Thanks to all the readers for the huge pile of feedback since I started my soccer column for Yahoo! Sports. Unfortunately, it was physically impossible to reply to every email, but I have tried to cover the main issues that were raised.
My comments on the pace of MLS compared to the Portuguese league – in reference to Freddy Adu's move to Benfica – did not go down well with many, but I fully stick to my views. MLS is played at a rip-roaring pace and the physical condition of the players is, in general, phenomenal. Once the skill level rises to match it, MLS will have a truly world-class product.
A certain Mr. Beckham was also the subject of plenty of mail – surprise, surprise. It does amaze how quick many people have been to criticize Becks for not playing due to an ankle injury. If someone fails to perform on the pitch, that is one thing, but I for one find it hard to have a go at him for resting an injury in order to be fully fit when he takes the field.
Thank you to all the Toronto FC fans for your kind words on my article about MLS's superb new franchise. And to everyone else as well, thanks for your views and keep them coming.
My comments below appear in italics.
MLS VS. PORTUGUESE LIGA ("Adu's time to shine," July 31, 2007)
Martin, at the bottom of your article you say the pace in the Portuguese league is slower than MLS. I would think it is faster.
St. Petersburg, Fla.
If you think the pace of the Portuguese league is slower than MLS, you are quite mistaken. Comparing the two leagues is a farce.
Steven Q. McDonough
New Haven, Conn.
Are you kidding me? How can you even begin to say that MLS is more fast-paced than the Portugese club league? Do you understand how bad the MLS players are skill-wise compared to the rest of the world?
Your comment on the Adu article about the Portuguese League: "The pace is slower than MLS, where the general level of physical fitness is extraordinarily high" could not be further from the truth. When was the last time you watched a league game from Portugal?
I didn't say I thought MLS was better, but it is faster. Last season, I watched around 20 Portuguese league matches. They are not fast at all, with generally slow and tactical buildup play. More skillful? Yes. Faster? No.
I totally disagree with what you say about the Englishman Beckham. In my opinion he is a mediocre player. Los Angeles should have brought instead a player of the quality of Cristiano Ronaldo or the Argentinean Lionel Messi. Those are the players you should write about and not about a washed-up, Scientology-connected, broken-goods player as the overrated Beckham.
Ronaldo is 22. Messi is 20. How is MLS supposed to persuade them to come here – kidnap them?
Man, you need to stop bashing Beckham so much and watch more soccer. Some times an injury is an injury. You need to be a little patient with this situation. After all, he does have five years in his contract.
Iowa City, Iowa
I have just read over every column I have written for Yahoo! Sports and I would love to know how, where and when I have "bashed" Beckham. Please enlighten me.
"David will certainly be recognized – he is a face people know – but here, high-profile people get more space, especially in Los Angeles because there are so many famous celebrities there." … Dude, are you kidding? You obviously don't live in California. Get more space? Ha, ha.
First point, that was a quote attributed to Shaka Hislop, not an opinion expressed by me. Secondly, have you any idea of the heat this guy gets in the U.K., dude?
How do I find a previous article that appeared in your column a few days ago re: Beckham, Real Madrid and the injections he received?
Just click on my name or photo to get to my column archive.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER ("How to make MLS major league," Aug. 7, 2007)
What about instead of playoffs for the MLS, the league teams up with the USL? Then the bottom two teams in the MLS are relegated to the USL while the top two teams in the USL are promoted. I think that it would make teams in both leagues play harder than they already are. Some of the best games in the Premiership, La Liga and the Bundesliga are when teams are fighting for promotion or to avoid relegation. What do you think?
I am currently researching an article on the relegation/promotion issue, which definitely has merit but must be structured carefully.
Martin, do you see another expansion team in the New York metro area?
Glyn James Davies
Not yet. The league will want to branch out to new venues first. If it happens in New York, then Flushing or Brooklyn would be good options as the Red Bulls are in New Jersey and there is no room in Manhattan.
You are so wrong about not breaking ties, and a single table is ridiculous. A single table is boring and un-American. It is a fact of American sporting life that Americans absolutely hate ties. They say it is like kissing your sister. Letting MLS games end in ties is killing MLS soccer. This is especially true of 0-0 ties which constitute nothing less than a soccer death. MLS should employ penalty kick shootouts to break ties.
I don't have a sister, and if I did, I wouldn't kiss her. Well, maybe on the cheek. … Who cares if it is un-American? People don't watch MLS to feel American. They do it to be entertained. If you want to feel American, go watch the World Series of Video Games or the Professional Rodeo Tour. You might think drawn matches and single tables are boring, but most of the rest of the world disagrees.
Should there be an effort to put another team in Canada, say, in Montreal? Further proof of possible MLS success there is the support of the city's local USL team that is benefiting from universal support of the sport fans of Montreal.
Maybe. Toronto is a great success story and MLS commissioner Don Garber would certainly think about another Canadian team once the league expands. Montreal or Vancouver would be the obvious choices.
Do you think that the U.S. men's national team can become world champions? I think that within two or three World Cups, the USA has a shot at it. I'd like to read your thoughts on this.
Difficult to say Hector. But if MLS continues to get stronger, then the U.S. could be real contenders in 10 to 15 years. But there will be new teams emerging – expect China to have one of the world's best teams in 20 years or so.
What is your view on Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo? Is he underrated, overrated or where he belongs? Do you feel that he might be the best player in the world?
When Ronaldo first moved to Manchester United, I thought he was overrated – all tricks and no substance. But he has developed incredibly over the last four years to become the most complete player in the world.
What do you think about the Bosnian national team and its qualifying chances for EURO 2008. Also, what do you think about Hasan Salihamidzic's transfer to Juventus?
Greece should win the group and Turkey must be favorites to join Greece as Turkey has a game in hand and two fairly easy matches to come. But Bosnia-Herzegovina still have a fighting chance. It may come down to a head-to-head with the Turks in the final qualifying match.
It will be interesting to see how Salihamidzic copes with life in Serie A after playing so long in the Bundesliga. I think he will enjoy some success there, perhaps not as a huge star but as a solid player for Juve.
Who do you think is the best player in the world right now? And between Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho, who is a better soccer player?
Right now, Cristiano Ronaldo is the best. Ronaldinho remains the most exciting and entertaining player I have ever seen, but I believe Zidane at his peak was of more value to his team, especially in the 1998 World Cup and at Euro 2000.
What do you think of the negativity still surrounding soccer that is still coming from the naysayers of American sports journalists, especially NFL sportswriters. They are still disqualifying this "true world sport" by dropping remarks that it's not the most popular sport in the world.
Trevor L. Eastman
Everyone is entitled to voice their opinion, but anyone who suggests that soccer is not the most popular game in the world is either stupid, a liar or both.
- Cristiano Ronaldo