Some thoughts on the International Break:
- These Nations Leagues are a pretty rad idea. I like them, prefer to see meaningful, competitive matches over the “play the ball-kid and his mates” friendlies of days gone by.
- D.C. United — Are they on a tear or what? Many would say it’s mostly down to this guy:
Wayne Mark Rooney, the man, the myth, the legend. Folk hero, soccer god. Recent addition and human turbo-charger for D.C. United.
The man most probably responsible for D.C. United’s recent run of blistering good form.
But that’s enough TFC for now. I want to widen the discussion this week to the league in general. Let’s talk some Major League Soccer.
I caught the D.C. United v NYCFC Match last week, on Sky Sports Football, no less, and aside from the rage boner over the result (still better than an outright D.C. win though), the thing that really grabbed me was all the hoopla our friends across the pond were propagating with respect to Wayne. One-on-one interviews, think-pieces, panel discussions — the whole gamut.
I can’t say I was surprised by the coverage. I mean, national folk hero and all, but I was surprised by the breadth and depth of the coverage, and how game Rooney was to indulge the media, both UK-based and domestic. How easily he’s taken the mantle as spokesman for MLS writ large.
I’ve read a ton about how different the relationship with the media is here in MLS vs anywhere else in Europe (remember how much Defoe whined about it? It was his own personal bloody big deal). How players used to speaking through their managers are shocked and ill-prepared for the more intimate relationship with the media expected, nay demanded, of them here in North America.
I see none of this with Wayne Rooney. In fact, I see a player beyond comfortable with the limelight; willing to wear merch head to toe and sell sell sell like Arthur Miller’s best protagonist. Considering his often adversarial history with the press back home, this does come as a bit of a shock.
Wanye Rooney seems to have found the sweet-spot between hero worship and man of the people, and it’s having a knock-on effect on the league and its pedigree internationally.
Which begs the question: Is Wayne Rooney the best thing to happen to MLS in terms of attracting eyeballs from abroad? Better than the Beckhams, Keanes, Coles, Zlatans, and Giovincos?
Before I wrap this up and welcome the comments, I asked my friend Gavin, who lives in the United Kingdom, to chime in with his thoughts on the Rooney situation:
“Okay, before you question my intentions, let’s set out my qualifications:
I’m from the UK, I’ve always been a football supporter and I try to get to any live match wherever I am in the world. I had recently lost my love for the game until I got to Toronto in 2016. TFC turned me back onto how things should be done in football. I attended every single home match (bar the final) during the 2016 season, and the following year flew 5709 km just to see the cup final. I am a TFC fan, a new fan certainly but a fan nonetheless. I would like, if I may, to offer up a comparison.
The MLS is getting more and more coverage in the UK, with such new additions as a dedicated Sky Sports Football channel giving us a near 24-hour live stream of football from all around the world — plus the European coverage of BT Sport. We have daily live games from China, Australia, Italy, France, Scotland and all four English professional leagues. The MLS is starting to be accepted as a genuine equivalent for one very good reason: It is.
That is, the league is starting to be seen for the competitive, aggressive, well supported, well funded and well sold & promoted product that it is. You have to remember that we have had the self-perpetuating Premier League for 26 years now. The English Football hierarchy in the UK seem to still be questioning whether you (MLS collective) are taking it seriously. The resounding answer is “Yes, absolutely!” and it seems, to me anyway, that you’ve stopped trying to please others or justify yourselves and now you let the sport and the business around it do the talking for you. I think that a lot of the naysayers are still trapped in the past, a past where George Best, Bobby Moore and even Pele couldn’t sell Soccer to the North Americans. There is still a little resistance to it but I think it’s wavering. I think they are a little worried that not only are you doing it right, you might actually be doing it better.
The MLS matchday is a joy to be a part of. From the entertainment laid on in and around the stadium to the National Anthems and Fireworks reserved only for Cup finals in the UK. I would imagine the players are happier also to talk to your press who are knowledgeable and interested and actually ask answerable questions as opposed to the UK pushy prying press (newspapers mainly).
Wayne Rooney is not only Manchester United’s leading goal scorer of all time, he is England’s leading goal scorer too. He has won every major Club competition available to him and is also England’s youngest ever goal scorer. You’d think he would be carried around in a Sedan chair by willing volunteers, but instead he is absolutely hounded by the UK press. Making up and distorting stories about his hairline and his weight and his family. How refreshing then when he joins the MLS and starts to be judged on his footballing achievements again. And his performances seem to be showing that he is getting settled into this fast growing league.
A league that, to me, appeared to want to mirror what others had done before but now is finding its feet and voice and individuality. With Rooney’s impressive start, Bradley Wright Phillips’ constant goals and familiar UK talent like Liam Ridgewell, Tyrone Mears, and Giles Barnes added to David Beckham’s Club Inter Miami, I’m sure that the MLS interest and coverage in the UK will grow. However I’m not sure that you need (or want) their approval, you are doing great without it.”
A lot to unpack here, so let’s get to it: You + Comments = Magic.
THIS WEEK’S PLAYLIST :
Oh, what fun these player-specific playlists are to generate. Not as fun as acronyms, but, tbh, nothing is.
Special mention — I chose two Fountains of Wayne tunes that I hope are harbingers of the rest of D.C. United’s season. Sorry Wayne, I love, you, pal, but I’ve already paid for my playoff tickets (?!?!?!) and I want my money’s worth (or back).