Some notes compiled while sitting on my behind instead of heading out to watch training this morning (which I would much rather do… but other work interferes)
VANCOUVER SIGNING: I have no idea whether he’ll suit up on Saturday (more on Saturday later), but Nigel Reo-Coker — the Whitecaps’ big signing announcement from yesterday — is supposed to join the club today here in Chucktown. A well-traveled Premiership veteran at just 28, Reo-Coker has been on a downward career trajectory since his 2007 season with Aston Villa. He was out of football for a while last year, but had been playing — sparingly — with Ipswitch Town in the League Championship before making the jump to MLS.
The Whitecaps are predictably pleased to get their man, despite having to give up some draft picks to Portland Timbers for his discovery rights.
NBC Sports’ excellent “ProSoccerTalk” has a little more on the signing, and Steve Davis’ post speaks straight to the elephant in the Whitecaps’ boot room: How has a relatively young player with so much talent and leadership ability managed to fall so far, so fast?
Is Reo-Coker the missing piece that will elevate the mid-table Whitecaps to contention for the Supporters’ Shield, or even the top of the Western Conference? Who the hell knows? Still, it’s not every day that a 28-year-old former captain of two Premiership sides shows up at Blackbaud Stadium.
SPEAKING OF SATURDAY: The Carolina Challenge Cup is certainly a great and established event in its 10th season, but the weather hasn’t exactly been serving as a good-will ambassador for the Lowcountry this year. Or, come to think of it, last year. Remember those thrilling matches from the final night of the 2012 Cup? Neither do I. What I remember instead is torrential rain — and lightning, if fading memory serves — sweeping in to call off the event.
On the one hand, the Battery have done a good job of marketing the tournament, and were close to a sellout on the first night of matches. So that’s good. And those tickets are sold regardless of the weather. But what isn’t good for the club is the missed opportunity to sell stuff at the stadium and mint new fans. You know, come for the MLS teams, stick around during the season to support the local club (which is what brought us in last year).
Last Saturday’s turnout was light — not too surprising given the falling temperatures behind the lifting rain. Wednesday’s matches were attended… about like what you’d expect for a midweek preseason game. And the forecast for tomorrow is certainly not helping.
The hardcore fans will go, rain or shine. The Regiment will tailgate. But the trick to growing the game and the fan base here in the Lowcountry isn’t about reaching the converted. And as we all know, it’s almost impossible to get Charlestonians (or, as we used to call them on the staff at GMLc, “pluffmudders”) to leave the house when the sky sours and the temperature dips below 60 degrees.
Except… well, there is ONE thing that pluffmudders will come out for, no matter HOW bad the weather gets: An oyster roast. With beer.
So maybe that’s the secret to getting locals out to the CCC in weather like this. Market the event as: “THREE-NIGHT LOWCOUNTRY OYSTER ROAST AT BLACKBAUD STADIUM (includes professional soccer tournament).”
LETS GO TO THE VIDEOTAPE: A correction from my Wednesday night game notes: Alex’s stoppage-time game winner didn’t come on a header. It was actually quite a strike through traffic.
— USL PRO (@USLPRO) February 21, 2013
Of course, that’s the problem with trying to see what happens when you’re either down on the field (I think I’d stepped down onto the turf less than 10 seconds before the winning shot) or watching from the stands. You’re looking through a bunch of clutter.
It’s early in the development of this site, but goofs like this aside, I think I’m going to use my media pass for access to coaches and players after games instead of access to the press box. Nothing against my former colleagues in the media, but we’ve already got people who do a competent job of covering the game from that protected perch up top. Probably better if my perspective is the fan’s perspective.
SPEAKING OF VIDEO: ESPN Soccer analyst Alexi Lalas made another appearance on the Colbert Report the other night, and I missed it because I was jamming out a post for the site. The first descriptions I heard of the exchange sounded painfully awkward, with people telling me Lalas had “not gotten” the Colbert schtick and come across as arrogant (imagine that!).
— Matthew Doyle (@MLS_Analyst) February 21, 2013
But after watching the segment myself this morning, I didn’t think it was quite so bad. Yes, that’s Lalas being Lalas, but there’s give and take between the two. Maybe Alexi didn’t exactly roll with the spirit of the Colbert character’s satiric soccer-baiting, but it could have been worse. It could have been Eric Wynalda.
AS THE LANDON TURNS: I spent much of Saturday evening sitting in the East stands with my friend Chris Morrell, a longtime Battery and MUFC fan, and as is often the case when you drink a beer with Chris, the topic of Landon Donovan comes up.
Here’s a quick recap of Chris’ feelings about the USMNT fixture and Galaxy captain: He hates him.
Chris has lots of reasons for hating “Landycakes,” but the US scoring leader’s vague personal hiatus from the game this winter has certainly been giving him plenty of new ones lately. Donovan has been in the news this week, speaking to students about his desire to play for the national team again, and revealing that he’ll be missing the start of the MLS season to visit Cambodia. If you’re a Landy-hater, these are the days of wine and roses.
I’ll offer a lukewarm dissenting opinion. I don’t expect athletes to be all-in, all the time, on every aspect of the game that feeds them. I know that’s what our culture expects, and I know that when I’ve coached kids, I generally emphasized commitment to the team first. Yada yada yada.
But Donovan is a grown man who is discovering there’s more to life than soccer. And if a grown man wants to wander a bit, and understands the consequences and risks, and accepts them and doesn’t whine about it, then that’s his business. If he comes back mentally renewed, plays to his full potential, and leads the Galaxy and the USMNT to successes on the field, fans will welcome it. And if he sucks, they’ll blame him, and rightly so.
And if Landon sucks and the fans blame him and the player whines about it, then Chris was right all along.
For a better dissenting opinion on Donovan, read this piece by Jeff Bradley. I think he speaks for me on this.
PILGRAMMAGE TO ORLANDO? Then there’s this Tweet from the USL PRO Team That Would Be King:
Look, I understand they’ve got the big stadium. And the big new Brazilian owner with “brazilians” of dollars to spend. I understand that they play good soccer and they’re in Florida with the academies and the Disney thing and the shot at MLS expansion. They’ve got good fans (I met some last year and like them quite a bit).
But here’s the deal, folks: If you DON’T get an MLS bid in the next couple of years, after putting local taxpayers on the hook for the soccer-specific stadium promotion demands, where do you stand after this kind of civic hype? Does the city turn on your public financing bid? Public opinion is a fickle beast, and it can carry you around one day and bite you the next.
MORE PHOTOS: Kim Morgan Gregory has more photos up on her Smug Mug gallery, including these from Wednesday’s Dynamo-Whitecaps match.