It was definitely the best move to tackle this month's bulging soccer mailbag with a clear head rather than the usual New Year's Eve-induced hangover. So here we go with the picks of our recent readers' offerings.
My column insisting that the collapse of Juan Sebastian Veron's move to DC United would not be a disaster caused plenty of reaction this month. Opinions were split for and against the former Manchester United flop, but I've still heard nothing to convince me that Veron would have been a big success in the States.
Other topics range from Beckham to Beckerman and Australians to Ukrainians, as we run through what the North American soccer community is chatting about right now. My comments appear in italics.
VERON ("DC United better off without Veron," Dec. 15, 2007)
I am perplexed at your column in regards to Juan Sebastian Veron. In 2004, he was chosen for the FIFA 100, a list of the 125 greatest living footballers selected by Pel as part of FIFA's centenary observances, BUT you say he is not capable of contributing to MLS?
The FIFA 100, huh? Yep, the wonderful list that included El Hadji Diouf, Vitor Baia, Abedi Pele, Edgar Davids, Hong-Myung Bo, Franky Van Der Elst – but NOT Jairzinho. You need to come up with a better argument than that.
I agree that it is not a disaster for DC United. I believe the MLS should go the Arsene Wenger route and draft good young players from the FIFA world youth tournaments.
It's funny how you mention Veron's legendary flop at Manchester United. He was so scarred by the experience that he advised Carlos Tevez not to join Man U this summer. I doubt he'd be able to tough out the ridiculous tackles that Beckham has endured in his few games.
Hello Martin, I disagree with your analysis of Veron. You don't need much room in the field to send those killer shots that he is so famous for. Besides, you made the guy sound like a nobody. We would not have heard of him if he was. I think this is a big loss for DC United. Veron would've drawn a crowd like very few can, especially in DC where there is a large Hispanic community who knows him well. Too bad, we missed out on this guy.
Based on his track record, Veron would not have brought the necessary ingredients to the team. Skill and mental adaptability go hand in hand. I doubt that Veron possesses the latter.
Veron has done well recently in Argentina with Estudiantes, but in that league, opposing defenses do not have the luxury of crowding him with players – as he is playing with teammates who are too dangerous to leave alone. He would have been swamped in MLS, and while he is a good enough player to have had some impact, he would not have been worth his huge salary.
NEW MLS PLAYER RULES ("Allaying fears of MLS foreign invasion," Dec. 19, 2007)
I'd like to know your view about the future of Latin players in MLS. I don't understand why they don't hire more Mexican players?
There is a big future for Mexican players in MLS. With expansion continuing, the league needs to add to its talent pool. The most cost-effective way of doing this is by recruiting talented, professional and reasonably priced imports from places like Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.
BECKHAM AND GULLIT ("Ruud awakening in L.A.," Nov. 8, 2007)
How much of a flop (in the footballing sense) has David Beckham been, and do you think the appointment of Ruud Gullit is going to change the Los Angeles Galaxy's fortunes?
It's hard to judge Beckham based on only a few games, and unlike some people, I find it hard to criticize someone for being injured. Let's wait until we see how he does in 2008 before delivering our final verdict. As for Gullit, I think he is better suited for such a high-profile job than Frank Yallop, but he needs more talent to work with if the Galaxy are to be contenders.
LOOKING AHEAD TO '08 ("New Year's soccer resolutions," Dec. 27, 2007)
I despair of Guillermo Barros Schelotto not returning to the Columbus Crew. Just watching the rest of the team thinking two or three passes ahead as the ball comes to Schelotto's foot shows that he's a true impact player.
Schelotto is a class act and one of the finest players in MLS. If he had been playing in a bigger market like New York or Chicago, he would have received more attention. Unfortunately, it seems like he wants to return to Argentina. A great shame.
You forgot to write "I will never insult Pele again." This of course, is a retort to your lame blog insulting one of the best, if not the best player, of our times to "shut up." Rude and uncalled for.
I'm not backing down on this. Pele is a legend of the game, and without any question either the best or second-best player in history. But he is in danger of tarnishing his legacy by continuing to make silly and uninformed comments. I think it is sad.
MLS EXPANSION PLANS
What city would you like to see get an MLS team, and what city do you think would be the best for MLS? I would like to see Las Vegas get it because of the publicity the team would get and the uniqueness of the city. But the best fit is Vancouver.
Philadelphia and St. Louis are the favorites. It is only a matter of time before they are in. Further than that, Miami, Vancouver, a second New York franchise, Atlanta and a series of others all have merits. Personally, like you, I would love to see a Vegas team. It would be exciting, widen MLS's international appeal and give MLS a unique milestone.
This is not a question Mr. Rogers, but a plea! We have many soccer fans here in Phoenix, more than Seattle I am pretty sure, and yet MLS didn't bring us a team!
Sorry to say this, Bryan, but I think that an MLS team in Phoenix is a long, long way away. I think Phoenix is a great city, but it needs a big long-term commitment from the local authorities, a wealthy prospective ownership group and a soccer-specific venue.
Why doesn't MLS put the cameras on the "closed" side of big stadiums to show the fans in the background or microphone them? The games I have been to had LOTS of atmosphere. Then I go home and watch the broadcast and it sounds dead.
I agree. There is nothing worse than seeing rows of empty seats – especially if that is portraying the wrong impression – and there is certainly more that the television companies could do. However, the real answer is in smaller, soccer-specific stadiums that can be filled more easily.
Brad Davis is an excellent controlling midfielder who appeared 45 times for the Under-20 national team, scoring 13 overall goals and appearing in games at the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championships. Will Bob Bradley look in his direction or just wait for Benny Feilhaber to develop?
I like Davis. He is a solid and consistent performer and one of the unsung heroes for the Houston Dynamo. However, Bob Bradley rates Feilhaber highly and seems committed to giving the Derby County player a decent run.
What would it take to have the U.S. Open Cup final or another great soccer game here in El Paso? The Sun Bowl is a huge stadium and we are bordering the city of Juarez in Mexico.
El Paso, Texas
El Paso is an unlikely destination I'm afraid. Houston (where the U.S. plays Mexico on Feb. 6) and Dallas are the Texan cities of choice when it comes to soccer, and I can't see that changing any time soon.
Fabio Cannavaro or any Italian player would be warmly welcomed in Toronto, but what about some players from Asia or Australia? Guys like Brett Emerton, Alex, John Aloisi or even Tim Cahill. Can they be tempted?
The problem here, especially with the Australians, is that if players like Emerton or Cahill are looking for a move away from Europe, they would probably opt for a couple of years in the Australian A-League, which is three years old and starting to gather serious support down under. It will be tough to get players from Japan as well, as the J-League is getting stronger and its wages are high.
I heard a rumor that Andriy Shevchenko is poised to join the L.A. Galaxy on loan in the spring. Have you heard anything about this?
This one may have happened if Jose Mourinho was still at Chelsea and Shevchenko was still out of favor. But things have changed and Shevchenko seems much happier under Avram Grant. Also, if and when Shevchenko comes to MLS, it would surely be a permanent deal rather than a loan, and New York would be a more realistic destination than the Galaxy.
What did you think about Kyle Beckerman being traded to Real Salt Lake from Colorado this year? Wasn't that an odd trade?
It was a good trade for RSL and a questionable one for Colorado. Beckerman is an effective player in MLS, and with him and Robbie Findley improving quickly, RSL has hope for better fortunes in 2008.