Game 5: POR v DAL, 4 April, 2015.

Posted on: April 5th, 2015 by sunshine No Comments

 

With the frustration of March behind us, we can finally focus on this team’s qualities. And they do have some. We saw a captain take control of a poor official, dictate the game, and leave everything he had on the pitch. We saw an embarrassed veteran make amends for an error in judgment, whether or not it was reasonable for him to rely on a young defender to play the offside trap. We saw our box to box midfielder frustrate the early season leader’s attack, and a young central defensive midfielder patrol the backfield like a veteran.

 

Urruti shoots down Dallas...

Urruti shoots down Dallas...

But those aspects of the Timbers play were present in the earlier games. Missing was an effective attack. Emboldened by a strong second half against Vancouver last weekend, Porter retained the 442 formation headed by Fanendo Adi and Maxi Urruti. Both players were instrumental in giving the Timbers the win—Urruti scored the winning goal, and Adi sent Chara through for the third, solidifying the win. What both players showed were the underused aspects of their games—Adi’s effective distribution and Urruti’s instincts around goal.

... Read More →

A Hard Night in Cascadia

Posted on: March 29th, 2015 by Magadh No Comments

 

Sad clown...

Sad clown...

I'll have more to say about this when I've had a bit of time to digest it, but I maintain (as I did on Farcebook last night) that we actually didn't play badly. In fact, in terms of working our possession game we were quite successful. We got the ball into dangerous areas, and if our crossing had been a bit better and certain people had been more clinical in front of goal I think we would have gotten a result. Clearly, we're much better in defense than we were last year. The partnership of Ridgewell and Borchers is rounding out nicely, and I think it's fair to say that Vancouver really wasn't able to generate much of a threat.... Read More →

Keep Calm and Carry On

Posted on: March 24th, 2015 by Magadh No Comments

 

Hi Everybody, Magadh here. I haven't posted in a long while (although those of you attached to our Farcebook page will have seen some of my comments there). Mrs. Mags and I had a child in October and since then I've been kind of busy. But I'm getting back in the swing of things, so hopefully real, normal service will be restored soon. sunshine texted me this morning to alert me to the fact that the site posts hadn't been going on to Facebook, so I'm really just putting something up so that I can see if the fix that I just tried worked. If not I may have to do things manually for a while.

Game 3: SKC away, 21 March, 2015

Posted on: March 24th, 2015 by sunshine No Comments

 

Having sufficiently digested that match, I can say there was little else to take away from it other than the fact not one player took charge of the game. A fact that should leave you, as supporters anticipating the new season, to question the how and the why of it all. This is not some existential moment in our Timbers lives, only it is.

 

How, when Porter fielded a team replete with experienced players, could the Timbers not find the leadership to take control of a game there for the win? That is not to say our captain, Liam Ridgewell, did not lead—he did. But a central defender can only do so much to press upon the attackers the importance of getting into spaces, building momentum, and breaking down the opposition’s own defense. His job is to yell and to organize, and he did that well enough to ensure the clean sheet. Still, Sporting Kansas City of 2015 is not the Sporting Kansas City of 2013—they were depleted of options, and they were as devoid of ideas as the Timbers midfield was devoid of ideas. In short, they were there for the taking but Portland lacked the character and vision to see it out.

 

The Timbers supposed deputized “idea man” spent most of his game in what has become his typical stance—arms raised, not battling, questioning how the ball was taken from him without a foul called. The most fouled man in Major League Soccer seems to have bought into his own hype. Unfortunately for a man who appears to have missed the lesson of playing to the whistle, fouls, whether real or imagined, happen only when the whistle is blown. Worse still was the increased number of turnovers committed by Valeri’s understudy—in the first half alone he committed 8 forced and 2 unforced turnovers (I stopped counting at that point and, to be honest, I am not sure he even returned to play the second half). That was the extent of the Timbers on-field ingenuity—Nagbe dribbled until he lost the ball.

 

This brings everyone to question what exactly could the management have been thinking when faced an extended lay-off for the Timbers creative engine. Inventiveness is not grown from being fast and able to dribble the ball, it is developed from vision and intelligence—characteristics often found missing when two or three defenders surround Nagbe. At least Nagbe tries to get involved; Fernandez is utterly incapable of doing so. But harping on these players as if it is their fault they have been asked to play a role for this team for which their games are not suited is simply unfair. Fernandez is a poacher of goals with limited speed and Nagbe’s best form has always been found as an inverted winger. Neither player is the answer to the Timbers missing creativity.

 

The fact the Timbers have resorted to a form of long ball only shows they do actually understand their creative options are not so creative. But the personnel employed to execute the change in tactics seem all wrong. Ironically, while the midfield generals are still recuperating from serious injury, Porter has employed 2011’s midfield into 2015’s midfield—one would think tow players so well studied in anti-football tactics would excel at this game. But the whole is only as strong as the parts, and this is where the trouble starts. Adi is better when taking the ball at his feet and distributing to the wings than he is battling for 50/50 moon-launches, where Maxi Urruti is the player who will chase down deep balls and get them into play. Sadly, the Timbers cannot utilize his speed when it is plumped on the bench for 75 minutes each game.

