Sunday, June 21, 2009

So This is What 11 US Players Look Like - A Real Time Response From No Hope to An Advancing American Squad

Even though I'm currently watching Italy v Brazil ( and briefly considering US v Egypt somewhere in the back of my brain - ESPN just interrupted the match to show a clip of the US actually scoring a rather scrappy goal ) I'm going to discuss some things that have been happening outside of the Confederations Cup and World Cup qualifiers along with the tournament today.

Funny news update - have you heard about Kahn? Apparently Oliver Kahn ( who earlier this month has blasted his former Bayern Munich for appointing Jurgen Klinsmann and told them to sell Ribery ) will be hosting a reality show in China. Its called "Never Give Up!" and attempts to find talent as goalkeepers, with ten contestants aged seventeen to twenty-four. The show - as I will now call Project China's Next Top Professional Keeper - has two female contestants and runs for ten episodes. I think Oliver Kahn is brilliant on the pitch but I'm not sure if the admiration extends to the television reality show.

Carlos Tevez has finally officially announced that he's leaving United. No one is surprised but I think its about time the announcement was made. I don't really care if he goes to City - at least its not Real Madrid - but I'd rather he stayed away from Chelski and Liverpool. He's the least dangerous to United at City and it would prove interesting in derby matches. It opens up the door to finally sign Benzema from Lyon, who had been initially reluctant to sign over the £30 million striker.

As I go back and forth typing and watching - Brazil went up 3-0. They scored two goals in as many minutes. It is stunning. I expected Brazil to win but Italy looks well trounced as halftime begins. Charlie Davies scored ( 21' ) for the US - which goes into the half with a 1-0 lead. Oddly enough, the US needed a big win for Brazil and a win against Egypt for them to have a snowball's shot at advancing. Right now it looks like Brazil and Egypt will be advancing but I guess you never know in football.

Here's a good example. Yesterday New Zealand - despite the worst performance in the tournament so far - managed to do something that they had never done. New Zealand managed to maintain a 0-0 tie with Iraq, winning their first point ever in a FIFA tournament. It's been touted as a football milestone for the country - which makes me feel much better about the US's national performance. Perspective.

Speaking of US football - Major League Soccer has gotten some unwanted advice from FIFA President Blatter. In between ranting against the use of video replays -which I agree with - he basically said that the MLS has to change and adopt the same season schedule followed in Europe if it ever wants to be taken seriously. Right now the US has a March to November schedule instead of the August to May season. Blatter has quoted in a variety of papers:

"There is one big problem there and they know, the organizers know, that as long as you don't have your own stadia in the MLS, you have to use stadia from another sport, which is American football," Blatter said. "With the season played from March to October, you are not in the so-called good international season.
"The result is that you will not attract star players from Europe to play for only six or seven months, with the exceptional case of Beckham - but this is another case."
“This is not the right solution for M.L.S. They have to adapt themselves to the international calendar. If they do that, they can have success. I spoke several times and I spoke on this 10 years ago when I was still secretary general and nothing has changed in the USA. But in the world of football, something has changed."

While some of the MLS clubs have their own stadiums the majority do still play in NFL football venues. In the Canadian Press the head of the MLS was quoted, giving his opinions of the American season:

MLS commissioner Don Garber agrees with Blatter in theory. By next season, 12 of the 16 teams will control their own venues, all but D.C. United, Houston, Kansas City and San Jose.
"We regularly evaluate all aspects of our competition, including the timing and format of our season," Garber said in a statement. "Because of the extreme winter weather in many of our markets in the U.S. and Canada, a switch to the international calendar would pose many challenges for MLS and its fans. I am convinced that the time will come when we do adapt to the international calendar. I just don't believe that time is in the foreseeable future."

I think both men have points. Major League Soccer cannot currently compete against the NFL. But - they'll never be able to unless they have more international support and players. The MLS seems to be stuck in this viscious cycle and I think that until they make bolder moves - like adapting to a more normal season - nothing will change. Even Beckham - the one big star of the league - managed to get back to Europe for a season. Look at the first squad for the US men's national squad. All but five play their club football in Europe. It shouldn't happen right now. It might destroy the league. But someday it has to happen, right?

More importantly than the season - can we please get rid of the two conferences? Conferences are something Americans are very fond of but for a sport with the level of support as "American soccer" it's just silly. I don't see the rationale for it. The fact that we have to have playoffs make the season shorter by about eight to ten matches. The club with the most points in the country should win the league. It should be that simple. Since MLS is adding teams in the next couple of seasons - I understand that we can't change the season but we should get rid of conferences. I'd also like to see teams relegated, which doesn't happen in the states. I think relegation is brilliant. It allows for good teams to move up in the world, and makes other teams improve and earn their spot.

I switched to watching the other match - to see my country play after all. The US has moved up 3-0 against Egypt. Brazil dominated Italy 3-0. Its shocking - the US will be advancing from group stage. Italy and Egypt will be left behind. The US found ways to score today. Davies, Bradley, and Dempsey all saw the back of the net. Donovan continued to lead the squad with his heart and drive. We had double the shots on goal as Egypt. The world was watching the "bigger" match and the US stood up and said to take notice. I'm shocked. I'm thrilled. And while I know this would be a giant step for the US - remember - they'll be playing Spain. No matter what it will be good experience for the US to play a team like Spain. While I know that Spain is the number one team in the world and we'll probably lose - I'd written my country off despite saying I'd support them this time but now all I can think is -

OH MY GOD! The US advances!

I always say the US has less change than a Jamaican bobsled team. Well, some people say they know they can't believe - US we have a football team?

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