ESPN Soccernet has been a popular destination for soccer fans, particularly in the U.S., to visit and to read articles about the national team and its players.
But not so much anymore.
In a series of bizarre moves over the last several months, the company and Web site has shorn itself of several quality editors and replaced them with soccer novices.
Further, the change of layout has been confusing and counterintuitive.
Were these moves supposed to have the sports media giant ready for the World Cup in June?
If so, it appears ESPN's online presence will suffer ahead of a very important summer for the Connecticut-based company.
For anyone who reads soccer articles online, ESPN's layout was one that many fans grew accustomed to: every page had the same layout, regardless of whether it covered world soccer, U.S. soccer, Champions League, etc.
Now, if you click on "US Soccer," you are routed to a new layout with "World Cup 2010" prominently displayed. Nothing wrong with that, but it feels like the U.S. page is just one of 32 teams who are being represented rather than front-and-center of the coverage.
The stories on the right hand side are not updated; we have known that the U.S. will face Australia in a friendly in South Africa on June 5 for well over a week now.
And why has ESPN gotten rid of its best writers? Why clean house now? Was it a financial move?
Ives Galarcep, perhaps one of the two best writers in the country on U.S. soccer (I rate him equal to Grant Wahl at CNNSI) has been coaxed over to being the lead U.S. writer for Fox Sports.
As for Jen Chang, he has recently appeared as a writer for CNNSI. Steve Davis is now over at CNNSI as well. Both are very strong analytical writers who like Galarcep have left ESPN and moved on to other websites.
Something must have happened at ESPN last year to cause this shakeup. If anyone here knows, please share.
And what is left at ESPN? A bunch of writers who know little about what they are talking about.
Just yesterday, there was an article written by Justin Rodriguez about MLS players who may get called up by Bob Bradley.
The article mentioned that Landon Donovan was the captain of the team. If he actually followed the team, Mr. Rodriguez would know that Carlos Bocanegra is the captain of the team. The writer also missed out on the fact that Heath Pearce is a possiblity to be called up and Rodriguez did not even mention him.
ESPN Soccernet is looking more like Goal.com in that it is churning out a high number of sub-par articles, but there is little in the way of substance.
I guess quantity over quality is what they're after.
It's frustrating to see that for what other sites are providing for free, ESPN is charging U.S. soccer fans money to read. If you want to read their U.S. team blog, you have to be an Insider, which costs $20 a year, I believe.
You have to be disappointed with the changes at ESPN Soccernet, especially since they are going to be televising all of the games stateside.
ESPN should not have messed with a good thing and should have kept the site similar to how it was running it before: with quality writing and a layout we've come to know and expect.
What's left now is a Web site that really is a shadow of it's former self. ESPN should be ashamed and as fans, we should call on them to improve their offerings.
If this is how ESPN is attempting to show it is serious about soccer and its' fans in the U.S. in a World Cup year, it surely has a strange way of showing it.