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Jerry's World

Loganís criticism of media not in line with recent coverage gains.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Monday, January 4, 1999) -- Major League Soccer commissioner Doug Logan over-reacted with his criticism of the media following D.C. United's historic triumph against Vasco da Gama (Brazil) to win the Inter-American Cup. Yes, it arguably was the most historic victory in United States soccer history, but there were extenuating circumstances for the lack of coverage:

* The game was on a Saturday night in the middle of football season.
* The match was not widely televised.
* Only the soccer faithful realized its significance.

Soccer is not mainstream in most newspaper sports departments. Nor television, for that matter. Let's also not forget that football, baseball, basketball, hockey, car-racing and golf outdraw soccer.

Nevertheless, media coverage of the sport has increased significantly in recent years, much of it due to the 1994 World Cup. First-rate reporters keep abreast of developments throughout the country, especially in Major League Soccer cities such as Los Angeles, Washington, Boston, Miami and Chicago. Granted, coverage of international soccer is lacking -- even the basics such as scores and standings in top-flight England, Spain, Germany and Italy leagues -- and that is inexcusable.

Sports Illustrated has instituted semi-regular coverage of the sport, and the material is good. To wit, in the December 21 issue, these nuggets:

* The father of Indiana midfielder Yuri Lavrinenko died in 1991, at the age of 53, of leukemia, thought to have been caused by the Chernobyl nuclear plant fallout.
* Kasey Keller isn't the only U.S. starting goalkeeper in the England Premier League. Meet Espen Baardsen, 21, formerly of Lafayette, Calif., now with Tottenham Hotspur. He's also national team goalkeeper for Norway, his parents' native country.
* D.C. United defender Carlos Llamosa in 1993 was taking a lunch break a block away from his janitorial job at the World Trade Center when terrorist bombs exploded there, killing six persons.

Coverage on the Internet is outstanding, and that's probably the place to go for strong regular soccer news. Jerry Trecker of The Sporting News, for example, analyzes domestic and international soccer with intelligence. So does Grahame Jones of the Los Angeles Times. And Frank Dell'Apa of the Boston Globe.

And no one covers the sport better than the weekly Soccer America, especially the past year.

There are still pockets of media resistance to soccer, but the gains made in the past few years are enormous. Much of the credit should go to the hard-working staffs of Major League Soccer and the United States Soccer Federation, too-small groups that are extremely responsive to the media.

Logan, the major spokesman for soccer in the United States along with national team coach Bruce Arena, deserves a yellow card for his critical remarks.

Steve Sampson, the former national team coach, has put his finger on the main deficiency in U.S. soccer: Lack of a reserve team system.

He wants Major League Soccer to develop it. But some observers feel this will only happen in the long term, that the best chance of accomplishing youth development short-term is with a national under-19 league. MLS teams, the thinking goes, are losing too much money to pay much attention to reserve teams right now.

"Without a reserve team system, we stand no chance of being competitive with the rest of the world," Sampson said.

The longer this is put off, the less the chance of achieving the goal of being competitive by the 2010 World Cup. It's nice the under-17 national team is in full-scale residency camp in Florida. But that is not the answer to developing young U.S. players.

The reserve team system, run by MLS, needs to be put in place -- sooner rather than later.

Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at jlangdon@gns.gannett.com.

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