Are there enough big personalities in American soccer?

AlexiLalasClassic1 (ISIPhotos.com)

By IVES GALARCEP

Have you ever found yourself wondering where the big personalities are in American soccer? The players who know how to work a camera, and turn a phrase, and generate attention in the mainstream?

If so, you’re not alone. I wondered the same thing in a recent column for Goal.com about just where the personalities are in American soccer. Sparked by the public outburst of NFL player Richard Sherman, my curiosity about the subject led me to speak to Alexi Lalas, one of the few players in American soccer history who parlayed personality into a more high-profile career. His thoughts on the topic were interesting to say the least.

No, nobody is advocating for players to start shouting at reporters and showboating opponents like Richard Sherman. The point was more about having players who could promote and market themselves with interesting, and sometimes outspoken personalties. MLS is definitely lacking in this department, and the U.S. Men’s National Team doesn’t really have such outspoken individuals. Something we haven’t really seen since the 1994 team, which features the likes of Lalas, Earnie Stewart and Cobi Jones.

Women’s soccer has some more personalities, with Sydney Leroux and Hope Solo examples of players who have unique personalities that generate more interest in the sport.

Give my column a read and let me know what you think. Do you agree that American soccer could use some more players with outspoken and even outlandish personalities? Do you prefer the absence of those types of extroverts? Think having more personalities could help grow the game, or actually hurt the game?

Share your thoughts below.

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137 Responses to Are there enough big personalities in American soccer?

  1. JunkFoodTaster says:

    Absolutely spot on…. Brilliant observation.

  2. Madden's Chin says:

    Alexi Lalas is the exact opposite of the big personalities you want. He’s a smug, condescending jack*ss.

    Media attention. Media attention. Media attention. Get some Brazilians in here to make headlines with wild raves or a Ronaldo type to get his pretty face plastered all over the tabloids.

    Or Balotelli driving around Manchester throwing hundred dollar bills out of his car or chasing Wayne Rooney’s prostitute down the street or burning his house down by shooting off fireworks in the bathroom.

    So many things to do.

    • Ives Galarcop says:

      I tend to agree with you, Madden’s Chin. I think “big personality” is frequently a euphemism for “a-hole”. Whether it’s a result of American soccer culture or something else, I think our men’s team is humble and workmanlike, and there’s something admirable about that.

      • Older & Wiser says:

        I think that the lunchpail mentality is a legacy of Bob Bradley’s approach to things.

        • Spectra says:

          Yes USA soccer needs a Jose Mourinho.

        • GW says:

          The USMNT were like that before BB’s tenure.

          The 1990 WC team were basically a college team versus the best in the World. Yet all things considered they acquitted themselves well.

          If that does not foster a strong underdog, blue collar, scrap for every thing, ethic, I don’t know what would.

      • Gary Page says:

        Since you brought up the football analogy, let me quote the late Al Davis, longtime GM and owner of the Oakland Raiders–Just win, baby. Fans like winners and it doesn’t matter if they are a bunch of shrinking violets as long as they win more than they lose. That’s all I care about. Also, one thing that often seems true of “big personalities” is that they are self centered and not always the best team players. I much prefer team players to those kind of big personalities. Let me finish with a story told by Ralph Kiner who was a great baseball home run hitter. After he hit 50 homers one year he went in to talk to the GM about a raise. He made his best argument and the GM said to him, Where do you think we will finish without you next year? Why, last, Kiner said. Where did we finish this year when you hit 50 homers? the GM asked. Uh, last, Kiner said. Okay, said the GM, you’re free to keep your same contract or leave. Kiner kept his contract (of course, this was before free agency). I like this story because it doesn’t matter much how good you are if your team isn’t.

      • K-Town says:

        I don’t mind our players being humble and workmanlike. However I want them humble off the field and workmanlike on the field. Humble on the field is a problem. I want Micheal Jordan’s on the field. Guys that know they can get it done no matter what. Let your play be your big personality.

    • Ian says:

      I don’t get the vitriol towards Lalas. You’re not alone, obviously, but I think it’s misdirected. Lalas’ perceived condescension might come from the fact he is one of the few known pundits in American soccer, and as such, he bends his phraseology to pander to the non-soccer crowd – which is the majority of Americans. Americans, by and large, do not know their soccer history, nor the current state of affairs beyond the most recent women’s World Cup.

      • Joamiq says:

        His condescension is one part of it, and another is that he ruined multiple MLS clubs as GM.

        • Madden's Chin says:

          Also this.

          He’s the Matt Millen of MLS.

