I'll admit to a debilitating and crippling addiction I have, albeit one that doesn't really have any serious negative consequences in my life.
I'm addicted to soccer podcasts.
It started about two years ago, when I started taking six-hour round-trip drives to a tiny mountain congregation in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. There's not a lot to do on the three to four hour drive up I-70 to Highway 9 to Route 40, and the radio either doesn't work at all, or tunes to things outside of Kremmling that are, let's say, not my cup of tea.
So this friend I went to high school with, Jonah, he had a soccer podcast. ‘March to the Match' with Jonah Freedman, Matt Doyle and Matt Tomaszewicz. And I had an iPhone. So I gave it a try. I was hooked faster than a Fabian Castillo counterattack.
And so began something between a love affair and a maddening obsession with listening to grown men pontificate about expected goals (xG), or the catenaccio, or whether Jurgen Klopp was covering up for problems in sector 3.1 and 3.3 . I subscribe to a ton of podcasts, and have sampled a whole lot more. Some MLS, some Euro. Some funny, some wonky. Here is my ‘definitive' (hah, sure rabbi) ranking of soccer podcasts for the soon-to-end year that was 2015. Note that I think all of these podcasts are worth a listen. There's a list of podcasts, equally long, that I wouldn't recommend. I won't mention them here because I'm a nice guy. Suffice it to say, if it's on this list, it's worth 30-60 minutes of your time. All of these can be found on iTunes.
6) Open Wide For Some Soccer
OWFSS is a good and thoughtful pod, run by DC United supporters. Pablo Maurer, @mlsist, co-hosts with some other dudes. They're hella funny, although the f-bombs fly and I gotta wait till the kids are out of the car to listen. It's essentially a podcast focused on all things DC United, with a spin around the events of Major League Soccer. DC United's soccer history and subculture; the decrepitude of RFK Stadium; the passion of their supporters groups, make this an enjoyable listen. The obsession with former DC player Long Tan is a bizarre diversion that makes this pod a bit like Mystery Science Theatre 3000. It's only drawbacks are two-fold: first, this pod comes out irregularly. Second, they do phone call-ins, which can be good. Or bad. Also, they don't give a shit about the Western Conference. But on the plus side, they hate the Sounders too. Which is nice.
Flakoglost is the unofficial official podcast of Burgundy Wave. Jose, Todd and Richard wax poetic about MLS and the state of world football, the USMNT, and usually the Rapids. Although you won't hear a lot of positivity about Colorado's own MLS club. Flakoglost is great and funny and merciless and profane. The guys sometimes ramble a tad, but this is good pod. They don't take themselves, life, or soccer that seriously. It's only the most important thing. Behind, possibly, beer.
4) Extratime Radio
Like it or hate it, ETR is the go-to show for a comprehensive picture of MLS. Andrew Wiebe, Matt Doyle, and Dave Goss mix dishing the MLS news and scores with some tactical breakdowns and some quality banter on things like questionable red cards or shoddy defending. This show is produced out of the MLS' home offices in New York, New York, though, so the grain of salt that goes with listening to ETR is that Don Garber and MLS are not going be criticized. That doesn't mean that Goss Wiebe and Doyle are sniveling yes-men for the company: they weren't super excited when NYCFC revealed their colors to be the same as Manchester United. Nonetheless, if you want men with pitchforks roiling substandard coaching or screaming and shouting about the poor quality of PRO referees, move along. This is not the pod you're looking for.
ETR's main flaw is a drop of inconsistency: it's a show that regularly brings on one or two guests. They can be great: Bruce Arena and Alexi Lalas and Pa Modu Kah and a super cute one-two of Dom Dwyer with Sydney Leroux have all been great listens. Padraig Smith at the beginning of the season was riveting for Rapids fans. Other times, the interviews, particularly with players, sound like long strings of meaningless cliches hooked together, like the worst of that scene in 'Bull Durham'. Thank God for the 15 second skip button.
One last thing: ETR's had a lineup change this past year. About a month ago long-time ETR co-host and ‘Instant Replay' guru Simon Borg was swapped out for tactical genius Matt ‘the Armchair Analyst' Doyle. It was a good move. I like Simon and I think he has a smart read of the game, but often (and especially if Wiebe wasn't on the pod) the show devolved into screaming matches over silly things between Goss and Borg. ETR at it's worst is ESPN's awful to watch ‘Pardon the Interruption' - old men yelling about phony controversy. But at it's best, ETR can be the most informative, most enjoyable MLS pod on your streaming device.
Stay tuned for my top three podcasts, plus some other odds and ends on the beautiful game in your ear hole.