SBD/March 4, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLS Opening Weekend Crowds Down; Future Of Chivas USA Still In Question

The nine games during MLS’ opening weekend saw attendance down 9.5% "from the opening-day crowds at the same venues" last season, according to Paul Kennedy of SOCCER AMERICA. The Sounders and Timbers “topped last year's home-opening crowds,” while the Whitecaps and Earthquakes “were also sellouts.” The “most disappointing crowd” was 20,148 at Home Depot Center for the defending champion Galaxy's opener against the Fire. The game marked the club’s “first since the departure of David Beckham.” The Galaxy also played without F Landon Donovan, "who won't join the team until the end of the month.” Meanwhile, an announced crowd of 7,121 attended Chivas USA’s home opener against the Crew, marking the “smallest crowd for a home opener in MLS history.” But most observers put the Home Depot Center crowd at “no more than 4,000.” MLS Commissioner Don Garber on Saturday backed Chivas USA Owners Jorge Vergara and his wife Angelica Fuentes, saying that they “were committed to MLS and knew what needed to be done” (SOCCERAMERICA.com, 3/4). SPORTING NEWS’ Brian Straus noted anyone watching Crew-Chivas on TV "probably would wager that the actual total was closer to half" of the announced crowd. The attendance is “an indictment” of club Vergara’s vision (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 3/3).

MLS OPENING WEEKEND ATTENDANCE
DATE
AWAY-HOME
'13
'12
3/2
Impact-Sounders
38,998
38,709
3/2
Toronto FC-Whitecaps
21,000
21,000
3/2
DC United-Dynamo
20,919
22,039
3/3
Red Bulls-Timbers
20,674
20,438
3/3
Fire-Galaxy
20,148
27,000
3/2
Sporting KC-Union
18,160
19,074
3/2
Rapids-FC Dallas
18,075
20,906
3/3
Real Salt Lake-Earthquakes
10,525
10,525
3/2
Crew-Chivas USA
7,121
14,464
MLS AVERAGES
19,513
21,573
   

TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.: Garber said of Chivas USA, “We believe in a second team in Los Angeles. We originally in 2005 came up with this concept of having [a] club that was connected with Mexico. It hasn’t turned out quite the way that we had hoped. I have not seen the final report about [how] the attendance is down there, but certainly if it doesn’t grow beyond what I have heard I would be concerned about that” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 3/3). In L.A., Kevin Baxter wrote after Vergara and Fuentes bought out their Chivas USA partners last year, the couple “decided to start over.” Vergara has been “cleaning house over the last four months, sacking the entire front office and much of the coaching staff.” He also “remade the roster, ridding the team of 14 players and bringing in 11 new ones who have never played in MLS.” However, “just one of the 14 players cut loose has Mexican nationality while 10 of the additions are either Mexican-born or have Mexican parents.” Last year, Chivas USA “had just two players with Mexican ties” (LATIMES.com, 3/1).

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A ...: In Houston, Jose de Jesus Ortiz wrote the Dynamo front office “loves to whine about their lack of coverage, but they have plenty of egg on their face after only an announced crowd of 20,019 showed up to the season opener.” There is “no reason why the Dynamo shouldn’t sell out every game in this diverse city with hundreds of thousands of kids playing soccer.” The Dynamo front office “walks around with the inferior complex of a minor-league baseball team,” but Dynamo President Chris Canetti and his group “should be embarrassed that they couldn’t sell out their season opener.” Ortiz: “How do you not sell out the opener in a small stadium with a capacity of only 22,039? Even worse, the Dynamo had months to sell this game. Here’s some advice for Canetti and the Dynamo: Instead of doing some self promoting on CSN, radio and everywhere, how about getting out of the way and letting the players be the faces of the franchise?” (CHRON.com, 3/2).

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