 

But I am not discussing the game against Sporting Kansas City, yet I am. Journalists are often preoccupied with the search for defining moments in a person’s life. The driving story so far this season has been the slight Caleb Porter took from Pep Guardiola during last year’s All Star Game. And, to believe the journalists who use such metaphors to drive their otherwise irrelevant commentary on the game, it was that moment where Porter determined to change his style and looked to the kings of negative football—Jose Mourinho and Sam Allardyce—as inspiration for uninspired football. The narrative, while enjoyable, paints Porter as a sensitive and petty man rather than a pragmatic man, willing to do anything to win. You do remember that narrative, right? The one where the Timbers brought in a young coach, just off the failures of an Olympic games, who had learned the lessons of doing whatever necessary to win? That same coach who built a system around sharp passing within a shortened field of play, backed by an intense drive to win the ball back within 2-3 passes? That coach? Are we still enamored with that coach, or are we now looking for reasons to vilify him for last year’s failures? Because if we need a scapegoat, painting him as a petty man who had his little heart broken by his hero is the way to begin that narrative.

 

Perhaps the better thing to do, when looking at this game and this team’s performance in the game, is not to find scapegoats but to accept it is a game played against another team. This game against Sporting was not visually beautiful, it was not well constructed, it was, in short, boring like watching water boil is boring. And much like the old saying—a watched pot never boils—that is the story of this game: it never quite heated up. But what did result was another draw, another game without losing—the very result these types of tactics are intended to produce. Perhaps that is what we are seeing—a capitulation from the manager, stating, in only terms he knows how to write, that until Will Johnson and Diego Valeri return the Timbers will do everything they can to not lose. You may not like that answer, but that is the answer this game gave us—that is a pragmatic answer.

Game 1: RSL, March 7, 2015

Posted on: March 9th, 2015 by sunshine 1 Comment

 

That was as entertaining of a nil-nil draw as you are going to see. But for what has become Nick Rimando’s standard of play against Portland, that scoreline might have been different. That happens. Certainly there were some hiccups and the rust was clearly on display, but, and I am going to say this twice (once now and once again in the next sentence): this was the first game of the season.

 

Yes, it was the first game of the season and you were all likely watching every move of every Timbers player, but if you paid any attention to Real Salt Lake during the match you may have been confused about their formation. Were they playing their heralded diamond? Were they playing a 4-3-3? Do not feel too bad about your abilities to identify morphing formations: Real Salt Lake were as confused as you were. Atypical of one the most consistent clubs in MLS, the players seemed uncertain and in both possession and attack. They understood where to go, what to do, but they had the tinge of a club still not comfortable in the new tactics. That will change.

 

But Saturday night they were not the team that was once our boogeyman. And that led them to employ one tactic consistently throughout—the clutch and grab. Perhaps the memories of Fanendo Adi last season still touch a nerve bit raw.

Jamison Olave proving he is no Hanyer Mosquera.

Jamison Olave proving he is no Hanyer Mosquera.

Regardless, it was a tough night for the Timbers center forward. At this point, I expect to read that Schuler proposed marriage to him. If he has not then the cops should be called. Frankly, even if he has, the cops should be called—regardless of the yellow he earned in the 48 minute, you don’t treat people you love that way.

 

The Timbers were not innocent, either. Powell was first into the book with a late tackle on Olmes Garcia (I think we are all prepared for that from him—he has shown a reckless side to his game) and Ridgewell earned a booking in the second half. Shockingly, the Timbers committed more fouls during the match than Real Salt Lake. But that was the type of game it was—physical, heated, wonderfully contested from the first to last kick.

 

Perhaps the physicality could have been reduced had the Timbers reduced their reliance on route one football. It has been a trend of the team to unnecessarily resort to long balls when Adi is on the pitch, which is too bad because he can play rather well with the ball at his feet. Similarly, so can Asprilla. But Powell seemed to insist on punting forward rather than playing the ball on ground, inevitably losing possession.  This is not to single out Powell, he was not alone when opting to play balls over the top. For some reason, the Timbers opted more to challenge aerially than with their reputed ball control. Adi is a player who can win the aerial battle, but he can also take the ball at foot and distribute—a key to breaking down a stout midfield like Real Salt Lake’s. This also led to much of the abuse Adi received during his time on the pitch. But that will be reduced when Valeri returns to the fold.

 

Let’s face it, asking Darlington Nagbe to be an attacking midfielder is much like asking a wet paper towel to hold a glass of wine mid-air. Sometimes making the obvious pass is the better option than trying to be awesome. Yet, too often, when he was involved in the match, Nagbe looked to be awesome rather than distribute into space. But that is the mindset of a dribbler over a distributer. And so when critiquing his play we should understand he has been asked to play a position for which his game was not built. In that regard, he improved over his truly poor displays of the pre-season. Indeed, he made two drives during the game that made you hope and believe the promise that Nagbe will return to his 2013 form.

 

Much of the action came in the midfield battles, where debutante, George Fochive, gave an excellent performance.  But there were chances on goal. New boy and welcomed Kalif Alhassan replacement, Dairon Asprilla, had the best opportunity to score in the 30 minute when he connected with a Rod Wall cross.

AsLou Reed of the Velevet Underground once sang, oh, Dairon ron ron ron ron, what ever did you do?!?!

As Lou Reed once sang, oh, Dairon ron ron ron ron, what ever did you do?!?!

