Talking fan behavior, diminishing American presence on MLS rosters

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Just for fun, let’s play “What’s on Jeff Carlisle’s mind?”

Give it a thought. G’head.

OK, if you said something along the lines of “proliferation of foreigners at the expense of American soccer players,” and “them rowdy trouble makers,” then you, sir or madam, are truly a tour du force at this game.  Reward yourself with a snack of dubious nutrition. You’ve earned it.

Carlisle, ESPN Soccernet’s veteran writer, got some time recently with MLS Commissioner Don Garber. And these topics were definitely on Carlisle’s mind, based on the lengthy Q&A. The Commish had some interesting things to say on both topics, as well. For instance, what he told Carlisle about supporter behavior:

I think the supporters groups are doing an incredible job of policing themselves. I go [out to] every market, some of them are just remarkable people; men and women of all ages who so believe in MLS and really get the role that they play in elevating the league, and the responsibility that they have to be role models and good leaders for other members of their groups. There are others who are less engaged and we’ve had to work with certain teams to make them aware that being a supporter is a responsibility and it’s a great position to be in to create an environment that’s incredibly passionate and special. But with that role comes an obligation to be good leaders and police themselves properly. We’d rather that they do it themselves than us have to get engaged with them to force them to do it.

The issue of proper fan conduct is topical now, and not just because action begins in two days. There was a recent notification of punitive measure against Houston Dynamo fans.

And this kerfuffle last year in New England was particularly unfortunate, leaving hurt feelings and black eyes all over the place, not to mention some potentially lingering distrust between a club and its supporters, and that’s no good.

And just last night, there was the regrettable incident last night with David Beckham in Toronto. The streamers that rained down at every Galaxy corner kick are one thing.

But throwing beers cans is something entirely different. That’s a whole different jar of prickly pickles.  “I think everyone saw what happened on the corner,” Beckham said after Wednesday’s valuable 2-2 draw inside the rocking Rogers Centre. “It’s disappointing because I think a crowd like that turns out, it’s a great atmosphere, great to play in front of. The majority of the fans, almost all of the fans, created an amazing atmosphere tonight. So it was disappointing. But it was a minority. Overall, it was a great atmosphere.”

The Cascadia Cup rivalry certainly isn’t going to lose momentum. Other rivalries dot the league, and one more team in 2012 (Montreal) means one more club within driving distance of Eastern seaboard teams (well, if you don’t mind a bit of a road trip, that is.) All that means more chances for fan interaction.

So Carlisle was right to have this stuff on his mind. It will certainly continue to be a matter to monitor in MLS.

* (At the risk of being a labeled a crummy old curmudgeon, MLS and local stadium authorities really should ask fans to mind their manners on that one, too.  You may recall streamers once were a particular problem in Columbus and elsewhere. It’s a misdemeanor, I know. Heck, it does look pretty cool, and it’s even kinda humorous when the paper product mess reaches critical mass. But we’re all probably better off without anything that actually interferes with the men on the field and their ability to perform the skills of the game. There, I said it.)