Alexi Lalas is in the firing line of readers this week, many of whom were unimpressed with his complaints regarding the grueling schedule placed on his Los Angeles Galaxy. Lalas described his team's trek around the country in August as "ridiculous," but there was little sympathy from soccer followers.
Unsurprisingly, David Beckham and his latest injury also garnered plenty of attention. Even with the England midfielder due to be out for six weeks, he is still arguably the biggest story in Major League Soccer.
Following that, a great variety of topics inspired comments, including Landon Donovan, Manchester United, expansion, finance, plus of course those lovely NFL fans, without whom the mailbag simply wouldn't feel the same.
Thanks again to everyone who responded (well, almost everyone) and keep enjoying your soccer. My comments appear in italics.
ALEXI LALAS ("Lalas attacks MLS for 'ridiculous schedule,' Aug. 27, 2007)
How can Lalas blame the league for their losses? The schedule is rather aggressive, but whether a player or the team is exhausted does not provide an excuse for poor passing, poor field tactics and, overall, just poor performance. This is due to training and management.
Martin, stay on this topic. MLS was crazy to treat Beckham and the Galaxy this way. They ARE a traveling circus troupe at the moment. But worse, they haven't been able to figure out what players (because of injuries) to play at what positions in order to win.
What will it take for MLS to finally notice that Alexi Lalas is nothing more than a pox for the league? He was an atrocious G.M. at New York and we're starting to see the similar missteps in L.A. For the love of the game Alexi, be done with MLS!!!
I know there are plenty of people who don't appreciate the way Lalas has gone about his job, but I believe you have to respect him for trying to get things done. Whatever anyone thinks of him, he went out and got David Beckham – a major achievement in itself. For sure, he will be judged on how the Galaxy progress over the next few years, but it is far too early to write him off as a failure just yet.
I think Beckham's next appearance will be in an England jersey rather than the Galaxy's. He should heal in time for England's games on Oct. 13 and 17. The Galaxy's final home game is Oct. 18, but surely he wouldn't play on the 17th in Moscow and then again on the 18th in L.A.?
Thanks Beau. England boss Steve McClaren is getting desperate, but I would be surprised if he selected Beckham after six weeks of inactivity for the Galaxy. Beckham wouldn't have the match fitness for international duty even if his knee is fully healed. I can see him taking part in what looks likely to be a vital game against Croatia in November, but only if he returns for the Galaxy's final few MLS matches.
I'm in Canada, but I'm a Brit. I am ashamed on behalf of my country that Beckham peeled off his SuperLiga runners-up medal. Silly little boy throwing a tantrum?
Tough one this. I don't like it either when soccer players take off their losers medals after a final, but Beckham is not the first player to do it and won't be the last. I don't think he meant it as a sign of disrespect, but sure, he could have handled it better.
I just noticed you were the first analyst covering MLS full time and you started around the same time Beckham began his MLS career. Coincidence? Thank Becks for your job.
San Jose, Calif.
Thanks for that wonderful piece of insight, Kevin. I hadn't realized that until you just pointed it out and it truly is an extraordinary coincidence. Maybe I should send Becks a cut of my paycheck each month.
How many teams do you think MLS should have and what cities do you think should be next on the expansion list? (I know commissioner Don Garber has his own opinion on the matter, but I don't agree with all his choices.)
The key to expansion is to do things gradually and carefully. San Jose joins next year and the long-term goal is to have 18 to 20 teams, which I think is about right. The suitability of new venues really depends on facilities and finance, with soccer-specific stadiums a very important factor. Garber said this week that Philadelphia will get a team eventually. I'm just throwing out names here, but Seattle, Vancouver, Atlanta, Miami and a second New York franchise all have merits.
I have been telling people for a long time that every person in sports is in it for the money. Does anyone believe me now? The bad thing is, that for your job, you need these people. I don't.
El Paso, Texas
Indeed Dan, you are partly right. As sports writers, we do need athletes for our job. How observant of you. On the topic of money, at last count there were 59 MLS players on the minimum salary of $12,900 a year. I think it's fair to say they are probably not in it for the money.
Do you ever see American soccer becoming like European soccer, with bottom teams moving to lower leagues and top teams from lower leagues moving up? Or maybe combining with USL?
Probably not, for financial reasons. Just like it would be very hard for a European league to change to an American system, altering the MLS method would also be thorny. Imagine the Galaxy being relegated this season and David Beckham turning up in Division Two. Not good business sense.
Landon Donovan, is he a fool? I think he is because the way he approaches a penalty kick. Because of him, the Galaxy lost the SuperLiga!
La Mirada, Calif.
Donovan's approach to penalties is certainly unique, but we can't blame his pre-penalty kick routine on his two misses within a week because he has used the same tactic for successful PK's in the past. His shootout miss against Pachuca was struck poorly, but the one against Real Salt Lake was just a superb save by Nick Rimando.
In a couple of years when Michael Owen and Frank Lampard are past 30 years old, do you think MLS will offer them contracts?
There would have to be a doubt over Owen based on his poor injury record. Given the Beckham situation, they will look very carefully at the fitness record of any future big-name players. Lampard is injured now, but maybe not in the future.
What's happened to Manchester United? I'm surprised they're not in last place the way they've been playing. … And true, Wayne Rooney has broken his foot, but shouldn't they be doing well even without him? Man U. has GOT to pick up the pace.
It's still early, Amanda. It's hard to judge a season based on just a few games and even though United seem off the pace, they are far from out of contention. Rooney will be missed, but if Carlos Tevez starts to show the form he did for West Ham at the end of last season, then back-to-back titles will still be a possibility.
NFL CORNER ("A love/hate relationship with readers," Aug. 29, 2007
I know I should let my love/hate (I love them, they hate me) relationship with NFL fans slide, but they are just so funny that they deserve a part of this week's mailbag. It's only fair that I give these guys a chance to show their manliness – though having seen how NFL fans tailgate at Giants Stadium recently, I just hope they don't challenge me to an eating, drinking or spitting contest. I'd be pretty confident in a speling compertishun, howevva.
"Say that bull (expletive) about NFL fans to my face, you little (expletive)."
Steve, San Diego
OK Steve, let's do it. You bring Jamal Williams of the Chargers as your backup, and I'll bring Mike Randolph of the Galaxy. I bet we can run away faster.
"Stop waisting (sic) the publics (sic) time with why soccer is important. Maybe one day you can be a good enough person to be considered to cover such a meaningful event as a football game, but for God's sake man, please stop trying to trash the greatest athletic competition ever so you can score extra points with the communists and hippies. Thanks.
Derrck Drake, Football Fan, Veteran American
Yeah, whatever. Peace out, comrade.
If we want to see talent-less celebrity, we have Paris, Brit Brit and Lindsay. We don't need to have a has-been shoved down our throats by some imbecils (sic) who can't come to grips with the fact that we aren't Europeans.
Come on. I may be talent-less but I'm not a celebrity. Oh what, you meant Beckham? Yeah, those free kicks are useless, aren't they?
COMMON SENSE CORNER
People need to chill out about feeling threatened that soccer will take over American sports interests. For one thing, I don't think that will happen, but soccer isn't some virus that is trying to infect all you football fans out there. Soccer isn't even my favorite sport, but I'd rather watch an MLS game than the Little League World Series on my ESPN2.
Martin, as an ex-player, it is so nice to read your column. It is obvious you have a clue about what you are talking about. That is what the game needs.
Thanks Sean. This one is going straight to my editor!