Filling the Seattle void left by Arlo White is hard act to follow. In stepped another one of England’s own unique and wonderful talents in the shape of Ross Fletcher. The voice of Seattle Sounders has taken to the job like a duck to water, giving the Sounders fans a colourful insight. I caught up with Ross to chat about his journey to Seattle as well as his own analysis on the 2012 MLS season. Exclusive for http://www.soccernightexclusive.wordpress.com

First of all for all the readers who are unfamiliar with Ross Fletcher. What is your role and duties within Seattle Sounders ?

I am the club’s broadcaster – commentating and presenting Seattle Sounders matches on TV and Radio.

What route did you go down to get into the position you are today ?

Starting at the bottom and working up – from a work experience position at age 16 at a BBC Local Radio Station in England, through to national BBC radio, regional, national and international TV with the BBC

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in the media industry ?

I think so – from about the age of 14, when I entered a young commentators competition on BBC Radio 5.  I was a runner-up, won a baseball cap and was hooked!

Has soccer always been a keen interest of yours ?

Always – from playing the game as a child, to reading match reports in school assemblies on inglorious defeats and hollow victories from age 10 to where I am today.

Throughout your journey to date, who would you say has been your biggest inspiration and why ?

So many people but one man who deserves a lot of credit is Colin Gibson, who was sports editor at BBC Radio Derby.  He took me on as that bright-eyed 16 year old.  He gave me a chance, nurtured my talent and really helped me develop as a broadcaster.

I regularly listen to your match commentaries and podcasts. What daily routine is a typical one in the life of Ross Fletcher ?

It depends, but typically if I’m in Seattle for a week it’s off to Sounders training in the morning after checking the Twittersphere and the latest MLS news stories, stats research/watching opposing teams on DVD in the afternoon and watching our game back on DVR.  Mixed in with making video features and contributions to radio shows in Seattle and other MLS markets.  With the travel, it’s rarely a set week!

What was it like to be a part of such a big organisation such as the BBC ?

A huge privilege.  It’s such a revered organisation throughout the world and to have been given the opportunity to develop through some of its many outlets was a real thrill.

With Arlo White making the move to NBC Sports you were given the chance to replace him as the voice of Seattle Sounders. What did you feel to be given such a great opportunity ?

It was a tremendous feeling to be approached by the Sounders.  They’re truly a first class organisation, from personnel to facilities to success on the field.  Arlo had helped sell the club and the city to me but I knew myself it was an opportunity I just had to explore.

Making the life move to a different country is very stressful at times. How quickly did it take you settle into Seattle ?

It was a pretty quick transition, though not without the obvious difficulties.  My wife was back in the UK for the first six months so dealing with being away from each other and the time difference was challenging.  But so many people helped me feel really welcome from the outset and I already have a fantastic set of colleagues and friends.  The city itself has so much to offer too.

What do you miss most about England ?

Easy.  Dairy Milk.

You started with the Sounders at the start of 2012. How does it feel to be a part of such a massive organisation ?

It’s a huge buzz.  It’s hard to explain to people back home how big the club is.  Being allied to the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks is a major plus – I’m writing this from my office cubicle inside the Seahawks facility, with their players training out of the window to my left.  It’s major league with a capital M.  The Sounders pull more than 40,000 fans a game – up there with the Premier League’s biggest.

The Sounders are currently 3rd in the Western Conference and out of the Supporters Shield race. How would you describe the season thus far ?

It’s been another very good season.  Reaching the final of the US Open Cup was another fine achievement as well as the last eight of the Concacaf Champions League.  The average attendance has increased from last year and still leads MLS by a distance and the team is building momentum towards the playoffs, which is the ultimate goal.  For a franchise that isn’t even four years old, it’s terrific progress.

Seattle have three regular season games left, at home to RSL and FC Dallas and away to LA Galaxy. What do you think the Sounders will be looking to achieve in those matches ?

A win over RSL would be huge – to overtake them into 2nd place in the Western Conference would mean the chance of hosting the MLS Cup Final.  That’s the aim.  Having a game in hand over RSL could be critical, given that they are three points ahead of Seattle.

Seattle are going to be a part of the play-off picture. But their numbered position is not certain as of yet. How much does positioning count come the final regular season standings ?

It counts for a lot.  Being able to host the MLS Cup Final is what crucial – home advantage always is.  So that means you have to finish 1st or 2nd in the West. Anything below and the road becomes that bit bumpier.

Sigi Schmid’s side has never won the MLS Cup, what from your view point is the key to becoming the champions of MLS ?

I’d say it’s about momentum, a strong first eleven and as always, a little bit of luck.

