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.
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.
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.
If the trailer for American Football left you hungry for more, you're in luck.
Just in time to get Sounders fans revved up for their March 2nd season opener, Levy Films released a rough cut of their unfinished feature-length documentary on Seattle Sounders FC. The footage takes you even deeper into the world of Sigi Schmid and what it means to play on his team.
Even if the Sounders aren't your team, this video will leave you longing for the return of Major League Soccer, which is now only 26 days away. Enjoy!
WARNING: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE
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.
CORRECTION: D.C. United has not yet clinched Carolina Challenge Cup championship. I apologize for the confusion. #MLS
— Andrew Wiebe (@AndrewWiebe_MLS) March 3, 2012
North American soccer fans have heard it a thousand times from countless different voices, from FIFA boss Sepp Blatter on down: If you want to be a serious league on the world stage, move to a fall-spring schedule like everyone else (by which they actually mean Western Europe, of course).
This argument shrugs off a range of important factors behind MLS and other leagues’ choice of a spring-fall alignment, but perhaps the most important one is the simple fact that it can get awfully cold and snowy in places like Montreal, Chicago and New England every winter.
As it turns out, some people across the pond have taken note of this obvious fact, too, including one of the most powerful men in German soccer.
Namely Karl-Heinze Rummenigge, the chairman at Bayern Munich as well as the chair of the European Club Association, a lobbying group for more than 200 of Europe’s biggest clubs.
"Everywhere, be it Germany, France or England, summer is the best period of the year. And that is the season we don't play,'' Rummenigge told France Football magazine for its latest issue. "In deepest winter, when it is very cold and snowing, we play nearly all the time in conditions that are disagreeable for both players and spectators. It is not logical.
"My sense is that we are heading straight in this direction,” he added. “It's completely possible, even if this idea does not thrill our friends in South America.”
Laying out a future in which European leagues open in January and run until the fall, he predicted that the change would make for more pleasant conditions for both players and supporters and even help reduce the conflict between club and international soccer by leaving a month-long window for national-team play.
"In future, there could be two phases: one for club competitions, the other for qualifying matches or finals of the World Cup or the Euros,'' Rummenigge said. "For one month, national teams would be completely free to call up their players.''
That would also help resolve the looming problem caused by FIFA’s selection of Qatar as the host of the 2022 World Cup, allowing the desert nation to host the world’s biggest sporting event during the mild Middle Eastern winter.
Skeptical reactions from ECA and FIFA officials underlined the difficulties of making this sweeping change to the current status quo. But Stateside soccer folks can take heart from the news that Europe’s elite might actually be coming around to our way of doing things this time.
"It is clear that there will soon be negotiations to examine what can be done. My point of view is that an eventual change to the calendar shouldn't be viewed critically but more as an innovation that could improve the general context,'' Rummenigge said. "Changing the calendar carries risks but it is also an opportunity. The issue of the calendar will become more important the closer 2022 gets.''
Thierry Henry simply can't be stopped.
Even though the quality isn’t great, this video of Henry in Brazil shows why he is truly one of the best in Major League Soccer.
We're sure Red Bull fans hope Henry brings some of those quick tricks back to New York for the 2013 season.
The National Women’s Soccer League has released the list of 55 American, Canadian and Mexican players that will be allocated to the eight clubs in the newly formed league. Club assignments will be announced on Friday, January 11.
“The allocation will provide each club with a foundation of talent to build a competitive roster," said NWSL executive director Cheryl Bailey. "Ultimately, the goal is to pair the teams and players in such a way that we achieve a fair distribution of talent across all eight teams.”
To ensure the teams are as balanced as possible, each club will be assigned two Canadian national team players, two Mexican national team players, and all clubs but one will receive three US women’s national team players. The inaugural season is set to kickoff this spring.
