MLS Saturday Gameday: Seattle Sounders at Chivas USA

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Seattle Sounders at Chivas USA, 7:30 p.m. Fox Sports West, KWHY

Ten points out of the playoff picture and with games rapidly evaporating despite having played fewer contests than any other club in MLS, Chivas USA and their fans are facing some uncomfortable truths: are the Goats realistically out of the post-season already? And will more vocal Sounders fans (55,000-plus at their last home game) show up at the game than Chivas USA ones?

Chivas USA are unbeaten in six out of the last eight matches — and that’s not good enough at this stage of the season given that half of those supposedly positive results involved ties.

LMU product and central defender Bobby Burling (ex-San Jose, Montreal) is now eligible to play, but defense is not Chivas USA’s problem, scoring goals is and the club needs more help than striker Tristan Bowen, 21, who made his season debut for the club last weekend after returning from Europe on loan.

Meanwhile, the Sounders are loaded up front, making Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy (seven shutouts) a pivotal figure as usual.

Still, it’s tough to see anything more than another season spinning wheels for Chivas USA (yet again).

The best reason to go see this game? It’s a chance to see the potential MLS champions (the Sounders), some of the league’s best players (Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson, Mauro Rosales) steered by Torrance’s own Sigi Schmid.

Winger Ryan Smith remains doubtful for Chivas USA with a hamstring issue.

Notable: Chivas USA academy defenders Adonis Amaya (Westminster), and Malcom Jones (Chino Hills), and forward Bradford Jamieson (Los Angeles) will attend the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team Residency Program this fall in Bradenton, Fla.

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EPL Preview: Week 2

Since the popularity of the EPL in Southern California keeps climbing, in no small part due to the efforts of Los Angeles-based Fox Soccer, I thought I’d begin posting these excellent weekly previews you can see below as well as listings of the games.

Let me know what you think.

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A full preview and statistical analysis of this week’s EPL action provided by official sponsor Barclays is here.

The weekend TV listings:

Saturday
4:45 a.m. Swansea City vs West Ham United ESPN Deportes, ESPN2, ESPN3.
7:00 a.m. Aston Villa vs Everton Fox Soccer 2Go.
7:00 a.m. Manchester United vs Fulham Fox Soccer, Fox Deportes.
7:00 a.m. Norwich City vs Queens Park Rangers Fox Soccer 2Go.
7:00 a.m. Southampton vs Wigan Athletic Fox Soccer 2Go.
7:00 a.m. Sunderland vs Reading Fox Soccer 2Go.
7:00 a.m. Tottenham Hotspur vs West Bromwich Albion Fox Soccer Plus.
9:30 a.m. Chelsea vs Newcastle United Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Deportes

Sunday
5:30 a.m. Stoke City vs Arsenal Fox Soccer Channel.
8:00 a.m. Liverpool vs Manchester City Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Deportes.

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Thursday Kicks: South Bay’s Rogers on move again & more

A quick roundup of Southern California soccer news for your reading pleasure:

*Rolling Hills Estates’ Robbie Rogers is on the move again in England – after playing just one game for Leeds United:

LEEDS, England (AP) — American winger Robbie Rogers has been loaned from English second-tier club Leeds down a division to Stevenage until January.

The 25-year-old started just one game after joining Leeds from Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew in January, with three appearances as a substitute. He sustained a concussion 12 minutes into his debut on Feb. 18 and didn’t get into another game until April 6.

Rogers said on Twitter that he’s “ready for real games and to make a name for myself.”

He has two goals in 18 appearances for the U.S. national team.

*Here’s a good read on the box of chocolates-like career of former Galaxy midfielder Chris Birchall, who sounds like he can’t quite believe the twists and turns it has taken.

*Finally, Chivas USA’s opponent at Home Depot Center this Saturday night, the Seattle Sounders, could give an MLS debut to a Honduran Olympian, while ominously for the non-scoring Goats, Fredy Montero is getting in goal-scoring form.

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Thursday Galaxy CONCACAF Champions League Gameday

It’s the first of two CONCACAF Champions League games in a week for the Galaxy tonight and seven days from now we should know whether LA will advance to the next round.

If they do they might start their quest for the cup without Landon Donovan, still bothered by the hamstring issue that surfaced while he was on USMNT duty.

Here’s more on the game and the tournament from my weekly column.

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Could road USMNT WCQ games be unavailable to most American soccer fans on TV?

Maybe. Associated Press Sports Writer Ronald Blum has more:

NEW YORK (AP) — Add U.S. road World Cup qualifiers to the soccer games many American television viewers may not be able to see.

The new beIN Sport network said Wednesday it had acquired rights to U.S. road qualifiers this year and next along with all other qualifiers in the North and Central American and Caribbean region for the 2014 tournament, except for matches involving Mexico.

