Wrap: MLS Observations of a Novice, More…

We’ve got a roundtable coming up this week on MLS, but I thought I would kick it off myself today with some observations that I have from opening weekend in MLS.

A chilly but fun night at Kezar...

To qualify, I’ve only been to a few MLS games and probably only outright watched a few more before I started writing this publication. Probably the best experience I had at a game was when the Dynamo played the Earthquake in an exhibition game at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district on, even by SF standards, a cold and foggy night. MLS, you put a team at Kezar permanently and I won’t miss a home game. Scout’s honor.

Actually went with the Die Hipster Brewing guys to that one, and I do remember Brian Ching looking so thoroughly disinterested in playing that night that he got a second yellow early and walked right off the field into the warm locker-room.

That said, and perhaps this will be interesting for you guys or not, I thought I would offer some of my two cents, so you can correct me below or back-up my contentions:

• The MLS doesn’t need another “Beckham”

Beckham looked on at HDC Saturday, another "Beckham" isn't needed...

If you look at the amount of quality soccermen from overseas playing or thinking of playing in MLS–according to reports–you can really see an influx of players who played outside of North America start to gain a little steam post Beckham experiment.

Whether you see Beckham’s MLS time as a success or failure for the product or business, you can’t dispute that the England national certainly added legitimacy with his pedigree of Manchester United and Real Madrid.

After Beckham (January 2007) arrived then did an assortment of others Jaun Pablo Angel (Aston Villa, August 2007), Freddie Ljudberg (West Ham (year hiatus) October 2008), Ryan Smith (Crystal Palace, 2010). Add to this sampling of players, rumors of Thierry Henry and Raul among others..

MLS doesn’t need another “David Beckham,” a press-driving player, it needs to continue to get quality players from overseas that want to play in the United States before they exit their prime. Think of this way, while Beckham lifted numbers, what player can match Beckham’s magnitude with the casual fan to attract fans (hint: not Henry or Raul), maybe a Messi, Rooney or Ronaldo and that’s about it and none of them are obviously coming.

• There is a noticeable increase in production value and advertising in 2010.

Production-wise:

With apologies to this comment by Johnny F, opening saw quite a bit more camera angles in the two games we watched (SJE/RSL and LAG/NER) this weekend. (Johnny we have not heard back yet on our email to FSC on the camera issue.)

Lots of camera angles and lots of attempts by FSC to pick out contributing parts of the game (like Gooch and David Beckham sharing a luxury box at HDC).

Further two of TSG’s suggestions for ESPN for soccer coverage, we’re picked up by Fox (admittedly with lower production value than we had hoped): A Landon Donovan cribs feature (it couldn’t have been drier) and a “telestrator” which featured the two broadcasters moving around checkers on magnetic board. Splurge for the full telestrator Fox!

Advertising-wise:

Watched the RSL – San Jose Earthquake game Saturday and Amway and Addidas advertisements were all over the field.

Watch the Galaxy – Revolution game and FSC had an Auto Parts computer graphic on the top right of the screen next to the FSC shield for intermittent parts of the broadcast.

Watched a boatload of commercials on both ESPN and FSC that were not about hair replacement. Nice job MLS.

• There was some seriously good finishing opening weekend.

Wasn’t it just last September that USMNTer Frankie Hedjuk was lamenting “the last pass” and lack of “finishers” in MLS.

Just last September? Yes it was and what an answer from opening weekend.

Edson, I'm off your bandwagon finally and nothing you say or do will get me back on it....

How about Donovan’s service to a charging Edson Buddle for the lone score in the Galaxy game? Quality (Yes, I hear you on the message boards, you probably want an invitation)

or

How about Freddie Montero’s diving header on an errant shot? (:32 mark)

or

How about defender Mike Chabala navigating the FC Dallas defense and poking home (2:30 mark)

or

How about all three RSL strikes–two by Javier Morales–as the Salt Lakers dismantled the Earthquake?

