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Friday, September 30, 2005
ESPNsoccernet: October 2, 3:47 PM UK
Jimmy's roundtable

Jimmy Conrad

Charlatans,

I present to you my latest effort.

A roundtable discussion

held by

Jimmy Conrad and some of his MLS peers

---

Actual participants and their respective handles:

Wade Barrett as the Captain, Joe Cannon as GK Joe, Landon Donovan as the Golden Boy, Ben Olsen as Ben Olsen, Taylor Twellman as Teabag, and Jimmy Conrad as the Host

Synopsis:

A meeting of the minds as our participants sound off on the current issues affecting the status of Major League Soccer.

Setting:

An internet chat room.

----------------

Host: As the overseer of this magnificent festivity, I would like to welcome you and offer my appreciation for joining me tonight.

Golden Boy: Hey everyone.

Captain: No problem.

Golden Boy: Who is the Captain? Is that Goose?

Captain: It's Wade Barrett.

Golden Boy: Wade is the new Goose.

Ben Olsen: I just figured out how to write on this damn thing.

Golden Boy: Great job buddy.

Host: Way to go.

Ben Olsen: Is Goose really on? I miss Goose.

Captain: Yeah, this is Goose.

Golden Boy: Listen, if I'm playing at 37, shoot me.

Host: Hello GK Joe.

GK Joe: Hi Jimmy.

Captain: You guys all do this way too often.

Host: We're just waiting on Taylor Twellman and then we'll get started.

Host: How many hunt-and-peck typers do we have?

Captain: I can't follow this conversation fast enough.

Golden Boy: Then quit kissing your coach's butt and pay attention.

Captain: Uh, I have no response to that.

Golden Boy: "Wade, you're such a great captain." "Thanks Dom."

Ben Olsen: I'm sweating.

Golden Boy: Take that sweater off then ...

Ben Olsen: Insert hairy chest joke here.

Golden Boy: ... Oh that's right, you can't.

Ben Olsen: That was a layup.

[Taylor Twellman enters stage right]

Host: Finally.

Golden Boy: It's about time.

GK Joe: Wow.

GK Joe: Let the fireworks begin.

Host: First issue: Is there a goalkeeper controversy in Colorado now that the Rapids are 2-0 without captain and current Goalkeeper of the Year Joe Cannon?

Teabag: Ask Joe.

GK Joe: You stole my issue.

Ben Olsen: Joe, do you remember the time you guys beat us and you ran around the stadium with the Super Cannon cape on your back?

[Everyone laughs]

GK Joe: No, that never happened.

Ben Olsen: That was sweet.

Golden Boy: So sweet.

GK Joe: I never did that.

Ben Olsen: I have it on tape.

Teabag: Joe, do you remember when you dyed your hair? That was awesome.

Golden Boy: Yeah, good move.

GK Joe: It's darker now.

Host: OK, here's a real issue to discuss and please elaborate: Can any of you explain the difference between playing Chivas USA in front of a sparse crowd and say, playing Chelsea on a Tuesday night in front of 40,000?

Golden Boy: You can't hear the phrase, [expletive], against Chelsea.

Captain: I bet Chivas USA would give Chelsea a run for their money. Really.

GK Joe: There are hotter chicks at the Chivas game.

Teabag: I love Mexico.

Golden Boy: If Chivas still had Ryan Suarez they'd be in the playoffs.

Ben Olsen: Since I'm the only one that plays Chelsea on a regular basis, I would say the difference is the goalkeepers on Chelsea are better.

Host: I guess what I'm getting at is, how do we make MLS games have that kind of atmosphere?

Teabag: Play six games a year.

Golden Boy: Fifteen games, max.

GK Joe: Hmm, it's hard to say when one player at Chelsea is worth the entire league.

Teabag: Make it like the NFL. Eight games on the road and eight games at home.

Captain: Nothing but time will allow games to have that kind of atmosphere ... and maybe if we play in stadiums like Spartan every game.

Golden Boy: Good one, Quakes rule.

GK Joe: Wade Barrett, so mature.

Teabag: Games at Spartan Stadium should be eight versus eight.

GK Joe: Jimmy?

Host: Joe?

GK Joe: A better topic is: Why does your mom show up at all of my games in Los Angeles?

Ben Olsen: Joe is the cape with you now?

