Sunday, 18 September 2011

What they're earning: MLS Millionaires Revealed

The Major League Soccer Players' Union has publicised its annual salaries figures for the 2011 season.

Many were wondering just what exactly LA Galaxy were paying their new boy Robbie Keane (who recently scored his second goal), signed from Tottenham Hotspur this summer. The figures show that he is the fourth-highest earner in the division, raking in just under $3 million.

The info, released today, confirms what most people had suspected regarding the other high-rollers.

Landon Donovan comes in as fifth-highest with his $2.3 million salary, while it's Rafael Marquez, Thierry Henry and, you guessed it, David Beckham topping the wage stats this term.

The only other millionaire is Juan Pablo Angel, who was shifted to Galaxy's local rivals Chivas, to make room for Robbie Keane (as part of the 'Designated Player' rules in the MLS).

MLS Million-Earners 2011 Season:
  • DAVID BECKHAM (LA Galaxy): $5,500,000.08
  • THIERRY HENRY (New York Red Bulls): $5,000,000.04
  • RAFAEL MARQUEZ (New York Red Bulls): $4,600,000.00
  • ROBBIE KEANE (LA Galaxy): $2,917,241.40
  • LANDON DONOVAN (LA Galaxy): $2,300,000.00
  • JUAN PABLO ANGEL (Chivas USA): $1,000,000.00

It's alarming just how concentrated the money clearly is in the MLS, with Galaxy employing three of the highest-earners, and still paying some of Angel's wages (if the US football press is to be believed).

However, I do like the idea of the transparency of MLS wages for the fans to see. Some would argue that what players earn isn't the public's business, but a Premier League equivalent would make for interesting reading.

Another point to make is that everyone assumes the likes of David Beckham and co. are on similar contracts to Rooney or Tevez. His weekly wage works out at a converted rate of about £67,000 per week. This doesn't include his bonuses, but even so. Most of Man City's players would probably see that as meagre.

Sources: ESPN Soccernet, MLS Players Union

Philip Wright-Lewis

Sunday, 11 September 2011

9/11 Remembered

MLS Blighty would like to pay our respects to those who were lost ten years ago today, in the 9/11 atrocities.

As long as Britain exists, the United States will never stand alone.

Galaxy offer Beckham new deal, as London clubs circle

In the wake of the Premier League transfer window's closure, we saw just one high-profile transatlantic move.

Robbie Keane's £3.5 million switch to LA Galaxy came seemingly out of nowhere. While David Beckham was widely rumoured to be coming back the other way, no deal was done.

But the rumour mill is never quiet for long, and just days after the window shut, Becks was being linked with Premier League new-boys, Queens Park Rangers. The former England captain's contract is due to expire at the end of this MLS season in November.

QPR were the subject of a takeover in late August by Tony Fernandes, a Malaysian tycoon. As a result of their new fortunes, they signed a handful of new players, including the outspoken Twitter-addict, Joey Barton.

Fernandes then tweeted:

"I think having someone like David in the club would be great. Was always in my thoughts. Lets see."

But as we all know, if there's some speculation to be had, Harry Redknapp just has to get in on the action. In his column for The Sun, he wrote that Becks was "worth his weight in gold.

"He'd be an asset for any club. I'd have him here, that's for sure." Beckham trained with Spurs last season (right), but didn't make a permanent move.

This morning, The Metro reports that Galaxy have offered the skipper a new one-year contract extension, worth around £5.6m, which works out at around £117k per week.

The good news for Galaxy fans is that Beckham is keen on signing, if the paper is to believed. Due to the recent birth of his daughter, Harper, it is thought the Beckhams would rather keep the family in their settled California lifestyle than dragging them back to rainy old Blighty.

Neither Spurs nor QPR would be prepared to match those wages. But as the Premier League looking more exciting than ever this season, regular first team football might well tempt Becks back.

Philip Wright-Lewis

Monday, 15 August 2011

Robbie Keane - A Man of Many Clubs

As Robbie Keane becomes the latest big name to cross the Atlantic, we take a look at one of the most interesting and expensive careers in football. We look at his past clubs, his dodgy loyalties and his future with Galaxy.

Player Profile - Robbie Keane

Age: 31

Place of birth: Dublin

Nationality: Irish

Boyhood club: Numerous

Starting his career at Wolverhampton Wanderers, he moved to Coventry in 1999 for £6m. Scoring twice on his debut, he soon broke into the Irish national side and attracted attention from continental Europe.

Having spent just one year at Coventry, Marcelo Lippi of Inter Milan signed him for £13m in 2000. Things didn't go to plan, and Inter loaned him to Leeds United in the winter of the 00/01 season.

£12m made that move permanent in the summer, and Keane joined a Leeds side bursting with talent, but blighted by financial crisis. Alongside star players Lee Bowyer, Harry Kewell and Robbie Fowler, Leeds were forced to sell Keane, who joined Tottenham Hotspur for £7m.

Enjoying arguably the finest years of his career, Keane became a first-choice forward for Spurs, forging a formiddable partnership with Dimitar Berbatov. His return of 107 goals in six years attracted long-term interest from Liverpool, who spent £20m to bring him to Anfield in 2008.

