People in the Stadium

People In The Stadium, Episode 2: Michael Barycki

Photo:Michael Barycki

Where did you grow up?

In South Jersey. Not too far from here. In Gloucester County right across the river. 

Tell me about the webpage you work for.

It’s Halfway last season Charlie and John brought me on to kinda help them cover the Union. It’s a lot of soccer talk. They also cover a lot of things that most soccer pages don’t cover such as women’s sports and lot of international sports. And we have an FM radio show. Every Monday night at 9 o’clock 106.5 in the city.

What’s your personal history with soccer?

I grew up playing soccer like a lot of kids my age did. I just kinda stuck with it and played through high school.

And then when you come to the age when you become more cognizant, you want to start following better quality soccer. I got into what was on TV at the time and that was the English Premier League and  the Champions League. So you had a choice. I  clung on to Arsenal in the late 90’s early 2000’s. That is when I started appreciating the game from a more tactical point of view and understood why it was called the beautiful game, by watching Arsenal.

Then we got our team here in 2010. This is now my club.

What ignites your heart when you watch a soccer game?

I think soccer is a unique sport because it’s very tactical. It’s a chess match unlike other sports. The manager puts the players in the best position he can think of but it’s up to the players to execute. And the managers all across the world, they are the ones that get critiqued, and they’re the ones who get picked apart about formations and tactics and choices. I enjoy the nuance and the ins and outs of the tactical things, and it really is like a big chess match over a huge pitch with only one stop in the middle of it.

How hard is it to write about soccer?

When I first started writing, looking back now, the first couple of things I did were terrible. I was writing as if you were looking at a box score. But now I enjoy giving my personal opinions without making them seem like facts.  I think I’m fair across the board with everything and the neat thing about soccer is, everybody is going to see something different. You and I were just talking about C.J. Sapong — you’re not a big fan of him but I love C.J.  Is one of us right and the other wrong? I’m not really sure, but that’s the great thing about writing about soccer and about discussing soccer with other people. 

What do you look at when you watch a game?

I look at the players’ positioning. I think that’s really the big part I’m really fascinated with; the changes in the match by the coaches, players switching positions. I don’t really get too caught up in the ebb and flow of what’s going on with the score and everything. I’m really just fascinated with tactically how things are being done and why and what effect that’s having during the match.

Do you watch the game again before you start writing?

I actually write right after the game . I feel everything is still fresh in my mind and I am not going to be overly analytical. I know there is a lot of people who like to break things down with video. I enjoy writing about exactly how I felt and what I saw. I’ll go down and listen to the post game press conference. I’ll take a couple of quotes from that and then tie it in to the things that I saw. I try to get my article done less than an hour after the match. 

Since you started writing, what have you learned about the game?

I have learned that as much as I thought I knew about the game just from watching it, watching it live and trying to commit everything I see to memory, it’s challenging and it’s fun. There’s things that I remember about matches 2-3 games ago that I would have never remembered just because I’m committing it to memory, so I’m enjoying it more. I’m learning more about the players and I think I have a much better idea of what I’m looking at on the pitch at Union games than when I did before I started writing.

Anything that surprised you after you started looking at the game from the inside?

The post game press conferences. I think when you look at professional athletes it’s easier to put them on a, not necessarily a pedestal, but to separate them from being a normal person. But when you sit there and you listen to coach Curtin or Bedoya, they’re very personable people and that impresses me. I know coach Curtin gets a lot of… well, there’s people that love him and there’s people that hate him. I think he’s a very intelligent guy and I didn’t really think that until I sat there and I listened to him in those post game press conferences. I think he knows the game very well, I think he’s probably doing as good as you can do with what he’s being given. In America, unlike managers in the EPL, he’s not the one making the transfer calls, so he can only do the best with what he has. And for what he has for a small to mid market club he’s doing an all right job.

After starting to write did you become a more nuanced fan?

When I first started coming here in 2010 I considered myself a fan and I had season tickets. Since I’ve made the move up here I think I see things more neutrally and analytically, where maybe I was afraid of losing my fan card for criticizing the team, now I think I feel I have the license to do that and I should be doing that. It’s calling it exactly as I see it.  But I’m still quite fair with that and sometimes the fan in me comes out, but I’m doing my best to be as neutral as I can in the way I write.


  1. Alicat215 says:

    Um……tactics and shape and how it moves around the pitch is exactly what ebb and flo is bro………

  2. Nice interview!

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