After playing Dallas and courting controversy, Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls visit Southern California Friday to play the Galaxy (AP Photo).
It’s a sign of how far MLS has come that soccer fans are clearing their Friday night calendars in anticipation – yes, anticipation – for a regular season game.
Read my column about the game, including exclusive comments from MLS Commissioner Don Garber on the Thierry Henry-Kevin Hartman incident, here.
Fellow blogger Steven Goff has reaction from Hartman’s agent here.
So the stage is set for Friday’s game.
Even the Eurosnobs should watch this one, you would think.
It should – should – be a great game.
But what if it’s not?
I’m not the only one who frets about that sort of thing:
“I think about what kind of experience fans have and what kind of stories can be told after big games because I believe it’s those stories that create a history for a pro sports league,” Commissioner Don Garber told me Monday after stepping off an airplane in Portland, where renovations begin today on the stadium there for the expansion Timbers.
“If this is a great battle it will turn into a even bigger rivalry and one that will be even more anticipated,” he added. “When we do have a game with a big platform and we don’t get a lot of drama I view them as missed opportunities. That being said both teams will be looking for three points – every game really matters from this point forward.”
Still, Garber wasn’t about to point to this game as representing some sort of breakthrough for the sport in this country in terms of finding a much larger audience:
“This is a project that still has many years left in the plan. I never suspected and I know our owners didn’t that with key player signings and other development the sport was going to explode in popularity overnight. What we can hope for is what we have now – continual growth. … We are delivering a much higher quality product that hopefully can satisfy the taste of what has become an ever more sophisticated soccer audience.”