Keane's finest moment for the reds was a glorious equaliser he scored at the Emirates, securing a 1-1 draw with Arsenal. But things didn't go to plan, and after falling out with Rafa Benitez, he was sold back to Spurs for around £16m in the January of the same season.

The Irishman struggled to find his pre-Liverpool form, and after loan spells to Celtic and West Ham, he found he was not in Harry Redknapp's plans for the 2011/2012 season. Sky Sports report that Spurs have accepted the £3.5m offer from LA Galaxy...

Which, by my reckoning, takes his total expenditure to date up to: £77.5m

_ _ _ _ _

Keane - a Galaxy fan since birth?

Probably not, but I wouldn't put it past him.

Robbie is a well-liked player in England, due to his work-rate and all-round good attitude. But his comments when joining clubs recently have earnt him ridicule.

On joining Liverpool in 2008: "I've been a Liverpool fan all my life, going back to when I was a kid growing up in Dublin, and I always had a Liverpool shirt on my back. So, to be here now as a Liverpool player is incredible and I couldn't be happier."

On joining Celtic in 2010: "The club is brilliant. I am a Celtic fan and did not have to ask much about it. I always wanted to play for Celtic."

Of course as a fan, it's nice to hear your new marquee signing express his undying loyalty to your club when he signs. Fans on both sides of the Atlantic will now be waiting to hear how long Keane's been wanting to play for the Galaxy.

_ _ _ _ _

What can LA Galaxy expect from Robbie Keane?

As mentioned earlier, Robbie Keane is a work-horse who always gets the fans on-side by running his legs off in every game.

At Tottenham this worked perfectly alongside the lethargic skill possessed by his partner, Dimi Berbatov (right). Keane would work off Berbatov's scraps and played the part of the quick little man.

But he just couldn't fit into the Liverpool system. Fernando Torres could regularly be seen to be less than pleased after Keane would quite literally get under the Spaniard's feet, often preventing goal-scoring opportunities. His effort was never in doubt though, and Liverpool fans were sad and confused to see him leave.

Most recently, Keane scored 2 goals in 9 appearances at West Ham, who soon succumbed to relegation.

Keane will score goals for the Galaxy, that's for sure (and hopefully, revive his trademark celebration). Although they currently sit at the top of the league, five points clear of Dallas, they have only scored 35 goals so far (with Juan Pablo Angel's miserable contribution being a solitary 1).

Fourth-placed Colorado Rapids have scored more than LA Galaxy, who will definitely benefit from the talent of Robbie Keane, even if his fitness (and his loyalty) isn't at 100%.

This is definitely a coup for the club, and although he won't be as high-profile as Becks, he could well prove to be a more important player. As a son of the Republic, at least he won't be expected to miss games for Royal Weddings and such. I predict he will be a hit in the MLS, and wish him the best.

Philip Wright-Lewis

Robbie Keane to join LA Galaxy!

Well this is a bit unexpected!

Irish journeyman Robbie Keane is set to join LA Galaxy for a rumoured £3.5m.

The MLS transfer window slammed shut at 5am UK time this morning, but all parties involved are hoping he can squeeze through without breaking the rules.

The 31-year-old striker was given the choice between big-spending Leicester City and Los Angeles Galaxy, but has opted to leave England in favour of the latter.

Former-England gaffer, Sven Goran-Eriksson, has admitted defeat.

"I saw in the papers that Robbie Keane is going to play with David Beckham," he told the Leicester Mercury. "If that is right, it is difficult to compete.

"We can compete with Championship clubs but, when a player decides to go to the Premier League or if it is right Keane is going to LA, it is difficult."

If this transfer goes through, almost £80m will have been spent accumulatively on Keane, who had a short spell at Liverpool in 2008.

Juan-Pablo Angel is likely to exit the Galaxy to make room for Keane's arrival. The Colombian has been disappointing for the California club, and under MLS rules, only three players are allowed to earn above the wage cap - the other two being Beckham and Donovan.

The one-time Villa striker should join Philadelphia Union, if -once again - the clubs can manage to bend the rules of the transfer window.

Philip Wright-Lewis

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Manchester United 6 - 0 New York Cosmos: Match Report by Kevin Kirrane

Manchester United ran out comfortable winners on Friday as Old Trafford said farewell to a legend and ushered in the resurrection of the New York Cosmos with a goal fest.

A capacity crowd at the Paul Scholes Testimonial match saw the English champions score six against a Cosmos side boasting distinguished football veterans as well as a few of their own academy players. The young academy players making their first appearance on the big stage will certainly have learnt a valuable lesson as the United players turned on the style as they cruised to victory.

Before kick-off all the pubs around Old Trafford were filled with United fans singing Paul Scholes
songs and reminiscing on highlights of his extraordinary career, but there was also a great deal of intrigue and excitement about seeing the rebirth of the New York side. Red of course was the dominant colour in the capacity crowd but there were plenty of white and green to be found
amongst the 76,000 spectators (see left, below) as Manchester welcomed back Eric Cantona and his side into the world of football.

Within 8 minutes, the crowd were given what they came for. From 30 yards out, Scholes fired a trademark 30 yard shot past Brad Friedel and into the top corner to put United 1-0 up, just as he’d done throughout his 17 year career at Old Trafford.

