Viewers at home immediately noticed the change during pre-game. Kevin Calabro, Seattle ico, was away. As I explained to Jason Churchill, when Sounders FC lost their NBA Hall of Famer, they didn't go for someone local and easy, but with a little more soccer knowledge. Sounders FC went for Glenn Davis, a man who has called radio and TV of the sport for ESPN, ABC, HDNet nationally and locally for the Houston Dynamo.
We spent a long time talking about the game, the league, and of course Sounders FC's performance to this point in the season. Glenn has had significant praise for the Seattle Sounders on his website, and during his radio show.
Glenn and I talked via phone, with me feverishly writing notes so as to reproduce as much of our conversation as possible.
I opened up asking Glenn about the opportunity to fill in for Kevin Calabro last week and this.
Glenn Davis: It was really exciting to get the opportunity ... it was just to fill in these few times, but hopefully if they need help I can get the call again.
DC: During the call, and on your radio show you mentioned that you were excited by Steve Zakuani's play. What was it that you found compelling?
Glenn Davis: The more guys in the league that are confident and run at defenders and beat people the better for the league. It is an exciting play, one of the most exciting in soccer. Steve hit a home run on that. A lot of fans like to see that kind of play, and its a compliment to Coach Sigi that he set up the game so that Zakuani could go at the Right Back of San Jose.
There is just a bravado and excitement about it. All it takes for one guy to beat one person and the defense is out of balance opening things up for the entire offense. Steve was electric at that.
DC: What other players in the league are like that?
Glenn Davis: In the league there are guys like Arturo Alvarez who when he's on can just glide past defenders as if they aren't there. Or Darren Huckerby who is more of a power winger. Brian Mullan, is like that too, although he's had some struggles this year. But good wide players bring excitement to the game.
DC: Last year's USL Sounders, and Toronto until recently played a more backline to foward game, but Seattle is using their speed and passing and integrating more players into the offense. What works better in the league?
Glenn Davis: The future of MLS, in order to put people in seats isn't in the direct game, but doing a great job of more purposeful soccer. I applaud San Jose for not sitting deep, defending in depth, but playing that same type of game as Seattle, with a lot of flow early.
DC: On your blog, and Monday night's show you talked about Seattle being professional in every way. Several of their players have mentioned this as well. What did they do that brings out that mention from so many?
Glenn Davis: I would start with the stunning training facility. It reminded me of several in Mexico that I have seen with different kinds of training fields. The training facility is something that makes the players feel more professional in every way. They are great facilities.
As a broadcaster, everyone was so helpful, so professional. It is something that people should note. Every person, every interaction and their language just gave off the vibe that the club was top notch.
But this kind of thing can help with players as they compare facilities, and as a coach it sure is nice to have the dedicated grounds. To know 'this is where I do my work.'
A lot of people who follow the league want to put conditions on the success that Seattle is having, but that isn't fair. It doesn't recognize the long his of soccer there, and the professional attitude as well. I mean this is only me, I'm not in the locker room, but my impression from talking to the players and Sigi they seem to think the same. The club is top notch.
DC: This week you are again calling the Sounders game. This time on the road at the Chicago Fire and get to see two of the top three teams face off, what kind of game do you expect?
Glenn Davis: Could there be a better measuring stick? Sure, they had San Jose at home to stop a losing streak, but Chicago at Toyota Park? There are the marquee players, lots of sales and interest there. What a great test for the club. I haven't looked at the rest of the matchups for the league, but this has to be the best for the league this week.
DC: What matchups should fans pay the most attention to?
Glenn Davis: I'm intrigued to see how Alonso-Marshall-Hurtado and the defensive triangle do versus a player like McBride. How the midfield plays a guy who has no defensive responsibilities and can just roam freely in Blanco and Mapp can beat guys off the dribble. These are some real marquee matchups and McBride is just doing things this year, did you see his second goal?
DC: Honestly Glenn, McBride is why I started following MLS since it first started. I try to watch as much of Chicago as I can, but followed him in his Columbus days more.
