in 2014: Chat with Greg Lalas Part II

mlsYesterday we presented Part I of our new chat with Greg Lalas.  Today, we offer Part II.   In this segment, Mr. Lalas discusses the editorial process at , takes a look back at the last four years and offers some thoughts on what fans can expect in 2014.

Thanks to Mr. Lalas. When we spoke four years ago, you told me “[t]he idea is to present a place that a soccer fans, not just MLS fans, can get all kinds of content that is connecting MLS to world and is engaging and interesting to them.” Four years on, have you reached that goal?

Greg Lalas: I would argue that we are moving in that direction more and more every day.  We have done a pretty good job in the last four years to present ourselves  as a place where the North American soccer fan, in particular, can come and get their daily, weekly or hourly dose of the soccer news and conversation and chatter and banter , but I always think of it as a work in progress.  Are we where I would like it to be or any of us would l like it to be? Not quite.  But we are getting there.

FB: We also talked about the balancing act that you had, trying to provide both news and commentary.  Are you satisfied with that balance now and how it has shaken out?

GL: To an extent.  I think we are proving that the commentary can exist.  Coming in, maybe we weren’t in the beginning as responsible as we needed to be with our commentary  to ensure that , that all the T’s are crossed and I’s dotted and the facts are right.   It has improved our journalism and reporting over the last couple of years  to make sure what we are saying and what we are writing about,  whether we are being critical or praising. is backed up by the truth so we are trying that all of the time.  We are pushing into areas all of the time.  A writer like Matt Doyle, who I think is superstar, is pushing the limits of commentary with his Armchair Analyst articles and his Three Thoughts after matches and tournaments.  These are really starting to resonate with our audience which is not just an MLS audience, but a North American audience for soccer.    The balance between news and commentary is something that every outlet has to deal with and has to be as responsible as possible.  I hope we are doing it as well as anybody with that responsibility.

FB: Is it a tough balance especially, because part of what makes sports so fun, and what people are looking for is rumor and more than just news?

dsgGL: True.  Its not like we don’t deal with and discuss rumors.   It is amazing how many times we have reached out to a club about a rumor, and every once and while I ask “how many others have reached out to you? It is amazing how many times the answer is “nobody” and yet we see five other articles. Why did nobody else reach out to you? Why are we the only ones who reached out to you?     Part of that it the modern journalism world that we operate in.  I understand that.  I understand the notion “Let’s get this rumor up and we’ll contact the club” and there is a second article that can go up and deal with that because something I have always said is that context is no  longer found in one article like in the newspaper world.  The site also provides the context.

Here is an article that says.  There is a rumor that Jermaine Defoe is coming to TFC. Maybe an hour later, another article that Toronto denies that  Jermaine Defoe is coming to Toronto.  Maybe the next day there is a rumor and a comment  from someone at Spurs saying that Defoe is likely to leave at end of the year and it goes on and on.  If you just read one of those articles you are not going to get the full story and I think that is how journalism in the digital space is moving more and more. To some peoples’ chagrin and to some peoples’ embracing of it and saying this is an interesting way to approach it.

FB:  Anything on the site that fans should be looking forward to for 2014?

GL: We are doing a really cool series of profiles right before the new season starts which is on March 8.  The week leading up to that we have a huge suite of content to get people ready for the season.  That includes a media roundtable; we are doing team by team previews, but we are doing some unique videos around them that are aimed at trying to give a little more context about each club.  Not just the club in 2014, but a little bit of its history. We are coming up in 2015 on  the 20th season of MLS, so we are trying to build a little bit more of that historical  context for people.

And the MatchCenter is one of the most groundbreaking things we have done.  Its code name is Golazo. It went live towards September of last year, technically in Beta, but this year it will be full live and it is an amazing experience of social content, highlights, photos, the usual commentary from OptaSports, live stats  and its an incredible experience.  This year we have redone the mobile version of it.  It is now an incredible experience that I hope people will check out.  The last thing is fantasy .  We are still pushing fantasy; we have revamped the game, made it a little more intuitive made it a lot better.  We are hoping that people will dig the new fantasy game.

FB: Do you envision MLS Live continuing to grow?

GL I hope so.  Everyone is discussing the tv contracts that are up at end of the year and we will see and for MLS Live, the more growth the better.  There is a huge digital audience for MLS and soccer in the US and Canada.  We have the numbers and a study to back that up in terms of the number of people with smart phones, people that are watching games soccer digitally in the US and Canada is higher than the other sports.  I expect MLS Live to continue to grow.

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