        • Michael says:

          I can’t argue with you re San Jose & MetroStars; at best he struggled as GM in both posts. However, though I was very frustrated with his tenure as Galaxy GM at the time, in retrospect it’s hard to hold him responsible for that disaster because of how much influence Beckham’s people seem to have had.

        • Michael F. SBI Mafia Original says:

          Ruined San Jose? Didn’t he win the MLS Cup as GM?

      • tom says:

        I love Lalas…Met him personally at AO parties and he acts just like one of the guys you would be drinking a beer with anywhere else. I don’t understand the dislike and think its just because he can be controversial and it makes the soccer snobs butthurt.

        • Ian says:

          I see him at Galaxy games pretty regularly. He’s always hanging out with Riot Squad or just walking around. Seems cool. He’s a really intelligent dude too.

    • krolpolski says:

      Didn’t I see him escorting an actress at the Golden Globes?

  3. Tony in Quakeland says:

    Two minor thoughts: Richard Sherman went up to Crabtree at the whistles, said, “Great game” and stuck out his hand. Crabtree shoved him and stuck his hand in his face. At that moment, the microphone was stuck in front of him and he went off. I never really had a problem with the emotion getting to him, but with that provikation and timing, I’m even less inclined to jump on the bandwagon bashing him.

    Alexi Lalas knows full well what he’s doing. And frankly, I get a big kick out of him. He mixes in some very smart observation with the delioberate provocations. I could listen to him and Macca going off on each other in the studio all day long.

    • CoMo says:

      Solid Point on Alexi, he is definitely no dummy, however I also wouldn’t mind seeing his time in the sun quickly fade out. I use to hate Twellman but he is rather straightforward in what he thinks in the booth as well and I respect that.

      **Sidenote: are we sure Sherman walked up like a Stanford gentleman and said good game, patted the butt and stuck out his hand in a very inviting manor?? I haven’t heard any audio evidence. Persoanlly I don’t care what he or Crabtree did with a SuperBowl spot up for grabs.

    • name says:

      Audio evidence did support what Sherman said, but personally, it seemed he was out of line going up to him after the game in the manner he did based on all of the trash talking and hate those two had between each other. I’m guessing Crabtree took it as a sarcastic backhanded show of ‘respect’. Not a supporter of either team or the NFL, but I don’t think either player is purely innocent and I do think Sherman did deserve some of the backlash he received (not the racist stuff).

      Back on topic, good call on the lack of personality in US soccer, I never even thought of that. I would argue Clint Mathis was one of those personalities as well.

      • EspinDOHla says:

        Yes. It did.

        He said, “Hell of a game”

      • GW says:

        Clint Mathis was the first American player I can remember with the with the kind of arrogant, aggressive confidence that great attacking players have.

        During a time when everyone said American payers could not keep up Clint was “F==K them , I dare them to stop me!”.

        It’s a great shame that injury and his particular lifestyle choices derailed what could have been a much more significant career.

        At his best he could play with anyone and he let you know it.

        • K-Town says:

          Preach! I love confidence in athletes. Can’t have shrinking violets on the field. Of course, you need them to be good teammates and avoid having locker room cancers. But damn, Clint was the man and he knew it. I got no probs with that.

    • rick says:

      I hardly think Richard Sherman was being genuine or showing sportsmanship by approaching Crabtree at that moment. Patronizing would be an accurate way to describe his actions. Richard Sherman knows how to play the cameras. What’s obvious is he took the spotlight away from his team and placed it squarely on himself.

    • tony and cupcake says:

      Sherman when up to Crabtree not after the game, it was after the interception that sealed the game. It was classless without a doubt. He was penalized for it so the ref saw it the same way. He had time to settle down after the game, it think what he said to the reporter in the interview came from his heart (a glimpse into his real person, not good).

      • ben says:

        It came from in the summer at a celebrity softball game when Sherman showed up and was shaking everyone’s hands and he went up to crabtree. Crabtree slapped his hand away and said I should mess you up right now and people had to restrain him from fighting Sherman for no reason.

        Also Sherman was penalized for the choking sign to Kaep. Nothing to do with Crabtree.

        He did not have time to settle down. He was in the moment and just made the play of his life to send his team to the superbowl against the guy that tried to fight him this summer. He was pumped. Get over it.

        As a person off the field, if you’ve ever heard him speak to local reporters 95% of the time hes courteous, funny, and a good interview. Its the few things that ESPN and other national media outlets decide they need to blow up that misconstrues his image. That, and that people are lazy and will just accept that he is a ‘Thug” when it really couldn’t be farther from the truth.

