If we could do just one interview in 2012, it would be…”this guy:”
Welcome back MLS…and Jay DeMerit. (Vancouver “welcomes” MLS newcomer Montreal to the big-time this afternoon).
Your weekend–and your commentary–about to go gonzo!
Whew…that took longer than expected.
Last year, a group of so-called TSG “experts” converged on Las Vegas (“got together online”) and dropped science on the 2011 MLS season that not even the father of a toddler wouldn’t cringe at.
Juan Pablo Angel for the Golden Boot (JRodius). Ouch.
Eric Alexander, breakout player (yours truly). Ouch.
And oh-so-many more.
We thought, since we enlightened everyone so much in 2011, why not do it again in 2012?! And we’ve added a crew member.
So….we’re back and we hope to better than those guys in the pic up top with our sequel; frankly can’t be much worse.
A brief re-introduction.
There’s Matt Biggerstaff. Ticketing ace by day, soccer player by evening, and electronica fan of 18+ shows (he’s in his mid-20′s) by late night. A devout San Jose fan, Biggerstaff has a bigger chip on his shoulder for Seattle than Timber Jim.
Jay Bell. Now considered the voice of reason around the TSG Hall of Justice. The experienced midwest reporter comes armed with an unfailing breath of positivity for all things MLS–heck he even thinks Eddie Johnson was a great pick-up by Seattle!
Jason Price. Life-long MLS follower, once an assistant with the Malawian national team (true), once a leading scorer in the Malawian second division (true, also!).
Dan. Free. Beer. You probably know him. If you don’t, Dan is to beer and soccer what Kim Kardashian and Pamela Anderson are to sex tapes. That didn’t sound good. Sorry Dan, roll with it. Dan, creator of the very cool Free Beer Movement.
Up next JRodius, Jared DuBois. Rodius has a son named….”Kobe Bryant,” a love for the Muppet Babies and an insatiable desire to see the Los Angeles Galaxy steamroll the competition. Jared waxes poetic each week on The Best Soccer Show…that’s self-titled of course.
And pulling up the rear, yours truly.
Let’s go…the season is about to start!
Jay Bell: Mauro Rosales. Foreign players often fare better after at least one season in the league. Rosales was good enough last year to be an MVP candidate. He’ll also get extra votes if he happens to make Eddie Johnson look good.
Price: Thierry Henry. In part, because this usually falls to a striker, yet this is far from a sure thing. Apart from developing a decent strike partnership with Kenny Cooper, there is the issue of service. Neither Marquez, Tainio, McCarty,or Palsson are playmaking central midfielders. That being said, there is no one in the league with more class and, if he stays reasonably healthy, he wins the golden boot.
JRodius: Freddy Montero. If he can put Seattle in the shield race carrying a 200-lbs grown ass black man on his back, he deserves it.
Dan, FBM: Castrol Motor Oil or League?
Biggerstaff: Wondolowski. Here’s a thought, he actually has a midfield–finally–that I am not convinced I could start in this year for the first time, San Jose (Wondo) goes crazy scoring goals, he wins the golden boot and they make the playoffs.
TSG: Mauro Rosales: The thunder of this pick stolen by it being the selection of the so-called expert above.
Rosales would have challenged Brad Davis for our MVP selection last year had he not gotten injured. In short, no player in MLS has the range of game of Rosales. While he and Landon are cut from the same cloth, Rosales shows a bigger willingness to channel the game through then Landon who rightfully demurs with the weapons around him.
Rosales’s game is specifically geared to MLS and to playing on the Seattle rug….and he’s going to dance the carpet to the MVP.
Jay Bell: Real Salt Lake. Sometimes you might give the edge to a team that didn’t qualify for the Champions League. However, LA, Seattle and RSL all look head and shoulders better than the rest of the league. I’d make Vancouver a surprise pick if the Whitecaps were in the Eastern Conference. The CCL burden was lessened this year and LA will have a lot of international call-ups, so the advantage goes to RSL.
Price: Seattle Sounders FC. Sigi has assembled an excellent side here with an excellent mix of North and South American and European talent, many in the prime of their career, with an extraordinary supportive fan base who should be rewarded. Against Santos Laguna, SSFC trotted out Rosales, Alonso, Evans and Fernandez in the midfield with This is an astonishingly well-balanced midfield with a great mix of heart, ingenuity, grit, and measure. The big question will be at striker where much of the onus will fall on Montero, who is missing a tested strike partner and a marble or two.
