Saturday, 12 March 2011

Exclusive Interview: Scott Sandalow, Chicago Fire Staff - Part 2

Following on from the previous section, we were keen to speak to someone in the know at an MLS club about their thoughts on football in America in general.

Scott Sandalow, a member of the Chicago Fire communications staff, talks about MLS's links with Europe, the return of the New York Cosmos, and the future of American soccer.

The USA has seen a number of big-name European stars move to the MLS recently. Is it a good thing that the league can attract that pedigree to America? Or do you ever worry it might overshadow the kind of work you’ve mentioned in the youth academies?

Any attention it can garner for the league is a good thing. Take Freddie Ljunberg for instance, who was in the twilight of his career when he was in the MLS. He was still a very effective player for us, but if he can bring out some of the best in our younger players, I think that’s a fantastic thing. If these older players can show some of our youngsters what they can be if they fulfil their potential, it’s fantastic.

You mentioned Freddie Ljunberg – what did he bring to the team?

Well he was only with us for half a year, but even in that time, he showed the players what it’s like to perform at the top, top level. In off-field terms, he brought a lot of attention with him, and gave them something to aspire to. He understands the responsibility of being a star off the pitch, but also to focus on what he’s doing when he’s playing. So I think he set a great example while he was here.

Are there any plans for Chicago Fire to sign any more big continental names soon?

I’m not completely sure what our plans are, but in the future I’m sure we’ll definitely do it. A city like Chicago can attract these top stars. I know Freddie loved being in Chicago, and being from here, Brian McBride, loved the city too. So I don’t think we’ll have any trouble attracting top players – Chicago is an international city.

British interest in the MLS is growing at the moment. Would you like to see more connections with European football and American soccer?

Well I think it’s great that there’s a growing interest! I’ve heard the rumours of Sunderland and Liverpool coming over here soon, and it’s great when teams come and establish a connection.

But one thing that has to be considered, that people often miss, is that the MLS definitely has its own style. As long as we stick to what we’re good at, I think we can establish good connections but we shouldn’t forget where we’ve come from and how it’s moving forward. It is great to establish those relationships though.

How do you feel about the return of the New York Cosmos?

I think it’s really exciting! If you’re talking about Europe, I think the one team European fans would know about in U.S. soccer is the Cosmos. The fact we’ll see the first inner-city rivalry within the MLS is super exciting for me, because that’s something European fans can grab on to with the derby connotations.

Obviously with Pele and Cantona involved it would be special for any team, but for the MLS this is very exciting.

You mentioned Cantona there – he recently mentioned the United States could win the FIFA World Cup within 20 years. Is he on to something?

Feasibly, there’s no reason it can’t happen! It would’ve helped if we’d have got to host in 2010, but I think we’ll get it in 2026. There’s a definite road map, and we know what we want to do. We’re establishing a really good path of how we’re gonna get there.

So the future’s bright for football in the States then?

Definitely. As long as we can keep cultivating the youth, there’s a ton of potential. We’ve got new stadiums being built exclusively for soccer teams – that’s unheard of. I recently read that MLS is still in the top ten or fifteen leagues in the world for attendance. The crowds are definitely getting bigger! Things can only get better.

Special thanks again to Scott, for taking the time to speak to us.

N.B: During the interview, Scott mentioned that he was an avid Leeds United fan. As I was going to the Leeds press conference the next day, I asked manager Simon Grayson to give him a shout-out, which he duly did:

Simon Grayson's Best Wishes by ScottSandalow

Philip Wright-Lewis

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