Tag Archives: MLS soccer

How I grew to embrace the ISC Wooden Spoon, but I am so happy to see it go. Congrats, LA!

Nicole Hack - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Official Chicago Fire Reporter

By Nicole Hack // @nikhak

Have you heard of the ISC (Independent Supporters’ Council) Wooden Spoon? Unfortunately, I’m all too familiar.

After attending Chicago Fire games regularly since 2004, in 2015, I decided to take the plunge and run for the Director of Communications position for Section 8 Chicago (S8C); I ended up holding the position for two years. As luck may have it, those two years (2015-16) the Chicago Fire was the worst team in the league. Yep, both years. Bottom. Of. The. Table.

As a board member for S8C, my daily routine consisted of producing social media content that would encourage support of the team. A goal of ours was to stress the importance of getting into the stadium early to cheer on the Fire (#FirstInLastOut), and of course, we also wanted to expand our supporters’ community.

It was a challenge to get regular, long-time supporters to games, let alone new fans.  “Hey, come to a Fire game, statistically, it’s unlikely that they’ll win.” It was a melancholy time for me. Fans argued. Stands were empty. Supporters’ culture faded. Two years in a row, the Chicago Fire finished in last-place earning them the honors of the ISC Wooden Spoon.

As a supporter, it was frustrating and often heartbreaking to see the decline of the team, but the 2015-16 seasons took suffering to a different level. Somehow, even with love for the Men in Red in my heart, the team grew more agonizing to watch.

So what exactly is the Wooden Spoon that I speak of, and why did I (and other Fire fans) learn to embrace it?

When your team finishes last place in the league two years in a row, you can either sulk endlessly or embrace it. And don’t get me wrong, we did sulk. We cried. We complained. We were bitter. But in the end, we continued to love the Fire, and we even learned to love our wooden spoon too.

The History of the ISC Wooden Spoon

via Daniel Giroux (Vice-Chair of S8C) on October 17, 2017

Conception of the spoon

The spoon was kind of a long term process if you wanna talk about it’s conception. It was first decided at the ISC in Chicago, so January 2016, that there needed to be a league wide trophy to shame the worst team. Since the ISC is the overarching organization that administrates the Supporters Shield it made sense that they will also run the Wooden Spoon. It was decided Section 8 Chicago would make it as we won the wooden spoon that year. Sadly, it would be a long process as we would also win the spoon the following year as well. The reason it was decided this needed to happen is we felt that the league didn’t do enough to punish or shame the failures in the league. Pro/rel does that automatically for most leagues and in most leagues the losing team gets significantly less money. In MLS you are rewarded for failure, at least monetarily by the league. The spoon was our small way of putting pressure on a failing organization.

Trophy design

For some reason it was put on me to make the trophy, with the deadline of having it ready by the next ISC in Atlanta. I definitely stalled on it a bit and we tried many many different designs before we settled on the current iteration. I started work on the final design in November 2016, but I don’t think it was actually finished until the week before the 2017 ISC in late January. It is made of 90% plywood, wood glue, malort and hatred. Seriously, the woodworking is absolutely garbage, but that is kinda the point. I did my worst, in a very literal sense.

Who should win the Wooden Spoon?

Personally, I’m hoping for LA, as this year is already so backwards. That would just be the most backwards thing possible. Also, I want a fanbase that will properly shame their front office with it – that is the whole point. I think D.C. and Colorado will laugh it off and take it in stride. LA would HATE having this thing.

With that said, Congratulations, LA Galaxy and fans. You are now the privileged winners of the ISC Wooden Spoon. Even last-place deserves a trophy.

Featured image courtesy: @nikhak

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @nikhak

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

Sports Are My Life

Locria Nyla - Philadelphia Union/mlsfemale
Philadelphia Union Key Contributor

By Locria Nyla Fox // @LocriaOnSports

Hello everyone!

I’m Locria, the new Philadelphia Union Key Contributor. I’m really bad at intros, so I’m going to keep this short…I’m a 21 year old trans woman.

Growing up in Northeast Pennsylvania, the only MLS soccer within two hours was a New York team (the MetroStars/later Red Bulls). As someone whose first sports love was the Boston Red Sox, rooting for a New York team was a big no-no, so as a soccer fan I mostly stayed away until the World Cup.

The Union came in 2010, but during most of my adolescence I didn’t really care for soccer. At the time I was all about the NHL, and with that came the sports elitism that is particularly associated with hockey fans. That kinda wore off over time, and by the time the 2014 Olympics rolled around I really didn’t care for the NHL (though I do remain a hockey fan, just mostly sticking to college, international, and women’s hockey).

That falling-out coincided with the start of the 2014 MLS season. Knowing that I wanted to get into the sport ahead of that year’s World Cup, I started watching some Premier League, but it was really MLS that got me all the way into the door. Even though my first full-watch of a Union game saw them bottle it at the death in Portland (little did I know that that was a sign of things to come), I’ve become a fan of the team and the sport long-term.

