Where’s Eric Wynalda

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The MLS is off and running without Wynalds. Some say that’s a good thing, but I miss Eric Wynalda and his habit of saying what he actually thinks. There’s no sugar coating of things when he’s talking about certain MLS teams or players.

Wynalda was more straight talk than Jon McCain’s ever been. When he was up in the booth doing MLS and national team games, he added something that the soccer games often lacked, a bit of fight and fun. What’s the Letterman thing, where he riffs on a person with repeated refrains altered just a tad? Wynalda is the type of guy who will tell your grandma off. Wynalda is the type of guy who’d…He’s the guy who’d…Anyway, I do miss hearing Wynalda doing the MLS games, and the soccer season’s just started.

A few outspoken comments by Wynalda:

  • Eric Wynalda has called Los Angeles Galaxy general manager (and former national-team roommate) Alexi Lalas a "liar."
  • He said U.S. national coach Bruce Arena "screwed up this World Cup" moments after elimination last summer and demanded his immediate dismissal.
  • He said potential Arena replacement Juergen Klinsmann is "not a good guy."
  • He once said Freddy Adu was playing so poorly that "he may really be 14."

However, Wynalda might be best remembered for his comments about Jim Rome than anything else he does in the soccer world. Here’s a guy who stands up for the sport he’s passionate about, who else does that. Or perhaps there’s a better way to do it and that’s why we haven’t heard from Eric in a while.

"You will never get a guy, in me, who is more of a believer in the American player. Jim Rome can suck my d***! And he should be very afraid, because I’m the kind of guy, if I get too many drinks in me, I will club his ass. I’ve been on with Jim Rome, and I said, ‘Let me get this straight, you’re more impressed with water polo?’"

Wynalda did apologize to Rome.

"I’m certainly not happy this is out there for public consumption," Wynalda said on air. "It was meant in jest. It was just a joke. It was taken way too far. … This was clearly my mistake, my bad."

Don’t forget though, Wynalda was a great player in his time and scored this incredible and perfect free kick in the World Cup from nearly 40 yards out:


If Wynalda has announced his last game for ABC or ESPN, perhaps they could bring him back in and use him as a sort of younger version of Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes. Let him do a short piece after each MLS game or during halftime. A grumpy take on a sorry display in an MLS game or a genuine take on someone, a sort of Simon Cowell berating of the miss kicks and poor free kicks. It’d be refreshing, since like Cowell, when Wynalda compliments someone you know he means it.

But he’s a player that can back up his straight talk. He’s played in Germany and scored goals in the World Cup. In fact, he scored the first goal in the MLS when he was with San Jose. He had a swagger or confidence that verged on arrogance, but what the MLS needs now and again.

He was the MLS’s version of Eric Cantona, minus the karate kick to the fan and all the skill, but you know what I mean. It’s a reach, but he did have that pull your collar up and knock in goals attitude that’s good to see in a player. A quality that’s usually part of a lot of great players. They just need a coach to reign them in a tad but support them too.

Wynalda may have taken things a bit too far when he was in the booth or was just too big for the developing league when he played. A guy who’d played in Germany coming back to play in a new U.S. soccer venture–just starting out. Look at Blanco, he’s the same type of player in terms of attitude and swagger and he’s added some fight and flair to Chicago. But again, Blanco is a class all his own and has the skill to match.

Wynalda brings his own shtick when he’s announcing the game, and I sort of miss it. Give him some more time as an announcer and he’ll only improve, maybe learn to hold back a bit when it’s necessary. Be direct but not rude. He does know when and how to tone it down—he’s not the Howard Stern of the soccer world. He even shared time with Bruce Arena after knocking him during the World Cup in Germany, and then did the same during half time of a game with Lalas, who he too took a few hacks at with on the air barbs.

Is the coaching realm where Wynalda will end up or as a GM like Lalas? I don’t think so, he’s meant to have a mic in his hand. You get the sense he loves to talk, and talk trash at that.

The media has rules to abide by and those rules protect them in a way, but they often go too far with their regulations, remember that incident at the Super Bowl with Janet, well in the same way, jokes are misconstrued or get blown out of proportion.

Wynalda intended to discuss the wildfires in California, at least briefly, before he says his microphone was cut off. Wynalda blamed an overzealous producer with cutting off his mic before he could elaborate on his initial "Looks like California" comment after a camera shot showed Chicago Fire fans lighting flares in the stands at Toyota Park.

I didn’t have any problem with Wynalda, but when you think about it, soccer is the beautiful game, and in the EPL the announcers are like symphony conductors with their words. And the Latin announcers, they all have a passion and style that is nearly impossible to match or duplicate, plus their camera men always find the pretty Latinas in the stands. But that’s the point, Wynalda does have his own style, so they should bring him back in some role–his comments while direct and maybe outspoken, were insightful and funny. How about a petition to bring Wynalda back to the booth? Ah, I’m not that sold on Wynalda, just miss his comments from time to time when there’s an MLS game on. He keeps it interesting and underneath it all he is ‘a believer in the American player.

Overall, maybe Wynalda just went too far and ESPN and ABC had to say goodbye and try something new. When Tommy Smyth was in the booth with Eric a few times, you could sense that he was ruffled a bit by Wynalda, whose cutting comments built up and you felt like the old Irishman was ready to throw down with the American as they argued over various forwards. Forget dancing with the stars, how about a fight night. Would you pay to see that?

It’s amazing that the producers would cut Wynald’s mic when they thought he was going to say something inappropriate or off color. Free Wynalda and give him his mic back I say.

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