        I gave you some good information. Im sure youll choose to ignore it and think that he is a bad person. Just thought id try

        • MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

          I’ve heard Sherman on post game interviews. My thoughts of him were/are that he is literate speaker and a good guy. I didn’t know about his summer altercation with Crabtree. Explains a lot. I’m not saying what he said was cool; but hey it gets your attention. The USMNT could use a little media attention. Lol

        • Nate Dollars says:

          the original source for your “good information” was richard sherman’s (totally unbiased) brother, who wasn’t actually at the charity event.

          there is a contradictory version of events from someone who was actually there that i could post here, but seriously, who the f— cares? let’s talk about soccer instead.

          (the only person who refers to sherman as a “thug” here is you.)

          • ben says:

            I never called him a thug? Not once. I’m just saying being here and listening to him often, he’s not what people think he his. Listening to his teammates talk about him, he’s not what people think he is.

            But it’s just incredibly annoying the people who don’t know what they are talking about and don’t care to find out who he really is. Because it’s easier just to hate.

            • Nate Dollars says:

              i do get what you’re saying about people judging a guy they don’t personally know, but i also think it’s kind of ironic that you find it annoying when others “don’t know what they are talking about” when you just repeated the story of a biased person who wasn’t even at the event in question.

          • MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

            Actually Media outlets called him a “thug”. He had a interview yesterday were he came out saying he was being la baled as a thug. It’s on ESPN sportscenter.

        • Flin says:

          Sherman is slime and dumb.

        • Flin says:

          He is a thug you moron!!!!!!! An ugly thug at that.

          • SBI TroII says:

            A guy who graduated with a 4.0 from Stanford is a thug? He also overcame his upbringing in Compton, CA. You must think Justin Bieber is a “misguided youth” too.

    • Flin says:

      Sherman is ghetto trash

  4. Alex H says:

    I am actually impressed with the fact that, unlike Richard Sherman, most of our top players can articulate their thoughts. Their quotes usually convey something that adds to my understanding and appreciation of the game. No need to go over the top. The players should let their game do their talking and if it is good enough, the attention will come.

    • Bean says:

      Sherman seems much smarter than the average MLS player. Was that the only interview you have seen? Sherman by far is the best cover corner in the game, and he does let his game do the talking. He also is not afraid to say what’s on his mind. Not a mindless corporate drone.

      I’m tired of the whole–“we don’t want star players in MLS because it’s a team sport” attitude. MLS can be so much better.

      • Ian says:

        Fact: Sherman is a smart guy and a Stanford grad, but he’s unwise.

        • Joamiq says:

          Agreed.

          • Flin says:

            Joamiq, you are a complete and total 100% moron. Yeah, you agree, LLOOLLL!!! You are a little liberal worm. You’re about as sharp as a round ball. You little liberal prick. I hope you choke on some Argentinean steak. Sherman is ghetto trash and really dumb when he was a Stanford. Sherman and you, have the vocabulary of a ghetto bum

            • Alex says:

              You sound like a real smart guy, yourself.

            • Captain America says:

              You seem to be taking this whole Richard Sherman thing way to personal. You should probably re-evaluate your life in a way to better find some solace.

              • Claudio Reyna says:

                A guy calling himself Captain America should re-evaluate himself as well. Theres only one and it is me.

        • Flin says:

          What’s your definition of smart? A rock? He is a moron. If you think he is a smart guy, you must be a genius. And by your writing, you are a complete simpleton.

      • recovered amishman says:

        Agreed, Bean. People trashing Sherman as a player and as person aren’t paying attention.

      • Flin says:

        Bean, go stuff your face and choke on a burrito. You are full of s$$t. Smarter than the average MLS player? You are a prick!!!!! He may not be smarter than a rock. And you are about as smart a snail.

        • Bean says:

          Flin,
          You have the mental acuity of a 50 year old alcoholic, janitor, and the personality of a slug. You likely reek of brown gravy.

    • HoboMike says:

      I’d watch a few videos of Sherman being interviewed if I were you. He’s incredibly articulate.

      • MN Footie says:

        Agreed, HoboMike.

        See if you can find an interview of Sherman talking about how he plays the corner position. It’s brilliant. I tend to think his success is more based in analytical thought than in athleticism. (Though he’s also a freak athlete.)

    • GW says:

      Don’t kid yourself. Richard Simmons is very sharp and has a plan.

      This is all orchestrated so he can eventually make an easy living as that most odius of all things, an American celebrity.

  5. John says:

    I think part of it is we have this culture around the game where American’s don’t know what there talking about and our league is awful and why would anyone come here to play. Lalas is hated for being one of the few to try and push against this a bit. Does he always believe what he says? No but he understands sometimes it more to do with perception then reality.

  6. Raymon says:

    Nice article Ives.

