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andrew wiebe

05 February 6:06 pm

Gus Johnson has some work to do. Five-and-a-half years worth, to be exact.

On Tuesday, Sports illustrated's sports media maven Richard Deitsch let us in on Fox Sports' plans to put an American voice, and a distinctive one at that, on center stage during the 2018 World Cup in Russia. That would be Johnson, known for his high-energy play-by-play coverage in college basketball, who surprised many by branching into soccer last year – check out the clip of some of his calls as a radio broadcaster for the San Jose Earthquakes above as well as his interview with ExtraTime Radio (scroll down to the May 2, 2012 episode).

Of course, Johnson won't get thrown in the deep end come 2018. Fox is dedicated to building him up from water wings to the equivalent of play-by-play free diving through their other soccer properties, most notably Champions League broadcasts. Along those lines, Johnson will make his prime-time debut on Feb. 13 when Real Madrid faces Manchester United in Round of 16 action, and augment his CL duties with English Premier League MC honors as well as stints in the booth for the Champions League and FA Cup finals.

Now, Johnson isn't exactly a universal taste in the sports world, mostly because of his sugar-high style of bombastic broadcasting. He also has a very limited background with the Beautiful Game, admitting he's a soccer "novice" in the grand scheme of things.

To his credit, Johnson has closed-door run-throughs under his belt in addition to Quakes duty, but the Champions League knockout stage isn't exactly a low-profile way to kick things off for a novice, especially with a pair of internationally relevant Cup finals on the docket. You can bet the American soccer Twitterati and blogosphere are going to be looking for chinks in his soccer armor from the minute he opens his mouth.

Deadspin already gave their take here, and – to no one's surprise – it wasn't entirely positive and posed the following question: What will Johnson do without a bevy of opportunities to exhibit his trademark excitability? It's a valid point.

Meanwhile, I'm a bit torn.

On one hand, I'd love for American soccer fans to once again have an American voice to narrate the world's biggest sporting event. On the other, Johnson is going to have to remake himself in the booth, a move that could turn out smelling like roses or, just as easily, reek like a crowded subway car in the midst of an oppressive NYC summer. More likely, Fox's experiment is going to fall somewhere in between, and that makes me wonder what the decision to groom Johnson says about the network's opinion of the current crop of American soccer broadcasters.

Apparently, they're not good enough to develop into national voices in five-plus years, although I don't subscribe to that belief. More likely, they're simply not flashy enough and have yet to break through into the American sporting consciousness. Or they're already contracted to a competitor.

All of which is fine. I get what Fox is trying to do. But, like everyone else, I have no idea how the network's gambit will turn out.

What I do know is that I'll follow the building crescendo from Feb. 13 until the summer of 2018. If nothing else, Johnson's unique style won't let us tear our eyes and ears away from the action. Whether that's a good thing remains to be seen.

05 February 4:55 pm

When Jay DeMerit fell to the Vancouver Whitecaps ahead of their inaugural MLS season, most figured they'd landed the linchpin of their team for years to come.

Nobody could have guessed how quickly or fully DeMerit would embrace life in British Columbia, though. So much so that he's all settled down in the northern-most reaches of Cascadia. Literally.

He put a ring on a local celebrity (Canadian Olympic Ski Cross Gold Medalist Ashleigh McIvor) and has no trouble rattling off 'hoods (he lives in Gastown) like he's been posted up in Vancouver for years.

“The thing I love about this city is that it can really grip you in a lot of different ways,” DeMerit told WhitecapsFC.com.

“I met my fiancée here and I’ve been able to take my life to the next level,” added the World Cup veteran. “That’s what we all want in our lives and our careers, and this city has allowed me to do that on both ends.”

Bravo, Jay. Looks like you're doing just fine.

05 February 4:26 pm

If you've got your finger on the pulse of the American soccer scene, you know the name Shawn Francis – former MLS Insider and curator of the fantastic blog The Offside Rules.

Once again, SF's shed some light on a clip that's got viral written all over it, and I just can't resist sharing since Alex Morgan + Katy Perry = the Internet breaking.

What are you waiting for? Hit play and enjoy US soccer's biggest star doing her best KP impression.

Oh yeah, let us know what you think in the comment section below. Just keep it civilized.

UPDATE: The final product can be seen here.

04 February 7:01 pm

I can't always make out what's being said in this video from the Impact – my French is a bit rusty ... and by rusty, I mean nonexistent – but this really is must-watch stuff.

It seems owner Joey Saputo and head coach Marco Schällibaum aren't opposed to some nontraditional team building, in this case a rag-tag, Quebec-style Amazing Race complete with snow-shoe races, paddle ball and insect consumption.