United then doubled their lead after Ashley Young had been clumsily brought down in the box by Iraheta. The fans were calling for Scholes to get his second goal of the night, but the ever modest midfielder stood back and let Rooney fire the penalty in off the bar to make it 2-0.

The Cosmos then began to get into the game a bit more with some of their own players quietly impressing. Iraheta began to control the play as the game progressed, often starting attacks by keeping possession and getting the ball forward to Dwight Yorke and Robbie Keane. United still pressed forward and were only prevented from making it 3-0 before half time thanks to some excellent defending from Yanik Reyering, who produced a stunning block on Wayne Rooney just before the break.

In the second half, Anderson scored United’s third after some incisive one touch play with Welbeck, who went on to make it 4-0 to the English champions after Cosmos failed to get rid of the ball in the box. Cosmos under-23 keeper Chad Calderone will be disappointed by United’s fifth goal, as Mame Diouf squeezed a shot through the legs of the anguished goalkeeper, and Diouf went on to get his second and United’s sixth just before full time.

Despite the one sided scoreline, the Cosmos played much better in the second half, thanks mainly to the introduction of former Arsenal and Man City midfielder Patrick Vieira. However the best chance of the night for Cosmos, however, fell to their Bulgarian striker Stefan Dimitrov. Wayne Bridge whipped in a great cross to the far post but Dimitrov headed wide, despite being unmarked and making a great connection with the header.

If any Cosmos player deserved a goal on the night, it was Stefan Dimitrov. The former Chicago Fire striker displayed some great hold up play as the lone striker and worked tirelessly up front to keep possession for the New Yorkers. He will be disappointed with the header but his all round performance was very encouraging for the Cosmos, as was that of Yanik Reyering whose defensive heroics prevented United from scoring even more.

It was very much a baptism of fire for the reformed side but the early signs are encouraging for the Cosmos and they will certainly have learnt a lot from the defeat. It is early days but as the curtain fell on Paul Scholes’s glittering career, the exhibition game at Old Trafford showed that behind the scenes, the Cosmos are moving in the right direction and could certainly have an impact on the MLS when their resurrection is complete in 2013.

Kevin Kirrane


Many thanks to Kev for his report and photographs.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Cannavaro to captain the Cosmos

Fabio Cannavaro will wear the captain's arm-band in the New York Cosmos first game back since their rebirth, in Paul Scholes' testimonial.

The 37-year old centre-half led Italy to become FIFA World Champions in 2006.

He'll lead a team made up of ex-Premier League stars that also includes some of the new Under-23's squad of the Cosmos.

Former team-mates Nicky Butt and Gary Neville will also be playing in the green and white of the Cosmos, joined by familiar faces including Patrick Vieira, Michel Salgado and Robbie Keane.

For prospective Cosmos fans, this will be an exciting chance to see their kids having a run-out on the Old Trafford surface, with people like Ibrahim Diaby, Dane Murphy and Marvin Iraheta making their first official appearances for their club - which hopes to join the MLS in the next couple of years.

Fulham legend Brian McBride also has a spot in the line-up, which will no doubt be involved in an enjoyable occasion in Manchester next month.

Tickets are still available.

Philip Wright-Lewis

Monday, 18 July 2011

The British Invasion Begins...

A selection of the English Premier League's teams have descended on America this summer, to tot up some pre-season friendlies.

Taking notice of the growing profile of football in the US, it seems some of our top teams are trying their best to get a slice of the pie.

Both Manchester's teams are currently in the States and United kicked off with a win. They drubbed New England Revolution 4-1, the goals coming from Owen (2), Macheda and Park. The Revs, who are managed by Liverpudlian legend Stevie Nicol, did grab a consolation goal via a Benny Feilhaber free-kick. But Ji-Sung Park made it four, with a well-worked goal laid on by Giggs (see video).

Meanwhile, City are involved in a friendly tournament called the Herbalife World Football Challenge. They will face a selection of MLS sides as well as a couple of Mexican teams, including: the Revs, Galaxy, the Whitecaps, the Fire, Philadelphia and from Mexico - CD Guadalajara and Club America (who City beat 2-0).

City will be playing in their new kit, unveiled this weekend by John Lennon-wannabe, Liam Gallagher.

Other clubs currently tearing it up stateside include Bolton Wanderers, West Brom and Newcastle, who won't be joined by Poundland Gangsta, Nile Ranger (right) and all-round villain, Joey Barton. They were refused entry to the US because of their criminal records. Barton tweeted something about "hypocrisy", but I think "common sense" sums up the Americans' stance on the issue a bit better.

Liverpool were expected to go to the US this summer, following the NESV takeover. But Standard Chartered - the Reds' shirt sponsor - are known to be keen to target the Asian market, and the team began their tour in China.

It is Manchester United though, who will see the most exciting of the MLS/EPL action this summer. They face the MLS All Stars at the end of the month, and will welcome the New York Cosmos to Old Trafford for Paul Scholes' testimonial this August.

Philip Wright-Lewis @P_W_L

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

OPINION: Don't let the goal addiction spoil the MLS.

How do you end a goal drought?

For football managers, this is a question that can really keep you awake at night.