Uncontested, he put the ball wide of the near post. Still, he showed the promise of his play—he is an exciting addition to this club. Ten minutes later, it was Rod Wall again involved in a near chance. This time he was at the end of a classic Jewsbury set piece, but failed to get a good touch on the ball before redirecting into Rimando’s hands.

If only he had a bad case of gas.

If only he had a bad case of gas.

Perhaps he would have been better to lay off for Adi, but that did not happen. Nor did it happen for him in the 52 minute, when Rimando saved his point-blank shot from a Jewsbury corner. Frankly, at that point, it was not going to happen for the Timbers, but that was not too worrying—the Timbers controlled the game from start to finish.

 

Much of the credit for the Timbers assured play rests with the backline. With the exclusion of 2013, defense has been the plague of the Timbers MLS existence. Going into last year, the Timbers made few lasting and important moves to improve their backline. This off season they made two moves that might prove to be, dare I say, genius. New man, Nat Borchers, settled in with Liam Ridgewell and played as if he had five years of joy with the Englishman.

Yeah, his defensive skills match the manliness of his manly man-beard.

Yeah, his defensive skills match the manliness of his manly man-beard.

Perhaps that comes from experience, more likely it comes from his proven quality. Added to the stout central defensive pairing was Ghanaian national keeper, Adam Kwarasey. I would like to say he handled the pressure Real Salt Lake placed him under, but, thanks to the excellent understanding between the Timbers defenders, he was not challenged at all.

 

Vancouver 1 - Portland 0

 

Well, that was something.

 

Is there something to take from this game? I mean the Timbers looked slightly unprepared, the referee was incompetent for both sides, there was a catastrophic injury and the urinal troughs had a certain glint to them in the bathroom as to say, "this will probably be one of the only things that doesn't disappoint you tonight".

 

If there was one thing that the Timbers front office preached coming out of 2014 it was continuity and that is what the 2015 pre-season team had. It was the same continuity from the vast majority of 2014 where the Timbers showed well at possessing the ball, gave up some stupid free-kicks and then paid on a set piece goal with the goal scorer who beat one of the two members of a new centerback pairing in the air. I mean if the Timbers still had Kalif 'legacy' Alhassan on the roster I would be hard pressed to tell the differences between the two sides.

 

That said, this team is a work in progress, this game was part of the pre-season and many things can be corrected. The major talking point for this game is Ben Zemanski's crushing ACL injury which marks another player to have gone down on the turf at Providence Park. Certainly the good news is that the team will be experts at putting back together players with debilitating ACL/Leg injuries by now. The sad news is that the turf isn't going anywhere, and it will likely continue to gobble up players ACL's despite the most positive spin that people put out there. Granted the evidence against the grass carpet is anecdotal, but at some point the common Portland fan will just get tired of watching midfielders, forwards and centerbacks be carried off the field to not be seen again for 6 to 8 months. Then again, as said before, the turf is likely not going anywhere and people will debate the pro/con of playing surfaces until the sun expires and the earth goes cold. I mean Bright Dike hurt himself on every playing surface known to man, some people are just perpetually injured... Like Seattle Sounder Steve Zakuani.

 

Zemanski provided cover for Will Johnson and Diego Chara in 2014 while really exploding into proficient effect at the end of the 2014 season after Johnson's horrible leg break. He was looking quite adept before going down with a torn ACL against Vancouver and the team was clearly missing him in the middle of the field after his injury. When he left the field it was up to  Jack Jewsbury to ratchet up the intensity in midfield, which was a bit odd given that Jewsbury is a known commodity, this was the pre-season and the Timbers just drafted a rookie CDM that they could have thrown into the fray at that point or Michael Nanchoff or George Fochive. Granted this game had turned into rugby by this point and the referee was party to this madness, but this is what the pre-season is for, to test out players in difficult situations without the worry of affecting your league status.

 

The good news is that the very early preview of Adam Kwarasey showed quite well. He came off his line with confidence, played the ball with his feet and seems to be quick. He will need to be quick because as showed last night as the Timbers are slow.... Slow.... SLOw... SLOW at the centerback position and will need Kwarasey to push up in order to cover the space behind them if they wish to play a high line. Of course one game and 90 minutes do not a career make, so it will be interesting to watch Kwarasey as we go along.

 

I also watched Darlington Nagbe nearly exclusively after Gaston Fernandez was taken off the field. Nagbe took a mock position at the center of the pitch but then drifted out to the left leaving the middle open with only Jack Jewsbury to push up to collect the ball there. Granted this may have been a reaction to playing without a full 11 on the field, but Nagbe was not running the point completely after Fernandez left. A quick word on the two mentioned players. Neither Nagbe nor Gaston Fernandez is capable of replicating what Diego Valeri does, when healthy, and the team changes because of that. Whether Nagbe can learn to do so is something to be seen, with the Nagbe project going on year five now (this is not a surprise or a new statement). Valeri is a one of a kind talent and the Timbers miss him immensely in the middle of the field.

 

The Timbers generated one shot on goal during the game. Given that offense has been the shining light of the last two seasons for the Timbers and defense the problem, I would imagine that this will not necessarily be a season long problem. The give and go opportunities were not sharp, passes were missed and opportunities left hanging that should be taken during the season. However, without Valeri and Will Johnson at the start and now Ben Zemanski it remains to be seen if the Timbers can be as sharp offensively as they once were.