Here’s the list of available players:
Pos., Player Name
GK, Nicole Barnhart
M, Shannon Boxx
D, Rachel Buehler
M, Lauren Cheney
GK, Ashlyn Harris
M, Tobin Heath
D, Ali Krieger
D, Amy LePeilbet
F, Sydney Leroux
M, Lori Lindsey
M, Carli Lloyd
GK, Jill Loyden
D, Heather Mitts
F, Alex Morgan
D, Kelley O'Hara
M, Heather O'Reilly
D, Christie Rampone
M, Megan Rapinoe
F, Amy Rodriguez
D, Becky Sauerbrunn
GK, Hope Solo
F, Abby Wambach
M, Keelin Winters
Pos., Player Name
D, Alina Lisi Garciamendez Rowold
M, Veronica Raquel Perez Murillo
M, Teresa Noyola Bayardo
F, Maribel Dominguez Castelan
F, Monica Ocampo Medina
GK, Aurora Cecilia Santiago Cisneros
M, Lydia Nayeli Rangel Hernandez
F, Renae Nicole Cuellar Cuellar
M, Teresa Guadalupe Worbis Aguilar
F, Anisa Raquel Guajardo Braff
M, Dinora Lizeth Garza Rodriguez
D, Jennifer Marie Ruiz Brown
D, Luz del Rosario Saucedo Soto
D, Rubi Marlene Sandoval Nungaray
GK, Pamela Tajonar Alonso
D, Marylin Viridiana Diaz Ramirez
Pos., Player Name
D, Melanie Booth
D, Robyn Gayle
M, Kaylyn Kyle
GK, Karina LeBlanc
M/F, Adriana Leon
M, Diana Matheson
D/M, Bryana McCarthy
GK, Erin McLeod
D, Carmelina Moscato
M/F, Jodi-Ann Robinson
M, Sophie Schmidt
M, Desiree Scott
D, Lauren Sesselmann
F, Christine Sinclair
D, Rhian Wilkinson
D, Emily Zurrer
If you didn’t catch the trailer for American Football after it was accidentally posted in November, it's time to fire up that internet connection and block out six-and-a-half minutes.
The trailer is for an unfinished feature documentary on the Seattle Sounders FC, produced by Levy Films. And, well, the footage is incredible, truly capturing the beauty of the sport. It was shot in a way that makes you feel like you're part of the team – you hear personal struggles from some of the Sounders squad and are even witness to a post-game schooling from head coach Sigi Schmid.
It’s an intimate look at the Seattle Sounders and will surely leave you wanting more. That is, unless you're a diehard Timbers or 'Caps fan.
Hopefully, Levy Films will finish the full doc soon, but it looks like the 2013 MLS season might kickoff before the film. But it seems it will be well worth the wait.
As we slowly build up to Major League Soccer's 18th season – a scary thought, especially since MLS Cup still feels like such a recent event, for me at least – it's worth taking a look back at how it all started. Rest assured, the goings-on weren't always quite so polished.
Take, for example, the first signing in league history. US Soccer is counting down its top 100 moments as part of the federation's centennial celebration and included an interesting anecdote from president Sunil Gulati about what it took to bring national team star Tab Ramos to MLS. The league and US Soccer wanted Ramos – an national team player with Hispanic heritage and attacking flare – to help give the league an initial foothold with fans as well as other Americans playing abroad.
He certainly helped with both those aims, but when he committed his future to MLS, there wasn't even contract to put pen to paper on. I'll let Gulati explain.
“He was going to sign with Tigres, and what we decided at the very last moment was why not have a handshake to sign with MLS, and we would loan him to Tigres,” Gulati told USsoccer.com. “The league wasn't far enough along to have a contract or a standard player agreement or any of that, so it was just a handshake.”
Just a handshake. Imagine suggesting that to the current crop of agents stocking teams these days. You'd get laughed out of the room.
But after a year-and-a-half with Tigres UANL, Ramos kept his end of the bargain, ending up with his hometown MetroStars for the next seven seasons. It wasn't always smooth sailing – cue Red Bulls fans simultaneously nodding their heads and silently weeping – but Ramos became a pioneer in a league that he helped put on the map.
To think, all it took was a handshake and the belief that professional soccer in the US was worth the commitment.
“I was excited to come home and start a new experience,” Ramos said. “It was coming home and there was the draw of playing at Giants Stadium, where I had watched the Cosmos play and where I practiced with the Cosmos 10 years before. All those things were really important to me. Obviously, having my family here as well.
“And it was fun. It was fun drawing the big crowds the first couple of years. It was fun driving to the stadium, just to be part of the whole thing. It really truly felt like we had a professional league at home and it was going to stick.”