Outside of the Union (and USL affiliate Bethlehem) in the sport, I also support Southampton, Schalke, Chicago Red Stars, and various clubs whose left-wing politics I associate with, such as Livorno and Celtic. And it goes without saying that I also support my college’s teams (Go Catamounts!).

Outside of soccer, I’m the assistant sports editor for the Vermont Cynic, the student newspaper at my university. I blog about my university’s sports teams and also write about women’s hockey at The Ice Garden with a focus on my school, as well as, the Russian national team and domestic league.

What I’m saying is, sports are basically my life.

Featured image courtesy: @PhilaUnion

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @LocriaOnSports

Check us out on instagram! @mlsfemale

 

Skroman Prijedlog

Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

It’s international break! The best time of the year!

I wish I could tell you about how the New York City FC players fared on their respective national teams, but to be entirely honest? I wasn’t paying attention (well, beyond Costa Rica’s walloping at the hands of Mexico). Chalk most of that up to being sick as a dog, but chalk a good part up to the fact that my international breaks revolve around one major thing: Obsessively tracking the Croatia national team.

My heart beats strongest and hardest for Vatreni. I love them in the way one can only love the homeland of their blood. In May, I’ll travel with my girlfriend to watch them play a friendly against Mexico here in the States, and I only think about that match… oh, I don’t know, five thousand times a day. They’re number one in my head and heart. They mean the world to me.

Croatian players are so often my bargaining chip when talking to other football fans. I can find common ground with Inter Milan fans by singing the praises of their current Croatian wonder duo, Ivan Perišić and Marcelo Brozović. I can break up a heated argument with any culé by asking how they feel about Ivan Rakitić. No matter where club loyalties lie, the most important thing to me is that everyone adores the men who represent my country.

That’s not asking much, right?

Unfortunately, Croatians are all but unknown in MLS. Let me break it down real quick:

Vedran Ćorluka courtesy: Getty Images

Four Croatians have played in MLS. Four! That’s enough to count on one hand, and you’re still left with enough room to give a big thumbs down. Scorin’ Goran Hunjak played for the defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny and pre-Sporting KC Kansas City Wizards in the mid-90s. Josip Mikulić spent one uneventful season with Chicago Fire in 2011; Marko Marić was also there, but only made one appearance before being sidelined with injury. Leonard Bisaku saw out his career at Columbus Crew, though I’d challenge you to find a single soul who remembers him.

And… that’s it. It’s also worth noting none of the players above made appearances for the senior national team.

The biggest Croatian name to make it to America is Niko Kranjčar. A former midfielder for Vatreni, Niko found himself wandering in a bit of a clubless haze after Dynamo Kyiv released him in 2016. He somehow found himself training with the New York Cosmos to keep up his fitness, and signed for them in March when one of their foreign player spots opened up. He made seven appearances, scored one goal, and left for the Scottish Premiership three months later to join the Rangers.

Thrilling.

That brings me to my point. MLS gods that be, if you’re listening, I have a modest proposal:

BRING THESE PLAYERS TO MLS (PREFERABLY NYCFC BUT I’M NOT PICKY) NOW, THANK ME LATER!

  • Ivica Olić — 37 years old, forward, currently with 1860 Munich. I know, I see you balking at his age, but hear me out. Ivica has the honor of being in the top five all-time goal scorers for Vatreni, and even though he’s on the wrong side of thirty, he’s still finding the net in Germany. At one point he was rumored to be linked to the Sounders, so… You know what to do. Make it happen.
  • Eduardo da Silva — 34 years old, forward, currently with Atlético Paranaense. Speaking of all-time goal scorers! Dudu is our #2 man and was instrumental in many of Vatreni’s successes over the years. You need goals? Great. Sign him. Please. I miss watching him play.
  • Vedran Ćorluka — 31 years old, defender, currently with Lokomotiv Moscow. AKA Charlie, AKA that guy whose head kept bleeding during Euro 2016 so they made him wear a cute little water polo cap. Charlie is your prototypical bulky defender and he does well anywhere on the back line. If certain clubs who need some extra beef in their defense are looking for options, well… You’re welcome.
  • Nikola Kalinić — 29 years old, striker, currently with Fiorentina. Arguably the best striker you’ve never heard of. Nikola is on fire with both club and country. He’s a joy to watch play, and he lives up to his price tag based on goal tally alone. Maybe you remember him from embarrassing Spain during the Euros last summer? He’s cheeky. Get him over here right now.
  • Alen Halilović — 20 years old, attacking midfielder, currently with Las Palmas. Look, they’re not all old! Alen is young and talented and, well, major European leagues aren’t working out super well for him so far, so why not? Think of it as a swap deal. If Christian Pulisic can play for the USMNT, Alen can play in MLS. (Related, don’t talk to me about Pulisic until he learns how to pronounce his own surname.)
  • Anybody but Mario Mandžukić. I mean it. Anybody else. I feel very strongly that Mandzo was meant to retire at Juventus, and MLS gods, if you take that from me, you will rue the day.