    I am not sure if a big personality is what we need as much as more big moments. The two obvious ones are USWNT in 99, and the Algeria win. Those moments broke through to the mainstream and are now part of America’s favorite collective sports memories, in all sports.

    To give you an example, I am not sure “Alexi Lalas” is a household name outside those of us who follow the sport, even in the wild west days he spoke about. I guess he got some attention (who is the skinny redheaded mouthy kid?), but I think it’s the BIG MOMENTS that are remembered and get our sport the attention it deserves.

    • Fredo says:

      Alexi was on the ’94 team. That was pretty BIG. But, definitely we need more personalities in MLS now. The Bash Brothers got injured and fizzled last year.

  7. Bean says:

    People are afraid of big personalities invading their living rooms. Americans want safe corporate humbleness, and players to play down their greatness in front of them.

  8. Raymon says:

    Oh, and by the way, I predict that after the WC2014, Jurgen Klinsmann will endear himself to many outside the sport. He is a very personable and charismatic and articulate personality. Regardless of result, Americans will get to know him, and like what they see.

  9. mouf says:

    The women you listed are some of the best in the world at their sport, as is Sherman. American men’s soccer has ZERO people of this stature.

    • Raymon says:

      Tim Howard

    • John says:

      Perhaps but Hope was even making headlines as the back up keeper for things she said.

      • jones says:

        This is why I love Solo.

        I mean, I would never want to be friends with someone like her and she is definitely not always right, but she talks mad game and is generally unapologetic. I can’t think of a male American player with the level of cockiness (or talent, which could be the problem).

    • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

      Men’s soccer is so much bigger than woman’s and American football.

      If Mouf is only going to include 1 teams worth of players for the greatest…sure he is correct. If he is going with a set percentage of pro players…no definitely not zero.

    • John says:

      Also can you really be the best in the world at a sport only one country really plays?

      • GW says:

        Yes.

        Since when does every sporting event in the world have to include every single country in the world to be legitimate?

        Last year the Ravens were the best American footbal team in the world. The fact the sport is not played anywhere else is not their problem.

        I don’t know who the best cricket team in the world is but the fact that the US, as far as I know, or a number of other countries do not field a team in cricket’s version of the World Championship or whatever it is called in no way takes away from that team’s right to call themselves the best in the world.

        The Red Sox currently hold the title of the best baseball team in the world. Anyone who wants to prove otherwise is welcome to try.

        • Michael says:

          Lots of countries play cricket – cricket to football is not a very strong analogy in this regard.

        • Michael says:

          Also, one could argue that the Red Sox are the top baseball club, but necessarily not the best team in the world, as it’s debatable whether they would beat Japan or the current WBC title holders Dominican Republic.

          The Super Bowl winners probably are the best American football team in the world, but why not call them “national champions” or “American champions”? Yes, I know, “national champions” is reserved for the NCAA – but I’m not aware of any other example where a country substitutes “world champion” for what might more accurately be called “winner of a league that contests games in one country.”

          I don’t think the Irish, for example, call their Gaelic football winners “World Champions,” though the top Gaelic football team in Ireland is probably the top Gaelic football team in the world.

        • Michael says:

          I suppose I should have said ‘Outside of U.S. sports’ instead of implying the NFL was the only league that calls its winner ‘world champions.’

        • John says:

          I don’t have anything against the NFL. I just think we often hold American soccer players up to this same standard as other American sports when the pool of talent they have to compete against is truly global. Perhaps if we put things into that context we would view a national team player as on the same level as any NFL pro bowl player.

  10. Increase says:

    All I can think about is this: link to youtube.com

    Lets just say…. Its G rated, involves Lalas in a kids movie and horribly offensive at the same time.

  11. LIUnited says:

    Ives,

    There are many factors in why there are no current personalities in American soccer.
    MLS pay scale, salary cap
    Coaching out creativity
    Lack of individual success
    Lack of team success
    The migration of talent to Europe
    The players that go to Europe are fighting for their positions, not automatic starters
    among others

    While Alexi Lalas, Wynalda, Cobi Jones were characters there are others that have not been able to hit all of the notes. Freddie Adu never reached any height of his potential, Juan Agedelo – needs success and a highlight reel (another with potential with nothing delivered), Brek Shea – see J Agedelo, Stuart Holden – if he could stay on the field how many posters could he sell to teenage girls, Michael Bradley – coaches son, Should get more attention – see his quotes during world cup qualifying, Should be US Captain, plays with the joy of a machine (and I think he is our most important player), Landon Donovan – aloof and never truly pushed himself, Eddie Johnson – never saw the field in England, Clint Mathis – one or two big years but no sustained success, Clint Dempsey – What marketing person wants to use his scowl?