 

One thing to keep note of, the Timbers did not react well to the punishing physical style that Vancouver dished out. Granted it took the referee cocking it up to allow this to happen, but that will be something to keep note of as the season goes along as MLS referees are not exactly a shining light of adjudication.

 

Regardless of what happened at the CDM position after Zemanski went down, Wallace and Ridgewell both were sent off, and the Timbers lost the game on a header by former Timber Pa-Modou Kah who beat Ridgewell to score the winning goal. The Timbers move onto the next opponent, the Chicago Fire, on Wednesday at 7:30 pm. Hopefully something resembling a game of soccer will be played.

The Business of Money

Posted on: January 27th, 2015 by john nyen 12 Comments

 

There are topics that you talk about in polite company, and there is the topic of money. No one typically likes to talk about money, especially how much their team has available to spend.

 

When Toronto FC purchased Jozy Altidore and Giovinco, the collected fans of Major League Soccer teams should not have been surprised. Toronto's ownership group is absolutely loaded financially. It came to mind that we don't always understand the owners of this expanding league. Here is the best that I could currently do with the information sources that I found on each team, notated.

 

In researching this piece, the most shocking item that I found is the sheer number of billionaires that own a stake in an Major League Soccer club. Plucky underdog in MLS is a multimillionaire. The norm is to be a billionaire.

 

There a 22 different ownership groups with AEG owning a share in both the Galaxy and the Dynamo, and Atlanta/LAFC accepted but fielding a team in a few years.

 

Out of these 22 different ownership groups 14 are backed financially by finances over a billion dollars. By that I mean that either the main financial backer, a partner in the ownership group, or the combined fortunes of those enlisted in the ownership group as listed in the official ownership list on MLSSoccer.com are over a billion dollars. (You can find that list here, http://pressbox.mlssoccer.com/content/about-major-league-soccer)

 

More than that, there are other ownership groups that are more than likely billionaires; but unverifiable, currently, by my own research. Ownership groups like DC United and Real Salt Lake both look to tick the boxes of those in the upper echelon of finance. However the facts that I could find were inconclusive and thus they cannot officially be said as to whether they belong in the billionaires club of MLS.

 

In each section you will find a link to the best information that I could find. While I attempted to rely on verifiable trade magazines or newspapers, there were other online publications that I used.

 

The Billionaire Who Stands Alone:

 

New York City FC

Ownership Group: City Football Group

 

Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan has a lot of money. His family has even more. With the Sheikh having a supposed 30 billion dollars and 600 billion in assets, that is all small potatoes compared to his family net worth of over 1 trillion dollars. Of course, it must be remembered that the 1 trillion dollar mark (or $1,000,000,000,000 if you wanted to see that written out) valuation was performed in 2008. One can imagine that the fortunes of the family have only increased in the past seven years.

 

Side Note: Yes, the Daily Mail.

 

Sources:

Family Net Worth from 2008  -- The Telegraph

Sheik Mansour Financial Valuation -- The Daily Mail 2013

 

Forbes (whom I use extensively for their financials) do not include royals on their lists of soccer owning billionaires stating,

 

"Sheik  Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan,  Manchester City owner,  and Nasser Al-Khelaifi, PSG president, are not included in the list of the richest soccer club owners because Forbes does not value families or royal fortunes unless we can clearly see who owns the fortunes. For instance, the Qatari royal family is not on our list." -- Forbes 2013

 

The Billionaires:

 

LA Galaxy

Ownership Group: Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG)

 

Anschutz Entertainment Group owns a lot of things. They own so many things that they appear in this list twice, as sole owners of the LA Galaxy and partial owners of the Houston Dynamo. They also own a stake in the Stanley Cup Winning Los Angeles Kings, a stake in the Los Angeles Lakers, the building that the Lakers actually play in (The Staples Center), the stadium that the Galaxy play in (The Stub Hub Center),  the Hammarby football team and a various consortium of different sporting, entertainment and property opportunities the world over.

 

In 2012, at a point when Anschutz was potentially looking to divest Anschutz Entertainment, the valuation of the company was two to four billion dollars. This was considered a low estimate by the New York Times. The Forbes real time valuation of the finances of Phil Anschutz are currently stated as 10.3 billion dollars.

 

Sources:

AEG Valuation - NY Times -- 2012

Anschutz Valuation - Forbes -- 2015

 

New England Revolution

Ownership Group: Kraft Soccer, LLC

 

Robert Kraft and the Kraft Group are most known in North America for the New England Patriots, and being confused with Kraft foods which are not the same company.  The Kraft Group are a conglomerate with vested interests from Foxborough to Tel Aviv.

 

The current valuation of Robert Kraft is set at 4.0 billion dollars. The Kraft Group reparted income is 3.55 billion per year.

 

Sources:

Kraft Group Valuation - Forbes

Robert Kraft personal - Forbes

 

Colorado Rapids

Ownership Group: Kroenke Sports Enterprises

 

Stan Kroenke has a lot of money. You typically don't make a lot of money by spending more money than you make. By not spending a lot of money and owning sports teams you get Stan Kroenke.  Kroenke's group, KSE, owns the St Louis Rams, The Colorado Avalanche, The Colorado Rapids, The Denver Nuggets, as well as the largest share in Arsenal Football Club.

