When you’re the hosts of the best / most popular independent soccer podcast in the US, what celebrity list does that put you on? I think both Daryl Grove and Taylor Rockwell, hosts of The Total Soccer Show (technically still independent? recently part of The Athletic’s podcast network?), would agree that maybe they are, what, maybe, E list celebrities? F list celebrities? (I mean, they don’t have a TV show like the Cooligans.)
Nonetheless, I started listening to TSS in 2014 and, for lack of a better term, grew up with them. I like to think I was part of the wave of new listeners and subscribers that first spurred them on to go to five episodes per week and later catapulted them to soccer podcast fame (whatever exactly that is).
As many have and continue to attest, it’s hard not to feel close to them via their show; their individual personalities and their pair-dynamic is both welcoming and analytical at the same time. I have coached soccer at various levels since the mid ’90s and I credit much of my later coaching development to listening to their show. (I was always more of a technical coach; their show has made me more interested in and adept at tactics.)
So when my son had a triathlon in Richmond, where TSS is based, in 2017, I figured why not. We were friends, right? Ok. We weren’t at all, but it felt like we were. I mean, who else was in the car with me as often as they were? So I reached out. ‘Is this a thing? Can we meet up when I’m in town?’ And of course they said yes. Because TSS. So Coppola’s Deli, 2900 West Cary St, we had lunch. And of course it was great. Because they’re great. Sure, it was a bit awkward as we navigated conversational politics and rhythms. We spoke over each other a few times and there were a few silences. But it was exactly what you’d expect it to be: genial and fun, all in a way that was entirely unsurprising. And, even more impressively, not that much about soccer.
Fast forward two years. 2019. The same race. Back in Richmond. TSS is bigger at this point, drawing more and more recognizable figures to their show in both the soccer and the soccer journalism worlds. 2019 of course was also the year of Daryl’s diagnosis. I didn’t want to impose, so I reached out to both to get some Richmond info, including about the Kickers who were playing that Saturday night.
After some back and forth around Richmond tips, Daryl extended an unsolicited invitation. (I had offered my cell number since we were emailing basically the day of.)
Now, let’s be clear here. Daryl has cancer. Granted, in May he was in pretty decent health, all things considered (when we met, he had gained some weight back but certainly not all). Daryl is married. Daryl has what seems to me to be a pretty all-consuming, if still awesome, job. Yet here he was, offering to meet up for lunch, taking time out of his Saturday, when he definitely didn’t have to.
And, I’ll be honest. Lunch with Daryl in 2019 was an upgrade from lunch with both in 2017. Daryl kind of upped the TSS lunch game: Edo’s Squid, a lovely little Italian place up a staircase over a, well, my memory isn’t that good. Pretty sure I had the carbonara (which I’m hesitant to order in America but Daryl and I had a funny conversation about that) and we spent a solid 90 mins over lunch. I don’t remember what we talked about. But I just remember being very much at ease with someone I had only spoken to and met once before.
As we were wrapping things up, we revisited the Kickers. Daryl could only stay for the first half, but Taylor would be there. He would leave me a ticket at will call. I was running late so made it just before halftime and only had a fleeting interaction with Daryl as he left. Taylor and I, after he introduced me to the labyrinthine beer-ordering process at Kickers games, watched the game, talked soccer, talked family, talked triathlon. The race was cancelled this year (and my son wasn’t racing it anyway). But I wanted him to race it just so I could check in with Daryl and Taylor.
All of this is to offer my contribution to what I imagine will only be the exponentially growing list of glowing tributes to Daryl. He in 2019 and both in 2017 had no reason to entertain a relatively insignificant fan (among many fans). But he did and they did. For no reason other than sheer, genuine interest and goodwill. And that is exactly why TSS has been so successful.
What I have gleaned from now almost six years of listening to TSS is that I am spoiled. Occasionally I will listen to another podcast when I’m caught up. And other podcasts just aren’t as good. Independent of content (TSS is my only soccer podcast, with the exception of Lalas’ and Grant Wahl’s on occasion). They try too hard. They don’t try hard enough. They try to be funny when they shouldn’t. They get too sidetracked (when they shouldn’t). All of this of course happens on TSS but it is so natural, it is so seamless, that it works. And it works because of Daryl and Taylor. You might have noticed that the most repeated phrase is something to the effect of ‘they didn’t have to’. And that’s about right. They do things even though they don’t have to.
Taylor, I set out to write something about Daryl, but, as you know all too well, it’s pretty much impossible to separate you both. I can’t imagine where you are in all of this. I’ll leave it at that, but know that I’m thinking of you both.
Daryl, I’m not sure what the coming days, weeks hold for you. I remain a relatively insignificant fan within the pantheon of those that have reached out to you via Twitter and I’m sure more direct means. Without even getting into your family. Yet you made this insignificant fan feel a part of the TSS family (when you didn’t have to). That simple gesture, of being open, of being available, of being kind to someone to whom you didn’t have to, for me at least, sums up who you are and why TSS is and will continue to be my podcast of choice. Rest easy, my friend.
SK did this at practice the other day and it worked well.
- even numbers in a wide circle (think we were 5 v 5 or 6 v 6)
- one neutral in the middle
- a third team spread around the outside of the circle
- keep away in the middle
- offense can use outside players but outside players must one touch the ball
- five passes equals a point but passes to outside players don’t count for the five
- two balls
- juggle with one foot one ball
- while the ball is in the air touch the other ball with the (bottom of the) other foot
[Köln v Düsseldorf, 5-24-20]
Yes, this is week 2 back from quarantine, so teams are rusty, but such a glaring (and juvenile) error on Köln’s part, and at a crucial point in the game. This goal would have tied the game. Instead, Düsseldorf score again a few minutes later to take a 2-0 lead, when the game should have been tied 1-1 and, arguably, the momentum should have shifted to Köln.
In any case, let this be a lesson on how crucial communication is at any level. You could make the argument (easily) that that lack of communication cost Köln the game.
Put together this packet for my team while we can’t practice. Not a ton of variety when you’re alone, but tried to focus on principles, conditioning, and basics.
Some great movements, drills, and info here.
I especially like the blind-shadow-shuffling.