As a kid, Brandi Chastain was a season ticket-holder for the North American Soccer League's San Jose Earthquakes, and when MLS started up in 1996, she bought season tickets for the San Jose Clash.
Now, the self-proclaimed devoted MLS fan is even closer to the action, having joined the broadcast team for the league's national telecasts on ESPN2 and ABC. In Columbus, Ohio, for the 2005 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game, Chastain assessed the first three months of her broadcast journalism career, comparing it with something she's very familiar with: team sports.
"Like anything else, coming on to a new team, you have to pay your dues, you have to feel your way around," she said. "You're going to make some mistakes. You're going to rely on your teammates to give you some advice. And I think every game is getting a little bit better. I'm not free of mistakes, but I'm willing to work to get better, and I'm enjoying it.
"Being as efficient and clear and crisp as possible, I think, is the toughest issue for me. I like to paint the picture a little bit, when fewer words are probably what's necessary."
Chastain has a good base to work with. A two-time FIFA Women's World Cup champion with the U.S. national team, Chastain was also a key player in the formation of the now-defunct WUSA.
Her playing career has given Chastain the ability to analyze the game from the sidelines, and that knowledge and her love of MLS, and the sport in general, should set her up for success. Though, she admits there is a downside to being a reporter.
"As a player, my natural instinct, when I come out here, is to be on the field," she said. "Not to be out there with those guys right now is hard for me. It's hard to watch practice. It's hard to watch the games."
As she watched the MLS All-Stars train on Friday, she also provided insight regarding the ins and outs of Coach's Corner, in which Chastain interviews the coach of each team once each game while the action is going on. With a coach is intensely observing the match, she said, it never feels like a good time to conduct an interview. Thankfully, she noted, coaches are usually understanding and accommodating.
"[Kansas City Wizards head coach Bob] Gansler said that I was bad luck because I was standing there waiting for [the interview], and they got scored on," she said. "The coaches understand that it's my job ... the thing about our coaches is they know that, so it's not new."
Chastain's goal is to continue to build her knowledge and become more comfortable walking the sidelines.
"I've always been a student of the game, so I enjoy the fact that I have a chance to learn something every game. I was looking over Jose Mourinho's shoulder (Thursday) night watching him write down lineups," she said of the Chelsea manager. "I'm just trying to learn."
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.