Over at Soccernet (that's ESPN's fancy purchased name for their soccer coverage) Ian Darke tells how "MLS Deserves To Succeed." This was posted just after the MLS Cup Final, but somehow I just found it. It may have to do with how ESPN treats North American soccer as an afterthought, kind of like their signature host. But how he approaches his reasons are a large part of why I don't want him as an Arlo White replacement even if the Sounders could get him to do it.
Darke complains about the late Sunday showtime for the Cup Final. Maybe he should look to his own station, the television partner that works with MLS to schedule national TV games. The timing was a partnership between MLS and ESPN, not a sole decision by the league. It's not as if MLS challenged ESPN to a race around the world and won by furlong as the comic books say, the truth lies somewhere in between.
He then dismisses the travel issues of North America as being no reason to not have a balanced schedule. Darke rarely leaves England to cover soccer, as he's their EPL guy. He doesn't call an EPL weekend game and then pop over to Red Bull Arena midweek then immediately jump back to London. Trips of that length (3,477 miles) are surprisingly similar to regular trips in the league he easily dismisses as choosing the "wrong answer." Tie this onion to your belt as I say, not as I do?
Will the fans in Real Salt Lake miss seeing Thierry Henry? Sure they will Mr. Darke. But if you think fans of RSL are more excited about seeing Henry you aren't really paying attention. The fans of RSL aren't going to those games to see the opposing stars, they like the fans in so many cities of MLS, have moved well past seeing aging retirees. Many object to the new schedule, but the lack of stars isn't the reason. Instead the issues are with the meaning of the standings. They don't need someone telling them "five bees for a quarter" they just need quality soccer with meaning.
He's a decent enough announcer, but MLS fans don't need him telling us that the League deserves to succeed.
But the quality and visibility is improving, and the league's future just might be exciting. Yes, Beckham may be leaving, but other major stars will surely be on their way soon.
We've been here since 1996 and soccer fans for much longer. We aren't here for some fleeting sight of 35-year-old former star. We are here for our clubs, for our league. Our passion for those will lift the tide of talent more than courtesy visits from an EPL-centric announcer. Don Garber might have bold plans for dickety-dickety-two, but it won't be because those famous in England do it for us, but because soccer with small American twists becomes what this consistently growing fanbase wants it to be - quality live soccer that represents our communities. That won't always jibe with the way it's done in the Kingdom.