    • John says:

      Also theres a culture around soccer thats ready to knock anyone down right away. What right after someone won the Super Bowl the first question was “How do you think you would do if this was actually a global sport anyone else cared about?”

      • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

        John, perfect. Absolutely perfect.

      • John says:

        Actually they the very opposite and say ” How does it feel to be the World Champion?”. Sometimes perception is greater then reality.

  12. cg says:

    On a recent Total Soccer Show podcast, they talked about the leaked pictures of possible new US uniforms, the ones with collars. Someone said collars are good because then some players can pop them… but then they concluded that there isn’t really anyone on the current squad who they could see rocking a popped collar.

    I think that’s the same idea here. I think it would be good to have a guy or two who has a little more of a cocky, outspoken character.

  13. HoboMike says:

    Are personalities necessary for success? In soccer, it seems the opposite. Who are the strong personalities on Spain or Germany? It’s like every member of the Spanish team has a side bet to see who can give the most boring interview. Argentina? Messi barely says a word. On the other hand, France has a ton of strong personalities, and look where it got them at the last World Cup – national embarrassment. Balotelli keeps getting in his own way. At one point or another, England had Beckham, Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney, Walcott, Gascoigne, Terry. There’s a country we should really strive to be like.

  14. Brain Guy says:

    This piece seems to come from the “slow news day/week” file. I can think of a dozen things that American soccer needs to work on ahead of identifying and marketing “big personalities.” Lalas and Wynalda stood out because they were brash and controversial, and because the media were still figuring out how to cover the game on its own terms. I agree that it helps the American game to have players who are media-savvy and media-friendly, but I don’t think that means “big personalities.” Would you call Stuart Holden a “big personality”?

    • foooo says:

      It’s a legitimate question/topic and one that you took the time to read and comment on.

      Of course big personalities are necessary. They get people talking, even those who aren’t fans. The whole Sherman deal is being discussed ad nauseam, even by people who aren’t football fans.

      People can whine all they want about cockiness and trash talking, but it riles people up and makes them pay more attention — something the U.S. game could use more of.

      Ibrahimovic is the perfect example of the buzz MLS and U.S. Soccer don’t have. Yes, he’s a fantastic player, but he’s also insane and one of the most colorful (or hated) characters you’ll see in the game. His unpredictability, both as a player and as a person, is what makes him fascinating to watch and follow.

      • Brain Guy says:

        So MLS attendance and TV ratings would go up if it could just sign and market enough self-important loudmouths? A month from now, all of those non-football fans who are now talking about Richard Sherman will still be non-football fans.

        • MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

          So what’s your point? Regardless if they aren’t football fans a month later; they still were captivated by Sherman’s post game interview. MLS could use the publicity that a player with Ibra’s talent and antics would bring .More media attention is better than no media attention.

          • Brain Guy says:

            And fleeting media attention based on antics that crowds out media attention based on the sport itself may be worse.

            • MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

              Boxing my friend has made millions off of that.

              • Brain Guy says:

                A handful of boxers, yes. But boxing’s popularity has been plummeting for decades. Not sure it’s a good model for a growing soccer league. More generally, though, I think we’ve gotten off track. I didn’t say big personalities wouldn’t help, but rather that it was not a top priority now. Cart before the horse, etc.

  15. Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

    I think there have been personalities in US Soccer, there just haven’t been personalties that also were also really big names ( MLS, USMNT )

    Real soccer fans remember guys on their teams through-out the years who were not afraid to be a Deandre Yedlin of their times, or God forbid a previous version of Lenhardt.

    It was just a smaller scale, due to less interest.

  16. Ryan says:

    As I was reading I was thinking of my former Metro boy Cletus! He was a personality, (see youtube video of him scoring at Hannover 96 and vehemently pointing to his “wristwatch”). I remember watching El Pibe and Etcheverry back in the day. Great personalities in MLS. E.J. definitely has some swag now. I think Dempsey will play angry this spring. Get HIS swagger back, (and scowl), that will propel him (us) into the World Cup. But overall I think the sport should market the hard working guys like Cahill, Bradley, Beckerman, etc. Although they may lack pizzazz I think the North American culture tends to back the blue collar worker which is also how the U.S., (despite Klinsi’s best efforts), has always played and sometimes excelled!

  17. beto says:

    MLS has plenty of out characters but sure i guess they could use more! i still don’t understand why Chivas fired Chelis!!!

    What is missing is the spotlight! We rarely get to have controversial post game interviews, media jabbing or in-depth profiles on main stream media.

    while i certainly want growth and exposure, there is a lot of junk that comes along with all the media that covers the Sherman’s, A-Rod’s and Ron Artest’s of American major league sports..