 

Stan Kroenke's personal fortune is set at the current value of 5.8 billion dollars.

 

Source:

Stan Kroenke's Financials - Forbes

 

New York Red Bull

Ownership Group: Red Bull Company Limited

 

Red Bull is going through a downturn, or at least a disinterest in their New York franchise. That seems to be the jist of the information that I read from the fans that write on the club utilizing the ever shady "sources" and "a person closely linked with the club". As it stands, while things may not be on the upswing for Red Bull New York, they still have quite a bit of money.

 

Co-Owner Dietrich Mateschitz is himself a billionaire at 9.8 billion dollars while the Yoovidhya family has assets in excess of 9.9 billion. Meanwhile the company valuation is set at $7.5 billion dollars with global sales of $6.7 billion dollars.

 

Sources:

Dietrich Mateschitz Financials - Forbes

Yoovidhya Family Financials - Forbes

Red Bull Financials - Forbes

 

Seattle Sounders

Ownership Group: Joe Roth, Adrian Hanauer, Drew Carey and Paul Allen (Vulcan Sports and Entertainment)

 

The Sounders ownership group has a lot of money. With the backing of Vulcan Sports and Paul Allen, they exist as one of the richest ownership groups in the league only being surpassed by New York City FC and possibly Toronto FC.

 

Paul Allen is worth a cool 17 billion. Joe Roth is worth 700 million by himself and even minority business owner Drew Carey is worth at least 165 million dollars. This doesn't include the finances of Adrian Hanauer which are probably not enough to substantially move the needle of this ownership group upwards.

 

Sources:

Paul Allen Financials - Forbes

Joe Roth Financials - The Richest

Drew Carey Financials - Business Insider - 2012

 

Toronto FC

Ownership Group: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainmet

 

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment isn't a new face on the block as they've been around as a company since 1931. The organization was founded by Conn Smythe which, if you happen to follow hockey, is kinda a big name in the game.

 

Eventually MLSE was taken private from being public and is now owned by two of the largest media companies in Canada in Rogers Communication and Bell Canada (as well as other shareholders since the two companies own 79.53% of the company). MLSE owns the  Maple Leafs, the Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC, The Air Canada Centre, as well as managing BMO Field.

 

The equity value of MLSE is $1.2 billion dollars. The enterprise value is $1.6 billion dollars

I will say that the simple numbers alone of MLSE don't tell the tale as you must consider the financial power of Rogers Communication and Bell Canada that exists behind the company. Rogers alone had revenues of 12.42 billion (CAD) in 2011 with a net income of 1.56 billion (CAD). Bell Canada had revenues of $19.49 billion in 2011 and a net income of 2.159 billion in 2010 (CAD). These are major corporations with major financial clout at their disposal.

 

Source:

MLSE Financials - The Globe And Mail - 2011

 

Vancouver Whitecaps

Ownership Group: Greg Kerfoot, Jeff Mallett, Steve Luczo and Steve Nash

 

Vancouver mark a group ownership eclipsing of a billion dollars. While it is sometimes difficult to pin down financials of people under the billion dollar mark, The Province was able to make an educated guess on the financials. Owner Jeff Mallet is already the principal owner of the San Francisco Giants, the principal investor in Derby County, and was part owner of the WPS (Women's Professional Soccer).

 

According to a Globe and Mail article, Mallet had a net worth of $805 million dollars in 2000 before the dot-com meltdown.

 

As the article says,

"One of his first post-Yahoo moves was buying a stake in the San Francisco Giants, then in the midst of a 48-year World Series drought. (Mallett had stashed away most of his money in "safe investments," but set aside a chunk to put into sports ventures and high-tech plays.) He'd also been keeping tabs on MLS from Silicon Valley since its debut in 1996; Yahoo had signed on as a league sponsor." - The Globe and Mail

 

Greg Kerfoot has been referenced as " the Bigfoot of the Pacific Northwest because nobody has seen him" by a Southsiders president in a Globe and Mail article. Luczo made over $19 million dollars a year in 2013 just in his compensation package for Seagate, while Steve Nash chugs along with a rumored net worth of $95 million dollars.

 

Sources:

Group Financials - The Province via Canada.com

Steve Nash Financials - Celebrity Net Worth

Steve Luczo Financials - Forbes

Jeff Mallett Net Worth from 2000 - The Globe and Mail

 

FC Dallas

Ownership Group: Hunt Sports Group

 

Hunt Sports Group is one of the grandaddies in American Sports. Lamar Hunt single-handedly did more to spread the gospel of soccer in the United states than most people will ever actually know. He owned three Major League Soccer teams at the same time and financed the construction of Columbus Crew Stadium. He brought the Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas) into the league.

 

He owned the Dallas Tornados through multiple leagues during the NASL days. Hunt founded the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL. With Hunt Sports Group now divested of the Columbus Crew and Sporting KC, they still own a portion of the Chicago Bulls and the Kansas City Chiefs. Hunt Sports Group sold the Crew for $68 million dollars to Anthony Precourt in 2013.

 

Hunt Sports Group was valued at 1.3 billion in 2013.

 

Source:

Hunt Sports Group Financials - Dallas Morning News

 

San Jose Earthquakes

Ownership Group: John Fisher and Lew Wolff

 

Not much is known about how much money Lew Wolff has in his possession. There is plenty of speculation out there but no hard facts.