You get the point. We’re not ready to call Hedjuk’s comments history, but if opening weekend is an indication, finishing has notched up.

—–

If anyone has an update on how potential USMNTers played in MLS, I’d love to hear it.

—————–

Elsewhere

• I don’t often just repost a link to an article, but one, this is interesting, two the Guardian is an excellent journal. Lionel Messi….Lionel Messi!…He of little fame in his home country? Wow.

• …..and if Steve Cherundolo scores on a free kick, we’ve got to show it….even if the camera man doesn’t:

• Gotta throw that Torres strike in there from today in Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Sunderland. Earns my first ever curse on TSG: Holy shit! No beach ball necessary.

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34 responses to this post.

  1. I agree, the finishing was great this weekend. However just wait until Kei Kamara and Wells Thompson get more playing time. Perhaps you will change your assessment.

    Morales is a class player. If Salt Lake is to avoid slumping after their championship season, he will be the reason why.

    DC United looked terrible while Ryan Smith was a lot better then I expected.

    Reply

    • Posted by Kevin on 2010/03/28 at 8:13 PM

      “If Salt Lake is to avoid slumping after their championship season…” If you remember, they didn’t have a great season last season, but they happened to have a great playoff run. RSL did so bad that they got the LAST playoff spot and ended up in the eastern bracket despite the fact that they are a western team.

      Reply

      • I do remember this, however they can still slump. The difference is that their slump would make them one of the worse teams in MLS rather then just affecting their playoff position. There are no free passes in the west and even though this game was on the road, it was against San Jose who might not get 20 points this year.

        Reply

  2. Good first attempt at an MLS weekend re-cap. Cover it regularly and I’ll never have to look at another web page again (porn included!).

    Reply

  3. Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/03/28 at 5:36 PM

    I don’t need porn. I have Chris Lenhart.

    Food for thought here: who’s faster? Richards or Findley?

    Matt you didn’t mention McBride’s nolazo against RB. What was that goalkeeper thinking. . .

    Reply

  4. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/28 at 6:02 PM

    Likely Richards — but since he can’t play for the USMNT I have to call it even with Findley.

    Didn’t see McBride’s goal — post it if you have it.

    Freaking Edson Buddle — all it was for me two years ago was Edson Buddle this, Edson Buddle that…he’s another one (like Bornstein)…who has the game, put just can’t put it together overall.

    http://theshinguardian.com/2009/07/26/ny-yankees-manchester-city-usmnt-strikers/

    (I cringe when I reread this article…ah, TSG the early days.)

    Reply

    • Jeez, Gabriel Ferrari? Completely forgot about him. For as much as we love to yell that young Americans should be in Europe, cases like him and Arnoux to me prove a case that young talent are better off having some success in the MLS before going over to Europe. I’m much more OK with college kids going straight to Scandanavia.

      I was thinking about which young Americans who skipped college and went to Europe have been successes. John O’Brien are the only ones who come to mind Jonathan Spector, It’s funny how much we complain about American development systems versus Europe’s, but the best American players have come up through MLS, college or both, not European academies.

      Reply

      • Whoops, meant to say John O’Brien and Jonathan Spector are the only guys who skipped MLS and College and have been successes. Stupid iPhone formatting.

        Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/28 at 7:20 PM

        Ferrari has bounced around a lot…we wrote about him about 3 weeks ago I think.

        Cody Arnoux is actually doing great and might be playing for Motherwell next season which would be a huge accomplishment in such a short time.

        Reply

    • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/03/28 at 6:58 PM

      It was a NOlazo. A chilena from about 16 yards out. Hit the post. Goal keeper was at the top of the 6(why?)

      Reply

    • Posted by Bob on 2010/03/28 at 6:59 PM

      A better Buddle may be another reason why Beckham’s turn at MLS has been a success (he obviously has influenced LD’s game a little as well imo).

      I guess I am too new to USMNT talk, but I don’t get why you “cringe” at re-reading the earlier article.

