Apr 7, 2018
If you are a soccer fan, reading this, you already know all about Zlatan Ibrahimovic. You know he’s one of the greatest target forwards ever; you know that his trophy case is stuffed to bursting; you know that he may or may not be a crazy person.
However, the Soccer Insider column really isn’t for people who already know about Zlatan. It’s for people like my dad, who don’t watch all that much soccer (and frankly what Dad watches is mostly so he can talk to me about it, which is very nice of him.)
Last weekend, as Zlatan put his immediate stamp on MLS after arriving in midweek to play for the Galaxy, my Dad was furiously texting me about him. Forgive me, but if Zlatan’s big enough that Dad is interested, then it’s time to try to explain Zlatan to the rest of the Star Tribune readership.
Mar 31, 2018
I keep coming back to one statistic from this week’s Soccer Insider column about the Portland Thorns. Take the Thorns out of the mix, and the NWSL draws about 3,600 fans per game league-wide. Meanwhile, the Thorns draw an average of 17,400.
There are other teams that play in soccer meccas, there are other teams that are owned by MLS teams, there are other NWSL teams that don’t have to compete with Major League Baseball in the summertime, but Portland’s the only place where the NWSL is taken seriously. The league’s goal is to figure out why.
(Side note: I really, really hope that one of those places ends up being St. Paul.)
Mar 24, 2018
The combined USA / Mexico / Canada bid is everyone’s front-runner for the 2026 World Cup. That said, though, Morocco is just the kind of country that FIFA loves picking, because FIFA loves nothing more than brand-new shiny usless stadiums to show off during the World Cup.
Mar 17, 2018
Things got out of hand at West Ham last week, with fans verging on a riot against club ownership. That doesn’t happen in America, unless an owner tries to steal someone’s team. It’s a reminder for MLS: #SaveTheCrew.
Mar 10, 2018
College soccer is kind of a weird thing. They play an entirely different game in college, one that’s full of substitutions (nearly unlimited) and with frequent games (two in a weekend, three in a week, usually, in order to fit the entire season into the autumn).
Men’s college coaches are leading a push to make the season span across both fall and spring, in order to ease the schedule burden, but for the moment the NCAA and pro soccer are two very different things.
Mar 3, 2018
This week’s Soccer Insider looks at why the NASL died while the USL thrived - because one worked with MLS, while the other worked against it.
Feb 24, 2018
It’s time for the SheBelieves Cup, the tournament with the bad name and all the best women’s national teams - the USA, France, Germany, and England. The USA is still rebuilding its defense after its 2015 World Cup win - and this tournament will be a key test on its road to the 2019 World Cup.
Feb 17, 2018
Soccer Insider this week looks at Toronto and Tigres, the favorites for the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League.
Feb 10, 2018
Soccer Insider this week covers the arrival of Ezequiel Barco, MLS’s record transfer signing - and what the future might hold for MLS as a league overall.
Feb 3, 2018
This week’s Soccer Insider is a bit of a history lesson. LAFC takes the field this year, the Miami Beckhams start (officially, for sure, for real, no worries this time at all, gang!) in 2020 - but MLS has tried both a second LA team and a Miami franchise before. Both of them went pretty poorly.
Jan 27, 2018
There’s only one title race in Europe right now (at least among the leagues that you can regularly watch on TV here), and it’s taking place in Italy. Even better, the war between Juventus and Napoli isn’t just about soccer - it’s about north vs. south.
Jan 20, 2018
I tried to come up with five things American soccer can do to make 2018 a positive year, though the truth is that about the only thing that would definitely accomplish this involves a time machine and less failure in Trinidad and Tobago.
Jan 17, 2018
So last week we were about 35 minutes into the podcast, and Stu suddenly exclaimed, “Guys, my audio isn’t recording.”
No big deal, really. It happens. We teased him a little, restarted the podcast, and talked for another 45 minutes.
Over the podcast’s history, we’ve taken a lot of grief — mostly from ourselves — about our audio quality. The Sportive has veered back and forth between “fine” and “unlistenable,” sometimes within the same episode.
Last week’s failure was an equipment failure. Stu uses a laptop from the Bush administration — possibly from the first Bush administration — because he doesn’t have another home computer. It failed twice last time — you didn’t even really hear the second failure because Stu managed to save it.