Can Seattle Sounders win the 2012 MLS Cup ?

Absolutely –they have match-winners in the form of Eddie Johnson, Fredy Montero and Mauro Rosales and a very strong squad.  Getting past the Conference semi finals will be huge psychologically, as it is something the club is yet to achieve.

As well as the MLS Cup, Sounders are hunting for Cascadia Cup glory. Could you give us an insight into the importance of this Cup to the organisation ?

It’s a big deal, especially for the fans – the Cascadia Cup is 6 derby matches within the MLS season rolled in to one competition.  It’s played between the Sounders, Vancouver and Portland – all close rivals with history dating back to the NASL days of the mid 70’s.

And how intense in the rivalry between, Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps and of course Seattle Sounders ?

White hot.  Over 66,000 fans saw Seattle beat Portland last week, the 2nd largest ever crowd for a single MLS match.  I urge you to YouTube the Tifo displays when these teams meet – they’re incredible

Seattle are also in contention to qualify for the Concacaf Champions League next round, as they are sitting top and unbeaten in Group 4. How important is this competition to Seattle ?

It’s becoming a bigger priority each year.  Especially when it comes to facing Mexican sides, who’ve dominated the region.

Can the Sounders win the Concacaf Champions League crown ?

It will be tough as the top Mexican sides are stronger than the best in MLS, but Real Salt Lake reached the final last year so anything is possible.

Century Link Field is one of the most stylish and intimidating stadiums in MLS, what do you think separates Century Link Field to any other MLS ground ?

Size and passionate support. No other MLS team can boast anywhere near the consistently large crowds that the Sounders pull in.  And the fans really care.  The atmosphere throughout the 90 minutes is pretty unique.

The Century Link Field playing surface is made up of artificial turf. How do you feel that the likes of David Beckham and Thierry Henry refuse to play on such ground ?

We’ve seen some of the biggest names in the sport play on Field Turf, including Beckham in Seattle back in August – ultimately if a player doesn’t play then it hurts their own team.  Beckham played, and LA lost four nil anyway.

Sigi Schmid is one of the most successful and colourful characters in MLS, how would you describe the job Sigi has done this season ?

To compete on so many fronts and do it successfully is an incredibly difficult job – he’s proved he knows how to get the best out of his entire squad when he needs it most.  The expectation level in Seattle is big and he is very good at handling it.

What do you think is he playing philosophy ?

He likes the game to be played with a dash of style – the emphasis is on passing, attacking football, even away from home.  It’s really good to watch.

The main reason behind the Sounders success this season has been the combination play from the deadly trio of Mauro Rosales, Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson. Why do you think this three pronged attack has work ?

They’re all quality players who add their own distinctive attributes.  Johnson is phenomenal in the air and makes excellent forward runs – Montero is a little magician who can turn a game in an instant with his skill and cunning and Rosales is one of the best crossers of a ball in MLS and uses possession so effectively from wide midfield.

Eddie Johnson most recently got called up to the USMNT roster and scored a brace against Antigua and Barbuda. Do you think he has the abilities to become the lynch pin in the national teams attack for a long time to come ?

If he keeps working hard, he has every chance.  People forget he’s still only 28.

Kasey Keller has been one of the best keepers to grace the soccer world. How does it feel to commentate alongside such an icon of soccer ?

He’s a fantastic partner to have in the commentary booth.  He brings an intelligence and understanding of the game that few in MLS can match.

What would you say are Kasey Keller’s personal attributes ?

He tells it straight.  And he’s not afraid to buy more than his fair share of lunches either.

After retiring from all soccer last season Kasey was replaced in between the sticks by Austrian stopper Michael Gspurning. How would you describe his first season in MLS ?

Stop start because of injury but impressive.  He has the best goals against average in the league and the Sounders missed his dominant presence when he got injured mid season.

Can he become the main stay of the Seattle Sounders number one jersey over the coming seasons ?

Yes – he had big shoes to fill when Kasey retired but he’s already proved he’s capable of being a top MLS goalkeeper

Becoming MVP is a huge accolade for any athlete to receive. If you was the one who had the pivotal vote, who would you choose as your Seattle Sounders MVP and why?

At the moment, I would be hard pushed between Ossie Alonso, Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson.  Montero and Johnson deserve credit for the goals they’ve scored but Alonso makes such a difference as the holding midfielder – a brilliant tackler and physical presence and his passing just gets better and better.

What advice would you give to any budding people who are looking to make it into the soccer media industry ?

Be prepared to work hard and don’t take no for an answer.

I would like to personally thank Ross Fletcher for his time and efforts during the interview process.

By Anthony Bedworth

@usbritain05

@maplesoccer123

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