Major League Soccer has been filled with so much cynicism that, before the recent news that the CBA has been reached, I was looking to politics for feel-good material.
Well, maybe not that bad, but with the ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations (which I pictured as Che Guevara and Mr. Monopoly staring at each other from across a table in a darkly lit room) it’s been hard to look at MLS in a positive light. And isn’t that a shame? This is supposed to be MLS Next! It’s supposed to be the new era of the league! (3.0, right? Wasn’t Beckham 2.0? Or was Beckham 3.0, and expansion 2.0? I’m confused…)
Even though they came to an agreement in time (and they didn’t even need to send in trust-busting Teddy Goalsevelt to fix it!) people are still going to be cynical. Why? Complex psychological stuff that
I don’t really understand is too in-depth to talk about now. The problem is that most every major story in MLS (even big-name player acquisitions–heck, especially big-name player acquisitions) is looked at cynically. This isn’t a good thing; the world in general is a harsh place, and life is often tricky at best. Soccer should be an escape from cynicism, right?
Right. Since everyone is probably receptive to optimism after the CBA deal, I’m going to attempt to drain cynical thinking from your minds when it comes to MLS:
First, I’ll get a biggie out of the way: Frank Lampard. Lots of people totally hate him, and a lot of that hate is because of his saga with New York City FC. To recap: they said that he was signed with MLS last summer (after the Chelsea legend’s contract at Stamford Bridge expired) and going to Manchester City on loan. But he didn’t go on loan. It was a bizarre thing where he had a 1-year deal at Manchester with a “break” clause, to stop it in January so that he could sign with NYC. The only reason I can think of to do that instead of a loan is so that Man City can keep him the extra 6 months if they want and (surprise!) they did.
You can blame him a little, but not that much. He was given a chance to spend an extra 6 months in the league that many US fans hail as the Promised Land. Most of the blame should fall on the City Group, for treating NYCFC as a farm team and thus MLS as a farm league, and a good heaping on MLS as well, for lying to the fans about the “loan.”
But you can still be positive about that! I mean, this is Frank Lampard, one of the greatest to play for an EPL team that you’re either a fan of or hate with a passion! He’s the only midfielder in the Premier League era with over 150 career goals, and is second on the all-time PL assist chart behind Ryan Giggs (who has an advantage given that he played for 163 years). And, barring even more nonsense, he’ll be playing in MLS later this season!
Now, to Lampard’s fellow legendary English central midfielder: Steven Gerrard. I have no idea how someone can’t be hyped that he’s entering the league. Is he old? I guess, but Thierry Henry did pretty good and he’s a few years older. Gerrard has the ability to perform into his late 30s. As long as he takes the league seriously and stays healthy, he’ll be good. And even if he doesn’t, it’s Steven Freaking Gerrard, playing in our country (and Canada, which is also nice)! Plus, it’s not like anyone will get hurt if he bombs. He’ll be on the Galaxy! They’ll be good anyway, and if they aren’t good, they’ve been great enough in the recent past that no tears will be shed.
And now for Mix Diskerud. I think people hate him now? And from what I can tell, it’s just because of cryptic tweets and his dad getting in trouble (which, if anything, should improve our opinion of him because the MLS false-starts are due to his crooked dad-agent). And the cryptic tweets part: who cares? He’s 24 years old!
Is he the American Messi? No, that’s Rubio Rubin (maybe). Is he Michael Bradley (on form) with hair? No, they’re different players. I can’t tell if Mix fits into the Javier Morales role or the Luis Gil role in Jason Kreis’s NYCFC, but either way, he’s probably going to be good, and there’s a chance he’ll be an effective player in the US. Plus, he’s a magnificently likable person! Watch/listen to interviews of him. He’s still the quirky Nordic guy who juggles and has great hair. If you don’t like Mix Diskerud, you probably also don’t like puppies.
You want cynicism? Look no further than Jozy Altidore. For some reason, the soccer hive-mind has decided that he’s a bad player simply because he did poorly at Sunderland. Well, very few MLS players would do good in the Premier League, especially on a bad team! Let’s go back a couple years, before his ill-fated time in Northeastern England, where he scored 23 league goals for AZ, in the Eredivisie, a league better than MLS. To reiterate: in Jozy Altidore’s last season not in the EPL, he scored enough goals to win the MLS Golden Boot in 13 of 19 seasons, in a league better than MLS.
If you’re expecting Jozy Altidore to have a bad season, I think you’ll be surprised.
But that’s not the end of cynicism for the 5th best USMNT goalscorer of all-time, who’s still just 25. Lots of people are freaking out due to the fact that he’s moving to MLS and thus leaving Europe. My unpopular opinion is that he’s better served in MLS; where playing time is guaranteed, where league positions are far more fluid than in Europe, where he’s basically home (these guys are still people, remember), and where playing time is guaranteed. I meant to say that twice because it’s so important. Of course there’s something to be said for playing in the top league in the world, but when our national team’s best player ever spent most of his career in MLS, it’s clearly not as important as some people see it.
How do I see it? A good player is coming to the league, and our national team’s best striker is going to be happy again. This is good.
Of course, there’s lots of other things to be happy about in MLS, in addition to the CBA resolution, but I didn’t mention them because they aren’t being looked at as cynically. Sebastian Giovinco’s addition is incredible, and undoubtedly a good thing. The only super-big signing that doesn’t get the hate from either the “our best players MUST be in Europe!” or the “no old players!” camps, because he’s fairly young and not American. Brek Shea and Juan Agudelo have also returned, and even the most obnoxious Eurosnobs can’t get upset at that, given that the pair’s EPL pipe-dreams were clearly dead.
The point is that there is a LOT to be happy about in the world of Major League Soccer. Not to mention the fact that they reached a CBA agreement while I was making this article! Crazy, right? MLS is back, and I, for one, am SUPER-HYPED!!!!