 

It is much easier when we come to John Fisher who is currently estimated to have $2.8 billion dollars.

 

However, the two run their sports franchises like a business as Wolff stated about the Oakland A's in 2014,

"Our business is run like any other business. We have very strict budgeting. The budget emanates from major league salary. That’s our major expense and we try to keep it at or below 50 percent of our projected revenue. Everything else flows from that." - Comcast Sports Net California

 

Source:

John Fisher Financials - Forbes

 

Houston Dynamo

Ownership Group: AEG, Golden Boy Productions and Brener International Group

 

Oscar De La Hoya and Gabriel Brener together invested in the Houston Dynamo and now own 50 percent of the club. AEG owns the other half. Brener and De La Hoya certainly contribute a hefty amount in the realm of a $350 to $500 million dollar investment, but it is, again, the 50% of the club owned by $2 to $4 billion dollar AEG that elevates this often financially overlooked franchise to super power status. They may not always get the love from AEG that the LA Galaxy do, but they do have all the possibilities of hefty financial backing.

 

Sources:

AEG Valuation - NY Times -- 2012

Anschutz Valuation - Forbes -- 2015

Gabriel Brener Valuation - Celebrity Net Worth

 

Atlanta MLS

Ownership Group: AMB Group

Self made man Arthur Blank is the new kid on the block in Major League Soccer. The owner of the Atlanta Falcons and the co-founder of Home Depot has purchased a stake in Major League Soccer for a "Coming Soon" project. Blank's recent financial evaluation puts him at $2.4 billion dollars.

 

Source:

Arthur Blank - Forbes

 

Los Angeles Football Club

Ownership Group: 24 people

 

There's quite a few owners in Los Angeles Football Club. 24, at least as currently announced via their website. You have people such as Mia Hamm, Nomar Garciapara, Vincent Tan, Magic Johnson and Peter Guber. It's hard to try to aggregate all this information, I mean Vincent Tan alone has a net worth of $1.4 billion dollars and a really neat collection of high waist pants.

 

Howler Magazine (via writer Jake Cohen) attempted to put a handle on how much money the group would have available. At a base value we can estimate it as $4.5 billion dollars, but this is probably a very conservative estimate. Also, this original total was estimated when there were 22 partners, and there are now 24.

 

Source:

LAFC Financials - Howler Magazine via Forbes

 

Sporting Kansas City

Ownership Group: OnGoal, LLC

 

Sporting Kansas City completed one of the most remarkable turnarounds in regards to community relevance under the watchful eye of OnGoal LLC, recently. On Goal purchased the franchise from Hunt Sports Groups and proceeded to build them into an MLS Cup champion and perennial sell out in a gorgeous new facility.  In regards to their financials, I was able to find information on Neal Patterson and Cliff Illig.

 

Patterson's current net worth is valued at $1.7 billion dollars

Illig's current net worth is valued around $1 billion dollars.

 

Source:

Neal Patterson Financials - Forbes

Cliff Illig Financials - Forbes

 

The Multimillionaire:

 

Orlando City SC

Ownership Group: Orlando Sports Holdings, LLC

Brazilian Flavio Augusto da Silva, Stoke native Phil Rawlins and John Bonner run the new MLS team on the block, Orlando City SC. Augusto da Silva has his current wealth estimated at $446 million dollars while Rawlins is set at $40 to 60 million.

 

Sources:

Flavio Agusuto da Silva Financials - Forbes

Phil Rawlins Financials Best Guess - SBNation Blog

 

The Unverifiable Rich:

 

DC United

Ownership Group: DC United Holdings

 

DC United's ownership financial capabilities are a bit tricky to pin down. There are articles that indicate that Thohir is a billionaire and then there are those that indicate no such thing.  An article by Il Gionro (linked here) indicates that Thohir has a value of $25 billion dollars. Bloomberg refers to him as "billionaire Erick Thohir" in an article on financials and Inter Milan.

 

Blog BlackandRedUnited.com attempted to put this information together on Thohir with the same difficulty. It's tough to pin down exactly how much Thohir has, but it does appear that he very likely has enough capital between him and the other owners of DC United (Jason Levien and William Chang) to say that they belong in the billionaire category.

 

Source:

DC United Financial guesses - Black and Red United

 

Montreal Impact

Ownership Group: Free 2 Play Holdings

 

The Saputo's themselves are an immensely wealthy Canadian family. How much money of that Joey has access to is the major question.

 

Joey Saputo is the principal Investor-Operator of the Montreal Impact. The Saputo Family is the founder of Saputo, a major international dairy products company. Their current valuation is a $3.5 billion dollars (US) or $4.3 billion Canadian. Another article published on Gianluca Di Marzio indicated that Saputo's net worth is between $4 and 9 billion Euros however no indication is given whether or not that is just "lifted" from the financial worth of the Saputo Family Fortune.

 

As it is, the Saputo Family, Joey Saputo and the Montreal Impact are definitely linked as the Saputo family donated $7.5 million for the building of Saputo Stadium.