Dan, FBM: Los Angeles Galaxy. Yeah… Yeah they’re stacked and it’s the obvious pick, but is anyone going to argue?
TSG: Sporting KC. They’ve got an incredible home field advantage, enough offense weapons, a weak conference and they don’t have to integrate as many parts as other conference foes. The war of attrition in the West along with CONCACAF Champion’s League play has our Supporter Shield brandished in the East.
JRodius: Sporting KC. Picking LA is like taking home the drunk fatty from the bar, it’s just too easy of a way to rack up a score. I’m going to pick KC. The East is weaker than a domestic pilsner. Points aplenty…
Biggerstaff: Los Angeles Galaxy runs far far far away with their weeknight half-capacity stadium with this one.
Most Improved Player
Biggerstaff: Ryan Johnson. Not like Ryan Johnson could be worse, and he showed some flashes for Toronto FC, so lets give him the nod.
Dan, FBM: Danny Mwanga. He’s got to get more reps and more goals now that LeToux is gone. Right? Right?!
JRodius: Benny Feilhaber. This may seem odd given what we know about Benny, however, in 2011 he didn’t show who he really is. With Simms doing the dirty work in midfield and Rowe stretching the field Benny will have room to work.
TSG: Steve Beitashour. The San Jose wingback will blossom in the absence of Bobby Convey and from the ability of San Jose to play more possession ball this year.
Jay Bell: Ike Opara. Last year the guy made me look really bad when I picked him to be the best second-year player. Now he looks to have his sh*t together and could realize a lot of that potential.
Price: Ryan Johnson. The Dutch system will benefit him and he’ll have his looks at goal.
Most Overrated Player
Price: Rafa Marquez. Not Sean Franklin, most certainly Rafa Marquez.
Jay Bell: Rafa Marquez. I don’t care if he gets cut by the Red Bulls or gets sold to a Mexican team in the summer, he’ll still be overrated and vastly overpaid.
Biggerstaff: Freddy Montero. He just doesn’t do it for me. Even when he scores, it doesn’t seem like he is doing much to help the team. Doesn’t do enough with his talent.
JRodius: Jose Afolfo Valencia. This dude is so overrated I bet he doesn’t score a goal all year…
Dan, FBM: Eddie Johnson…the “GAM,” not the Timber’s man.
TSG: Kevin Alston. Taking a break from Donovan Ricketts winning it five years running. At some point you are what you are….potential unrealized.
Jay Bell: Nick Rimando. He and the RSL defense will be at full strength this season. Honorable mention to Kevin Hartman and Jimmy Nielsen.
Price: Nick Rimando. This will be an interesting year in terms of goalkeepers. Lots of new and old faces getting serious opportunities–McMath, Meara, Gspurning, Saunders, etc. Nick Rimando is the easy choice though, and probably the best one.
JRodius: Red Bull Arena Anything that can stop Kenny Cooper’s shots from regularly hitting the parking lot deserves the award.
TSG: Dan Kennedy. One day the MLS fan community will wake up and realize that Chivas USA is not a farm club for Chivas Guadalaraja–okay, that won’t happen–but they will realize that, toiling in the shadow cast by the Galaxy, is an unflappable and steady keeper who commands his box on the “other team” that plays in Carson, CA. An honorable mention to Tally Ho!…I mean Hall.
Dan, FBM: Bill Hamid. The future is now.
JRodius: Apollo Creed. Dude died fighting a Russian in Stars and Stripes short shorts… Best American EVER!
Price: Landon Donovan. As long as he stays in the league, this award will always go to Landon Donovan.
Dan, FBM: Geoff Cameron. This important for our national team.
Biggerstaff: Eddie Johnson. Hahahaha. Brek Shea will go off again, likely leave during the summer transfer window for a top 8 club in the EPL.
Jay Bell: Benny Feilhaber. “No Air” Benny is going to dare Juergen Klinsmann to continue to keep him out of the national team setup.
TSG: Alexi “Lawless.” Want to know how you start a fight? Drop by The Hangar in Manhattan Beach, CA and claim that Wayne Rooney is a better goal scorer then Edson Buddle. Watch Lalas go honey-badger on your a*s.
Jay Bell: Mauro Rosales.
Biggerstaff: Jamison Olave will lead the best defense in the MLS and will consistently shine. For like the third year in a row?
Dan, FBM: Javier Morales. Welcome back to the top.