The network, launched last week by the Al-Jazeera Sport Media Network, is available to only about 7 percent of U.S. television households. It can be received in the 8 million homes that subscribe to its tier on DirecTV and DISH, which are available in 34 million
households in all.

While the U.S. Soccer Federation owns rights to its home qualifiers, Traffic Sports USA bought rights to the road games from the CONCACAF nations that owned them, and Traffic resold them to beIN.

“We don’t control the rights for our away matches but have talked with beIN Sport and know that they have an aggressive plan to expand distribution over the weeks and months to come,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said in an email. “Obviously, we’d like as wide a distribution in the US as possible for our WCQ matches.”

The U.S. has remaining road qualifiers this year in the semifinal round at Jamaica on Sept. 7 and at Antigua and Barbuda on Oct. 12.

Rights to home U.S. qualifiers are held by ESPN. In qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, eight matches on ESPN2 averaged 787,000 viewers and two matches on ESPN averaged 734,000. The U.S. qualifier at Guatemala in June was resold from Traffic to Integrated Sports Media and available only on pay-per-view.

The new network also has rights to Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A, France’s Ligue 1 and
England’s second-tier League Championship. In addition, it has rights to South American World Cup qualifiers and the 2015 Copa America.

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Weekly Column: Galaxy Educating Public, Selling the CONCACAF Champions league

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It’s not an easy sell.

The much more familiar UEFA Champions League is under way this week, too, with the likes of Scotland’s Celtic in action at 11 a.m. on Fox Soccer (click the link at top right for game details).

And Real Salt Lake is live in the CONCACAF version at 7 p.m. on the same channel, while the likes of CD Guadalajara play at the same time on Galavision, while former Galaxy star Herc Gomez and Santos Laguna at 5 p.m. on Univision Deportes.

Plenty to watch then, which makes it all the more difficult for the Galaxy to persuade would-be TV viewers to trade in their couch despite some of the most inexpensive seats I’ve seen in years at Home Depot Center.

More details are in this week’s column, a primer for the Galaxy’s Thursday game against Isidro Metapan in Carson.

More on Metapan via a CONCACAF video is here.

Who’s going to the game? Who’s going to skip it and why? Let us know in the comments section.

And check out the recent Metapan-Islanders CONCACAF CL game highlights:

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A Chivas USA tie on the road that feels like a loss

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Chivas USA are spinning their wheels, squandering their games in hand with performances like this that don’t do them any good at this stage of the season.

The first 45 minutes felt like so many Chivas USA games this season; not a single shot at goal let alone on target and vaunted acquisition Shalrie Joseph was culpable for the opening goal, getting caught in possession and looking every inch a slow 34-year-old.

“Yeah, Shalrie Joseph takes a touch and I just lunge in not thinking I could get it,” goal scorer Brian Mullan said. “And fortunately it hops right to me and I don’t think I could have missed it.”

Veteran striker Juan Pablo Angel rescued them late, but that wasn’t enough for three points and Chivas USA yet again were simply not good enough.

Our sister newspaper The Denver Post has the Rapids perspective.

Watch:

Next for Chivas USA: hosting the Sounders at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Home Depot Center. Only slightly sarcastic question: will the Sounders, who drew 55,000-plus Saturday for their derby with Vancouver, bring more fans with them than Chivas USA usually attract?

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Do you know which channel your overseas soccer game is on this weekend?

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Now you see him, now many of you won’t: U.S. television viewers will have the same problem this weekend that defenders in La Liga have had for many years — finding the likes of Lionel Messi. Read on to find out why (AP File Photo).

It’s not an easy question, by the way. Those of you like me who subscribe to DirecTV will soon discover if you haven’t already that GolTV has moved to make room for beIN, the new channel that’s causing the switcheroos. For a full line-up of this weekend’s games click on the Live Soccer TV link at top right. Associated Sports Writer Ronald Blum helps decode what games are on what channel and why:

NEW YORK (AP) — Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s league matches will disappear from the television sets of many American soccer fans, starting this weekend.

That’s because the U.S. television rights to Spain’s La Liga have switched from GolTV to the new beIN Sport USA network, launched this week by the Al-Jazeera Sport Media Network and available in only about 8 million homes to viewers of El Segundo-based DirecTV and DISH Network.

And it’s not just Spain’s soccer that is affected.

Italy’s Serie A, France’s Ligue 1, England’s second-tier League Championship and England’s League Cup also have moved to high-spending beIN Sport, which is taking over all of them from News Corp.’s Los Angeles-based Fox Soccer.QA

The ratings are going to be so low that they will be almost unmeasurable,” said Marc Ganis of the Chicago-based Sports Corp. Ltd., consulting firm. “Considering the push that European soccer is making in the United States, taking additional money and losing exposure becomes fools’ gold. They need to have a long-term strategy, not short-term.”

The new network will not be rated by Nielsen at the start, but hopes to be at some point,
according to managing director Yousef Al Obaidly. It also will be available online to
authenticated subscribers of DirecTV and DISH.

