Affable Alexi Lalas Refuses to Badmouth US Soccer Group Whose Aim is His Imminent Destruction

Alexi Lalas has long been the “big tent” pundit of soccer in the United States. Whether it’s getting in a twitter spat with a US national team player or defending a less-than-popular idealist reformer, Alexi has taken the ACLU First Amendment position that “all speech is good speech.” At least if that speech is about soccer. For Alexi, the tent of US soccer is big enough for different opinions and stronger for encouraging robust debate and dissent.

However, one new US soccer group just may have tested his resolve. Continue reading “Affable Alexi Lalas Refuses to Badmouth US Soccer Group Whose Aim is His Imminent Destruction” »

The Klinsmann and MLS Row: Draining a Fountain of Youth?

Jeff Carlisle at ESPNFC got some juicy nuggets from MLS executives: apparently, many are pretty angry that Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff have nudged MLS academy players to sign for European Clubs instead of MLS teams. At issue is pride, but also money: many MLS academies waive fees for players, and thus cost around $600,000 a year to maintain. When you factor in that MLS is a closed system where players rarely transfer within MLS for transfer fees (sometimes allocation money, admittedly), you can understand the MLS owners’ gripes. They invest heavily to groom a garden of players, many of whom won’t reach the highest level, and some bird swoops down when they turn 18 and takes away the ripest fruit.

However, Christian Hambleton and Michael Wheeler at the Vanderbilt “JetLaw” site point out that MLS owners may be themselves to blame: they are leaving money on the table. Continue reading “The Klinsmann and MLS Row: Draining a Fountain of Youth?” »

Some Ferocious Soccer Lynx

You know the drill. Contrary to some rumors, I am not the only person who writes about soccer. While you love my writing and would love to see three epic, full length features at this site each and every week, I’ve been pretty prolific at SoccerGods and Paste Magazine. Thus, for today at least, you’ll just have to content yourself with fine writing by other folks and links to said writing. Which is fine. I do declare. Continue reading “Some Ferocious Soccer Lynx” »

The MLS Live Blackout Black Eye

Blackouts, don’t you hate them? Look at the above image of the MLS Live playoff schedule. Blackouts pepper the screen. I’ve been trying to figure out the MLS algorithm for them. As a longtime NFL fan, most local games were (and are) blacked out on TV if the stadium failed to sell out for home games. For MLS, the formula seems to be: if a local cable network shows the game, then it gets blacked out on DirecTV and MLS Live. If NBC Sports Network shows the game, then an entire country gets the shaft. If ESPN shows a game, then there’s no MLS Live option.

Why? Well, in short, because MLS wants to get on the Cable TV gravy train while it can. However, there are a few problems. Continue reading “The MLS Live Blackout Black Eye” »

Landon Donovan: Remembering the man we never knew

The goals. The recent sabbatical. The early retirement. The World Cup snub. The goals. There’s so many trite talking points when waxing on Landon Donovan, the all-time leading goalscorer for the US Men’s National Team. For the past few months, I’ve purposely kept away from the topic to gather my thoughts and hopefully pen something different. Long-time fans will recall the criticism Donovan received as the “kid who couldn’t hack it in Europe” when he returned from Bayern Leverkusen to San Jose. This belief was given further credence when Donovan and team USA failed to advance out of the group stages at Germany ’06. Yet after 2010, fans made peace with Donovan. In 2014, may were even sad when he was left off the roster (despite no role in qualifying).

Still, what’s always most fascinated me about Donovan is not the sport, but rather his personal side. No, I don’t speak about the trite “not motivated” debate about whether “his head is in the game.” Rather, I refer to the weird anecdotes and incidents that popped up about him during his professional career. Many of these went beyond the typical “celebritydom gossip” to really make one ask: WTF? Here are some of my favs. Continue reading “Landon Donovan: Remembering the man we never knew” »

Soccer Pod Links

As you may have guessed, I live in Houston. The commute to work each day is brutal. I can feel a part of my soul die with each passing hour as I sit in my car, and not in the “Voldemort-hiding-his-soul-in-horicuxes” way – this is much more sinister and nefarious.