Glenn Davis: McBride can be kind of like a Zues in this league. Just a mythical guy, coming back from captaining Fulham, just an amazing talent. I remember when he got drafted, this kid out of St. Louis University, we all wondered how good he would be. Obviously he's shown some talent and skill. [McBride is the #11 scorer in MLS league and related matches]
They also have Blanco, who is a lightning rod, but he has great vision and tries to do unique things. Plus he's great at going down near the area and drawing a free kick where he's so dangerous.
DC: Outside of Seattle, is there a team that has surprised you in the early season?
Glenn Davis: Columbus has been surprising, their lack of a result so far. Even with the coaching change they have been unlucky. Everyone hyped New York, because they brought in some new guys and they made the Final, but they haven't really surprised me.
DC: But really its only 20% of the season, and even the worst teams are usually only two wins from the playoffs.
Glenn Davis: I like to see the way teams respond to their coaches, generally about 10 or 12 games into the season you can see how the players respond to the coach and you have a better idea of how they are going to do.
The flip side is that you don't want a club to get off to a bad start. It can spiral out of control, but by no means is anyone out of it. We've seen teams stumble into the playoffs and win it. Los Angeles a few years ago stumbled in and then rode Landon Donovan. Last year, New York got to the Finals. Everyone pointed to their defense, and no disrespect but they allowed a lot of opportunities. They got some lucky breaks both in Houston and at Salt Lake, certainly their defense was good, but they were also lucky, and they have Juan Pablo Angel.
DC: It can certainly help a club to have a player like that. Seattle fans think that we might have a goalscoring threat like that in Montero, but the league seems to be making adjustments.
Glenn Davis: Montero is still just 21 and has played only five games. He's also gotten some distractions off the pitch that can be really challenging for a young kid, for anyone. So he's had a pretty tough start, but he'll score goals. At times he does things different, he thinks differently. Some might like it, because it isn't proper, but you like to see players that go outside the norms and challenge themselves to be special. Montero will score more goals.
DC: What is the state of the Houston Stadium deal?
Glenn Davis: They are in a positive place and things are still moving forward for a funding package for some of the costs. But it will be downtown, near Minute Maid Park, a great location. Once the planning gets finished it will be a great relief. There will be lots of smiles, relief and it will be the start of a great future for the fans, the players and the community.
We moved onto Glenn's thoughts concerning Seattle and the state of the league.
Glenn Davis: Seattle is wonderful for the league. It is raising the bar and exposing some of the teams that are lagging. Some of the leadership of teams have to be questioned, but with healthy pressure from the media and from the fans.
DC: Many fans want to see dramatic changes with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, do you expect this, or will it be smaller?
Glenn Davis: Nothing major, because hopefully cooler heads prevail. The league and the players should pay attention to what happened with the NHL. Sure the salary cap might expand a bit, maybe 100 thousand, or half a million, maybe another international slot. But they both should err on the side of caution, there may be some hot button issues, but they should be cognisant of the NHL and the current economic situation. Soccer can't afford to have a set back.
You know Dave, let's go back, but Tyronne Marshall should get a mention. Look back at the tape of that last game. See how many plays he broke up, look at how he won balls in the air and made some tough tackles. Plus he got that play that every is in the dreams of every defender when he came up and assisted on that pass to Zakuani to the back post. Hurtado gets a lot of recognition, but Marshall has been solid.
DC: It has seemed to me that Sigi has this team moving in a rapid counter, Marshall actually started a play where the ball moved the length of the field with six or seven Sounders touching the ball and it took less than ten seconds. This has been typical of the Sounders when they are on.
Glenn Davis: Yes, they breakout fast, it is exciting and great for the fans. That kind of play is vital to put people in seats. Many coaches will tell you that it is all about winning, but there is something special about a coach who gets wins in specific tactical manner, a specific way with exciting soccer. I'll bet you can draw a direct line from that kind of play to ticket sales around the league.
Glenn Davis hosts a regular show on 790 the Sports Animal in Houston from 5-7PM PDT, as well as hosting a post game show after most home games from right outside the stadium entrance.
I like doing the post game show. It is another way to add value to the fans. I get to talk to fans live, and during breaks we just keep talking. It is great to meet the community. In this case every person is key, soccer needs to be more inclusive. In some stadiums you see people that are grumpy, or just neutral. This is sports, it is supposed to be fun. Soccer is supposed to be fun.