Our reach exceeds our grasp in many ways. We have to record remotely, mostly, because none of the four of us lives or works within 20 minutes of each other. Family life means that at least one of us is booked and unavailable every single day. We have full-time jobs. Even if we had perfect audio, we’d still be a collection of white middle-aged Twitter dads complaining about local sports, and the audience for that is so small that it does not even include our immediate families.
Our audio sins are many. If our podcast was a good podcast, we would edit for content. We would spend money on better equipment, instead of figuring out how to jerry-rig the aging hardware we already have. We would get better spaces to record. We’d do whatever it is you’re supposed to do to borrow a studio, and we’d learn to record things professionally and balance our dolby or whatever the heck it is that audio engineers do.
If we had to do any of that, we wouldn’t do the podcast.
I know that few people will notice and fewer will care, when the podcast does end. But, and this is the point I want to make, I think the world is shorter than people think on people who make things. And it’s longer than people know on people who plan things but — terrified of something, anything— never get them off the ground.
We’re short on planning, we’re short on skill, we’re short on time. But we make something. Sometimes it’s garbage, and sometimes a computer dies. But it’s out there. We take what we have, and we slap it all together and hit the publish button, and it goes out in the world for a few hundred people to download and maybe even listen to.
I’m not going to pretend we’re good at this, but I don’t think that’s the point. The point is to make something. The point is to hit publish and then do it all over again. Making things always beats not making things.
You should do a podcast, is what I’m saying. Or write a blog. Or snap a chat. (Remember, white middle-aged Twitter dad; I don’t understand how Snapchat works). Think of what you want to do and then do it and forget whether it’s good or not or whether anyone will care. Making things always beats not making things.
(*NOTE: if you have a free studio and an awful lot of free time to produce a podcast, we can offer you, as a trade, Stu’s laptop with the faded but still original FOUR MORE YEARS, REAGAN ’88 joke bumper sticker on it.)
Jan 13, 2018
The annual training camp for the U.S. national teams began this week. Looking at the men’s national team, I took a look at four questions for this camp.
Jan 6, 2018
Sunil Gulati has made the position of U.S. Soccer Federation president into perhaps the most powerful job in American soccer. Eight people want to take over for him, and perhaps the surprising thing - despite the pressure and the lack of pay - is that there aren’t more.
Dec 30, 2017
2017 was a forgettable year for American soccer fans. 2018 might be a struggle, too.
Dec 23, 2017
Christmas used to mean that it was time for the third round of the FA Cup. England, in its infinite wisdom, did away with that tradition, but this is still time for the various cup competitions to take center stage. For Soccer Insider, I tried to explain what these are and why they’re great.
Dec 16, 2017
It’s not 2018 yet, but with MLS Cup over, it’s time for the league itself to make some changes - #SaveTheCrew, develop some youth, and change the schedule.
In the short takes: Jonathan González, USSF elections, and video replay.
Dec 9, 2017
Today’s MLS Cup Final is a rematch of Seattle’s penalty-shootout win in last year’s edition. Here’s three things to watch for in this year’s game, focused on two midfielders and the game’s X-factor.
Dec 2, 2017
MLS has winnowed its expansion possibilities down to four - Nashville, Detroit, Cincinnati, and Sacramento. I don’t know who the league will pick, but I know who I’m rooting for.
Nov 25, 2017
Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, John Brooks. They’re young, they’re playing in the Bundesliga, and they are the future of the U.S. Men’s National Team. Soccer Insider looks mostly at McKennie, the newest of the three to be anointed as one of American soccer’s building blocks, but the German league is still functioning as the big leagues for young American stars, and it’s nice to see several players flourishing there.
Nov 18, 2017
This week at Soccer Insider, it’s time to look at what’s going on in the MLS Conference Finals, both of which match a heavy favorite against a team that was a surprise to make it this far.
Nov 11, 2017
The UEFA Nations League is replacing meaningless friendlies, so I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on it - but when it comes to CONCACAF, it’s going to be the latest in a long string of meaningless tournaments. I’m tired of meaningless tournaments. Less is more.
Nov 4, 2017
At the Star Tribune this week, I wrote about how the MLS playoffs need to be shorter, and that the best way to do this is get away from the two-legged conference semifinals and finals. Happily, the slot editor put an Animal Farm reference in the headline “Two legs aren’t better in the MLS playoffs.” I’m pleased with how that went.
Oct 28, 2017
MLS wanted to be different, when it came to its relationship with fans. It wanted to be special. But if it’s gonna be different and special, it can’t move teams like every other American league - which is precisely what it’s doing with the threats to move the Columbus Crew to Austin, TX.