Unless you've got heaps of cash to throw at the next up-and-coming goal machine, it can be a real bamboozler. Teams like Liverpool and Chelsea had that luxury this January, spending big on the likes of Luis Suarez (left) and Fernando Torres (with varying levels of success).

But what about when the drought isn't affecting a team - but an entire league?

In Jack Bell's article for The New York Times today, he expresses his worry that teams in the Major League might be erring on the side of caution a little too much.

Bell' argument is well-supported. The statistics he quotes really are alarming:

"With the M.L.S. season not yet at the midway point, the 18 teams have combined for 20 scoreless draws, already a league record.

There have been 64 draws in 158 league games (41 percent of all games) in 2011."

Even the most loyal MLS advocate would wince at those figures. In the Prem, just 29 percent of our games last season were draws, while La Liga boasts 21 percent as a continent low.

Nobody likes a nil-nil. I remember shaking with excitement in the anticipation of this year's first Manchester derby (even as a neutral!). Packing into a bouncing Leeds pub with my friends, we joined a mass of singing United and City fans, mad with anticipation. The goal-less draw we were subjected to was the worst match I've seen in recent years.

But as the statistics show, it isn't a problem for the English game.

Still - I'm not so sure it's that big an issue for the MLS either. When staying with my family in California this spring, my uncle told me he didn't like soccer due to the "boring scorelines". "It's all 1-0, 1-1, 0-0, 2-1... We want to see more points scored so we can get more involved."

My uncle is, of course, clearly insane when it comes to sport. A big score does not a good game make (although it often helps, if we're being honest). However, he believed that was one of the main reasons soccer hadn't taken off big-time in the States.

In Jack Bell's article, he speculates on a 'remedy' for the lack of goals.

"The point system in the North American Soccer League might provide a framework for M.L.S. to tweak the current points system. To encourage offense, the N.A.S.L. awarded 6 points for a win, 0 for a loss (there were no ties because of the league’s novel shootout scheme). It got interesting with bonus points: 1 additional point for each goal scored, up to a maximum of three. So winning a game with three goals scored yielded 9 points."

This is where I would disagree with Jack. The MLS has to stick to FIFA rules for its points and shoot-out formats: or else risk its reputation taking a battering. At this stage in its infancy, it can't afford to do that. The video below shows just how ridiculous things can get when you start changing the classic rules to 'please' the fans:

Some of the statistics above do make for grim reading. However, attendance figures for the MLS have been even fantastic.

MLS grounds are currently filling at an average of 73 percent of their gates for the 2011 season. For a league so young, spread across such a vast country, that is some achievement. And its growing.

Although the league format, with its confusing play-offs system, could do with a bit of tweaking, the MLS is definitely on the right track - goals or no goals. It isn't broken - so there's no need to fix it.

Philip Wright-Lewis

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Who doesn't love a good celebration? See Davies and Lavesque's right here!

DC United's striker Charlie Davies caused a big stir in the Twittersphere the other day, with a rather elaborate goal celebration.

The 26-year-old American forward had promised fans that if he scored in the game, which was played on his birthday, he would celebrate accordingly.

Davies hit a close-range finish to put the Black-And-Red 2-1 ahead against Houston Dynamo, and kept to his word!

See the video below at around 5:30':

Dan Steinberg at the Washington Post has attempted to explain Davies' antics in this hilarious article including freeze-frames.

Many football purists (or miserable old people as I prefer to call them) often criticise modern players for their over-the-top celebrations. But we love them.

Here's a few of MLSB's favourite celebrations of late, kicking off with Bolo Zenden's feeble efforts to join the Asamoah Gyan party:

Maybe MLS stars are now competing for the best performance? Roger Lavesque's scuba impression was almost as hilarious as the Red Bulls' goalkeeping:

And an honourary mention for Stjarnan FC, the Icelandic team who are fast becoming internet celebrities due to their unbelievable dance routines. Move over, Rebecca Black:

Philip Wright-Lewis

Monday, 20 June 2011

THE NEW YORK COSMOS - A Sleeping Giant: Part 4 of 4

After twenty dormant years, the Cosmos are back. August 5th sees them run out for the first time since their rebirth, on one of the biggest stages in football - Old Trafford. Pele, Chinaglia and Alberto are all back for the party and they're joined by another legend of the modern game...


Major League Soccer will welcome the club with the richest heritage in US soccer in 2013. It's been a long time coming, but America's most famous football team will become the 20th team to join the league in two years time.

G. Peppe Pinton was the original Cosmos' last general manager when the team dissolved in the mid-eighties. Up until now, he'd fiercely guarded the naming rights for the club, worrying that the MLS would not recognise the success and history of the New York club.

But after MLS teams (such as the San Jose Earthquakes) returned to their NASL-era names, Pinton reconsidered. The rights were then sold to the former Spurs vice-chairman, Paul Kemsley. He managed to put together an impressive group who set about trying to re-establish the Cosmos. This included David Beckham's former personal manager Terry Byrne, and the ex-Liverpool chairman, Rick Parry.


Next on board was the biggest name in the Cosmos' history - Pele. Named as Honourary President in 2010, Pele spoke to The New York Times about his excitement regarding a New York derby: "One day, I hope to be happy to see the New York Cosmos playing the Red Bulls in the championship game."

