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MLS as good as EPL: Fantasy or reality?

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FC Dallas head coach Steve Morrow is not afraid to speak his mind and his assertion that Major League Soccer's best teams were good enough to compete in the English Premier League produced plenty of heated response.

Much of our feedback from the matter came from MLS fans delighted that Morrow had come out so strongly in support of the league. Others questioned his sanity while insisting the North American game is still light years behind.

The issue was just one of the interesting topics in a bulging and varied mailbag this month.

My comments are in italics.

MLS MEASURING STICK ("Equal to the English Premier League," March 25)

I liked you article about the MLS being "Equal to the English Premier League." Our MLS teams have already had success against top clubs in England. Real Salt Lake beat Everton 2-0 in 2007. L.A. Galaxy only lost 1-0 to Chelsea. MLS clubs have proved worthy against other European clubs as well. A European club has yet to beat the MLS All-Stars, but even individual clubs are proving to be contenders across the globe.

Tim Stajduhar
Kansas City, Mo.

Thanks, Tim. The article was more a reflection of the thoughts of FC Dallas coach Steve Morrow, who believes many MLS teams could be competitive in the English Premiership. While I don't believe MLS is anywhere as bad as some people try to make out, I'm not fully convinced by Morrow's argument just yet.

I love MLS and have followed it from its inception. But we are foolish to compare the quality with the EPL. Even though we beat English teams during their preseason, it is not the same as winning in a competitive competition. Until we are winning CONCACAF tournaments on a regular basis, MLS still has a ways to go. I think the league is doing what it needs to do, but we have to stop trying to get respect and let our actions on the field speak for themselves. Like I said, I am an MLS fan. Let's be realistic. We are not there yet.

Paul Lorinczi
Indianapolis

Some very good points from Paul. No arguments from me.


U.S. AND MEXICO

With the crop of talent coming out of USA and Mexico, do you get the feeling that a CONCACAF World Cup champion is in the near future? USA winning on the road seems more likely now and Mexico performing well in international play makes 2010 and 2014 kind of interesting. So my question is: Should our expectations be greater now for these two teams to bring home a title in the next 10 years?

Dan
Chicago

The U.S.'s 3-0 victory in Poland was impressive but it must be remembered that it was in a friendly game. There is still a long, long way to go before the team can think about repeating its 2002 effort of reaching the World Cup quarterfinals, let alone going any further. Mexico is not short on talent, but it would still take a mighty effort for it to match the top teams on the planet in a World Cup.

Do you believe that Mexico has enough young potential to be in the top five international soccer teams in the future? Let's say five years from now, when Giovanni, Nery Castillo, Santana and many other great young players develop. They are No. 10 in the world, according to the FIFA rankings.

Alex G.
California

The future for Mexico is bright – but how bright? The top five teams in the rankings are all familiar, Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Spain and Germany and there are other traditional powerhouses like France, Holland and England all hoping to get back up there. It will be difficult for Mexico to reach such lofty heights but if they are ever going to, it will be with this star-studded generation.


MLS ROAD TRIPS ("Have MLS franchise, will travel," April 5)

I'm a big MLS fan, but I'm living in an MLS dry area. In your opinion what are your top five overall teams/cities to go to see this summer, using stadium, level of play, fans and, of course, the city itself as your guidelines?

David Neel
Knoxville, Tenn.

I'm not a big fan of watching soccer in enormous and soulless NFL stadiums, so that rules out several venues. Others – like Chicago, Dallas and Colorado – are not ideally suited to a "soccer tourist" as they are such a long way from downtown. Toronto is a personal favorite, both as a city and a hardcore soccer venue. The atmosphere for D.C. United games at RFK Stadium is also top class and the ground is easy to reach on the subway. The city of Carson, Calif., offers little in the way of interest except for the Home Depot Center, but that destination offers the potential advantage of seeing two games in a weekend if the Galaxy and Chivas are both at home. I still haven't made it to Real Salt Lake, but I'm hearing good things about the place and the team is improving fast. From there, it is a toss up between Houston and Kansas City. The chance to see a master at work in Claudio Lopez just swings it in favor of the Missouri-based side.


