Pablo Maurer: The Beltway Outsider
One of our favorite follows on social media is Pablo Maurer (@MLSist). Regardless of his growing reputation as a soccer journalist, his opinions are always his own and independent, regardless of the subject - and we love it. Dude will give you car advice, update you on the newest DC United transfer, or show you his most recent photos from an abandoned hospital. He’s been known to write for a number of websites (some soccer, some not), but he’s most recently with The Athletic. He’s interesting, smart, and informed. And he took the time to talk to Protagonist.
So we don't forget this later, thoughts on pro/rel?
I don't know, I see both sides. But I'd say my views are those shared by the bulk of soccer fans in the US - I'd love to see it happen, but don't know that it's realistic? I also don't have a business degree and haven't studied up on pro/rel enough to know whether it's feasible or not in this country. But it's undeniable that it would inject excitement and a whole other competitive edge into the game in the US. I hope it happens someday - and when it does, I hope it isn't a watered down MLS1/MLS2 thing.
What's your background as a soccer fan?
My mother's side of the family is from Spain - she came to the US a couple of years before my birth. My first language was Spanish and I lived there for a time as a child/visit frequently. The origins of my fandom start there - being obsessed w/Atleti as a kid. When MLS started up in 1996 I was just relieved to have any kind of an outlet to watch pro soccer.
Obviously you’re a DCU fan, what appeals to you about MLS as a league (and conversely, what do you dislike about the league)?
To clarify, I'm 100% not a DCU fan, never have been. I'm not really a fan of any team in MLS, as it would interfere with my work covering United and other goings-on. I tend to become fans of players, or human beings, in the league, which is how I ended up watching a ton of NYCFC (I have long admired & loved David Villa, so it was a personal thrill to watch him work up close.) What I like about MLS is its accessibility - these are just everymen, for the most part, who live in the community, who aren't paid insane salaries, etc. I like that a lot. What do I dislike about it? The quality of play has improved but is still dreadful from time-to-time.
What's the DC soccer scene like?
Vibrant. It's a city full of Latin-American immigrants and it shows; on any given day of the week I could walk a few blocks and find a pickup game, if I wanted.
You shared a trip to Mark's Stadium on your twitter. Does American soccer history interest you?
I've written pretty extensively on the history of the game in this country. I did a deep dive into Team America, a failed NASL franchise in DC, and have been working for years on a comprehensive history of the Washington Diplomats. I've long said that every club in MLS should employ, at least part-time, a team historian. It is a small expense that would ensure that a lot of the game's recent history isn't lost forever.
Should something be done to preserve that site? If so, should USSF or the NSHOF be involved/lead?
Hard to say. I have done dozens of photo essays on abandoned places in this country and often I almost prefer them when they're an empty lot, a place to reflect. That having been said, it would be fantastic if someone stepped in and just put a pitch - even an artificial one - in that lot. Of course I don't live there and I don't know how much it would be used, whether it's even necessary, etc, but that sort of thing appeals to me.
Why do you think there's such a lack of soccer history appreciation in the United States?
It's just too recent. The same thing happens with architectural styles - Brutalism is one that comes to mind. A lot of that stuff from the 60's, 70's is just too recent to be appreciated for its historical value or to have accrued any kind of aesthetic appreciation but too old to be modern and relevant - so it just gets lost. Same thing is happening with the game in this country; there's not a huge appeal to spending weeks of your life researching a soccer team from the 60's, or 70's, but it should absolutely be done, because the people who played on those teams are dying now. Thankfully many folks have done good work preserving the game in this country, but it can always be better.
Do you follow any lower league sides/leagues?
Not actively, but I will watch any game you put in front of me. I certainly watch plenty of USL, watched plenty of NASL when it was around.
Do you see any future where the American pyramid i more aligned/functional? What would that look like, in your mind?
It would probably take a massive overhaul of the current system to make that happened - at the federation level and league levels, etc, so I don't know how realistic that'd be. But again, it would only be good for the game in this country if the people pulling the strings either found a way to integrate the different levels of the game (via pro/rel or otherwise) or were replaced with people who can.
What role should the lower leagues serve in a functional pyramid? Should college soccer be eliminated, modified, or left alone?
Can't say I feel qualified to answer either [of those]. I think there are a lot of guys out there writing about soccer who are faking it a bit. I resolved years ago to not offer an opinion or write on anything I don't have some intimate familiarity with, and the college game - and lower-level stuff, too, is just stuff I haven't fully wrapped my head around.
You’ve got a day job (as a mechanic). What should every car owner do that they don’t?
Change your goddamn oil and keep air in your tires. Also: read your owner's manual. You own a piece of machinery that's worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars and you can't be bothered to read the operating instructions? You'd ask a lot fewer dumb questions if you did.
Best album of last year?
Loved Dawes' "Passwords", Neko Case's "Hell-on" was also fantastic.