With the Seattle Sounders remaining on the road through their Sunday game at Toronto, many supporters are watching and listening along with new radio and TV voice Arlo White, who joined Sounders FC from the BBC over the offseason.
For White, that meant switching from a steady diet of English Premier League soccer. For fans, it meant switching from a steady diet of local radio legend Kevin Calabro.
Now five games into his new gig, we held this conversation with the Sounders’ new play-by-play man (some answers edited for length or clarity):
Q: Is the new job turning out about like you expected?
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White: “No great surprises, to be honest. I did have a lot of homework to do. I felt that I was familiar with the Sounders and as comfortable in terms of my knowledge about them as you can be from that far away. I’d watched a few games on DVD; I had seen them live a couple of times. And now, spending time around everyone, the knowledge just seems to seep in.
“It’s every road team or opposition that we meet that’s a new experience for me. So, I’m watching all the game film. It helps what we’re doing on the (Soundersfc.com) website. We’re posting scouting reports, and that gets me sitting down, watching the game film, knowing individuals. I’m learning about the league all of the time.”
Q: What do you think of MLS?
White: “I do like it. There is a desire to play football. And by that I mean, sometimes to me goalkeepers make kamikaze passes out to their defenders. And you think, ‘Goodness me, you’d be hammered for that in the Premier League.’ It’s because there’s a desire to play the ball on the ground and play football. So, that I applaud.
“It’s not the standard of the Premier League, but it doesn’t profess to be. Maybe in 10 years it will be; who knows? But you watch the Champions League, and it’s football sometimes from a different planet. Watch Barcelona: That’s as good as you’ll get and as good as there’s been for 20 years. So to compare it to that, it’s always going to come out second best. But I think the desire is there to play the game in the right way.
“The technique is very good, from what I’ve seen. The desire, it’s physical and I think it’s compelling. A few of the games I’ve seen have been compelling. The Red Bulls game was an excellent game of football. The Real Salt Lake game was really interesting. The Kansas game was the poorest game so far, but then you look at what happened in the 92nd minute, it was just a fantastic finish. And you’re going to get games like that, that aren’t very good. But you get a finish like that and you think, ‘Well that’s what brings you back, isn’t it?’”
Q: Forgetting quality, what style differences do you see?
White: “It’s a physical league. And there is a fine line between being physical and being over the top and fouling a lot.
“If I was being honest, it’s up to the league to come out and make a few statements about it and say: ‘Look, this is the way we want our league to be and the game to be played in this country.’ Because it’s unfair to put all the onus on the referees, because they’ll always be slagged off and accused of being overly officious.
“But there are some roughhouse tactics going on there, and you want to say this has to be a league where if you are skillful and you are technically proficient you don’t get hammered. Two reasons: You will not be able to play because you’re injured, and therefore the product will suffer.”
Q: Any sense of how you’re being received by fans?
White: “I don’t know, to be honest. I haven’t had any death threats. I got some free pizza (last) Saturday night. ... The guys in the shop had Sounders T-shirts on and recognized me from the (Kansas City) game and gave me a free slice of pizza. So, long may that continue. My waistband will expand, and my ego as well.”
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said he is optimistic that goalkeeper Kasey Keller will be available Sunday. Keller was lifted at halftime of the Dallas game, suffering from blurred vision after a collision with FCD’s Jeff Cunningham. Schmid said reserve keeper Terry Boss did well in his MLS debut. ... The status of Pat Noonan (hamstring) and Michael Fucito (knee) also remains uncertain. ... After watching replays of the controversial penalty kick call that led to the 2-2 draw with Dallas, Schmid said he still believes it was a bad call.