Price: The Rooster (Brek Shea) qualifies as ‘foreigner’, no?
JRodius: Sinisa Ubiparipovic – Dude has a last name with six vowels, six syllables, ending in a “C”… You win Europe!
TSG: Hans Backe….
wait for it
Ha ha ha ha, he, he, he. Can I go with Beckham here or does his relationship with Tom Cruise and US Weekly preclude this?
Best Central American player with the first initial “M”
Jay Bell: Marco Pappa. The team improved around him last year. With an improved supporting cast, he could set afire to MLS opponents.
Dan, FBM: Mr. Andy Najar (see what I did there?)
JRodius: Marvin Chavez. New Team, New expectations, Same great height. This dude could be the key to unlocking Wondo’s second Golden Boot.
Price: This required some research. The funny thing about the drop down menu on the team tab on the players page at the MLS website is that it still includes the Tampa Bay Mutiny. Squarely odd. Anyhow, I’ve done my homework; while I’m “on with the Marvins,” it’s still got to be big Pappa,
TSG: Marco Pappa. Never. NEVER go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line! Ah, ha, ha, ha!. Wait I think I missed the question.
The Jorge Perlaza Award — Mr. Effort-Best Motor-Megabus-Award
TSG: Landon Donovan. You see what I did here. By inaugurating this award under Perlaza, I’ve got these suckers after me comparing some of the best players to him and thus increasing his brand equity. Master P owes me 5%! So. To continue the trend. Landon Donovan.
Jay Bell: Osvaldo Alonso. I had to mention him somewhere. His drive and skill in the midfield could drive Seattle to unprecedented success.
Biggerstaff: Kyle Beckerman seems to be everywhere on the field, all the time. Maybe it his hair that is reaching out and knocking balls away to teammates but whatever it is, he clogs the whole, and makes you wonder why his mother never said no to dreads.
Dan FBM: Kyle Beckerman… Midfield Man is going to be working so hard he’ll have no time to wash his hair.
JRodius: Luke Rodgers. Like all dudes that seemingly get stuck at the border, he would come to this country and work harder than anyone else.
Price: Darren Mattocks: I have no idea about his workrate, but if what people are saying is true then perhaps Darren Mattocks.
Jay Bell–who once castigated Fox Soccer–applauds NBC’s effort
The dynamics of MLS broadcasting shifted this offseason when NBC won broadcasting rights for MLS and US Soccer matches over Fox. Through the bidding process and the early glimpses of NBC’s treatment of MLS, it seems as if the league’s new partner is embracing MLS more than Fox ever did.
I wrote on TSG about 18 months ago about Fox’s detrimental coverage of soccer, mainly on the Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Soccer Plus. Things improved incrementally in 2011 with HD becoming more widely distributed and FSC’s improved coverage of MLS. Soccer Night in America (not exactly a new idea) was an improvement in picture quality, commentary and discussion.
It’s hard for fans to be too displeased when you have the commentary of J.P. Dellacamera and Kyle Martino coupled with the sideline reporting of The Original Winger down on the Bumpy Pitch (see what I did there?)
Still, Fox never really embraced the league and has instead hitched the proverbial wagon to the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League. The network’s attachment to non-MLS soccer continued with an upset victory in claiming the rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
2014 will be a very interesting year for the future of MLS broadcasting when both deals with ESPN and NBC expire. How will ESPN act on soccer going forward without rights to the World Cup? Will NBC have seen enough evidence in the first three years to continue the partnership? Will Fox jump back in?
For now, MLS fans can enjoy coverage on the NBC Sports Network and the occasional game on NBC (again, a step up from Fox). MLS is now receiving cross-channel and cross-platform marketing that it did not receive from Fox.
NHL thrived on Versus. The league gets better broadcast and informational coverage now, something that MLS fans are hoping to receive. The channel has been re-branded as the NBC Sports Network and the early numbers have been less than desired. If the MLS season arrives just in time to see ratings rise, then the relationship between MLS and NBC could grow even stronger.
That will be up to MLS fans. They should be encouraged to watch the games, get their friends to watch the games, watch the talk shows and provide feedback. It is up to MLS fans to prove to NBC that the investment in MLS was a fruitful one.
(Working on a piece we don’t want to rush….pairs with this question)
Pairs nicely with: Nyen: The AVB Doomsday Syndrome (December 2010)
Mario Balotelli vs. Tim Ream, anyone? Ream’s second Prem examination is about to get under way.