I'd try to describe it in more detail, but you just have to watch to understand. And yes, Saputo chomps down on his full share of creepy crawlies.

04 February 3:11 pm

Bob Bradley never could completely win over American fans or journalists during his time at the helm of the US national team, sentiments that look increasingly misguided as his accomplishments benefit from time and perspective.

But nobody can dispute the fact that Bradley has been the epitome of grace since arriving in Egypt to lead the country's national team. In the wake of the Port Said tragedy, Bradley took to the streets to mourn. And he never left when others would have been tempted to take the first flight out of Cairo, staying put as Egypt's political structure and domestic league descended into chaos. In the process, the stoic tactician earned the respect and admiration of a soccer-mad nation desperate to see their team succeed against all odds.

Now, the Pharaohs are doggedly trying to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, currently sitting atop Group G with six points after two matches.

Can they make it to Brazil? That remains to be seen, but they've certainly overcome staggering odds to get this far during arguably the most turbulent period in Egypt's modern history.

Watch Bradley's recent interview with CNN above and let us know what you think in the comment section below. Has your opinion of him changed in the past year?

04 February 2:34 pm

While we were busy debating whether the Fire or Crew got the better end of a deal that sent Dilly Duka and the right of first refusal to Robbie Rogers to Chicago and Dominic Oduro, Rogers was finding out the news on his own.

No phone call. No nothing.

The former Leeds United winger took to Twitter Monday morning to express surprise that his MLS rights had changed hands.

Bizarre? Sure, but perhaps par for the course in the often wacky world of MLS swaps.

02 February 6:03 pm

We won't know Jurgen Klinsmann's full roster for the US national team's World Cup qualifier against Honduras until Monday, but a celebrity sighting appears to have revealed at least one name on the list.

That would be Sporting KC's Matt Besler, who scored a picture with Kim Kardashian on a flight to Miami (destination revealed thanks to Ms. Kardashian's personal account) and tweeted it to his followers with this message: "Yes, of course you can sit next to me on my flight this morning. Nothing to worry about, Kayne."

Smooth, Matt. Real smooth.

Just spell Kanye's name right next time, OK?

 

25 January 5:46 pm

Could Jozy Altidore be the first American to capture a Golden Boot on European shores?

He's certainly on the right track at the moment, finding himself alone in poll position after scoring his 15th league goal of the season on Friday against VVV Venlo (above). With a little more than half a season in the books, only Vitesse's Wilfried Bony has scored more in the Dutch top flight with 16 goals.

Friday's goal, an effort reminiscent of a certain Frenchman now playing with Altidore's former club in New York, matched the American striker's total for all of last season with AZ. It also matched Michael Bradley's haul with Heerenveen during the 2008-09 season.

Herculez Gomez remains the only American to capture a Golden Boot outside the United States, tying for top scorer (10 goals) in the Mexican first division while playing for Puebla in 2010.

Do you think Altidore can do it? Let us know in the comment section below.

25 January 4:11 pm

If reports in Germany are to be believed, the Chicago Fire were close to adding another German warhorse to their roster, only for Borussia Dortmund to commit to captain Sebastian Kehl for one more year.

There's been speculation in Germany that Kehl's place in the Dortmund team is at risk with Nuri Sahin returning from Real Madrid on loan, but Bild reported Wednesday that manager Jürgen Klopp will exercise the club's option on the midfielder, preventing the 32-year-old from linking up with Arne Friedrich in the Windy City.

Had the Fire been able to land Kehl – assuming their rumored interest was indeed concrete – he would have provided a direct replacement for Pável Pardo, who announced his retirement last week. As it stands, Pardo's place will most likely be filled by Jeff Larentowicz, acquired from Colorado in a trade prior to the MLS SuperDraft.

What do you think? Would Kehl be a good fit in MLS? Do the Fire even need another central midfielder after a busy offseason?

UPDATE: Word from the Fire makes this one almost certainly the work of an enterprising agent rather than actual interest in Kehl.

23 January 2:49 pm

If reports out of England are to be believed, Norwich City fans might want to familiarize themselves with heart-shaped hands and Chipotle.

On Wednesday, Sky Sports reported that, according to sources, the Canaries have made an offer for Sporting Kansas City's Kei Kamara. When contacted by MLSsoccer.com, Sporting KC declined to comment.

Kamara, a Sierra Leone international, already trained at Stoke City this offseason and "is believed to be in the last year of his contract," per the report.

Since arriving in Kansas City at the tail end of the 2009 season, the 28-year-old striker has become one of MLS' most-imposing wingers, scoring 30 goals and dishing out 18 assists in his three full years with the club.

What do you think? Should Kansas City be open to selling Kamara? How would he fit in the EPL?