Two more former heroes soon followed, with Giorgio Chinaglia and Carlos Alberto taking roles as International Ambassadors.


But the real coup for the Cosmos was in their next big appointment. Convincing the legendary Eric Cantona to return to football.

After leaving Manchester United aged 30 in 1997, Cantona often ventured into the dodgy arenas of TV advertising, film and beach soccer. But it wasn't until the offer came from New York that The King (as United fans once knew him) would return to the beautiful game as their Director of Football.

"I liked the project. I have a strong image of this club, that it was something special in football that was a mixture of everything," he told The New York Times last year. Cantona is not easily pleased. He famously slagged United's style of play off in 2006, calling them boring and functional. Kemsley and co. must have done some convincing to get him on board.

The prospect of Cantona's return to the game, as well as the return of the club itself is bound to excite football fans the world over. But Fox Soccer Channel's Keith Costigan thinks we shouldn't be getting too excited just yet. He tweeted MLS Blighty: "[it] would be good, but management and marketing has to be good. Red Bulls don't exactly draw big crowds, so no guarantee the Cosmos will."

What is guaranteed is that their first game will be a big one. Paul Scholes, the Man United stalwart, has chosen to play against the New York Cosmos for his testimonial match. Cantona will manage the team, and will choose a one-off line-up of players from across Europe. Although the squad itself is not yet assembled, seeing a team under the Cosmos moniker take to the Old Trafford pitch is bound to be a special occasion. The match takes place on August 5, and tickets (£25 each) can be bought from United's official website.

The turbulent story of the New York Cosmos is about to take another turn. Hopefully, the team can continue the work started by the great Steve Ross, and help soccer really kick off in the United States. Monsieur Cantona knows a lot about kicking, after all!

Philip Wright-Lewis

In summary: the return of this 'sleeping giant' has really got us excited. Not only for the rebirth of such an historic club, but for the MLS generally. It should bring attention from across the world, in a more organic way than merely signing a big European name. Moreover, Umbro's new line of Cosmos gear is stunning.

e firmly recommend anyone interested in the Cosmos story watches the incredible documentary film, 'Once in a Lifetime'. It was the major source for this article and is a must for anyone who likes their football.

We hope you have enjoyed this special. Please excuse the long gap between Parts 3 & 4 - I was studying for my finals. Many thanks to Kevin Kirrane for his help.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

THE NEW YORK COSMOS - A Sleeping Giant: Part 3 of 4

Pele was just the first of many big names to join the Cosmos. The next star was to have an important hand in the club's success - as well as its downfall. Part three tells Giorgio Chinaglia's story, and the final chapter of the original New York Cosmos.



"They probably can't stand me. I don't give a sh**."

That was Giorgio Chinaglia's answer, when asked how he thought his former Cosmos colleagues would remember him (as seen in Once in a Lifetime, the Cosmos movie). He was right. Luckily for him, the one man who did love him was Steve Ross.

Chinaglia signed for the club in 1976, earning the number 9 shirt (right, behind Pele). Unlike Pele, or the other European stars who came to the NASL, he was in his playing prime. And it showed. In his first season, he led the goal tally while Pele led in assists. The Italian became an instant star, worshipped by the Cosmos fans. But not worshipped enough for his liking - his fame didn't match that of Pele.

The two clashed in the dressing room, with Chinaglia once accusing Pele of being a poor playmaker. For all their differences on the field though, they both loved the fame they experienced as Cosmos icons. On the eve of a crucial play-off against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the Florida club sent a limousine to the airport to greet the reluctant partners.

As Pele and Chinaglia got into the limo, they were greeted by a pair of attractive girls and a lot of champagne. They couldn't resist. The next morning, according to Rodney Marsh, "They looked very worse for wear on the pitch," and the Rowdies won.


The celebrity lif
estyle was becoming the norm for all the team now. They could often be seen at the infamous Studio 54 nightclub, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. In the changing rooms, people would drop by and say hello to the team, like Mohammed Ali, Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand. During a particulatly unhealthy point in his career, a gaunt Mick Jagger turned up, alarming the coaches who had no idea who he was (left, with Ahmet Ertegun on the right).

1977 saw one of the biggest days in the Cosmos history: Pele's farewell game. The friendly against Santos saw a capacity crowd of other 75,000. He played half for his boyhood team, half for the Cosmos. When he scored, even Chinaglia, his old rival, embraced him. The atmosphere was like nothing US football had seen, before or since. During his speech, in which he asked the crowd to join him in saying "LOVE!" three times, he cried, and was clearly overwhelmed at the effect he'd had on the USA's view of football. Watch the video below.

The Cosmos won, 2-1. With Pele's exit, a new footballing legend joined the club - Franz Beckenbauer. "Der Kaiser" was not welcomed by Chinaglia, who thought he'd finally been able to take centre-stage following Pele's departure. The team kept winning though, title after title, breaking attendance and honours records. It wasn't going to last, unfortunately.


As the Cosmos' popularity kept steadily rising, Chinaglia became closer to Steve Ross. The Italian was clearly the owner's favourite player,
and eventually even had some influence over him. Under Giorgio's advice, the coaching staff were all fired, replaced by his favoured personnel. In Clive Toye's words: "He was responsible for the death of the Cosmos."

