A week of good news for MLS – But how ‘Good’ is it?
Posted on July 26, 2012 by Joe Plewes
Often the subject of much European snobbery, it’s fair to say that Major League Soccer has had one of its brighter weeks since it was dreamt up in 1993. First off we had controversial Olympic absentee Gareth Bale lauding the improvement of the beautiful game in the US (although perhaps scoring against the MLS cup champions with a bad back rather contradicts his sentiments).
The second positive (and most newsworthy) is the addition of Tim Cahill to the ranks of the New York Red Bulls. He in many ways epitomises a lot of what is good about the MLS; he’ll give you 100%, he’s physically strong and above all consistent. Certainly coach Hans Backe – friend of Sven-Göran Eriksson and former Notts County manager – will look forward to seeing him dovetail with another willing runner in fellow new signing Sebastien Le Toux.
The third and final piece of good news was that the MLS All Stars saw off Chelsea thanks to a deflected strike from former Fulham forward Eddie Johnson. A meaningless friendly you say? Perhaps. The European champions not up to full speed yet? Most certainly. Yet the footballing world was happier to label Manchester United’s 4-0 win over the All Stars as a benchmark last season, and criticisms that Chelsea were in second gear should also be tempered by the fact that their opponents had mustered just a few hours of training together.
A certain Mr. David Beckham could also be forgiven if he were slightly undercooked having ditched Olympic festivities for a few hours to fly into Philadelphia and straight back out again for the opening ceremony. You would not have known of course, as the ever-professional Galaxy star occasionally retreated from the right hand side to his American ‘quarterback’ role, finding captain Dwayne De Rosario with an angled pass that led to the MLS’ second goal.
Yet it is perhaps players such as De Rosario – one of the vanguard of MLS stars – that are more important. Thierry Henry described him as the face of the competition, and the Canadian is just as integral to its development as the influx of foreign players that are hitting the headlines. A creative midfielder who can go past people and score stunning goals, he is perhaps best known over here for having a trial and almost a Landon Donovan style loan spell at Celtic.
It is players like the D.C. United midfielder that can really take the MLS up one notch, even if the likes of Cahill will make the news. While the quality across the competition undoubtedly varies – certainly more than many European leagues – the physicality and fitness appears to be up with any of them. What is missing is that x-factor, the little reverse pass, that fleeting moment of brilliance.
One should be wary of comparing it to any particular division due to the variance in quality (for every player of De Rosario’s calibre there are still players arriving from League One or League Two that might have a positive impact), but it would be unfair to dismiss it altogether.
And having watched England at Euro 2012, are we in a place to criticise an improving league with industrious players that are found wanting quality wise? Perhaps not.