  18. Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

    On a slightly related note, has anyone ever read the comments on Goal.com articles ?
    I never read that site until Ives joined…..it’s like watching a TV show at 2:00 AM and the commercial comes on reminding you JUST how much you should be keeping better company by going to sleep or changing the channel.

    Ives is way too good to be a 2:00 AM showing of Three’s Company.

    Goal.com needs to clean up the posts through banning.

  19. Cannon says:

    Rafa Marquez had a big personality.

  20. Lost in Space says:

    There are players in the current USMNT Pool who have personalities…its just that they are fewer in number than those with the Blue-Collar/Respectful approach. When you factor in the relative youth of a number of our pool players…being humble isn’t such a bad thing. I actually prefer players who are respectful over those who are obnoxious with their distractions and antics.
    But back to the personalities among the current player pool….
    Shea has a big (goofy) personality, he just doesn’t get much air-time due to his lack of playing time with his club or the national team.
    Gooch & Jones are very intimidating personalties. I remember watching the aftermath of a Gooch V. Borgetti clash and walked away thinking Borgetti better slink away before Gooch goes off on him. Then there was the Jones tackel of Naymar a couple years ago. Both players may be soft spoken (respectful)….but they carry BIG STICKS.
    Dempsey is one who’ll talk trash, wag his finger, etc…. but he doesn’t present himself as arrogant and better than everyone. He’s grounded.

    Could we due with a bit more flair…sure. And I’m sure as our National Team and League improve we’ll see more and more of it. But I hope we never have the head cases (arrogant pre-madona’s) that other soccer nations (Italy, Mexico, England, France, etc…) or sports (NFL, NBA) have in abundance. Soccer is the ultimate team sport, where even 1 bad apple can cause serious issues within the team. Hell….just look at the US team just before the 98 WC, The Harks & Wynalda issue along with the David R. inclusion distroyed the team….or the 2010 French WC Squad. Both are prime examples of how too much ego/personality can distroy 4 years of work.

  21. Karl says:

    To be a big personality first you have to be tops at what you do, otherwise you look like an ignorant hack…… Like Lalas

    • John says:

      Was Lalas one of the best in this country at his position? I would say he was, so I don’t see how that any different then a guy like Sherman.

  22. go euro or go home says:

    I am not sure people watch the NFL (or anything else) for the “personalities.” The DRAMA of the game is what gets people addicted. Personalities drive that addiction when the games are not on, but as far as game viewership, I do not think it has a ton to do with personalities.

    • Brian says:

      gambiling gets viewership, gets people addicted and adds more personal attachment. Ever ask yourself why the EPL has SOOOO many gambling sponsors?????

      a few years back, i was at a sports bar in Carlsbad California and the padres were playing a wildcard game or something (win or go home type game). bar was full of dudes half watching the game. my co-worker who was a big baseball fan (and a gambler) announces that he would bet anyone & everyone willing, 50 dollars that Padres were going to lose. at least 7 guys took him up on the offer. instantly almost all the eyes in the bar (even the non-gamblers) are on the game, people are screaming at the TV and everyones ‘addicted’ to that game.

      • go euro or go home says:

        well, yeah. Gambling is an artificial way to create drama. The point that I was making is that DRAMA is the number one factor why people watch sports. Personalities can add to the drama, but I think that in most cases personalities are at least secondary.

  23. Human says:

    There are no BIG personalities in American soccer. The MLS isn’t relevant, at least not yet, in the American sporting landscape so most people could care less. Most of the players on the U.S. team are not well known, most people here do not know who Donovan, Dempsey or Altidore are. There are no top notch American soccer stars so nobody cares about any of them.

    Sure you can throw the women’s team with Hope or Alex but still most people could care less women’s soccer. It is only big here because were the only country that really invest money in women’s sports and the only reason they can contend with other women in the world. Most other countries do not care about their women’s sports programs and if they did the women’s tram would win as much.

    In America even NBA fans or even soccer fans will watch the Super Bowl with Richard Sherman because the NFL Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event in American culture. NFL players make lots of money and their games are nationally televised all the time unlike MLS. They are celebrities MLS players, unless a truly big American players comes along, are NOBODIES.

    • bushnell says:

      +1 it’s hard to be a personality if nobody knows who you are

    • John says:

      This really just comes down to perceptions though as NFL players don’t compete on a global scale of talent. It’s hard to say that Sherman is any more a top notch player then Donovan on a global scale. I think one thing that really holds the sport back in this country is people not being able place it into its realitive context. We’ve been so sold on the idea the Super Bowl winner is the “World Champion”. I could just make up a game and declare myself world champion but it’s not really going to mean the same thing.