 

Sources:

Saputo Family Financials - CTV Montreal News

Joey Saputo Rumored Financials - Gianluca Di Marizio.com

 

Philadelphia Union

Ownership Group: Keystone Sports and Entertainment, LLC

 

It can be a bit difficult to attempt to pin down Keystone Sports and Entertainment in the realm of finances. You have Jay Sugarman, whose personal fortune is seemingly tied into his stock holdings with iStar Financial. You have the Buccini borthers and Dave Pollin who run a property development company which includes major international properties and real estate holdings in excess of 3 billion dollars. And you have more other shareholders such as Weston Solutions and YSC-Graham Investments, as well as Joseph Greco and David Seltzer

 

In the end, it seems likely that Philadelphia Union is backed by possibly hundreds of million of dollars up to billions of dollars. Since none of the financial information on the web hit the required mark to indicate exactly what the Union has, their true financial state remains a mystery.

 

Source:

Information and guesses on the state of the Philadelphia Union Finances - Brotherly Game.com

 

Real Salt Lake

Ownership Group: Dell Loy Hansen

 

Not much can be said about the finances and business of Dell Loy Hansen other than he definitely has SOME money, but it is anyone's guess as to how much. A partner in Salt Lake for quite a while, Hansen eventually bought out owner Dave Checketts  to be the sole owner of Real Salt Lake. It's anyone's guess as to how this will translate in the long run for RSL, but this quote from the Salt Lake Tribune, "Hansen, a man whose soccer knowledge once came almost entirely from the book Soccernomics," shows the level of Hansen's knowledge when purchasing the full shares of Real Salt Lake.

 

As well, we know that recently

 

Dell Loy

 

The one thing that we are able to find is that Hansen's company, Wasatch Property Management, has a real estate portfolio of over 1.2 billion dollars.

 

Source:

Wasatch Property Management Financials - Salt Lake Tribune

 

 

The Unverifiable "Other":

 

Chicago Fire

Ownership Group: Andell Holdings, LLC

 

Well, this is what I found out about Andell Holdings.

 

Andell Holdings, LLC is a private equity firm specializing in growth capital, acquisitions, and mezzanine financings. It invests in middle markets and mature companies. The firm primarily invests in branded businesses; luxury goods; leisure or lifestyle; hospitality and travel; media and entertainment; marketing and distribution; food processing or manufacturing; wine and spirits; sports and promotion; and real estate. It generally makes investments in United States and Canada. 

 

Meanwhile searches for Andrew Hauptman vary between the irate blog posts about the owner of the Fire to an article in Architectural Digest talking about their 20,000 square foot house outside of Los Angeles. Hauptman's wife is Ellen Bronfman Hauptman, the daughter of Canadian billionaire Charles Bronfman and is an active partner in Andell Holdings.

 

I think it can clearly be said that Hauptman is wealthy. As to how much wealth? It is anyone's guess.

 

Sources:

Charles Bronfman Finances - Forbes

 

Columbus Crew

Ownership Group: Precourt Sports Ventures LLC

 

Much like Andrew Hauptman, Anthony Precourt's finances are extremely hard to pin down. His father was a successful businessman and was the CEO of Tejas Gas Corporation as well as serving on the board of Halliburton. Meanwhile J. Anthony Precourt Jr's extremely limited bio says that he is a successful business man as well.

 

As to what Precourt Sports Ventures and Precourt Capital Management DO, how much they make and where Anthony Precourt made his money? Who knows.  Precourt Capital Management is typically listed as " an investment management and private equity investment firm based in San Francisco" in almost every description that the company receives.

 

The only thing I could really find is that Mr. J Anthony Precourt of Precourt Capital Management donated 5000 dollars to the Wyoming Refining Company Political Action Committee in 2009.

 

Portland Timbers

Ownership Group: Peregrine, LLC

 

Merrit Paulson is the son of former U.S. Treasury Secretary and former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Hank Paulson. The acquisition of the Timbers and the Portland Beavers happened in 2007 for the reported amount of $16 million dollars. The actual amount was undisclosed, it should be noted, however this $16 million number appears repeatedly in articles and magazines on the deal.

 

The acquisition was characterized thusly in a long form article on MLS Soccer.com written by Nick Firchau

 

"As Paulson’s business acumen grew he was also well aware he had a golden ticket in the form of his father’s fortune and faith, and that it would lead to something larger in the sports world. He says he was offered a “one-bullet deal,” where his father would financially back one large investment in a professional sports franchise, and that eventually led to a foray into Major League Soccer in 2005." - Nick Firchau, MLS Soccer.com

 

It's plain to see that if we evaluate the overall finances of the Timbers that we must take into account the backing of Hank Paulson, while understanding that as Merrit Paulson indicated, "He was offered a 'one-bullet deal' where his father would financially back one large investment in a professional sports franchise". If we look at it in that light, it is likely that while Hank Pauslon has backed Merrrit Paulson that Merrit is not able to just freely utilize the full amount that Hank has available, much like Joey Saputo and the Saputo family billions.

 

Source:

Hank Paulson Estimated Finances from 2006 - Forbes

 

 

 

TOTALS:

 

As said at the beginning, there are 22 ownership groups in Major League Soccer and out of these 22 different ownership groups 14 are backed financially by finances over a billion dollars. For the eight teams that are difficult to verify, four are certainly backed by a decent amount of money (Montreal, DC United, Real Salt Lake, and Philadelphia) which leaves four teams (Portland, Chicago, Columbus, Orlando) that are towards the lower part of the financial spectrum in Major League Soccer.