After the turn of the decade, the decline began. The early 80s saw dwindling attendances and fewer stars being attracted to the division. Steve Ross' other investments went awry, and eventually Warner struggled to pay the high wages under the generous contracts. The true nail in the coffin was ABC's decision to end their TV coverage of the sport.

The Cosmos dissolved in 1984. Ross didn't give up on his dream to bring soccer to the US though, fighting on to try and bring the 1986 World Cup to American shores. He failed to do so though, and tragically died in 1992. Two years later, his dream was realised with World Cup USA 90.

1927 - 1992

Ross had laid down the legacy of American soccer. The professional game had died though, and the Cosmos with it. The giant was to lay sleeping for another 27 years...

Philip Wright-Lewis

Saturday, 21 May 2011

THE NEW YORK COSMOS - A Sleeping Giant: Part 2 of 4

The second part of our New York Cosmos story tells of their most famous signing - Pele. Often cited as the best player the world has seen, his arrival in the States triggered football fever for the first time in American history.



Real Madrid, Juventus, or the New York Cosmos. These were the options Pele faced after retiring from his boyhood club, Santos, in 1974.

By now, Cosmos President Steve Ross had made it his mission to sign the Brazilian superstar, whatever the cost. General Manager, Clive Toye did his best to convince him to go Stateside, telling Pele: "With Real, you could win another championship. With us, you could win a country."

Whether it was Toye's profound message, or the more-than-generous pay packet (I can't imagine which one held more sway!) - it worked. Pele joined the Cosmos and became the world's highest-paid athlete.

Suddenly, the eyes of the football world were on New York. The player everyone had heard of had signed for a club nobody had heard of. But among the hysteria and excitement was a hint of suspicion and bitterness.

Dick Young (left), a long-standing US sports journalist, was the most vocal of the naysayers. He attended Pele's unveilling press conference, and spent the entire time heckling from the back of the room. Young saw soccer as a foreign import that was about to steal the limelight from baseball. In fact, Young was even more furious when Pele received a standing ovation from a sold-out baseball game just a couple of years later.


The Cosmos didn't care. They'd just pulled off the biggest transfer coup in football history, and they immediately set about impressing their new celebrity. At the time, they were still playing at the run-down stadium on Randall's Island. Before his first match, they spray-painted the surface green, to make it look healthier.

After the game had ended, Pele stunned the Cosmos staff: "This is the first and the last game I will play in this country." he announced. "My feet are the most important thing in the world to me. And in my first game, I have contracted this green fungus!" Luckily for the player and the club, it was just the spray paint and it washed off in the showers.

In his second season with the club, the Cosmos moved to the Giants Stadium in New York. The team's popularity soared, and with Pele in the squad, they regularly broke attendance records home and away. He was soon rubbing shoulders with A-list celebrites, and even had a kick-about with President Gerald Ford (left). Pele had himself become one of America's best-known names.

Meanwhile, Pele's success in the States was turning heads in Europe too. Suddenly, the NASL was attracting players like Gordon Banks, Geoff Hurst, Rodney Marsh and even George Best, who joined the Los Angeles Aztecs in 1976. When Marsh first arrived in the US, he gave his famous quote to a journalist who asked "Are you the white Pele?". "No," he responded. "He's the black Rodney Marsh."

My father, an ardent Kopite in the 1970s, told me that England was definitely aware of the Cosmos and US football. "It got a lot of attention and everyone knew about the New York Cosmos in England, due to the big names. But you knew they were going over for a swansong at the end of their career, usually. We never thought a team like the Cosmos would stand a chance against English clubs."


But not all players were in the final chapter of their playing days. In 1976, Italian bad-boy Giorgio Chinaglia signed for the Cosmos from Lazio, at the top of his game. Having fallen out with the entire Italian national team following a bust-up with the coach, he fled Serie 'A' for pastures new.

Steve Ross adored Chinaglia, and he became a Cosmos fan favourite, scoring an obscene amount of goals for the club. But with Chinaglia's ego, playing second fiddle to Pele was not easy. And soon enough, sparks were flying in the Cosmos dressing room...

Philip Wright-Lewis

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

THE NEW YORK COSMOS - A Sleeping Giant: Part 1 of 4

As professional football continues to flourish in the USA, the world is feeling the rumbling of a sleeping giant. The New York Cosmos are back.

In the first of a four-part serial, we tell the story of how the club was born. Through the hard work of the great Steve Ross, the Cosmos soldiered through financial difficulties and semi-pro levels of talent.


Everyone knows that football and America haven't always been a classic match. Even the word 'football' itself means something completely different in the States. American Football, Basketball and Baseball aren't merely popular sports. They are integral elements to the nation's culture.

By the 1960s, two British insitutions had conquered the world: football and The Beatles. But only only
one of them could fill stadiums full of screaming Americans, and it was not the 'beautiful game'. The New York Cosmos wanted to change that.


The Cosmos were the brainchild of Steve Ross - the popular, charismatic owner of Warner Communications. Ross struck up a great relationship with two of his partners, Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun of Atlantic Records - a pair of Turkish footy fans - in the late 1960s.

