We got a little time with Arlo White by conference call today, in advance of the Timbers-Sounders match on Saturday that will be nationally televised on NBC.
White knows MLS from his three seasons covering the league, and he knows the Sounders from his two seasons as voice of the club. And he had some very interesting things to say about Eddie Johnson and about what kind of playoff run he thinks might be in store for the Rave Green.
On Johnson: You look at the terms of the contract that he accepted from the Sounders, and it suggests – like a Mauro Rosales – that he is a guy who’s prepared to step back, take a big hit in the wallet, and rebuild his career. Now I wasn’t the only one to raise a couple of eyebrows when the trade was made. I actually spoke to Mike Fucito the other day, who’s been on a bit of an odyssey of his own since that fateful day when he and Lamar (Neagle) were traded away to Montreal (for the rights to) Johnson. Eyebrows were raised because they were two icons or cult figures, if you like: Lamar and Mike, amongst the Sounders fans. And they have produced, off and on, over the last couple of season. And Eddie Johnson came in – unproven over the last couple of years – with the reputation of being perhaps a disrupting influence in the locker room. … But it seems to me that things have gone superbly well since his arrival. … Thirteen goals in a season that is far from done, creating a new record, and then you see how the U.S. struggled with their strikers during the two World Cup qualifiers against Jamaica: If he keeps this up, how can Jurgen Klinsmann possibly ignore him for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala and Antigua? He’d have to keep it up. He’s sort of on trial, isn’t he, in terms of his play and his attitude. But long ago he was part of the U.S. plan under Bob Bradley, and I’m sure what he’s doing now will alert Jurgen Klinsmann, who doesn’t seem to mind taking Major League Soccer players, providing they’re very good, provided they’re in form. And Eddie Johnson is enjoying both of those at the moment.
On Sounders playoff potential: I’ve been following the team all season of course, because away from my duties I have a tremendous affinity for the Sounders, and I’ll always follow their games: I’ve watched most of them. And now, when you write down a first-choice 11 – if you can whittle down all that talent into 11 to send out onto the field – it looks absolutely frightening for the opposition. Mauro Rosales is just wonderful – 13 assists so far for him this year – he just opens up defenses at will and makes everybody around him a better player. Eddie Johnson has sparked Fredy Montero into the form of his life. Is there a better striking duo in MLS? I don’t think so. Zakuani on the left-hand side as well. And to see him burst past Zach Loyd against Dallas was an absolute joy. And then the old calmness when he … rolled it across to Rosales to put it in – it was like he was never away. I know there are bigger challenges to come for Steve as he works his way into his prime form, but the omens appear to be good, and what a bonus for Sigi Schmid. But when you see someone like Christian Tiffert – who two seasons ago led the Bundesliga with 17 assists … No there may be one of two question marks against the defense, but frankly Seattle is always going to score goals. So I see them mounting a very, very serious challenge for the Supporters Shield for one, but certainly for MLS Cup throughout the playoffs. And I can’t imagine a better setting – with 67,000 people in the stadium – for MLS Cup. But I’m getting ahead of myself.