 

However, this information above doesn't take into account current value for money and the ability of a team to make a profit against their current expenditures.

 

When Forbes ran an article on Major League Soccer's most valuable teams, the veil was lifted (at least with information from the 2012 season) on overall revenue and operating income for the teams. Based purely on the 2012 season, 10 clubs made a profit in 2012.

 

#1 Seattle

#2 LA Galaxy

#3 Portland Timbers

#4 Houston Dynamo

#5 Toronto FC

#6 Sporting Kansas City

#7 FC Dallas

#8 Montreal Impact

#9 Philadelphia Union

#10 New England Revolution

 

Source:

MLS Team Valuations - Forbes - 2013

 

Out of these 10 clubs, Seattle showed their earning potential making 18.2 million dollars for the 2012 season in profit. Portland was the next closest in terms of operating income with 9.4 million dollars. This information is taking into money after expenditures but before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

 

What's interesting with these numbers is that if you believe the players union salary numbers that come from the MLS Players Union (which is in and of itself a contentious point) then the Portland Timbers in 2014 spent less money (roughly 5.2 million) in total base salary than they made in profit during the 2012 season. With ticket prices being raised and more seats added between the 2012 and 2015 season, the Timbers likely increased their revenue stream. As well, they added the Simple bank sponsorship for their warm up kits and signed a new sponsorship deal with Providence Health Care for the naming rights to the stadium. They, as well, renewed the Alaska Airlines sponsorship for the front of the Timbers uniform.

 

So while certainly Portland is one of the least financially backed teams in Major League Soccer, they are also simultaneously one of the few teams in Major League Soccer making a rather nice amount of profit off of the team.

 

At the end of the 2014 season, the Timbers base salary was 5.2 million dollars. This was during a season in which the Timbers had large amounts of allocation money for making the CONCACAF Champions league and a legitimate reason to run a larger squad.

 

Source:

This tableu and article from stathunting.com

 

Based on the finances above and the fact that the team will not be competing in the CCL, I would expect that the overall squad costs to decrease from the end of 2014, even if the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows for an increase to the MLS Salary cap.

 

Portland Timbers base salary totals for the beginning of the season for each season they played in Major League Soccer.

2014 - 3.7 million

2013 - 3.2 million

2012 - 4.16 million

2011 - 2.6 million

 

These numbers can change dramatically based upon the needs of the season as they did during 2015 when the Timbers desperately needed to fix their defense and they spent 1.5 million dollars on Liam Ridgewell.

 

So the Timbers sit in a very weird position. On one hand, the marquee name players are simply out of their reach, for the most part. They almost certainly cannot outbid Toronto FC, LA Galaxy, NYCFC for a certain type of player which, despite the best intentions of Major League Soccer, is seemingly how name brand marquee players are assigned in the league. As well, despite the love that a fan might have for their city, Portland is not New York City or Los Angeles in the eyes of the international player.

 

On the other hand, the Timbers are turning a profit after expenditures and have the ability to increase player spending when the total amount of their profit from 2012 ($9.4 million dollars) almost exceeded the total players salaries from the start of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 season combined (9.96 million dollars).

 

How do the Timbers move forward into a league that is fighting against the players for control of Free Agency?

 

If we look at the idea of Southampton FC as an example. The academy of Southampton has allowed the team to be financially relevant and competitive, in recent times, in the hyper-moneyed Barclay's Premier League despite Southampton not being a destination city or club.

 

While servicing a tiny area of England, the academy has turned out players such as Gareth Bale, Wayne Bridge, Calum Chambers, Theo Walcott, Luke Shaw, Alex Oxlade-Chamerblain, and Adam Lallana. The sale of Shaw, Lallana and Chambers brought in over $45 million dollars. As well, with creative scouting and appropriate player acquisitions, the club has been able to acquire value at needed positions with players that aren't necessarily name brand. They utilize these players (see: Dejan Lovren) and sell them on with great value to other teams ( see: Liverpool).

 

The way forward for the Timbers, given their league financial standing, is extremely careful scouting, avoiding rash decisions with front office moves. and creating talent from within to generate both good play and financial stability with the club. Certainly the implementation of the T2 USL side will allow the team to see the talent they have available at a lower level, however it is from the academy system that the Timbers must excel. They must find a way to identify and develop young soccer talent that can be then brought up to the senior squad..

 

The short and long term view of the Timbers finances indicates that unless Merritt Paulson takes on an additional financial backer, that the Timbers have already been lapped many times over in the financial "space race" of Major League Soccer. As of right now, the Timbers (as shown above) are very clearly behind at least 14 other teams in the league in terms of financial backing.

 

However, they are also one of the most valuable clubs due to the patronage of their fanbase and their current sponsorship appeal. The worry for Timbers fans is that the team has yet to develop a player from the ground up that has made an impact on the senior team. The counter argument to that is that the Timbers Academy has only recently been active.

 

However you see the academy argument the Timbers currently do not have a single homegrown player on their roster for the 2015 season. The Timbers must be better at building talent from within if they expect to have a source of income and talent to challenge the upper echelon of MLS.

 

Before Major League Soccer transitions even further into the inevitable free for all that is is trending towards, the Portland Timbers must have a plan of attack that allows them to win.

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