Events over the past 2 days have clearly illustrated why MLS will never be a significant entity until changes are made. The mentality in this country is skewed as it’s become more and more apparent how much football has been Americanized into soccer. On the one hand there’s no choice. Everyone agrees this isn’t our sport and without tweaking it a bit to cater to the American public, it would never survive. However, this country still has a duty to respect the game, and quite frankly, we don’t.
I’ll get to the All Star game in a bit, but let’s start with the Los Angeles Galaxy – this year’s premiere team in MLS. They have dominated all competition so far winning 12, losing 2, and drawing 4. They’ve scored the most goals in the league and given up the fewest. Topping the Western Conference, they are still 9 points clear of second place Real Salt Lake and 6 points ahead of the Eastern Conference leader. You get the point – they ain’t too shabby. The Galaxy took all this talent into Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League qualifying match against the Puerto Rico Islanders who play in the USL – America’s second tier league. Puerto Rico soundly thumped them 4-1 in Los Angeles. 4-1!! What a disgrace. LA is the face of Major League Soccer captained by arguably the most noticeable player on the planet right now in Landon Donovan. There shouldn’t be any club team on the continent who comes close. Yet, in our Champions League, what should be the most prestigious tournament for club teams playing in CONCACAF, the Galaxy simply couldn’t care less.
This is a problem. It slaps this very sport in the face. Nobody outside of America gives any credit to the champion of the world’s “retirement league.” You need legitimacy and respect, and the only way you’re going to get that is by achieving continental success. Take Celtic and Rangers from Scotland in a league that rivals MLS for mediocrity. However, both those clubs compete yearly in the UEFA Champions League or Europa League and at times have made a significant run. The only reason you know about them (aside from playing in the United Kingdom) is that they’ve had historical success in Europe. The point I’m trying to make is that the Galaxy are this year’s Celtic/Rangers. But dominating at home means nothing. And yes, CONCACAF doesn’t have the Barcelonas or the Inter Milans or the Liverpools. But this is our continent’s premiere club tournament and once again, America only cares about themselves. They don’t understand what it means to respect a major tournament of some of the very best football clubs on this side of the Atlantic.
Think I’m out of line? The United States sent a C team to the Copa America in 2009 while Brazil and Argentina and the likes sent their very best. We have since been uninvited to the tournament. Why would we do such a thing? Because we were more worried about winning the terribly difficult Gold Cup to book a trip to the Confederations Cup in South Africa. (Remember when we beat Spain?) We were more worried about beating Haiti, Grenada, and Panama with our very best than going toe to toe with some of the world’s best in South America. Let’s go one step further. Bruce Arena and Landon Donovan, after being crushed on Tuesday, jumped on a late-night plane to fly to Houston for the annual…
MLS ALL-STAR GAME!! America’s signature gift to the world. Where we parade the very best of our top league to play against one of Europe’s popular teams. A pathetic spectacle of epic proportions. I will admit that there are logical reasons for doing so, most notably the money. Nobody can argue with MLS packing over 70,000 people into a stadium to watch a football game, especially when Manchester United features. But I am thoroughly pleased that the “all-stars” got their asses kicked last night by a bunch of kids who in their late teens and early twenties are better than 95% of the players MLS can offer. Why is this even necessary? Why must MLS interrupt it’s season and distract club teams all for TV ratings and money? Why on Earth was Landon Donovan on that field if only for the last 15 minutes a day after he played a full 90?!
The whole thing stinks. You don’t think Donovan got a call from someone telling him he had to show his face on the field in Houston? I would have said, “F**k off. My club team has a Champions League match and we are the only chance you have of an MLS side achieving credibility on the continent. Who cares about a silly exhibition?” Unfortunately, Landon is a bigger man than that and he knows his importance to the sport here. But the very fact that he most likely received such a message is the heart of the issue.
I can’t think of anything more embarrassing and damaging to the sport in this country than what happened last night.
Major League Soccer took a big hit this week. It couldn’t be any clearer. People across Europe will read about how United’s bench players ripped to shreds the very best America’s domestic league has to offer. People across North and Central America will read about how a petty island team from Puerto Rico walked into the home of MLS’ most dominant team and beat em’ like a bunch a school girls.
Hang your heads because there is nothing to be proud of today for fans of the sport here.