Warts and All

So I watched the first half of First Kick last night, desperate for my initial 2011 fix of domestic ball with the training wheels taken off. Not having a particular rooting interest for either team (beyond wishing it were possible that both could lose), I found myself a detached viewer, imagining, as I suppose is only natural for the inherently insecure long-term American soccer fan, what someone from foreign climes peering in at our exotic little strain of the game would think or what assumptions they might make about MLS given this brief window into our world.

I'm sure the first impression would be one of surprise. The standard "Americans don't get (and don't want to get) football" attitude, while sadly true for a majority of the US sporting public, seemed to be dashed against the rocks of a 30k+ crowd that really seemed to be into the game. And singing. In the rain. On a Tuesday night. And the game got off to a flying start, with some sure touches and nice passing sequences generating half-chances both ways in the opening minutes. But things dropped off from there.

The rain did no favors to the surface for the TV-watching audience, and the surface in turn did few favors for the players. Veteran observers will have forgiven the poor touches, lack of sharpness, and muddled play on a combination of the wet plastic carpet and the fact that this was the first game of the season. No matter the stature of the league or the quality of players assembled, they always need a month or two to really bed into the season and gel as a team. Still, there wasn't much attractive to watch from a neutral perspective.

And that goes for dress as well as play. The Sounders' home kits are an abomination. Let's forgive for a moment the neon green. Pair that color with black, white, or even navy and it's not so hideous. But with a lighter blue? And to take said combination and throw random silver slashes about so that the result looks like the fabric store's deep-discout rack spontaneously exploded? Awful.

Add in two keepers in long pants [1] and the LA coaching staff rocking the Trucker Hats and Tracksuits™look, and you'd be forgiven somewhat if your abiding image of Major League Soccer, Mr. Anonymous Foreign Guy, is this horror show...

Hey, wait! Those Mutiny jerseys look suspiciously like...never mind.

In any case, I can't say whether this notional foreign dude would have been impressed with the second half as East Coast time caught up to me at the half. Watching the highlights of the remainder of the game this morning, the LA goal was certainly well struck, though Keller of 3-5 years ago probably manages to tip it wide. So I have no idea if the play improved enough to provide a distraction from the shiny plastic, the blinding jerseys, and the trucker hats, or if the crowd's enthusiasm dampened in the drizzle [2].

What I do know is that I'm glad MLS is back, warts and all.

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[1]  Off the top of my head, I can only think of three MLS keepers that consistently wear long pants...not that there's anything wrong with that (save for when Saunders was at his most "beach-bummiest" two years ago), but what are the chances of having 2 out of 3 on display here?

[2]  I don't think it did. In fact, I'm not sure if it was an audio editing flub in the highlights or just pure, mind-numbingly willful ignorance combined with a fierce devotion to cliché on the part of the dude calling the game to say that Juninho's strike "silenced the crowd" when on the highlights they were clearly still singing. 


  1. I think Adrian Healey read Donovan's pre-game remarks about silencing the crowd and had prepared that quip for any goal that put LA in the lead.

    ESPN's production team as a whole was in preseason mode. Bretos said Davies played for "Sochaux and Montbeliard" (rather than Sochaux-Montbeliard, or just plain ol' Sochaux) and a graphic later said Sochaux was a Swedish club. My guess is that the production staff had few, if any, soccer fans on it...not that this is a surprise. I guess I should just be thankful they got the formations right, unlike FSC (whose success rate is maybe 50% in that category, and it plummets when you get out of MLS).

    The game didn't improve in the 2nd half in terms of quality on the ball, but LA did some smart things positionally to snuff Seattle's attacks out. That's why LA is probably the Supporters Shield frontrunner; they can be without crucial starters, play ugly, yet win on one moment of quality. They're going to do that a lot this season.

  2. Yeah, as soon as ESPN hit the "Taylor Twellman Twitters during the match" nadir in the pre-game, I thumbed the volume down to where I could hear a little crowd noise and the booth voices, but not what those voices were saying.

  3. This is how giddy I was to have MLS soccer on the TVputer again: I didn't turn the sound down even after Taylor's Twittergasm.

    I know. I know.

  4. No thoughts on Saturday??

  5. Saturday thoughts are finally up. Got bit by the "local blackouts may apply" bug. Where the hell are all the pirate feeds when you need them ;-)?