Greetings and welcome to another exciting edition of Total 90, still the finest (and only) American football newsletter on Bleacher Report. We'd like to wish all of our readers a safe and happy holiday weekend. Remember, it's the one weekend of the year where obscene gluttony is not only accepted, but encouraged!
First, I'd like to start on a personal note. The NCAA football tournament began this past week, with my beloved Michigan State University snagging a first round bye thanks to their Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. They faced the University of Illinois-Chicago in a second-round game and unfortunately lost on penalty kicks after a scoreless game.
Still, sending head coach Joe Baum into retirement with two pieces of silverware in his last season is something to be proud of.
The Columbus Crew are MLS champions! They dispatched Red Bull New York last Sunday by a score of 3-1 to take their first every MLS Cup. Columbus had the best record in the regular season and backed it up in the playoffs with some very impressive results.
In the final, league MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto came up huge, assisting on all three goals. His third assist, to US International Frankie Hejduk was a thing of beauty. Schelotto chipped over the New York back line right to Hejduk's feet as he completed a run into the box. From there it was easy for Hejduk to beat NY keeper Danny Cepero and lock up the title for Columbus.
The Bundesliga seem to be very interested in American footballers of late. No, this isn't another tidbit on the Landon Donovan loan saga. FC Dallas' leading scorer Kenny Cooper is rumored to be a target of Eintracht Frankfurt. Early projections say that Frankfurt would cost MLS up to four-million for his services, and he would also be able to make significantly more money than the $325,000 that FC Dallas recently offered.
This is a move that makes a whole lot of sense. Cooper is a big, physical forward who is not afraid to pull the trigger. He's begun to make a name for himself on the international stage with Bob Bradley more willing to select him lately. He also wouldn't deal with the same problems that Donovan did during his early stint in the Bundesliga, namely being undersized and lacking in confidence.
Should Cooper make the move to Frankfurt, he would immediately start getting consideration for a spot on their first team.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber delivered his annual state of the league address and hinted at some big changes for the near future. First and most importantly, Garber has said that the league would start making schedule adjustments during international dates. The league won't be able to shut down completely on every international date, but teams will have a choice between shutting down on two international dates, or playing a reduced schedule during four international dates.
Garber also announced some important changes to the league schedule. With Seattle Sounders FC joining the league next season, there will be 15 clubs in MLS. Each team will play each other twice, with two more intraconference "rivalry games" to keep the schedule at the current slate of thirty games. LA and Chivas will still face each other three times per year. It's good to see that the league is recognizing how great these rivalries are for its health.
Also, the clubs that compete in the CONCACAF Champions League will no longer be asked to compete in SuperLiga. Last season, it stretched many clubs *cough* DC United *cough* to the breaking point. Instead, the top four teams that don't make the Champions League will compete in SuperLiga, similar to how European clubs directly qualify for the UEFA Cup.
Speaking of the Champions League, Houston Dynamo advanced to the quarterfinals with a 1-0 win over CD Luis Angel Firpo of El Salvador. Houston will open quarterfinal play in late February, but will not find out their opponent until the draw is made on December 10th.
Another person with a strong American connection has gained a prominent place in the ranks of Arsenal. First, it was Colorado's Stan Kroenke. Now, MLS Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidis has been named CEO of the club. He takes over the post that David Dein had vacated in early 2007.
In expansion news, Montreal has dropped out of the race because the required $40 million fee would have been tough to come up with given the current economic struggles plaguing the world. Ottawa and Vancouver are still in the running to bring a second MLS club to Canada.
Seattle began adding to their roster that already includes Kasey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg. In Wednesday's expansion draft, they took ten players, including MLS veterans Nate Jaqua, Peter Vagenas and Khano Smith. Seattle will almost assuredly struggle as every MLS expansion team has in their first season, but Ljungberg and Keller should be enough to attract fans in the Pacific northwest, a region with a rich football history.
Last on the news slate for the holiday weekend is Chelsea's new partnership with a football academy in Los Angeles. The London club has entered into an agreement with the Los Angeles Futbol Club (LAFC). Under the agreement, LAFC will host Chelsea tournaments, training sessions and a player and coach exchange program.
Chelsea CEO Peter Kenyon said, "Providing elite training for young talent is critical to the long-term development of the sport in America."
This seems to be yet another promising move towards a bigger and better fan and player base for football in America. By providing quality training to players at a young age they are more likely to stay attached to the game later.