MLS PREDICTIONS ("The team to beat in MLS," March 28)

Regarding D.C. United, I'm somewhat concerned about the massive turnover with the club and Tom Soehn's emphasis on foreign talent, some of which may or may not pan out. Will the club, with so many new players, thrive this season or not?

Michael Martin
Haddonfield, N.J.

There is some new blood, Michael, but a core of experienced players remains in place. I think United will again be the dominant team of the regular season and will look to its South American talent to end its recent playoff woes.


BECKHAM INTERVIEW ("Beckham's golden state of mind," April 3)

I found your article about David Beckham and the now underway MLS season to be truly spot on. For people that don't know Becks, they tend to assume he is all about the glitz and glamour that typifies most high-profile American athletes. But in reality I think, as your article portrayed, Becks could be summed up as thus – David Beckham: human being and teammate.

John
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Thank you, John. I have taken plenty of stick from those who would like to see Yahoo! Sports bash Beckham as a person and a player on a regular basis. But I refuse to stick the boot in unless it is deserved. As a person, Beckham stands up to scrutiny. And as a player, we are still waiting to see what he can produce in MLS. One thing is for certain: A handful of games is nowhere near enough to either proclaim him as a hero or to write him off as a flop.


THIERRY HENRY ("Sounding Good," April 8)

Who's going to pay Thierry Henry to play for New York? Do they have Paul Allen money?

Kevin C. Lawson
Seattle

Well Kevin, the Red Bull company is not exactly short of a penny. It would be an intriguing battle if the Seattle and New York franchises both tried to sign Henry. The Frenchman has voiced his desire to play in the Big Apple previously, but Allen's pockets are deep and the Sounders have ambitions to be the biggest club in MLS.


KANSAS CITY'S MR. WIZARD ("Meet the Mark Cuban of MLS," March 20)

Great article on Robb Heineman. We here in K.C. appreciate all that he and the owners are doing. It is nice to have direct contact with the owner's ear!

Nathan Jensen
Kansas City

Robb Heineman is an impressive guy who takes his relationship with the Wizards fans seriously. Such an approach is to be commended and deserves success.


CUAUHTEMOC BLANCO ("Can Blanco ignite the Fire?" March 26)

I am so tired of Blanco being praised as the savior of the Chicago Fire. Blanco is not a savior of the team; he is ruining the game. He dives anytime an opposing player gets near him. I wonder how effective Blanco would be if he played an honest game and didn't fake any fouls.

Nick Johnston
Charlotte, N.C.

Is Blanco a diver? Does he try to cheat? Yes, on both counts. But I'm sorry, I just love watching him play and I refuse to accept that he is ruining the game. He has a wonderful soccer brain and is as fun to watch as he must be horrendous to try to defend. As I've said before, his legs are going, but his soccer intelligence will keep him effective in MLS.


MARCUS HAHNEMANN ("Reading's Hahnemann still keeping it real," March 5)

I hear Hahnemann is one of the coolest guys in the Premier League. I feel he is as good as any of the U.S. keepers in England as well. Your thoughts?

Gordon Delaney
Richmond, Va.

Hahnemann is a very cool guy and a quality goalkeeper. All the U.S. keepers in the Premiership are highly respected, but at this point, I would put Hahnemann alongside Brad Friedel and just behind Tim Howard on recent performances.


ALL-STAR CHANGES

Martin, with the great influx of foreign talent to the MLS, don't you think the MLS should use it's All-Star game to make sure they are still advancing in their development of U.S. talent? The MLS should make its All-Star game an Internationals vs. USA game.

Callom Harkrader
Louisa, Va.

This raises an interesting point. Would such a game hold more appeal than an MLS All-Star side taking on a middle-of-the-road Premiership team like West Ham? I don't mind the current format, but I would like to see bigger-name clubs involved in the showpiece game.


PREMIERSHIP PONDERINGS

Who is the tallest player in the English Premiership?

Charles Akolo

I believe Zat Knight and Peter Crouch share that distinction, standing at 6-foot-7. Former Portsmouth goalkeeper Konstantinos Chalkias was slightly taller, but he has since left the league.

Who is the best player in the English Premiership?

Michael Enninful
Richmond, Va.

That's easy – and it's the same answer as if you had asked me who is the best player in the world. It's Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United, without any doubt at all.