GK Joe: I sleep with it.

Host: Is it the marketing? And I know I say this time and again but I have a real problem with MLS commercials only being shown during MLS telecasts. We have those fans already!

Golden Boy: Maybe if they marketed Freddy Adu more.

GK Joe: Landon has Freddy envy.

Captain: It's the marketing for sure. Dallas has a sweet new stadium and hasn't had a sellout yet.

Golden Boy: Nobody in the country knows we play. They know some players but not MLS teams.

GK Joe: We all need publicists like Landon.

Teabag: Brandi Chastain and Eric Wynalda with Rob Stone. That's our problem.

Host: Do you think changing our announcers would really make that much of a difference? I think we televise our games when our fans are out playing soccer themselves.

Golden Boy: I agree.

Captain: Forget television, we need to focus marketing on getting people to the games first.

Teabag: Television pays the bills though.

Golden Boy: Soccer isn't a TV sport in America.

GK Joe: I think Freddy is better now than Landon was at his age.

Teabag: Freddy is older than Landon.

Ben Olsen: MLS needs more cribs, more rims, more diamonds and more guys dating hot models. The problem and beauty of this league is that it has good, average dudes and we need more people that can be on MTV. I hate to say it, but I think it.

Teabag: I just got some 23s. Does that work?

[Laughs all around]

Teabag: And my dad is a gangsta. Actually, we were just on Jerry Springer.

GK Joe: We need more people to bleach their hair.

Golden Boy: We need more Nat Poonans.

Host: Echoing my sentiments above about our fan base and weekends, do you think that moving our games to Friday nights and having one game of the week on Tuesday nights would work?

Golden Boy: I like a night game for the game of the week. Day games [stink].

Teabag: I like Friday Night Lights.

Captain: Maybe. I don't think Friday nights are a big deal and a set game every Tuesday in smart markets might work.

Ben Olsen: I think it would work but the problem with that is attendance on Tuesday nights.

Host: I don't think attendance would suffer any more than a Saturday day game or a Wednesday night game.

Captain: Though let's try not to have the Real Salt Lake-Chivas USA game on.

Teabag: Free beer should get the people to come.

Ben Olsen: If your team isn't getting the attendance, then you shouldn't get a game on Tuesday with ESPN.

Host: I feel that with a Tuesday night game of the week, we won't have any conflict with any of the major sports. The same goes for Friday nights.

Captain: If we build each market up enough, we won't have to worry about competing for the sports market because we'll have a soccer market.

Ben Olsen: That's it.

GK Joe: We need Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson to go on tour.

Ben Olsen: I heard they started a group called "Too Fresh."

Host: And speaking of Eddie Johnson while expanding on a comment made by the Captain, why hasn't there been one sellout in Dallas' new stadium?

Golden Boy: Umm, it's too hot.

GK Joe: Frisco.

Teabag: Middle of nowhere.

Captain: Do they even have bathrooms yet?

Teabag: Eddie Johnson is injured and Carlos Ruiz is playing golf.

Golden Boy: Greg Elliot left.

Host: Should they have waited until it was complete?

Teabag: They need to wait for Jessica Simpson to have a concert twice. Then it is paid for.

Golden Boy: They should have waited.

Golden Boy: But the stadium is really, really nice. They'll get more people.

Captain: Soccer-specific stadiums are a part of the answer for sure, but that is where the marketing and public relations become key.

Ben Olsen: Other than a select few, the organizational aspect of MLS teams aren't great. It takes work by a good staff to sell tickets and get people interested. In this country the game doesn't sell itself.

Captain: Soccer doesn't need to be on the same level as the other major sports, we just need to have a place in the scene. The other sports are out of control.

Golden Boy: Why would you spend fifty million on a stadium and then nickel and dime on staff?

Teabag: Let's face it. Did they really build them for us? The Home Depot Center is for the X Games.

GK Joe: Since we have you guys here ... what really happened in Spain?

Host: What happened in Spain?

Golden Boy: They put us in the worst possible scenario with no chance to succeed.

GK Joe: You were on the team, so we had a chance.

Golden Boy: Jimmy was great ... especially against Ronaldo.

Host: Landon, did you touch the ball?

