I've declared 2010 the year of soccer at SB Nation. And it's been just that. We've been adding more soccer blogs than anything else, but one of the first to have join us last year was our Seattle Sounders site Sounder at Heart, run by Dave Clark. It's a fantastic community for a team that understands the importance of new media and promotion better than nearly all professional franchises out there.
I figured with the MLS season in full swing and the World Cup right around the corner, it might be time to check in with a few of the SB Nation soccer writers. Without further ado, let's get to know Dave Clark.
Tyler Bleszinski: So tell me how you came to SB Nation and what was appealing to you about joining the network.
Dave Clark: Well, I wanted to be on SBNation before the Year of Soccer had been declared. I liked the idea of tech support and community, being part of something bigger. I emailed Tyler months before there was a soccer manager. Eventually Steve Davis took over and we worked things out for the transition.
Bleszinski: What has the experience been like so far for you?
Clark: I love that I have been able to focus on writing and community, letting tech guys worry about tech stuff, letting the lawyers worry about laws, and letting the photographers worry about photography. Without spending time on that kind of stuff my writing has been more frequent, and I can focus on the Sounders.
Bleszinski: How did you go about building such a successful Sounders community?
Clark: When I started the blog I just wrote the soccer blog I wanted to read. I based it a little bit off of two very popular Seattle based baseball blogs (LookoutLanding and USSMariner). This meant that for a soccer blog it was different. Some call it a stats thing (though I rarely do stats) I call it a deeper level of analysis than the other Sounders blogs. I also try to interact with readers in the comments, and on game days. I wish there was some sort of secret, but if there is I haven't discovered it yet.
Bleszinski: What could someone expect coming to visit Sounder at Heart for the first time?
It is a blog with two main writers who both have a professional journalism backgrounds, but who are also great fans of the team. We try to provide up-to-date news, but also analysis of the tactics and strategies of the team. When critical of the team it will be fair, but we also will cheer when the team deserves it.
Bleszinski: How did you become a soccer fan and what drew you to the Sounders?
Clark: Like many in the US who are passionate for the beautiful game, my discovery really was cemented overseas. It was in the Kuwaiti national stadium during World Cup Qualifiers prior to World Cup 1998. There I saw the passions of a people engrossed in the games between their nation and their neighbors of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. I had played as a kid, and I followed the launch of MLS because of an odd connection I had to Brian McBride, but watching the game live in stadium at a fairly high level (Saudi would qualify) planted to the seed.
But I never got hooked on a club team. I followed the Crew for a bit, Newcastle when I lived in a Newcastle, WA, there was Fulham when they were nicknamed Fulham America for having so many US players. I tried to follow the A-League/USL Sounders, but the minor league aspect was too strong. When MLS finally decided to follow through and grant Seattle a team it unlocked my focus and I started a blog, bought season tickets and await seeing a trophy won on home Turf.
Bleszinski: Obviously the Sounders are a very young franchise, but what would you say is your favorite moment so far?
Clark: For the MLS Sounders my favorite moment so far has to be the stoppage time game winner by Mike Fucito against Kansas City. I had become an advocate for him getting more playing time, and that was his first real opportunity. He took it and won the match through intelligent play.
I was at the USL Championship that the old team won in 2007, and can't wait for that to happen for a major Seattle side.
Bleszinski: The Sounders are obviously very fan friendly judging from a lot of the stories about the franchise. What's it like to follow them and blog about them?
Clark: It is an easy side to support. They do so much right. They focus on the game, not the periphery, and they make it easy for people to meet the players. It helps that the young team has been good. Blogging about them is fairly easy, as they give blogs access. The GM answers emails, the players talk to us as if we were part of the mainstream. That may be a bit of a soccer thing, as for so long the only way to follow it has been through the internet.
Bleszinski: How do you feel about the current state of MLS?
Clark: I'm confident. It is growing at a good pace and has captured the imaginations of more people now then at any time since its first year. Only DC United and the New England Revolution have stadium issues now, and so the league is getting better revenue streams. TV ratings on ESPN aren't as bad as they have been, and the more people that actually get into the stadiums the more they watch at home. There will never be another Beckham moment, but the new roster rules mean that all teams will be more talented, and if the league can just be as good as the Mexican League in talent I think that will be the turning point.
Bleszinski: I know this is a broad question that you could probably offer a lot of different opinions on, but if you were to point to something that might take MLS into the American consciousness and popularity, what do you think it would be?
Clark: It starts with the USA v England in the World Cup on June 12th and having a few of the MLS players be keys to that win. Then the US National Team needs to continue to do well with its players in MLS, or heading to MLS in the summer transfer period, also performing well.
Soccer is already a major sport in America. The Champions League match this Saturday will draw strong ratings as it will be on Fox. The USA v England match will be on ABC and get great ratings. Millions of Americans are watching soccer on a weekly basis, here on the West Coast that means getting up at 6AM, or earlier, on a Saturday to watch the best teams.
It is just MLS that needs to get more recognition. Continued expansion, continually adding talent and getting people to watch a local match live are the keys. Finding a way to have a top 10 league in the world would be a huge trick as well.
Bleszinski: Finally, tell me something about yourself that might surprise your readership.
Clark: To surprise my readers? Probably that I never went to an old NASL Sounders match, and don't really have memories of them despite being from the region and of the "right" age.
To surprise people reading this? I was once functionally fluent in Arabic, worked at a sports radio station for a few years, so of course my current profession is as a coffee taster/roaster.
Bleszinski: Thanks so much for your time and we're very happy to have you with SB Nation.