    • krolpolski says:

      Mike Magee is a big personality. He took the Fire on his back and almost single-handedly dragged them into the playoffs. It’s not just scoring goals. I bet he’s captain of the team next year and anybody that doesn’t play to his standards will get his ass kicked quick.

    • Adi from Oregon says:

      Here’s one soccer fan who will NOT watch the US Football Bowl because of its emphasis on brute force and physical violence (e.g., concussions, blown-out knees, etc.). In regards to personalities, we don’t need any artificial hype in soccer and let player talent speak for this world-wide sport! Most of the WORLD immediately knows who Pele and Beckenbauer are and also respect the sport of soccer which they played so amazingly WELL!!!

      • Thisten says:

        “Here’s one soccer fan who will NOT watch the US Football Bowl…”

        Not even for the commercials?

  24. FRANK says:

    YES I THINK USA SOCCER NEEDS JOE NAMATH

  25. el paso tx says:

    No, simple as no. USA needs people who stand up for soccer in america, and if they wanna be barbies like beckham or christiano ronaldo or balloteli, good but stand up for american soccer and defend american soccer. Not only that, but america needs better soccer commentators who are american and have soccer in their blood.

  26. Joamiq says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb and posit that it’s not Sydney Leroux and Hope Solo’s “unique personalities” that generate interest so much as other things about them…

    • Good Jeremy says:

      I would disagree. Check out Leroux on social media, she is always posting pictures of herself, family, friends, pets, etc. She’s posting random things from across the internet and talking with fans in her comment section. She is very open with friends and has a great sense of humor. She’s extremely charismatic and media savvy.

      Being one of the sexiest girls on earth definitely doesn’t hurt though.

      • MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

        Dude all girls do that. People pay attention cause she’s hot.

        • Good Jeremy says:

          I’ve followed a handful of athletes on facebook and none of them do nearly as much as her. A lot of them just post training pictures and link articles about themselves. She is very, very friendly and presents herself as very open. I guess everyone has their own opinion and we won’t convince each other, but I feel she builds connections between her and her fans that are not related to her tattoos or bra size.

  27. MisterJC says:

    I read the article not long after it was posted since sometimes I work in the middle of the night.

    First, I definitely agree with the general premis that American soccer needs more personalities.

    Second, I disagree with the general sentiment towards Sherman. It’s the NFL, for goodness sake.

    Third, to counter a point made in the article, a player like Sherman, who since he’s been in the league, has consistently been considered one of, if not, the best at his position, is EXACTLY the kind of player we need in American soccer. If we had 2 or 3 like that, we’d be much more of a force in the world of soccer.

    Ok, Sherman could have handled things a little better, but it was made into far more than what it should have been. The media just wants to tailor pick what personalities are allowable and which ones have “no class” which is somewhat bogus…

  28. inkedAG says:

    I think it comes to Marketing and Advertising, or lack thereof. Let us know about these guys. Do more national interviews. Get them in commercials. Market them and I think the rest will take care of itself. Having said that, I think US Soccer relies on anonymity way too much.

    Also, do it smartly. There had to be someone who was involved with MLS and Microsoft that had to realize that Steve Zakuani can’t rap. I did a search and the most hits were about how bad it is. Then, to add insult to injury, every friggin video has his “this is how I work/play” commercial cementing that this campaign was wrong from the get-go. So, instead of featuring that ad nauseum, chose more guys. I’m sure we have personalities in US soccer, I just don’t think the light is shone on them appropriately.

    I’m not social media savvy, but I think Dax McCarty is pretty witty. Benny Feilhaber seems like a character. Brek Shea had awful corn rows at one point.

  29. firefan2008 says:

    Does Steven Lenhart count as a big US soccer personality? He is the only player here in the league nobody can’t stand.

  30. Eric says:

    Pa Modou Kah of the Timbers is the guy you’re looking for, Ives. When asked which soccer player he looked up to growing up, he said Mohamed Ali.

  31. happyjuggler0 says:

    “It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that. There’s no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. And the fact of the matter is it’s not 2004 anymore. It’s not 2004. And it’s 2007, and I think you have to live in the present. And you can’t live by big names. You can’t live in the past. It doesn’t matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold medal game in the Olympics three years ago. Now is what matters, and that’s what I think.”

    —Hope “big personality” Solo—

    So how did Ms. Number One not make the list of big personalities? Or would that diminish the article’s point?