Ben Olsen: The league learned a tough lesson on the Spain thing. Same as the Dream Team, don't bring all-stars teams anywhere anytime to play other teams. It looks bad when our best players lose because they just flew in and stretched in the parking lot.

Host: Next so-called issue. I don't know what all of you are thinking during the national anthem/player introductions, but I'm thinking that I can't wait to shake hands with the other team so I can admire how big Taylor Twellman's head is in person.

Golden Boy: I'm checking out the chick singing the national anthem ... or the dude.

Teabag: I'm thinking about how tight my shorts are.

Ben Olsen: I'm looking at how hot the Crew-zer girls are.

Teabag: I feel sorry for my mom with this head at birth.

Host: Wow.

Teabag: OK, let's get serious and get this over with. Jimmy has to watch game tape on the German back four.

Host: Last issue for you guys to run with: Do you think having "developmental" players is beneficial to MLS as a whole?

Golden Boy: I like the Developmental League. There are many examples of people making a name for themselves when they wouldn't have had the chance in the past.

Teabag: I agree with the concept of a developmental league, but not with Alexi and Greg Lalas logging the most minutes because we don't have enough players.

GK Joe: I don't think it's beneficial to MLS, because when guys make so little money our league looks like a joke.

Golden Boy: They're given a chance. I say, the more players the better.

GK Joe: Also, developmental players out of college should be paid different than high school kids.

Teabag: Agreed.

Captain: Time will tell. For me, these guys would be better off in the A League. The current system only allows for what, 12 games over the course of the season. That's a lot of training for not many games in a year.

Teabag: I think they should play in the A League.

Golden Boy: They don't have to. It's their choice.

Host: Let's be honest. It's not really their choice. Every young player wants a chance to get their foot in the door; they're not going to spurn that to play in the A League.

GK Joe: Just because the Developmental League was your agent's idea doesn't mean you have to plug it Landon.

Golden Boy: [laughs] It's about developing players, right?

Captain: Training sometimes gets hurt also. If you have everyone healthy, how do you train 28 guys in a beneficial way on one training pitch?

Ben Olsen: It is a tough one. They like it, besides the pay, and they are having a blast, I think.

Captain: It's a catch-22 for sure.

GK Joe: I think Landon and Freddy should take a pay cut and we should pay the developmental players more.

Host: So who is responsible for the "development" of developmental players -- the player or the coach?

Golden Boy: Both. We need coaches who care about their development.

Teabag: I think it's on the coach to bring a serious edge on the competition for spots.

Teabag: And a coach that takes pride in teaching them, not killing them.

Captain: I think the development is stunted. We don't have good enough training for these boys, limited games, limited space, etc.

Ben Olsen: If the level at practice goes down, that's not a good thing. Every team in the world has the starters and the next 10 best in the first team and the rest go practice as reserves.

Host: So with all of this being said, what strides need to be made to make the Developmental League a thriving success?

Golden Boy: More games.

Captain: Maybe it would help to have a separate developmental coach.

Host: Should they train with the first team?

Golden Boy: Nope. They should be a separate team and then give the players a bonus if they play with the first team.

Teabag: I agree. We should reward the good ones who go up to the first team.

GK Joe: Good job guys.

Golden Boy: Also, when a guy gets hurt, he can play a game with the developmental team to get his fitness back.

Teabag: Landon and his agent get a cut of everybody that gets called up!

Captain: It would be great to have an entire reserve team that trains in the afternoon on their own and the better players train with the first team every once in awhile.

Host: I think we should agree to agree.

Teabag: Wade is so serious. Thank God for Wade.

Golden Boy: Send this to the commissioner.

GK Joe: Honestly.

Host: I appreciate all of you taking the time and chatting with me. Do you have any final thoughts?

Golden Boy: I love you guys like family.

Ben Olsen: Water the fields, change the balls to Nike balls, and ship referees from England.

Teabag: I'm definitely dumber for doing this.

GK Joe: Have each team play the other teams in its conference six times and the winner from the East plays the West in a one-game final. Last place of both conferences have a playoff and the loser goes to the A league.

Captain: Was this really any help for your column or just a bunch of random diarrhea of the mouth talk?

Host: I wish I knew.

Note: The above is not fiction.

Jimmy Conrad is a defender for the U.S. national team and Major League Soccer's Kansas City Wizards. He contributes regularly to ESPN.com.




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