“There will be more announcements coming soon,” he said Thursday. “We are in a discussion with all the cable operators. Hopefully, we can reach an agreement so we can keep everyone happy.”

Now that the European seasons are starting, at least some clubs are worried their leagues made a mistake by taking dollars over distribution. Complicating the matter, a dispute broke out in Spain, with some clubs saying their television rights were sold by a company that doesn’t own them.

“I know Madrid and Barcelona are already concerned by what has happened domestically,” AC Milan director Umberto Gandini said in a telephone interview. “We were trying to maximize revenues ahead of visibility. Frankly speaking, we were not aware of such difficulties reaching viewers in the United States and the fact that we are going to be penalized highly by the difference in viewership.”

The big Spanish and Italian clubs will have their Champions League and Europa League midweek games available in the U.S. on Fox. In addition, RAI USA distributes Serie A matches with Italian commentary and Ligue 1 games will be available with Spanish commentary on Univision Deportes.

All of this could make the U.S. market a soccer Tower of Babel.

“It’s a complicated situation,” Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho said. “I’m glad I’m just a coach and no more than that, and I think about football and the game and prepare my team.”

The English Premier League, which has the biggest American following, sells its international rights directly. Serie A, which didn’t centralize rights as a league until just a few years ago, sells them through the agency MP & Silva. La Liga sells them through Mediapro — but until an agreement this week to share domestic rights for three seasons, rival Prisa claimed it represented nine of the 20 clubs.

Imagina USA, a Miami-based company that is part of the Mediapro Group, is beIN Sports’
production partner. The English network launched Aug. 3 in an online preview at www.beinsport.tv and beIN Sport announced Wednesday — the official launch date — it will be carried on DirecTV’s sports tier in high and standard definition and beIN Sport en Espanol will be distributed on DirecTV Mas in standard definition. A day later, it said
DISH Network will televise beIN Sport on its America’s Top 250 and DISHLatino packages.

Looming ahead is bidding for the U.S. rights to the Premier League. Networks anticipate a request for proposal next month for the package starting in 2013-14 and running for three seasons. Fox currently holds the rights and sublicenses some to ESPN and ESPN Deportes.

“We might get into it. We might not,” Al Obaidly said. “We have to look into scheduling and financials.”

The EPL averaged 185,000 viewers for 118 live telecasts on Fox Soccer last year, 321,000 for 48 broadcasts on ESPN2/ESPN and 58,000 for 54 games on ESPN Deportes, according to data from Nielsen Media Research and the networks. Serie A averaged 54,000 viewers for 96 live telecasts on Fox and Ligue 1 53,000 for four broadcasts on Fox.

GolTV averaged just 29,000 viewers for 75 La Liga telecasts among its Hispanic audience, the only portion Nielsen measures. ESPN Deportes averaged 115,000 people in its Hispanic audience for La Liga, but viewers swelled to an average of 770,000 for the two league “clasicos” between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

“It’s going probably from a better distributed network to lesser distributed network,” said Lino Garcia, general manager of ESPN Deportes. “Therein lies the real difference to the viewer. Some of this product is going to be unavailable to many fans for which it was available to before.”

Without La Liga, GolTV’s only European league is the German Bundesliga, which had a rating in the network’s Hispanic audience that was too low to measure. There has been speculation that beIN Sport USA would like to take over GolTV, if the price is right.

Play-by-play man Phil Schoen and highly excitable color commentator Ray Hudson have moved from GolTV to beIN Sport.

“GolTV has greatly enhanced its portfolio of soccer from the Americas,” Rodrigo Lombello, GolTV’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “Reaching new agreements to air matches from the Argentinian, Brazilian and Mexican club leagues, Gillette Brazil World Tour, CONCACAF tournaments and even the U.S. Open Cup, the network has placed an emphasis on this region in the past year as the United States Hispanic population continues to grow.”

Qatar, where Al-Jazeera is based, is making a giant push in soccer. Qatar beat out the U.S. two years ago in bidding to host the 2022 World Cup, and the Qatar Investment Authority took control of Paris Saint-Germain and has spent about $200 million in transfer fees for players to strengthen its roster.

In France, Al-Jazeera bought rights to Ligue 1′s Friday and Sunday night package from 2012-16; to most Champions League games from 2012-15; and to the 2012 and 2016 European Championship tournaments. In Spain, Barcelona agreed last year to a five-year, 170 million euro (then $225 million) sponsorship deal to carry the Qatar Foundation logo on its famous blue and red jerseys.

If the Premier League wants both beIN Sport’s money and greater distribution, it could split its American rights into different packages for different time slots, as it does in Britain and as several U.S. leagues do at home. Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore declined to comment ahead of the bidding.

“They are a little bit more sophisticated than us because they have been on the market as a collective-selling entity far longer than us,” Milan’s Gandini said. “We are still very far behind the Premier League.”

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