* * *
For me, there is nothing better than going through the turnstiles on a Saturday and cheering my team on. It's great escapism.
I still recall my first game: November 1990, Swindon Town 1-2 Port Vale...the smell of the cigar/cigarette smoke and the constant swearing from irate elderly men! It was a grown-ups world.
When did your interest in Major League Soccer start? How did you become interested in the league?
There was a lot of snobbery in the build-up: “How on earth could the USA host the FIFA World Cup, they don't even play the sport!” Blah, blah, blah. I thought that USA '94 was a well hosted, entertaining competition. I had been an admirer of John Harkes from his Sheffield Wednesday days while my dad often reminded me that Roy Wegerle had a brief, yet successful, loan spell at Swindon Town in the 80s.
I've kept an eye on US soccer since then, but as soon as the internet entered every home, it has become far easier to follow MLS, so I would say late 90s to early 00s.
At first, did you take MLS seriously?
It's odd, but it's the little things that trigger these views and I think aspects such as the names of soccer clubs make a big difference. You'd be surprised how people will take Sporting Kansas City more seriously than they would the Kansas City Wiz.
The foundations of a good football league in sustainability. I'm a big fan of the gradual progression of the league’s expansion, and the fact that more teams emerging is a clear sign that things are going well.
I shudder at the idea of letting New York Cosmos coming in to the MLS.
There is a pretty good community of people who know their stuff. European soccer is so well followed; many don't need to go beyond the continent for their fix.
That said, I guarantee that if a television network showed highlights on a regular basis at a decent time of day, then people would watch.
It was a terrible game, but the experience of a U.S. soccer fixture was great. Massive carparks (parking lots in American lingo)! I love soccer, there isn't a stadium I wouldn't want to visit, but I'd love to check out soccer specific stadia ahead of NFL grounds.
The rise of the United States national team is testament of the quality the nation is producing. Whether it's collegiate or starting with MLS, the players who are emerging within the USA can make the grade in the biggest and best leagues in the world.
Ultimately, it's the coaches who get the players performing the way they do; one man doesn't make a team, but they help!
RP: Relaxed! I'm not a journalist; I'm a football fan. I hope I don't annoy people with what I plan to write. I'll write what I think.
What are your expectations and predictions this year for Sporting KC and the rest of MLS?
RP: Sporting Kansas City has a genuinely decent chance if they are consistent. Playoffs are the obvious minimum, and I'm not sure that they have enough to end the campaign victorious outright. I think the goals of Teal Bunbury will be key. If he fulfills his promise, then he can become a force to be feared.
* * *
* * *
I'd like to give a big thanks to Rich for agreeing to do the interview, even while moving to a new city in England! I'm always interested to get an outsider's look on MLS, and I think you've provided just that. Good luck to you and your new writing position. Cheers to a great 2012 season.
Readers, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for new interviews, please share below.