rather content staying in their own halves and not pushing the play further up the pitch. Cassano, having recently returned from heart surgery back to the national side reveled in being back in blue side and was relishing a chance to score a goal. Balotelli unfortunately had a very lack-luster performance and it was Di Natale who came of the bench with devastating effectiveness to instantly score a rather impressive goal to give Italy the lead. Pirlo gave a man of the match performance as he found lots of space and made some great passes all over the field. Although Italy did not win this game, they certainly proved they are a formidable side and will not be taken lightly. They came to this competition to hold the trophy at the end, and anything less will be thought of as a failure. Just like in 2006, every team should be wary of the Italians and they turn out to be the most unpredictable side in this competition

Conclusion

Both sides played tremendously well, and if it were not for Casillas and Buffon, emphasis on Casillas, this game could have gone either way. Spain will be looking to come off this draw with a victory next game to silence all the critics and Italy will continue to give these types of performances in hopes of giving their supporters something to cheer about. The European Championship has begun and the drama has begun to develop in a very short amount of time. Let’s all sit back and enjoy the show.

Round 31

WHEW! Quite a few talking points as we look back on the 9 matches played and forward to the 10th match of round 31 of the Barclays Premier League. This weeks’ matches had most of us on the edges of our seats, the seat of our pants, and the balls of our feet at various points from whistle to whistle.  The 7 matches on Saturday yielded a total of 27(!) goals with only two teams (Everton and Wigan) keeping clean sheets in a pair of 2-0 wins over West Brom and Stoke City respectively.  Chelsea recorded their 6th away win of the season with a 4-2 victory at Villa Park that saw Fernando Torres add two assists and a goal to his season tally. Bolton Wanderers have continued meandering up the table with a crucial 3-2 away win at relegation rivals Wolves, taking them up to 16th in the table and grinding Wolves further down into the foot of the table. Mark Hughes and his QPR side recorded a rather surprising victory over in form Arsenal at Loftus road, halting the Gunners 6 game winning streak and bringing them equal on points (28) with Blackburn and Wigan, with Blackburn due to host the reigning champions later today. In the game that no one cared about apart from Fulham and Norwich fans of course, the Cottagers ran out 2-1 winners despite the Canaries pushing them hard for large portions of the match and in what may or may not have been a harbinger of things to come, Sunderland became the first team in 15 months to escape the Etihad stadium with a point having drawn 3-3- with Manchester City when they really should have won having been up 3-1 with only 7 minutes left on the clock.
Skip to Sunday and I was  greeted upon waking with the news that Newcastle had beaten Liverpool 2-0, handing the Reds their ELEVENTH loss of the season and keeping pace with Chelsea on 53 points, just five behind a Tottenham side which had been struggling in recent weeks but rallied to beat an ever impressive Swansea side 3-1 at White Hart Lane.

This weekends’ fixtures threw us a slew of talking points with teammate to teammate clashes between the peoples favorite Citizen Mario Balotelli and the left back Aleksandar Kolarov, Ben Foster and Peter Odemwingie at West Brom, and Wolves goalkeeper Wayne Hennesy and captain centerback Roger Johnson.  We also witnessed Fernando Torres cap another fine display with his first goal in the Premier League since netting against Swansea in early October against a Villa side who was still reeling from the recent news that their captain Stiliyan “Stan” Petrov has been diagnosed with acute Leukemia and will begin treatment today. Sunday saw the playing return of Andy Carroll to Newcastle where he continued his miserable run of form, dived like  he’d been sniped from a nearby rooftop, and proceeded to swear as only an angry Englishman can at manager Kenny Dalglish as he stormed down the tunnel upon being substituted. Meanwhile Papiss Cisse, the man who inherited his #9 shirt and my vote for January signing of the season, netted a brace and took his tally to 7 goals in 7 games. More than Carroll has scored in 43 appearances for Liverpool since his big money move 14 months ago.
The spat between Balotelli and Kolarov came bubbled up when  Balotelli and Kolarov both got it into their heads to take the same freekick. I have mixed feelings about this one. Mario had already scored and clearly fancied himself for what was clearly a right footed freekick. Kolarov DOES take the majority of freekicks but the angle was never on for a lefty really. People in the media will be quick as ever to slander Balotelli for throwing a bit of a tantrum but I think he was quite justified in staking his claim for that set piece. A fuming Balotelli later scored from open play and just 68 seconds after that Kolarov slapped one in too bringing the score level 3-3. Both get to be the hero. Disaster averted right? Not so sure. In his post match interview Roberto Mancini expressed his rather severe dissatisfaction with Balotelli, claiming he would have subbed the young striker off after 5 minutes despite the fact his second top striker netted a brace taking his league tally to 13 while the goal Kolarov scored was only his 2nd of the season. City seem to have lost the plot in recent weeks. As the season reaches its climax, Mancini’s men have looked increasingly out of their depth. Star performers of the early season David Silva and Sergio Aguero have largely gone off the boil and the squad doesn’t seem to be able to cope with that. Call it fatigue (City have largely used the same players week in and week out) or call it inexperience (City have largely used the same players week in and week out) or call it folly (City have largely used the same players week in and week out) but City have yet to realize that it takes more than just high wages and a few absurdly talented players to win a title, something that Sir Alex has known for some time now. If Roberto keeps his job over the summer after bottling this title run, he’ll have to learn from his mistakes. Whether he can rally the dressing room remains to be seen but I imagine that if United win today and go 5 points clear at Blackburn, City’s title hopes are juuust about done.
With that being said there is no guarantee that the red half of Manchester will emerge victorious today. Although United have scored the most goals, 75, and Rovers conceded the most, a staggering 62, football fans around know that its not always so simple. Blackburn have tightened up their leaky defense in recent weeks and with Wigan and QPR both winning this past weekend, are in danger of slipping back into the relegation zone. They’ll be fighting tooth and nail for every point from here on out and it promises to be an exciting encounter between table topping Manchester United and a recently reinvigorated Rovers side fueled in equal parts by desperation and desire.