With MLS Cup quickly approaching and the 2012 season coming to a close, we decided to chat with NBC Sports MLS analyst Kyle Martino. Martino recently wrapped his first season on the NBC broadcasts with partner Arlo White, which saw a 122% increase in ratings over 2011’s Fox Soccer broadcasts according to the network. In the following Q&A with FCDallas.com, edited from a phone conversation with Martino, the broadcaster talks about this Saturday’s MLS Cup, life after David Beckham for MLS, martinis and FC Dallas in 2013.
What are your expectations for Saturday’s match between LA and Houston?
I expect it to start pretty cautious. That’s what you saw last year when these guys came out. Dynamo are tough to break down. They will frustrate the LA Galaxy. Galaxy need to up the tempo.
Who will be difference makers?
For the Galaxy - Robbie Keane. He didn’t have a bad game last time [in 2011 MLS Cup] but he will be a difference maker. Since the Euro’s [over the summer], he’s been the best in MLS. When he’s in the mood you can’t stop him.
For the Dynamo - Brad Davis. They were missing [in 2011 MLS Cup] that composure that Brad Davis has. You need someone who you can hit a ball into in transition.
Prediction on who will win?
I sat in a dive bar in Manhattan Beach before the season and did ExtraTime Radio, and I said then the LA Galaxy will win this. Especially with Omar Gonzales back from injury. Mike Magee, Juniho, Keane, Donovan -- no one is stopping these guys.
What was Beckham’s impact on MLS?
After the announcement he retired, everyone was talking about was it a success – of course it was. Personally I sat next to him on the field at Giants Stadium when 70,000 people were there. The attention was up for the game. It still is. I was watching Sky Sports and reporters are at Home Depot Center for his last game. He shined an international light on MLS in a way no other player could have.
What does a post-Beckham MLS look like?
I think he will be an owner of one of these teams. He told me he’s not leaving the U.S. permanently. He’ll keep a house here. A post-Becks MLS will look a lot like it does today. Look at the rivalries in Pacific Northwest and along the East Coast. Attention now is much more on the league. The hook as been set and once the fish are on there, they aren’t going anywhere.
Being called Kyle Martini by Bill Hamid - great moment or greatest moment of 2012?
It was classic. It was so good. We had a laugh about it in Houston [first match after the incident for DC United]. What I said was, if Twitter was around back in my day, I would have gotten into trouble myself. He got hot headed and had a bit of a hilarious autocorrect situation. He’s a better man after things like that. Old Bill Hamid wouldn’t have had the humility to own up to something like that. He’s a talented player.
Would you have been on Twitter if it existed when you played?
The good part about speaking with reporters was you had time to decompress and compose yourself before you gave a statement. The moment of that puts you in check. When you’re alone in a room and tweet something out, the players aren’t thinking that it’s out there now. You feel anonymous. It’s really no different than sitting in the locker room with 20 reporters around, though.
Have a vodka or gin endorsement deal in the works?
I’m working on it. I’m going for some sort of Bond-Martini hybrid.
How was your first year working for NBC Sports?
It was an incredible experience. I got a behind the scenes look at how NBC has the reputation they have. The stories they tell, amount of work they put into each broadcast is something I hadn’t dealt with before. They’re a hard working group and it shows.
How was calling games from field level?
It took me a long time to become a believer. It was a difficult position to call a game from. If I didn’t have Arlo White up in the booth, I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off. He makes it work. What we get from me is picking up things from the benches and close up one-on-one battles. It’s the same analysis if it was from the booth, just trying to bring those sound-bytes to the broadcast.
What does FCD need to do to get back to the playoffs in 2013?
They’re one of the teams that suffered the most from missing big time players. There’s not a team that can make a playoff push without Ferreira, Shea or Perez.
When Brek went off overextended with the Olympics, he came back and wasn’t the same player. When you have a players like Ferreira out, Perez not finding his rhythm due to injury until the end, it’s tough.
I think it comes down to your core needs to consistently show up. If you put together makeshift line ups -- look at the Galaxy, they struggled early in the season -- you can’t find that rhythm.