Tag Archives: mls

Why American Soccer Didn’t Need Freddy Adu

“A lot of people have been hyped up to be great but just disappeared,” Freddy Adu, a 13-freddy aduyear-old soccer prodigy from Washington, D.C., told Sports Illustrated in 2003. “I promised myself I wouldn’t be one of them.”

Earlier this week, Adu signed for the NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies, his 13th club in 11 seasons. The move, which will reunite Adu with one of his old youth coaches, represents the latest in a long series of last chances for the forward once hailed as the American Pele. Adu hasn’t played for the United States since the 2012 Gold Cup. In March, after Adu ended a humiliating six-month stint with a team in the Serbian SuperLiga, Grantland’s Noah Davis wondered, “Seriously, what the heck happened with Freddy Adu?” On Monday, BBC Sport labeled him “a journeyman at the age of 26.” 

It’s difficult to overstate the level of hysteria that surrounded Adu in the early 2000s, as he prepared to become the youngest player in the history of Major League Soccer. He was profiled in Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, as well as SI. He was interviewed on 60 Minutes and The Late Show with David Letterman. Pundits compared him to LeBron James, anointing him “the savior of American soccer.” “He’s in a position to positively affect a sports league more than any other player since Babe Ruth,” Dean Bonham, a Denver-based sports-marketing executive, said in 2004.

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The Obsolescence of Javier Hernandez

The immediate consequence of the broken collarbone that Mexican striker Javier hernandez collarbone“Chicharito” Hernandez sustained on Wednesday is bad enough: at this month’s Concacaf Gold Cup, a regional tournament that almost always culminates in a hotly contested USA-Mexico final, Mexico will compete without its most prolific goal scorer. ESPN columnist Andrea Canales called the injury a “cruel setback” for the Mexican team, which hasn’t won any of its last seven games.

But Chicharito’s long-term prospects – his chances of securing regular first-team soccer at a top European club – look even worse. Manchester United coach Louis van Gaal has never seemed particularly interested in him, and Chicharito struggled for playing time last season during a loan spell at Real Madrid. In June, ESPN tweeted that Major League Soccer owners “are looking for a mechanism” to bring Chicharito to the United States. (One commenter suggested an airplane.)

Sebastian Giovinco’s transfer to Toronto last January showed that MLS is fast becoming a realistic option for big-name players in their mid-20s. Still, the rumors linking Chicharito to Orlando City FC, among other MLS clubs, constitute a harsh verdict on his recent form – and on his distinctive brand of old-fashioned forward play.

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Pep Guardiola Gets Mad, Commits Crime of Century

Soccer fans get really upset when players and coaches don’t shake hands with the other team. Remember the guadiola wagWayne Bridge-John Terry incident, when romantic intrigue spilled onto the playing field? Remember the Rio Ferdinand-John Terry incident, when brotherly solidarity compelled Rio to eschew the traditional pre-match greeting? (It’s amazing how many players have spurned Terry’s outstretched hand.) And remember the days when, every time Manchester United played Liverpool, Fox would skip a commercial break in case Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez started slugging each other?

The first #handshakegate of the new season comes from a surprising source: Pep Guardiola, the anti-Mourinho, the guy widely regarded as the classiest manager in European soccer. At the end of Wednesday’s MLS All-Star game, Guardiola refused to shake hands with MLS coach Caleb Porter, because he resented the All-Stars’ aggressive tackling.

Cue the usual sanctimony. “Poor form from the Bayern coaching staff,” Grant Wahl tweeted. “You don’t deserve a Champions League,” added another user. Before long, #disgrace was trending.

In other news, the Premier League’s new concussion protocol does not empower independent doctors to decide whether injured players should reenter the game. It’s time we started complaining about an actual disgrace.

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The Biggest Mess in Major League Soccer

Major League Soccer’s 19-team league season ends in a one-month, winner-takes-all playoff competition designed to generate a crazy amount of fun in a short period of time, but not necessarily to hand the cup to the team that, by any European standard, is truly the best in the land. In 2010, the un-fancied Colorado Rapids rose from sixth seed to beat FC Dallas, the most successful regular-season team, in the MLS Cup final. Real Salt Lake had done something similar the year before, and, even further back, teams like the New England Revolution had prided themselves on season-defying mid-October bursts that, almost inevitably, ended in cup-final appearances

These stories don’t illustrate the beauty of underdog successes. Contrary to popular belief, underdog successes are never “good for the game,” unless you think that stripmining the game’s biggest stars from the game’s biggest showcase is positive and exciting and worth dancing in front of the TV about. Rather, these stories reveal the inherent randomness of the MLS playoffs: Since the competition admits nine of its 19 teams into the post-season, there’s always a chance that one of the lesser lights will put together a run and knock out a more established force.

The 2012 MLS Cup final is still about a week and a half away, but one team we know won’t be playing in it is the San Jose Earthquakes, whose league-topping regular-season performances counted for nothing in the Western Conference semi-finals. But arguably the most shocking casualty of this year’s playoffs is the New York Red Bulls – not shocking in the sense that no one expected New York to be eliminated, but shocking in the holy-shit-they-really-screwed-up sense, where you’ve got your jaw hanging open even before the final whistle sounds, and then two days and a lot of internal therapy later your jaw’s still hanging open (and, at this point, people are starting to stare) because it was just that mesmerizingly gruesome.

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Chris Wondolowski and the Beauty of Records

Chris Wondolowski is celebrating right before my eyes, which isn’t much of a surprise, because he’s celebrating right before everyone else’s, too. He’s grinning in that half-serial-killer half-kid-in-a-candy-shop way that’s endearing but also kind of terrifying. In a few days, he’ll probably be crowned the best – or, because this is America, “the most valuable” – MLS player of the 2012 season. In the unlikely event that someone else wins, San Jose fans will get very upset, and a massive Internet argument, replete with blog posts, newspaper articles, Twitter feuds, and message board profanity, will ensue. Wondo – who plays foil to strike partner and probable-Antichrist Steven Lenhart[1], and who also scores goals[2] and smiles and always stays on his feet, will say he doesn’t care, that there’s no “I” in team, but really he’ll be smarting, because these things matter more than they should.

For those of you who don’t already know, Wondolowski is, alongside the MLS Disciplinary Committee, the most talked-about story of MLS 2012. His team, the San Jose Earthquakes, won this year’s Supporter’s Shield[3] in buccaneering, come-from-behind style. For his part, Wondo has spent the year chasing the record for most goals scored in a single MLS season.

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Where Will Tim Cahill Fit In?

A quick piece on Tim Cahill’s move to the New York Red Bulls…

The guy who punches corner flags is coming to MLS. That may be a reductive way to present Tim Cahill’s underrated talent, but it’s the line that New York Red Bulls fans have immediately latched onto. The LA Galaxy have a cartwheeling, machine-gun-blasting Irishman up front. Now the New York faithful, too, can enjoy an unorthodox celebration.

The Red Bulls, who currently sit atop the Eastern Conference, have already done a lot of celebrating this season: they’re Major League Soccer’s second-most prolific team behind the San Jose Earthquakes, and, in Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper, they boast two of the league’s most efficient marksmen. New York are famous for their attack-oriented style, a zesty playing philosophy that ignores one of the fundamentals of modern football – defending. They’ve conceded 29 goals this season, more than any other team in the Eastern Conference’s top six. Nevertheless, the Red Bulls remain one of the favorites for this year’s MLS Cup.

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