Ahhhhh. Take a second and breathe in that cool refreshing spring air. Mmmm… it smells like First Kick, doesn’t it?
Well if it doesn’t, it certainly should. In fact, I’d be a little surprised if you weren’t subliminally thinking about MLS right now, as the league’s marketing has been awfully hard to ignore this winter/spring. With an advertising campaign that’s been plastered all over the place — TV, print and all the various electronic outlets — the league is doing its best to not let you forget that the 2013 season is about to kick off.
My favorite promotional gimmick though has to be Jersey Week. Though the name sounds worryingly like ill-advised partnership with some Guidos from the shore, it’s actually a week-long unveiling of all the 12 new kits that will be adorned by MLS clubs this season. Though as regular readers know, I’m a sucker for gear, so it probably shouldn’t be that surprising that this would pique my interests.
Adidas and the clubs worked closely on what they wanted out of their kits this year, meaning that many fan’s calls for something different to spice up the MLS jersey scene might just be met. Said Maribeth Towers, MLS senior VP of consumer products in a league statement, “Jersey Week will celebrate the soccer jersey. Every stitch, every minor detail, every shade is designed in collaboration between the club and our partner at adidas.”
But as you might expect, some were smart-looking, “take my money already” designs, while others were… umm, questionable. Let’s take a look at each, and let me pass judgement over them like I could do better.
DAY #1 – Monday, February 25, 2013
Red Bull New York
@ Pier 59 Studios
Rating: C –
Well, if the league was trying to make an impression with Jersey Week, letting RBNY lead things off was putting wrong foot first. I mean there’s nothing wrong with the new design per se, it’s just the Red Bulls will effectively be wearing the exact same freaking shirt three years running. Does Red Bull stipulate that adidas not deviate from a template, or that their logo must be that prominent at all times? There has to be something creative they could have done here, right? If I were one of those “lucky” fans that was invited to Pier 59 Studios for this private unveiling, suffice to say… I would have been a tad disappointed.
Primary & Alternate Kits
@ Lodo’s Tavern
Ratings: B+ and B
The Red Bulls might have failed us with the first unveiling, but Colorado tried to make up for it by dropping two kits on us. The first was their new home kit, a sharp-looking burgundy-bodied number with faintly darker hoops and white sleeves. The main highlight of the shirt, if you’re to believe the hype men, is that the hoops are actually composed of all 1451 season ticket-holders’ names. However, for me at least, the bigger design element worth highlighting is the shirt’s obvious homage to club partner Arsenal — another pony in the stable of owner Stan Kronke.
The away kit is… well, I like it. But it’s different. We’re told it’s inspired by the state flag of Colorado, just in case the gigantic embossed “C” in the middle or the actual flag in the corner wasn’t a dead give away. Credit to adidas: it is much more vibrant than anything else we’ve seen on the Rapids. I also like the monochromatic take on the crest. But the colors are, as many have already noted, the colors of their biggest rivals, Real Salt Lake. That’s not quite the equivalent of Tottenham dawning Arsenal red, but it’s still a serious no-no. But who cares, I’m sure it will look sharp on the pitch, particularly if paired with white shorts and blue socks to complete the ode to the flag. And if nothing else, I give them points for trying something new.
Primary & Secondary Kits
@ House of Blues
Ratings: C and C-
Much like Red Bull New York, there’s nothing really that fancy or wrong about the new tangerine home shirts for the Dynamo… but it’s also boring as hell. While last year’s retro-ish orange starburst pattern may have had its detractors, it did add an element of uniqueness to their kits. The only Houston-specific elements on this shirt is the club slogan “Forever Orange” being slapped a small strip above the team patch, and “geometric shapes” like the facade of BVBA Park on the inside neck taping and the Texas state flag on the bottom. Lame.
The away kits are legitimately nothing more than a reverse of the home kit, with the primary color being white and the accents being orange. Boring again. Luckily they’ll still rock their stellar third kits this year to make up for the blandness in their home and aways.
DAY #2 – Tuesday, FEBRUARY 26, 2013
@ Xfinity Live
This is a sexy, sexy shirt. A quasi-black out, a nod to the region’s soccer history and solid “traditional” design makes this the 2013 Union third kit the cream of the crop in Jersey Week. Paying respects to the legendary, extinct American club side Bethlehem Steel FC, adidas gave this shirt a really retro feel by utilizing felt on the Union crest and Bethlehem “B” at the bottom right. The old BSFC logo can also be found at the back of the neck and on the reverse of the Union crest on the inside of the shirt. All said — and despite being a Crew fan — I’m around 96.4% certain that I’ll be purchasing this kit.
Sporting Kansas City
@ The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
While I was initially sad to see Sporting KC put their simplistic kits from the last few years to rest, I have to admit that the more I’ve seen of their new home shirt, the more I like it. The split-color design of the club’s kit is meant to represent the duality of Kansas City itself: split between two states, but still a united team. I also really dug that the angle at which the color blocking mirrors that of the angled divide on their crest — a nice attention to detail. And let’s not forget the recently announced first shirt sponsor, though it does seem a little off-center due to the way the blocks are laid out. Regardless, this is a pretty looking jersey.
@ The Berkeley Church
Just in case you had forgotten that Toronto FC plays in Canada, don’t worry… adidas has you covered by emblazoning a gigantic Maple Leaf graphic on the front. And while that on its own isn’t bad (if not predictable), they additional decision to inlay a drunken-angled argyle design on top of it is a bit over the top. Maybe choosing one or the other would have been a better choice, or maybe making it a little less visible than the extremely visible sections? I don’t know, but the final product looks a bit like two ideas were smashed together when a decision couldn’t be made on which to go with.