      Reply

    • McBride didn’t score, but he hit a bicycle off the post

      Reply

  5. Posted by MichaelN on 2010/03/28 at 6:13 PM

    Love the MLS recap…..definitely could get used to it here. Pretty solid opening weekend – I agree with the sentiment that the league doesn’t need “Beckhams”, and that the overall quality of play is more tied to a general influx of solid talent. I look at the type of guy like Joel Lindpere with NYRB….an under the radar Estonian who looks ready to be a very solid MLS midfielder

    Reply

  6. Posted by Bob on 2010/03/28 at 6:33 PM

    Others who moved to the MLS after Beckham: Schelotto (Boca Juniors, 2007), McBride (Fulham, 2008), and of course Keller (Fulham, 2009; also, Borussia Mo. and Tottenham among many others). I think what Beckham brought was money via the DP rule. Once teams were allowed to open their pocketbooks a little, players came and will come (see recent comments from Tim Howard) even if it is a last hurrah for a few years. Interesting, it seems that many of these DP players like it here. Schelotto was supposedly offered the head coaching job at Boca Juniors, but turned it down to play for the Crew for another year at less money. He is supposedly the heir apparent to take over the Boca job, but likes living in the USA and may not return to Argentina for a while.

    I have followed MLS on and off since 1996 with the Crew in CBus (I don’t live there anymore hence the “on and off” statement). The thing I noticed more since that time is the number of West Africans that are now in the league, although I think some of that is attributed to the fact that a number of West Africans come here to play college ball first. Also, and maybe I missed this before, but there seems to be a large Columbian contingent in league with one or two on almost every team. It would be an interesting piece to interview the young foreign players to see if they view playing in the MLS as a good stage to move on to European leagues or top clubs in South America. Or, are they just happy to be playing pro ball in the USA?

    One final trend that seems relatively new to me over the past years is the advent of the strong and vocal supporters group. In Cbus, there were always a few fans that came to games with drums, etc, but no organized group. Now there are three with one selling out their section for almost every game. I have seen this now with Chicago whose Section 8 filled one upper deck section in RB stadium and lit it up with an awesome display of flares, jumping up and down cheering the Fire on in the last few minutes (it looked a little like the Duke basketball student section). Also, the Galaxy supporters who gained fame for booing Beckham. The Sounders and Chivas groups who march to the stadium with bands, etc. This is awesome and new (at least new since the time I first attended MLS games in OSU stadium) and I think brings a better atmosphere for each team and for the league. I really hope the flare display at RB stadium made the highlights of Sportscenter that night as it brings a spirit to the league that will make casual fans want to attend … a sense that if you don’t go to the game you might just be missing something.;)

    Reply

    • Posted by Kevin on 2010/03/28 at 8:23 PM

      The casual American thinks flares are a form of rioting and hostility in sports. Jim Rome… hate him. Go to youtube and search Jim Rome soccer. Reason to riot?

      Reply

  7. Posted by Bob on 2010/03/28 at 7:59 PM

    Speaking of MLS players (or should I say former MLS players), Gomez scored again today and reports are that he should of had a second goal except for a great save by Ocha. Should he be called up now or for at least the 30? I know his time in MLS was disappointing, but maybe all he needed was a change in his supporting cast. Who knows? But 7 goals in 11 games is starting to be too big of a deal to ignore. If nothing else, he needs to be called up and capped the next time we play Mexico in Azteca.

    Reply

    • No. Have you looked at the defending on any of those goals? Duilio Davino was a great defender in the Mexican league then was terrible in MLS then went back to being great when he went back to the Mexican league. I rest my case

      Reply

      • Posted by Bob on 2010/03/29 at 2:59 AM

        Not on all of his goals, but I did see the last one and even the announcers blamed the goal on Ochoa’s position (and even questioned whether he is the right gk for the WC!). But, as I think about it, I have to ask if it so easy to score down there then why aren’t all strikers in the Mexican league scoring a goal a game (Gomez had a goal and almost a second in 31 minutes of play as a sub)? Also, why did so many USMNT fans get so excited a few weeks ago when JFT scored from a set piece? What Gomez is doing is impressive and worth another look … if he keeps it up.

