It comes from the top. It comes from Don Garber.

“I do not only ask, I insist that all those people paid to work in the sport, whether that’s an MLS employee, an MLS coach or whether it’s a coach for the National team, they align with the vision that has been established by the leaders in the sport.”

You should add journalists to the list too. Chris Bianchi was fired after this single tweet about then bottom of the league Colorado Rapids in 2014.Capture+_2016-08-17-09-34-23-1

At the NCAA conference last year Eric Wynalda called MLS a ponzi scheme. He was forced to apologize. The New York Times magazine released an article called “The dark side of American soccer” and MLS issued a full statement in rebuttal (how insecure is that shit!!).

Our leading sport journalists have never asked Sunil Gulati why he wouldn’t go face the house committee to answer questions on what he knew about FIFA corruption.

The soccer media in this country simply do not criticize the establishment anymore. Ever. They are letting down the fans and clubs who need a voice to stand up for their interests. It has become so bad, that when a journalist does in fact voice an opinion against the grain, rather than invited to discuss his points he is simply just slaughtered instead. Just ask Bill Haisley of Deadspin how character assasination goes.

Whilst this is a sad state of affairs for our national media, it is filtering down to our level. The blogosphere, the fans.

We’ve had a rough few months. Our team has dropped from 3rd in the league to 10th. We’ve struggled not just on the pitch but off it too. In the stands against Sacramento was peak turmoil. People calling for Dale to be fired standing next to people calling for him to remain. People cursing vehemently at players while their neighbor screamed encouragement.

That is football. It’s all ok. Whilst I come from the land of the trashy red top newspapers where everything is explosive maximum outrage, there is a happy medium to be sought between being offended at everything the club (or league) does and remaining silent. They need to hear dissatisfaction. It powers the club forward. Nobody else does it. It is a duty of the fans to demand what is necessary. Calling for a coaching change when dropping like a stone isn’t public shaming or embarrassing the club like some suggested.

A real football club has to handle criticism. It is the nature of the industry. That’s in the terms and conditions when you sell a season ticket, that I the fan won’t run on the pitch but you the team have to tolerate my outbursts when I yell from the stands or my twitter account when we’re bad. It’s a quid pro quo. We do it with Jurgen Klinsmann, David Moyes, Arsene Wenger….. and because we’re a real soccer club…. the coach and players of Saint Louis FC too.

The unease on whether or not this behavior is acceptable is not helped in part by the fact that the media doesn’t criticize, in our small division 3 world that means the blogs, the podcasts, the local paper.

In our world where the local press all but do match reports, if it were Matheny or Hitchcock blowing the season you would see them explode with holding the Cardinals or the Blues feet to the flames. I hate to call them out but Joe Lyons, Steve Overby and Tom Timmerman have been frankly asleep at the wheel in this regard, they have never questioned just what is going inside the locker room.

The blogs are no different. When was the last time you saw a soccer blogger really do anything other than toe the line? Of course moving back to the initial paragraphs about Garber demanding everyone align it’s become just that. Let me ask the wannabes here. How are you going to be noticed if you don’t actually stand out? It is becoming a joke of “Look I toe the line, I toe the line so much more than anyone else. Employ me.”

I love the USL, I think we’re a great little league. The competition is good, and I enjoy the camaraderie among fans that we enjoy a subculture of the American game. With that though, I still think it is ok to say I am seriously concerned that USL wanting $5,000,000 to join what is defacto becoming an MLS reserve league. It is ok to tell Nicholas Murray that when we expect the schedule to come out and wait around for their big announcement, to find out it is a competition to win tickets to a game we’ve already bought season tickets too was lame. It treated the fans who care like mugs. 

I never see much of that form of dissent in those who pride themselves in covering the league. All too often it is “Look at me, I’m in the press box.” Well so what? What good is that if you don’t ask questions that make being there worthwhile? All you’re doing at that point is getting in for free. Are you afraid if you say something unpopular that you’ll be cut off and have to pay for a ticket next time? What is more important here, the story or your access to it?

Along with the accolades the league deserves, Jake Edwards needs to hear dissent, it means people care about his league. It means he is doing his job.

Along with the thanks for all he does, Jeremy Alumbaugh needs to hear criticism, it means people are emotionally invested in the club he has built. It means he is doing his job.

American soccer needs dissent. American soccer needs criticizing. It’s for the good of the game moving forward.

[edit] I talked to a more illustrious writer than I for his opinion about this issue. This was his reply. 

The people who can see the forest through the trees and know USL is becoming a Farm League for MLS have seen this story before in a little book Animal Farm. The few soccer writers who actually know the game, who aren’t afraid of the fall-out, and are qualified to discuss the issues are the ones that don’t get mentioned, end up leaving or not writing or are silenced due to the overwhelming ignorance of the masses and their peers — and in their place are the paid company shills — those parading around and pandering to the powers at be. The same is true with the former players who dare speak out in the name of authenticity and honesty. American soccer needs whistleblowers and honest people confronting the unpopular truths. If we are still under the belief the game is some fragile plaything that needs protecting, what are we doing? They don’t ask for money. They ask to be heard and for people to discuss and debate what will ultimately move the sport forward at the club, Federation, and league level. This isn’t 1996. It’s 2016 — it’s time for American Soccer to embrace the Era of Accountability from their club, league, and community

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An Idiot Abroad

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4 Responses

      • Jeremy

        Good article Bird. I sat next to the people that protest chanted and then turned their backs and stopped their flag wave in protest at the last game. I also observed the 120 seconds of silence, although at the time I was not sure what it was for. I noticed some of the podcast staff go over to one of the protesters who moved over a section. At first I thought “oh, this guy’s gonna get an earful from Brad” but there was no noticible confrontation, almost a stand of solidarity. how did you feel about the unofficial protest of the few, and what about the moment of silence? I know your views of the coaching situation, but I would like to hear your opinion of the formal and informal protests? I was with the protestors at first with the chant, but then it turned into arguing with the working Louligan staff. I was also proud of the Capo that grabbed the flag and got it waving again. Isn’t America great?

      • Matthew Bird

        Thanks J. my opinion of the fans turning their backs on the game was it was a bit much, not something I would do but I will defend their right to do it. Whilst people think we have “Rules” typically, so long as nothing is vulgar, racist, homophobic and sexist is fine.
        I had no issue with what they did and thought Brad just standing by them making sure nothing came of it was good.

        The 2 minute silence was excellently done I thought. We made a point but then then we roared back to life. it was well done I thought. I think some people thought 2 minutes wasn’t long enough or whatever (I was one of them at the time….now not so much.) I am glad it happened how it did.

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