DAY #3 – Wednesday, February 27, 2013
@ The Grammy Museum
The undisputed marquee franchise of the league, the Galaxy are often bestowed kits with high marketing appeal. Though, to be honest, the big names they usually get to print on the back certainly don’t hurt when selling them either. And while neutrals and fans alike were largely fans of the white and navy-sashed home shirts worn by LA, their new secondary kits don’t seem to exude that same kind of appeal. A template design, solid navy blue affair, the new shirt’s only unique features are the embossed “pulsars” on the right shoulder and bottom left hem and the THIS IS LA “tifo” jock tag. My general opinion: Meh. Also, why are the Galaxy’s kits the only team whose media shots featured the shirt on a mannequin? Prima donnas that LA outfit.
@ New City Gas
The worst kept secret of the batch of new kits this year, we first saw a leak of the Impact’s alternate shirt early this winter. Regardless, the black and blue stripes that are meant to recall the club’s first ever kits when they debuted in the now defunct APSL in 1993. And among their fans much of the buzz surrounding the launch was that this was the kit that should be their home digs, not the plain blue ones they currently wear at home. Though DP Alessandro Nesta — a former A.C. Milan star — might find wearing blue and black stripes a little grating. However, it’s a good looking shirt with nice lines, and a bonus for embracing club history as well.
Primary & Secondary Kits
@ Cinerama [PRIVATE EVENT]
Ratings: C and B-
For a club that usually get’s the most edgy and tech-forward kits in the league, I’m admittedly a little disappointed with the latest home effort for the Sounders. I may have been in the minority, but I liked their “silver bra strap” shirt they rocked last year. But just like the new away kit for LA, this one uses the same basic template this time doused in Seattle’s lime and blue colors. However, it’s saving grace is that the embossed design on this shirt is a little more prominent and relevant to the city — a swooping rendering of the city’s famous Space Needle. Perhaps I’ve just come to expect more from the Sounders.
That said, I actually do like the new aways, which is a bit hypocritical considering it’s not much less plain than the home one. However, I like the pixellated neon green sash running down the left, and that they didn’t offset the sponsor to make room for it like they did on the Kansas City shirt. Quite how it’s inspired by the city or the club itself remains to be seen, but I’m still a fan of the overall effect. It’s also rocking a unique “dark shale” coloring which we haven’t really seen on any other uniforms around the league. All together, this is how you take a rather boring design and the perfect amount of twist to make it interesting.
DAY #4 – Thursday, FEBRUARY 28, 2013
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
@ Rocky Mountaineer Train Station
When the Vancouver first joined MLS, I thought they killed it on the branding and kits front. I felt that their revitalized crest (far better than previous incarnations) and the color palate represented the Pacific Northwest perfectly. Their old kits too — with unique thin horizontal stripes — were well suited for the entire revamped Whitecaps image. And according to adidas, this new rendition is an “evolution” of the first as the stripes “have been tilted to match the angle of the Whitecaps depicted in the club’s logo.” Well, if you ask me, I think they tilted their look away from one that was instantly identifiable as their own in a league full of cloned designs. A bit of a downgrade from their previous effort, but not a bad kit overall.
Primary & Secondary Kits
@ Last Thursday on Alberta Street
Ratings: C and C
I’m not going to bother doing a write-up on both kits debuted by the Timbers during Jersey Week, since they’re the exact same shirt save one is green while the other is red. Strike one. Secondly, the chevrons that run on the edge of the color blocks look like stitches from a distance, making it look a bit like a Frankenstein-jersey. Strike two. And if you ask me, the new home effort looks striking similar to upside-down, color-reversed version of a Colorado Rapids jersey back before they rightly overhauled their image — and that’s not a compliment. Strike three. All told, it’s not a bad kit. It’s just not a good one either. Also, for a club that’s fast become one of the most followed in the league, I would have expected adidas and MLS would have wanted a kit that really stood out and drew attention to a club who’s fanatical support is often times more appealing than their on field product
DAY #5 – Friday, March 1, 2013
@ Home Depot Center
Despite originally being on the schedule for a Tuesday debut this week, no new jersey had was released by the Goats until late Friday. Did they just forget to put up the post about them, or did Chivas somehow forget that they were supposed to debut new unis that day? So perhaps unfairly, they start off their review with a sour taste in mouth. That said, the kits themselves aren’t all that bad if you’re into simplistic kits. The embossed vertical stripes were probably a given considering the club’s well known red and white home kit, but their narrow spacing gives the solid navy kit are a subtle improvement over a plain design. Oh, and it looks like using the black background is just an LA thing.
As much as adidas and MLS attempted to make the new 2013 kits seem unique and different, let’s not fool ourselves: these are still — for the most part — extremely templated designs. Swap the colors, add some embossing, throw a little tagline on the neck and maybe a state flag on the bottom and voilà… you’ve got the next team’s new jersey. That’s the downfall of having a single equipment provider for an entire league, and my primary reason for wishing that MLS would return to a model where each club is allowed to select its own technical gear provider.
But let’s give credit where credit is due: MLS and adidas did try to do something different this year. And next year, when every team in the league will be debuting a new uniform during Jersey Week, we’ll have even more to look forward to… or not.