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/29 at 6:03 AM

          Bob – Gomez might merit a look; the question is timing.

          We did this piece a few weeks back: http://theshinguardian.com/2010/03/14/charlie-in-a-bottle-for-gomez-likely-not/

          I think it’s important to remember also that Jeff Cunningham was scoring a boatload of goals for MLS at the end of last season, but couldn’t get off against the Honduras B team or El Salvador.

          My contention is and will be “merits a look” but no expectations. I’d still be more apt to give a spot at this point to Robbie Findley…but we’re looking too far ahead there.

          Reply

  8. Posted by Kevin on 2010/03/28 at 8:32 PM

    Matt – I wasn’t sure if you meant possible current USMNTers or possible future USMNTers, but you probably know I watched Houston. Cameron is nothing but disappointing at central midfield. The best thing I say from him all day was at the end of the game where he ran from box to box, just about, and then gave the ball away with a horrible pass. Meanwhile, Davis said “How have I been overlooked so long, look how old I am now”. He looked more like a central midfielder. Chabala might be getting overlooked (I’ve liked him, but for a while I figured if I mentioned his name it would seem like I just like anyone in Houston.) As for my favorite Dynamo player, since Holden is gone, Ching, well… he played alright. I hold him to higher standards against MLS competion, but when starting next to Oduro everyone plays bad, but looks like the forward on the team.

    Reply

    • Agreed on the Dynamo central midfield not looking too organized, Davis is the guy I’d like to see get a shot in the middle (I’ve been saying that since Holden departed actually). As Kinnear has said before that he feels like Cameron’s best position at the international level is on the wing, why not switch them and see what happens? Ashe is also very capable on either wing (though he does seem to do better in the supersub role) and Cruz has looked good there in limited time as well.

      Either way I thought Dallas was outplayed in the match and got lucky to steal a point.

      Reply

      • Posted by Kevin on 2010/03/29 at 4:10 PM

        Atiba Harris got lucky with his shot. It didn’t even look like he meant to curve it like that.

        Reply

  9. The Donovan “Cribs” feature was downright awful. And no offense to Landon, he’s a heck of a player but he’s just not good on camera. I wonder if that’s part of why he hasn’t become quite the household name that we’d hoped, he’s just not the sort of personality type that we love from athletes here in the States. I think some of our younger up and comers in international soccer (Holden, Altidore, etc.) will do a better job in that role.

    Reply

  10. Posted by daninPA on 2010/03/29 at 9:51 AM

    I’d like to share 2 of my observations as a casual MLS fan- I watch the games when they are on espn (don’t have fsc), but have never lived within 3 hours of team and have only seen 2 games in person, many years ago.

    1. There is a significant gap in skill/speed-of-play between the best players and worst players on the pitch – this is nothing new for MLS, especially with D.P.s

    2. Watching the Sounders-Union & Red Bulls-Fire matches, It seems to me that there are fewer of the significantly less skilled players on the field compared to years past, the big gap is still there, but there seemed to be fewer players with low skill.

    There were still a few players that distinguished themselves by making me cringe with disgust: every time they got the ball they made a horrid pass, booted the ball forward, or panicked under pressure/gave away possession.

    After watching the games, I was encouraged, hoping that there has been an upward trend toward MLS rosters populated with more and more skilled players, but then the cynic in me said: The number of skilled players is a function of the early season. Once players start picking up knocks or are taken out by the less skilled players, MLS teams won’t have players with much skill on the bench.

    … I should note, when I say “skilled,” I mean players that have a reasonable first touch, can consistently complete passes, and have enough tactical awareness not to be horribly out of position and forced to make horrible tackles. I’m not trying to imply that every player on the field should have the skillset of an Angel or Ljundberg.

    Reply

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