Luckily, there is quality audio entertainment. These fine talks talk pretty about futbol. Me talk pretty one day. Continue reading “Soccer Pod Links” »

A Treatise on the Expression “Beast Mode”

I’ve always been uneasy with the term “beast mode” as used by TV pundits when describing an energetic or impressive athletic performance. Simply put, it’s not descriptive enough. Okay, so the athlete, a human, is doing something that is beyond the scope of a normal human, therefore they are similar to a beast. I get that. But the first time I heard the phrase, I thought of a blue, buff, hairy dude hanging upside down and reading Wittgenstein. I hear “beast mode” and think - what beast?

“Beast mode” is lazy wordplay. You could just as easily say “Past great player mode” and leave it to the listener or reader to decide with whom you are comparing today’s current star. Thus, I’ve come up with some GIFS and proper, specific similes for some key soccer players. They are not necessarily in “beast mode”, but more of an “animal kingdom” zone. Enjoy. Continue reading “A Treatise on the Expression “Beast Mode”” »

A Possible Flaw with Promotion & Relegation in MLS: the Franchise Model

I won’t go into much detail over the whole promotion/relegation debate. It’s been done elsewhere. Generally, the strongest arguments supporting pro/rel are (1) Historical examples – it has worked in Europe for several decades; (2) Financial – it will lead to more investment in 2nd division teams as investors try to achieve promotion; and (3) Philosophical – it will be more “meritocratic.” The current loser gets a dope draft pick aspect to North American sports smells of socialism to some.

But any attempt to impose pro/rel on a North American landscape will encounter a muddy terrain; I speak of the loathsome “franchise” system. And luckily there’s an example South of the border for what happens when pro/rel meets the “franchise” model. Continue reading “A Possible Flaw with Promotion & Relegation in MLS: the Franchise Model” »

Compromising Pictures of Billy Haisley Explain his Distaste for MLS

Our award-wanking coverage of Deadspin’s MLS coverage has reached a new low. For those with memory problems, MLS season was about to kick off when, boom, Deadspin dropped a kinda long-ish article about why fans should not bother caring. I wrote a point-by-point response and, of course, the soft-skinned, over-internetted MLS clique responded with rage. What hurt most was not the core thesis of Billy’s argument, that MLS is a clear notch below La Liga, but the conclusion that it was therefore unwatchtable.

Still, Billy kept hammering away. MLS got all excited and announced another Southeast expansion team without a soccer-specific stadium (read: Atlanta). Bam, Billy hit the keyboards to churn out an ATL franchise take down. Again, the arguments had solid bases, but the tone…well, the tone was a bit over the top. Folks wondered – why does somebody have an axe to grind with little old MLS? What’s Billy’s deal? Did his mother attend Miami Fusion matches instead of holding him as a baby?

Then, some pictures surfaced. And now everything makes sense. Continue reading “Compromising Pictures of Billy Haisley Explain his Distaste for MLS” »

American Soccer’s Very Own Recognitions

Lo and behold, the NYTimes relocated/rebranded the Goal Blog but soccer popped up in the Style Section. The general theme was this: the young and hip urban class of New York has embraced soccer (albeit not MLS). This group of childless rapscallions flocks to bars or “pubs” on Saturday mornings to don scarves, drink overpriced imported beer, eat a warm British breakfast, and/or maybe watch grown men kick a ball on TV. Predictably, the super super trendy have backlashed. Why?

Because nobody hates hipsters more than other hipsters. Sadly, the same is probably true of soccer fans in the states. Still, what most intrigues me about this debate is the reality vs. perception of New York City. Luckily, the second part of William Gaddis’ novel The Recognitions also grapples with this slippery concept. And provides some guideposts. Continue reading “American Soccer’s Very Own Recognitions” »