I’ll admit it—I’ve bashed Major League Soccer.
And I’ve done it publicly.
I’ve been part of the chorus of fans who bemoaned the lack of possession, the lack of stylish play, the lack of technical ability and the low-scoring games. You know who you are. I used to be one of you—but not anymore.
Like many soccer fans in the United States, I’m an MLS orphan. Growing up in Michigan, I had no hometown team—the closest semblance being trips to Chicago to see the Fire.
And even though some of my fondest MLS memories are from those Fire matches—watching Carlos Bocanegra, DaMarcus Beasley and Hristo Stoichkov at Soldier Field in downtown Chicago—I consider myself to be an MLS neutral. I have no particular allegiance to any team.
As such, it took me a long time to get into the league and as a rabid United States men’s national team fan, I took far more interest in watching European matches than those of MLS.
But over the past three seasons, that has slowly begun to change.
I was pulled into the 2011 playoffs by a familiar draw—watching the L.A. Galaxy and their stars Landon Donovan and David Beckham—but the narratives of the next two seasons are what really sucked me in.
When Eddie Johnson came back to the league and prospered, I said, “So what?” It was simply further proof that the league was terrible. Then he scored against Chelsea in the All-Star game. Then, he scored twice in one game for the U.S. in World Cup qualifying.
Hey, maybe he’s not so bad after all.
And the league re-signed USMNT stars Graham Zusi, Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez. Well, I have to watch them, right?
And why are D.C. United fans always speaking so highly of Chris Pontius? I better watch one of their games to find out. And while I’m at it, I should check out this Nick DeLeon guy. He’s supposed to be an up-and-comer.
Houston Dynamo fans are always saying that Brad Davis doesn’t get enough respect. I better check him out. And while I’m at it, I might as well watch Tally Hall, Will Bruin, Kofi Sardokie and Corey Ashe.
And who is the Seth Sinovic guy that Phil Schoen is always tweeting about? I guess I better watch Sporting KC this weekend and find out.
And why won’t Taylor Twellman shut up about how great a holding midfielder Dax McCarty is? I need to watch the New York Red Bulls more often.
Everybody is so high on Caleb Porter, but all I know about him is his success at the University of Akron and watching the U.S. Under-23 team crash out of Olympic qualifying. Maybe I should turn on a Timbers game and see what this “Porterball” is all about. Wow, they sure do have a nice fanbase in Portland…and some crazy guy buzzing a chainsaw behind one of the goals. Hey, that Darlington Nagbe guy looks pretty good too. Maybe I should learn a little more about him.
I heard the crowds in Seattle aren’t too bad either. I’ll have to check out a Sounders game. Hey, that boom-boom-clap is pretty cool. Man, that DeAndre Yedlin has a funny hairstyle, but he sure can run. Oh…Dempsey just hit the crossbar. I wish he’d get back in form.
Kyle Beckerman sure looked good in the Gold Cup, maybe I should check out some Real Salt Lake games and see why all those RSL fans love him so much. I guess that would give me an opportunity to see that Luis Gil kid I watched in the U-20 World Cup as well.
NBC Sports doesn’t seem to be showing too many Colorado Rapids games, but everyone keeps talking about these youngsters named Chris Klute, Dillon Powers and Shane O’Neill. I guess I’ll finally have to pony up the money for MLS Direct Kick.
And I’ve got to try to get home on time to see the New England Revolution this weekend. Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe are supposed to be a couple of future stars.
That reminds me, I need to check out Toronto FC, the Columbus Crew and the Philadelphia Union and check on the progress of Michael Bradley, Michael Parkhurst and Maurice Edu. We might need those guys this summer in Brazil.
And before I knew it, following all those great storylines, I was an MLS fan.
So MLS supporters, get excited for 2014. I’ve watched enough Stoke and Sunderland and Aston Villa games over the past two years to know the Eurosnobs have no idea what they’re talking about.
You can believe all that nonsense being spun, ironically, by Billy Haisley over at Deadspin (NSFW), but you’ll be missing out. The rest of us will be busy enjoying this great and growing league.
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