MLS First Kick: Thoughts
MLS seems to always get its timing wrong. Last night’s MLS First Kick went head to head with the first night of the great American sporting event known as the NCAA Tournament. March Madness which is in many ways an Americanized version of the FA Cup is in some ways more recognizable to European tastes than MLS Football, particularly when it is played on an artificial pitch.
MLS is in its fourteenth season, yet is now putting a team for the first time in the most natural football market in the US. Seattle is a can’t miss. We’ve all known that from the beginning. In due time this will probably be the biggest and best supported club on US soil since the New York Cosmos. Seattle is a market which long deserved top flight football, and finally has it. USL did well in Seattle as did the old APSL and the NASL. MLS however can put Seattle over the top.
What is disconcerting is the other side of the coin: Red Bull New York. Despite a run to the MLS Cup Final a year ago, the franchise operates in a total vacuum locally. Searching the New York daily newspapers hardly a mention of the game besides the obligatory buried story. A contact of mine who spoke to me last night because of the NCAA Tournament mentioned to me “they didn’t even mention your soccer game on the local news” It’s hard to believe Red Bull actually was a good investment for the soft drink manufacturer that is used to the rabid support and frequent media exposure of Europe. Perhaps Red Bull would have been better served investing in an MLS or USL franchise in the Pacific Northwest where Football seems to really matter.
With USL’s decision to put a team in New York City in the near future, we will find out if New Yorkers will back an Americanized version of football or if they prefer the European game and the glory of the Cosmos so much that they will not properly support a local team. I’ve been given a laundry list of excuses for over ten years as to why the New Jersey MLS franchise struggles not only at the gate but to garner any sustained meaningful media coverage. After ten plus years of excuses you tend to tune them out, which I have chosen to do.
ESPN’s coverage of the match was like a glorified infomercial for MLS. When ESPN was being paid to air the league amateurish broadcasts were one thing, but now that MLS is actually receiving a rights fee, the booth and studio do not need to be filled with yes men who will never even critique the level of play or the quality of footballer.
The opposite view is held by Telefutura whose commentators have a Mexican bias and often times simply rip the quality of play for no reason. Nobody who watches both leagues has to my knowledge ever claimed MLS is a superior product to the FMF. The assertion that MLS is somehow superior is only made by MLS apologists that don’t watch Mexican Football. In other words, Telefutura’s commentators need not be defensive. The Bottom line is that on neither ESPN or Telefutura is an MLS game being called or presented properly or objectively.
Not surprisingly, Seattle dominated the match. If the Artificial Turf does not cause a disproportionate number of injuries for the Sounders or limit their ability to play attractive attacking football, Seattle should be one of the favorites to win MLS Cup this season. Additionally, for probably about the hundredth time in the last year I am going to call upon Bob Bradley to call Kasey Keller back to the national team. I have no doubt that Keller is still at 39, a far superior keeper, particularly in key international matches than the mistake prone Brad Guzan.
- Marcus Tracy, the Wake Forest standout and Hermann Trophy winner who skipped MLS for a career in Europe has made his continental debut. Tracy entered AaB’s match with Manchester City in minute 77 and had a major impact on the proceedings stretching the City defense and helping Aalborg create four scoring chances in the final ten minutes of regulation time. Tracy’s side lost in a penalty kick shootout, but his 43 minutes on the pitch showed exactly why he would have been the likely #1 pick in the MLS Superdraft had he opted for to stay at home to play professional football.
- Reports out of Spain indicate Jozy Altidore whose club career has hit a major road block will be called into Bob Bradley’s US National Team for the upcoming qualifiers. We’ll find out the rest of the team early Friday.
- I’m hearing speculation that Crystal Palace USA, currently in USL-2 may move to USL-1 next year and replace an exisiting USL-1 franchise. Any guess who the existing franchise may be? Also, with Crystal Palace itself in some financial difficulty, it is interesting that their US based affiliate is potentially jumping to a higher level of football.