Friday, March 18, 2011

Soccernomics: Timbers Army and Soccer City

Its Friday, I am busy and don't have time for anything serious.  [By the way part of the reason I am busy is I was taping a Think Out Loud show this morning that will air tonight at 9 on OPB]  Anyway, two Timbers related things from this mornings Oregon stood out to me.

The first was John Canzano's hit piece on the Timbers Army in which he confuses complements and substitutes.  To me he has a point that the Army will have to tone down its act and understand that things have changed with the move to MLS.  I think the Army gets this - just look at their blog where they openly discuss snuffing out overly offensive chants.  But he seems to think the whole Army is a substitute to a more mainstream audience.  I think this is entirely wrong - the Army is a vital complement to the general audience, creating atmosphere that attracts other fans and is vital to keeping the overall experience exciting.

Generally a good thing in that it gets people interested and attracted to the sport, this is the one problem with the proliferation of European soccer on US television: it highlights the enormous gulf in the quality of play between top Euro leagues and the MLS.  Apparently the Timbers field will be at the very small end of the FIFA guidelines at 110 by 70 yards.  Mix a small field with plastic turf and quality but not world-class players and you have a recipe for a pretty dull spectacle of the ball ping-ponging around until it eventually goes out.  So the TA creating a lively atmosphere is going to be vital.

The second is the ridiculous article on which MLS city has the best claim to "Soccer City USA."  The first problem is that the metrics that really matter are not quantifiable and the proxies the O used are not at all good.  Attendance at USL games does not compare to MLS and the fact that there is a huge TA section going crazy is not something that shoes up in attendance figures.

But the most laughable part is who they identified as Soccer City, USA: San Jose.  You have got to be kidding.  They have some of the worst attendance in the league and have already lost their franchise once because of it.  And then there is this line:
Although the Earthquakes averaged an MLS-worst 9,659 in average attendance last season, they rated better than average in that category when the data were adjusted for San Jose's 1.8 million people -- third-smallest metro area in the league.
What? San Jose is a part of the Oakland-San Francisco bay area (one of the biggest metro areas in the US) and is the only soccer franchise in town. There is no other way to view their attendance than as completely woeful.

So, it may not be Portland, but it sure 'aint San Jose.

Go Timbers!

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