I mean, I could go on. The list is approximately endless. This is my niche, this is the hill I die on.

Your move, MLS.

Featured image courtesy: Croatia National Team

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @lukacharms

Check us out on instagram! @mlsfemale

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017

One Point None The Richer

Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

Saturday March 18: 1-1 Draw

Some draws may as well be wins. A last gasp equalizer against a rival team. A hard-fought level scoreline that could have gone the wrong way too many times but miraculously didn’t. A point, better than nothing, just enough to keep you afloat on the table. A push into extra time when tournament advancement or silverware are on the line. A reminder that the beautiful game can turn on a dime, to not get too complacent, to fight until the end. A little salvaged pride.

Then again, some draws feel barely a step above a loss.

New York City Football Club scraped out one point against Montreal Impact on Saturday, in what were essentially two separate games.

The first half was all NYCFC. While the boys in blue weren’t quite as explosive right out of the gate as they were last week, they still enjoyed playing aggressive attacking football. Everyone had their moments to shine, but Jack Harrison rose above and put on his own clinic. It would be quicker for me to tell you how many times he didn’t dance his way out of a cluster of Impact defenders, leaving them frustrated and dogging his heels. To simply give him Man of the Match would be doing a disservice to how stunning he was today.

Rodney Wallace image courtesy: @nycfc instagram

Rodney Wallace scored the lone goal of the match. After providing Alex Ring a cheeky backheel, Ring shot for goal and was summarily dismissed by Impact’s keeper. However, RodWal was there — he stayed composed, collected the ball on the rebound and made his mark for the second match in a row. I don’t think that’s a coincidence at all. Wallace is dedicated in his pursuit of the goal, and he sticks with the play until it’s thoroughly complete. He creates chances in those precious seconds after it looks like the opportunity has finished, and I love him for it.

By contrast, the second half was Impact’s game to lose. Aside from a stunning play between David Villa, Wallace and Maxi Moralez that somehow didn’t end in a goal, there wasn’t much to be done. You could feel the inevitability of an equalizer in the air. Sure enough, Montreal played a ball over the top and caught our defense in dire straights with just enough time for Dominic Oduro to chest it down and score.

At least NYCFC didn’t give up. They stayed hungry for goals right up until the final whistle, especially Tommy McNamara, whose header off a free kick in the dying minutes of the game sadly went over the crossbar. The scoreline wasn’t for lack of trying. NYCFC battled until the end, and that’s what makes the draw sting like a loss.

Well, that and the fact there was a lot of sloppy chaos in front of Impact’s goal. The first half saw three sitters where Harrison, Ring and Andrea Pirlo just couldn’t find the back of the net, while Villa chipped the ball up and over to the wrong side of it. Maxi shot his attempt in the second half just wide. It’s never fruitful to play the “what if?” game in soccer, but at the same time, it’s difficult to deny that the match would have gone in a different direction had we scored even one of these chances.

This wasn’t lost on Patrick Vieira, who remarked after the game that “it will be important for us to take our chances because we are not going to create a lot of chances like that in a lot of games.” I foresee more finishing drills in the future.

What popped into my head during this match? Well…

  • Wasn’t I just talking about Ethan White? What a game he had! He was solid at right back, and even pushed forward well in the attack a few times. Montreal nearly managed to catch us on a counter in the first half, but White beautifully blocked Ignacio Piatti‘s attempt at a goal. He’s been the unsung hero of our defense over the past two matches.
  • Color me well and truly shocked that Pep Guardiola let two injured Manchester City players out of England. Ilkay Gündoğan and Gabriel Jesus were present for the match and seemed to have a blast despite the result. Maybe they snuck out after curfew and Pep wasn’t supposed to know. Maybe Pep was still busy frantically rewriting the rules of the Premier League and just didn’t notice. Maybe the story is better in my head.
  • Jon Lewis made his NYCFC debut! I enjoyed what little we got to see, and I’m sure it won’t be the last of him. Congratulations and here’s to many more games with us, Jon.
  • I dozed off between halves and had a dream (nightmare?) Tancredi Palmeri was commentating the match. So… that’s where my subconscious is at these days.

Happy international break! I’m one of those rare fans who prefers international soccer to club. My heart just beats in a different way when it comes to the worldwide stage. So I love international breaks — provided all our players return injury-free, of course. If you’re hankering to watch your favorite NYCFC players represent their countries, I’ve got you covered!

  • Miguel Camargo (Panama): 3/24 vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 3/28 vs. USA
  • Maxime Chanot (Luxembourg): 3/25 vs. France
  • Yangel Herrera (Venezuela): 3/23 vs. Peru, 3/28 vs. Chile
  • Rónald Matarrita, Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica): 3/24 vs. Mexico, 3/28 vs. Honduras
  • Alex Ring (Finland): 3/24 vs. Turkey

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @lukacharms

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017