Proper Player, Piss-Poor Pundit: The Glasses Do Nussing! Edition

Memo to Waldo: THIS is how you do “brainy specs” (Credit obvs to the Beeb)

This is a series that looks at the greats (and goods) of the beautiful game that went on to sully the ears of footy fans around the world in the cushy confines of the commentary booth. Today’s subject: Just because he has Dutch ancestry doesn’t mean he’s got a Dutch understanding of the game.  Step forward, Eric Wynalda!

By the numbers, Eric Wynalda is, relatively speaking, a middle-of-the-pack forward. The California native was good for about a goal every three games, dropping 34 goals in 107 appearances for the USMNT and 64 in 220 total club matches.  He did hold the distinction of being the US’s all-time goals leader until 2008, when he was surpassed by Landon Donovan.

His true value in the history of the game, though, is in his pioneering a viable path to Europe through Germany for American players. Landycakes flaming out in Hoffenheim and then going on loan to Bayern later in his career? Baby Bradley bossing the Monchengladbach midfield? Those don’t happen without “Waldo” going there first.  Wynalda’s signature for Saarbrucken in 1992 marked the first time that an American had played in the German top flight.

So for his work in preparing the USMNT for the Dempsey-Donovan era and in pioneering a path to Europe for American stars, I think we can definitely call Eric Wynalda a “proper player.”

As a pundit, though, woof. As much as we all get on Alexi Lalas for his hucksterism for the American game, at least Lalas tries to bring some form of logic to his arguments.  Wynalda, by contrast, is in a way the perfect pundit for modern media.  He’s consistently loud and wrong, without ever actually saying a damned thing, and there’s absolutely no sense of joy in his work on the Fox Soccer desk.

Then there are his social media rants.  As the Offside Rules once famously chronicled, Eric does NOT respond well to USMNT defeats.  In fact, he responds kinda like the bastard child of David Hasselhoff and Denis Leary, noting that he “just wants to see someone getting dirt in their pussy,” forgetting that graft is the one area that the US team pretty much NEVER lacks, especially when Bradley was at the helm.

Further, there was his appearance this year at the NSCAA convention, in which he loudly proclaimed that EVERYTHING MLS WAS DOING WAS WRONG, despite the fact that the league has grown its audience exponentially over the past three years, got a broadcast partner that didn’t shunt it to “Game of the Week and absolutely NO highlights while we cling dearly to the EPL and show fucking Being: Liverpool instead” status, and did that all in a pretty steady, financially stable manner (for all the stick MLS gets, they’ve run themselves incredibly well to this point, and a few other commissioners would do well to take note).  Perhaps the most telling line was this “Fox said change your schedule and as soon as Valentine’s Day comes we’ll put you on our network.” 

Or, put more simply, “MLS didn’t cave to my employers’ demands, so I’m putting them on blast.”

When you shill horribly for your network, and make people nostalgic for Steve Cohen’s particular brand of fuckwittery?  You’re a piss-poor pundit, Eric.

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2 responses to “Proper Player, Piss-Poor Pundit: The Glasses Do Nussing! Edition

  1. oh come on, don’t get all pissy b/c he doesn’t slurp the MLS. his international experience gives him an incredibly well rounded view of the game and his success with calfc shows that he’s not off-base with his criticism of the talent identification system here in the US.

    the mls has done a great job of increasing interest in the US but there are still major gaps technically and tactically that need to be addressed. this league (and ultimately the level of soccer in this country) will never improve if we hate on everyone who is critical of it.

  2. Adam- I totally agree with you that MLS isn’t perfect, and that the standard both of play and youth development still have a LOOONG way to go. My point is that Wynalda picked the same line of argument, it turns out, that Sepp Blatter did. The schedule has nothing to do with why MLS isn’t doing better at attracting talented “mid-grade” players, or developing more young players that can compete globally.

    In fact, if Wynalda’s NCSSA rant had focused more on the issues that he’s been trying to combat with Cal FC, that would have been something (he mentioned them, but the majority of his session focused on scheduling and format issues). But the criticisms that MLS hasn’t switched to the western-UEFA play schedule (which would likely kill attendance) or immediately a promotion/relegation league (when quite honestly, not every “successful” USL team is ready to make the jump that Portland, Vancouver and Seattle did) completely obliviate the landscape that MLS is a part of- It makes more sense, from a viewership and attendance standpoint, to have a big chunk of the season running when baseball is the only major sport in play than to run coincidentally with the NFL, NBA and (when they actually play) NHL seasons (the latter two of which MLS would have to compete with for playoff viewers). And they seem even more tone-deaf with that telling line that Fox would have made MLS a “network” league between February and May- it sounded entirely like that line of criticism was something he was told to invoke by his employers.

    Would I like to see a tiered system with promotion, relegation, and the abolition of a playoff system that would crowd Red Bull New York “Western Conference Champs?” Absolutely. But at the moment, they’ve been building in a much more sustainable way than NASL (which could have been actually huge if it could have kept running through the 80s and 90s).

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