  32. gabe says:

    I, personally, really hate the idea that so-called “big” personalities should accompany our players. Part of the foreign critique of the United States is that it is filled with loud, boisterous braggarts that are all talk and consist of very little substance. While I believe that is generally an unfair stereotype, I have to say that Wynalda and Lalas, while big deals in the context of a growing US game, were comparatively loud mouthed and average in the context of the world game. I’d rather be known as a nation as an up and coming country with talented players that let their game do the talking as opposed to a mediocre team with a bunch of “showmen.” Not all great teams have glamor or media luster. One of the greatest franchises in sports, the San Antonio Spurs, is an example of this. The same could be said about the New England Patriots.

    I will say that this crop of players has characters with great personalities. Clint Dempsey, a texan with “true grit” from a trailer park neighborhood…Landon Donovan, a complete head case with all the talent in the world who travelled to remote places to “find himself.” Michael Bradley, a steely prototype of American workmanship and resolve that has played in the best leagues alongside the best of players. Tim Howard, an elite keeper who overcame a disability and shines as an example to kids everywhere. Jermaine Jones, a hard-nosed, tattooed-up German who felt rejected by the rigid confines of the German set up that finds his freedom to express himself in the red, white, and blue. Stuart Holden, the most cheerful, doe-eyed kid who plays box-to-box without fear while instagraming his almost cartoonish life with his girlfriend, beloved by fans wherever he goes. These are personalities, and the fact that they are not foot-in-mouth types like Lallas and Wynalda doesn’t negate that.

  33. K. bowen says:

    The championship game this year was Kyle Beckerman vs. Graham Zusi.

    Yes, MLS and US Soccer need more big personalities.

  34. Adam M. says:

    No one would care about the outsized personalities of Beckham or Zlatan or Ronaldinho or even Kaka in his own way if they were not world class soccer players with a history of playing for the biggest clubs week in and week out. US soccer has never had any one even approaching the rung below that level, which means we get temporary spikes like the Dempsey face or the Donovan goal when they do something good on occasion for the Nats, but nothing sustained. Take Luis Suarez for example. He’d have been a huge headline generator given his past year if he was American, but we don’t have anyone at that level. For all we know, there may very well be outsized personalities in US soccer. Problem may be that no one is paying attention because the players aren’t any good.

    • John says:

      I think this kind of mindset shows one reason the sport struggles to grow here. Why is being one of the best in this country not seen as a big deal? Anyone in the NFL is honestly just one of the best American’s because no one else plays the game. Was Sherman really a name people knew around the world before this? I really doubt it. You can’t even put a CB on your fantasy team.

  35. Fredo says:

    More Hey Dude.

  36. ThaDeuce says:

    Charlie Davies was on his way.

    Freddy Adu shrunk.

    If swagadelo makes it, that could be one.

    Also brek.

  37. John says:

    Have we all already forgotten Omar’s Christmas saxophone solo or him flashing the entire team after winning MLS cup?

  38. RBNY says:

    Eddie Johnson probly fits the bill for this.

  39. wandmdave says:

    I don’t watch the NFL so I’m not sure but I imagine Sherman’s outburst wouldn’t have gotten any traction without 3 conditions being met.
    1. This was already mentioned in the article but the player has to be very very good if not great.
    2. The team they are on has to be very very good if not great.
    3. The sport has to be at least decently popular already.
    To me that means personality is 4th on the list of marketability probably distantly. They are useful to fill dead air or print space when the sport, league, or team a lot of people care about isn’t generating a lot of news.

    Going over the names you listed in your article as other examples I think they support that arguement as well.
    Chael Sonnen I’ve never even heard of because I dont watch UFC and none of my friends or work contacts watches UFC. If the benefit of big personalities is supposed to be getting air time and therefore new eyes, that doesn’t seem effective because UFC isn’t mainstream.

    Floyd Mayweather I’ve heard of but more because he’s supposed to be really good. I know nothing of his personality and can’t recall any incidents he’s been involved in. Seems like the talent is the driving force behind his marketability for people that don’t already actively follow boxing.

    Peyton Manning fits the bill but he doesn’t strike me as a character. He strikes me as fairly regular personality who has had a media persona created by marketing firms which wouldn’t exist if he weren’t one of the best players in the US’s most popular sport. Seems like Michael Bradley could easily switch places with Peyton if the standard of soccer in the US was the global standard and if soccer was the most popular sport in the US and therefore marketers could make money off of him.

    What will drive the sport far more than big personalities is superstar level talent. I don’t really care about basketball but I want to see Lebron James play knowing he’s going to be legendary when its all said and done. Being media savvy is just icing, not the cake itself.

    • BUD says:

      I agree, Peyton’s personality is non-existent! I thought he was a terrible comparison to Chael Sonnen and Money Mayweather in the article. Not even close. His interviews are always the same, “we did some things well, we’re going to enjoy it tonight and get better tomorrow” (on repeat). Great talent though.