Wednesday, April 7, 2010

MLS Should Shut its Doors
to Europe's Aging Cast-Offs

I'm no huge MLS fan. I'm glad it's there, and I respect the fact that some clubs such as the Revolution, Seattle and Toronto have rabid supporters who care about soccer the U.S. I've been to games and they're fun. But the quality ain't there, and there's no reason to rehash the wheres and whys. A single-entity ownership system notwithstanding, MLS is just below a second-tier European league in my opinion.

They've done a decent job concentrating on player development, and aside from Team Beckham out in LA, have resisted temptation to bring in aging has-been big names who have been cast off from their European teams because they just can't hack it any more.

Some people, still, just don't get it. For example, we have this gem from Sports Illustrated's soccer editor Jen Chang.

I don't know this guy or how much he knows about football, but his latest column on the SI site is a list of 10 players MLS should target as designated players. All but one are 30 or older, and would have made one kickass all-star team about 10 years ago. MLS is expanding its rule around designated players, and teams will be able to add two or three players. Chang says this list is where MLS should concentrate its efforts; guys such as Roy Makaay, Robert Pires and Thierry Henry among others.

He summarizes the strengths of each player as testimony as to why they would fit within MLS. OK. Most of these guys have been cast off from the clubs where they made their names and are toiling in smaller leagues for, yes, smaller money. The question is why? Why hurt MLS' credibility and player development efforts but putting has-been players that no one in the US has heard of in spots that should be occupied by younger players with, you know, futures in the game?

Fernando Morientes? Please. Re-teaming Pires with Freddie Ljungberg for Arsenal-West out in Seattle? No thanks. There's little to no value of bringing these guys in. There's no emotional attachment on these shores to Omar Bravo or even Michael Ballack should he leave Chelsea for the U.S. Henry is the only name who could stir moderate interest, but the guy is still contributing for a team in the hunt for more domestic and European glory. Why would he leave for the U.S.? Just to hang out with Beckham and Tiger Woods? Doubtful.

Do we really want MLS to be the Lost island for footballers? Jen Chang's premise needs to crash and burn just like Oceanic 815 did, and just like Lost, let's make this the series finale for this notion that aging stars can close it out here in MLS. It's been done before and it ain't worked.

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Jonathan Wallace said...

I love how you worked the Lost and Evangeline Lilly photo into the post well done.

I agree we don't want the European cast offs but that doesn't mean we should dismiss them all out of hand. I, for one, would love to have Thierry in the MLS.

Starting11 said...

Thanks man, she's quite high quality, no?

Anonymous said...

You obviously have zero knowledge of MLS and have no idea what you are talking about or you'd know that MLS teams don't pay transfer fees, high wages and aren't first choice destinations for prime young talented foreign players, so how exactly do you propose to bring in better foreign players? It's also obvious you haven't watched a single MLS game in your life or you'd know that most of the Designated Players that have been brought in are all over 30 such Angel, Schelotto, Beckham and Blanco and all were slightly past it, and yet all have played very well in MLS.

Starting11 said...

Well Anonymous, thanks for making my point. I never said they should bring in expensive foreign talent; there's no way they could afford to, nor would anyone who is any good would want to play here.
My point was that instead of going for splashy signings in order to boost ticket sales short term, focus on player development.
And as far as my MLS knowledge, I don't need to justify your remarks.
Thanks for your interest in my blog, and your comment.

Zack Rogers said...

Whether or not you like the idea of aging cast-offs, the reality is that the paying public do, and MLS needs that (if you need an explanation as to why, well, I give up).

Ever see the 'aging' Djorkaeff with the Red Bulls, 34 years old at the time, by far and away the BEST PLAYER on the field in practically every game. Landon Donovan aside, most of the best players in MLS are these so-called decrepid aging foreign players you rail against. Think fans would rather see Blanco or Medhi Ballouchy?

That doesn't mean MLS can't simultaneously try and improve player development but it's not as if there are thousands of world class players in America waiting to be discovered. Can you really blame MLS for wanting to sign the Ljungbergs and N'Kufo's of the world in the interim? No of course not, and as you've already admitted MLS can't sign top tier young foreigners, so this is who they'll go for. Which leaves the kind of DP talent for MLS that has been described by you as 'past it'. Although, again if you knew anything about MLS, you'd know that these players, even though they are past their prime, will still be better than most of the players we see on display in MLS right now. You'll probably also find that MLS will end up signing some DPs that are even worse than some of the players named on that list.