Wednesday, June 28, 2006

MLS vs. Bruce Arena

After the US flopped out of the World Cup, Bruce Arena pointed to Major League Soccer as one of the reasons we did not get a better result, saying, "the way for us to get our players to get better is: We do need to get more of our younger talented players in Europe."

This is not the first time Arena has complained about the MLS. In the past he has pointed out how a majority of the season means nothing and that the games lack intensity, among other things.

However, MLS commissioner Don Garber has not taken Bruce's latest comments sitting down. "If I were him I'd take a deep breath and think about what I say before I criticize anyone in American soccer."

MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidiswent a step further. "The temptation after a disappointing World Cup is to come up with knee-jerk reactions and explanations," Gazidis said. "It has the beauty of simplicity. The inconvenient fact is there is not a shred of evidence to support it."

After the poor performance on '06, it is obvious that there are problems with the American game. I agree with Arena that MLS games are too often lacking in intensity and creativity, however I also think the Bruce made some poor coaching decisions. All and all, there is plenty of blame to go around.

The fact is, the product on the MLS pitch in 2006 is better then what it was in 2002, but it is still far from anything found in the big leagues of Europe. If we want to continue to raise the level of the game in the US, we need to get more young players playing, more fans in the seats and better pay all around.

If you are a fan of the US national team and do not support the MLS (be it by watching the matches on TV or attending a game or two a season), then you are only making it harder for our team to perform on the international stage.

Still, I agree with Arena that we need players like Johnson, Donovan, Twellman, Adu and Dempsey to get into (or back into) the European leagues (this was actually one of the first things I said after the Ghana match). The hard fact is that is where the best soccer in the world is played and if we want our players to achieve their best, they need to play the best. Perhaps in 10-years, the MLS will be on level with some of the best in Europe (don't laugh, if you look at the money situation and the number of potential fans in the US, it very much could happen), but as of right now, Europe is where they need to go.

So for now, let's just call 2006 a step back that exposes the problems in American soccer.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Jorge said...

Arena is absolutely right.

The MLS is not a competitive leagues yet. Look at the MLS teams performance in international competitions and the case is made.

Even Portugal, which has a better league, although not one of the top in Europe, with some of its teams performing pretty well in international leagues, benefited immensely from having some of its best players playing in more competitive leagues early on in their carreers. See the cases of Figo, Rui Costa, Fernando Couto and Vitor Baia and more recently Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiago and Miguel among others.

It was good for the national team that had players that were able to develop to their full potential and were used to play at a more competitive level, but it was also good for the portuguese clubs and the portuguese leagues that began being perceived as a source of good players and good football.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Jon Eccles said...

Looking at US football from the outside, it often strikes me that using a baseball/NFL style league system must be something of a drawback, as so many clubs have seasons that are over halfway through. In the Premiership, say (I'm British) most teams have something to play for (European qualification) or something to avoid (relegation), so up to a few games before the end of the season everyone is motivated.

10:09 AM  

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