In 197
1, Nesuhi was about to accept an offer to join another company. Steve Ross was so disappointed to hear his friend was about to jump ship, and said he would do anything to keep him on board. "A professional football team," was Nesuhi's response.

As the gateway to millions of migrants to the United States, New York was the perfect breeding ground for footballing talent. And so after recruiting a number of coaches and managers, Warner established the New York Cosmos.


At the start, the Cosmos weren't anything special. To be fair to them, neither were their competitors. The North American Soccer League (NASL) was "esse
ntially a semi-pro league," according to their first striker, Randy Horton (right). "I was working at Jungle Habitat, a safari up in New Jersey, while I was playing for the Cosmos."

Shep Messing was working as a teacher at a local high-school. At one point, he even posed naked for a glossy magazine, in order to make a bit of extra cash (left)! Not expecting it to be seen by anyone, Messing was stunned when general manager Clive Toye blasted the goalie for compromising the team's professionalism. Still, they battled to their first ever title in 1972.

By 1974, the team was playing at the derelict Downing Stadium (above) on Randall's Island. Messing speaks of "broken glass bottles all over the place" when reflecting on the surface they had to endure. The Cosmos' results were equally poor, finishing their fourth season with 14 losses in 20 games. Investors lost faith and pulled out, but Steve Ross didn't quit. He was convinced soccer could be huge in America and the Cosmos would be the team to lead the way.

Ross again turned to his friend Nesuhi for advice. "Who is the greatest player in the world?" he asked.

"The greatest player in the world is Pele." was the response.

What followed was one of - if not the - greatest transfer coup in the history of the game. Professional football was about to really kick off in the United States.

Philip Wright-Lewis

Friday, 6 May 2011

Bunny-boiler: "Alan Smith wants to go to the MLS."

Premier League footballers aren't having a great year when it comes to their love lives.

With the news last week that a "well-respected family man" had been playing away with some nobody off Big Brother just about settling in, another bitter ex has had a go.

Everyone knows who the "family man" is of course, but nobody expected Alan Smith's former fiancée to launch a Twitter assault after their split.

Giving new meaning to the phrase 'sour grapes', Smith's supposed fiancée revealed info about his controversial move from Leeds to Man United, and told of his desire to move Stateside.

The hacker posted tweets suggesting that a rumoured return to Elland Road was not an option for the Newcastle clogger, and that he was more interested in the MLS:

"Alan Smith17
Don't be surprised if he doesn't join Leeds #MLS

Alan Smith17
Oh he wants to finish his career in the U.S as he can play till the late 30s and still get good money and a good lifestyle"

His management company have quickly denied that the poster had anything to do with Smith, despite her posting voicemails allegedly received from him.

It wouldn't be surprising to see him cross the Atlantic, but I'm not sure who would want him. Starting his career as a striker, he hasn't scored a single league goal since 2005, and has since been relegated to the position of defensive midfield due to his love for jumping into tackles. He currently has the second-worst disciplinary record in Premier League history, behind Bolton's Kevin Davies. He's also extremely injury prone and is currently out of fitness. SO, shall we start the bidding at... 50p?

In other news, Thierry Henry has played down the importance of the Red Bulls' upcoming game against LA Galaxy: "It isn’t a derby. It isn't Henry vs Beckham. It's just LA vs NY." Having played through the hatred and negativity of an el Clasico, I'm going to forgive him for trying to avoid derby connotations.

And former Liverpool forward, Djibril Cisse, could be looking for a move to the States. He is allegedly "examining the chance to play MLS and has interested groups in the US". Cisse is best known for scoring a penalty in the 2005 Champions League Final, and for being a picky customer at his local barber's.

Philip Wright-Lewis

Thursday, 5 May 2011

LA vs NY - Preview

The league has really started to take shape over the past few weeks, and both Eastern and Western Conferences are looking pretty tight.

The New York Red Bulls are sitting at the top of the Eastern Conf. with 14 points from 7 games. Philadelphia are just a point behind though, with 2 games to play.

Over on the East Coast, LA Galaxy are currently occupying top spot with a 2 point lead on second place Colorado, who also have a game in hand on the Galaxy.

Galaxy suffered a 2-1 defeat last Sunday to FC Dallas, in a particularly stormy game: lightning meant that the game had to be delayed for an hour. The unfamiliar weather (probably coupled with their captain's jet-lag!) meant they slumped to just their second loss of the season. That game took place at the deliciously named, Pizza Hut Park (no joke).

Saturday sees the two conference leaders meet eachother for the first time this season at the Home Depot Center. Former Villa striker, Juan Pablo Angel, signed for LA from the Red Bulls this season.

Angel spent four years in New York, and he told the NY Post that he's looking forward to playing against his old team:

"It’s going to be very unique, a lot of emotions playing against the team I played with for a number of years."

He didn't sound too convincing though, when asked whether there was any sour grapes.

"No, no; not for me, that chapter has been closed. I move on. People come and go. Whether I was happy or not happy with way they treated me, or hoping things worked out differently, there is not much I can or could do."

That might well be footballer-speak for: "They couldn't meet my ridiculous wage demands." Take about being an obtuse! As in... obtuse angle... Angel? Sorry.

English fans will remember Juan Pablo tearing up the Prem with Villa in the early noughties. He left for the Red Bulls in 2007. I always thought he looked like a cross between Carlos Tevez and Russell Brand.

Philip Wright-Lewis

Friday, 22 April 2011

"It's a Royal Wedding! They don't come around very often!"

David Beckham will fly home to England for the Royal Wedding this Friday.

L.A Galaxy are due to play against FC Dallas this weekend, but that hasn't deterred the number 23, who has said he will fly back the next day for the game.

Having just returned from Los Angeles myself, I think someone should warn Becks about a little thing called 'jet-lag'.

The Galaxy boss, Bruce Arena, reacted angrily when asked about it: "Why are you worried about that? Write something about soccer. I don't comment on his social calendar."

Unsurprisingly, he doesn't sound like he's as caught up in the wedding fever as Beckham.

Skipper Landon Donovan said of Beckham's globe-trotting: "The only expectation for us is that he, like always, shows up and is ready to train and is ready to play, and as long as he does that, it's no issue."

Despite being the highest-paid player in the States, Beckham seems to be on a mission with one objective: try your best to antagonise as many L.A Galaxy fans as possible.

As I've learnt in writing this blog over the last few months, American fans are no less passionate about their teams as the rest of the world. Such a blatant disregard for loyalty won't wash with Galaxy fans, and I'm sure he's already found himself crossed off many people's Christmas card lists.

Beckham's inevitable departure from the States this year will almost certainly be an acrimonious one. It's a shame that England's most famous footballer will leave US fans with a bitter taste in their mouths after his Galaxy days.

I suppose they'll still recall the glory days of Rohan Ricketts, eh...!

N.B: As said in the article, I've just returned from a trip to California. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see any MLS while I was out there.

However, I did spend some time with Fox Soccer Channel, observing their Champions League coverage. It was a fantastic experience, and I'm highly grateful to Eric Wynalda for giving me the opportunity - Cheers Eric!

Philip Wright-Lewis

Friday, 1 April 2011

Brief Hiatus as MLSB goes Stateside

I won't be posting for the next two weeks as I'm on my way to the USA for a fortnight.

Who knows? Maybe I'll get to see an MLS game if I'm lucky!

Thanks for reading and be sure to check back soon.

Philip Wright-Lewis

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Fergie goes Stateside and hints at retirement

Sir Alex Ferguson has heaped praise on the MLS, and hinted that he may not be in the game for much longer.

The United manager is currently in New York promoting the All-Stars game (see previous entry for more details), and attended the press conference alongside Thierry Henry of the New York Red Bulls.

The Scot told journalists that MLS teams certainly aren't pushovers: "We’re finding it increasingly more exciting each time we come here.

"The big change now is that MLS is now developing into a very competitive league, and is producing teams that make it more difficult."

He went on to mention Sporting KC as one of the teams that United struggled against.

"We found last season, particularly in Kansas City, we found that very, very difficult, which is a measure of the improvement of American soccer. And of course the National Team did very well in the World Cup. There is definitely a very good sense of a good future for American soccer."

Although he's lost his rag with the media more than once, he's still got his sense of humour. When quizzed about how he'd deal with Thierry Henry were he to play for the All-Stars, he joked: "We have a special plan to sort Henry out. I’m bringing Roy Keane back."

But when asked about whether or not he'd ever follow Beckham's footsteps in crossing the pond, Fergie was swift in his dismissal.

"No. I'm 69 - crikey!"

And he might not be at United much longer either. "When I'm finished wih United, in a couple of years or so, that'll be it for me."

Mancunians are all too familiar with speculation over Fergie's retirement date though, and they'll be hoping he sticks around for a bit longer. Sitting at the top of the Prem, contesting the FA Cup and the Champions League, he's still the best in the business.

Few things receive Fergie's golden seal of approval, but it seems Major League Soccer is one of them - quite an honour, if you ask me!

Sources: Associated Press & New York Post

Philip Wright-Lewis

Monday, 28 March 2011

United return to face All-Stars

Manchester United, the second-most successful British football club of all time, will face the MLS All-Stars this July.

The All-Stars game takes place every year, and this year will see a repeat of 2010's tie, which ended 5-2 to the Mancs.

Last year's result saw the first victory for a British side over the All-Stars in seven games. Teams who have tried and failed to overcome the MLS side include Chelsea, Fulham, West Ham and Celtic.
Ancient United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, is hoping for a similar game this time around: "Last year's game was a special occasion in front of a noisy, passionate crowd. Obviously we'll be looking to repeat the performance and the scoreline."

There had been rumours that United's rivals Liverpool could be the team to take part this year, due to the NESV influence after they acquired the Reds.

But instead, fans will be hoping to see United old-boys Scholes and Giggs lock horns with former-team-mate David Beckham, who missed out on last year's game with injury.

Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry could also take part, which would provide more familiar opposition to the Manchester United team.

The game will take place in the Red Bull Arena, New Jersey on July 27th. Expect to see a certain Frenchman with a penchant for karate kicks in the crowd!

N.B: I think the idea of 'All-Star' games is amazing. Especially when you're trying to sustain a relatively new fan-base. I'd certainly love to see a Premier League XI.

Philip Wright-Lewis