This weekend’s MLS action was tainted by the continued insistence of the league not to break or at the very least reduce its schedule for international matches. Landon Donovan, Brad Guzan, Mo Edu, Frankie Hejduk and Rico Clark should not have to take a long flight after one international match only to take a similar length flight after the MLS match back to Europe. But it wasn’t simply Americans who were inconvenienced by MLS’ scheduling this weekend: if it were simply Americans I suppose it would be alright. Six Canadian players were busy battling mighty Brazil while several other MLS players were scattered throughout the world playing for their countries. Amado Guevara, Ivan Guerrero and their Honduran team mates were in my neck of the woods in Fort Lauderdale facing Venezuela. Kei Kamara and Bouna Counduil were in Africa for World Cup qualifiers, and Carl Robinson was in Wales to face Holland in the final tune up for the Dutch before the Euros begin. Several other MLS players were also absent this past weekend and will be absent for several matches in the next month.
MLS is watering down its product and cheating its fans, players and management by making no effort to resolve its scheduling issues during this period. The on the field product while acceptable isn’t what it should be during this period and that makes the whole situation laughable.
Why MLS cannot change its scheduling practices is beyond me. For the first time since the inaugural season of 1996, MLS has a great number of players who are active on their respective national teams and whose presence as full internationals enhances the reputation of the league. But all of this jeopardized if the league does not make it possible for footballers to perform for both their club and country without conflict.
Some other thoughts:
- Jeff Cunningham had a great finish for TFC’s second goal but didn’t finish his other opportunities leaving me to believe Cunningham is most certainly in decline and may not after all catch Jaime Moreno and Ante Razov as the top two MLS scorers all time.
- The Galaxy’s young guns didn’t get a result without Landon Donovan and David Beckham Saturday but certainly showed they could hold their own and create scoring chances. Now I am of the belief that Beckham is less valuable to the team than Donovan and thus getting Becks back next weekend will not solve all the problems the team has.
- Chivas USA is on a roll and what more can you say about the Sueno MLS program? Jorge Flores is not only a good MLS player, he could be solution for the national team and this kid flew completely under the radar for years. That’s a failure of the USSF’s development programs.
- Jesse Marsch is having a renaissance in 2008. Marsch is a winner: he’s never been on a bad team in his 13 year MLS career and he wasn’t about to allow this year’s Chivas team to go down the tubes.
- Tam MacManus is quickly becoming one of my favorite MLS players and his game winning goal was a thing of beauty.
- FC Dallas is in troubl: we already knew that, but solving the trouble may be as simple as incorporating Dominic Oduro and Abe Thompson in the attacking flow rather than dallying around in the midfield. In other words the Hoops unlike the other struggling teams in MLS may not need a talent upgrade: they need a change in philosophy.
- Columbus looks listless and now is scoreless in close to 300 minutes.
- Houston without Onstad and DeRo record a clean sheet against the Red Bulls. It helps that Juan Pablo Angel wasn’t playing.
- DC Unite’s backline and goal keeping situation is not salvageable.
- Kheli Dube is the latest amazing find of the Revolution’s scouting network, and once again Steve Nicol and Paul Mariner find the best hidden games available to an MLS club.
- Panama looked impressive versus Guatemala on Sunday. Without Carlos Ruiz Guatemala was tentative and trying to bog match down in midfield until late when Guatemala needed an equalizer. 1-0 Panama victory sets up qualifying nicely for them.
- Canada’s performance against Brazil Saturday night should strike fear into the hearts of Honduras and Mexico who will face Canada in the first qualifying group. I personally am the first person to write off Canada because of the mess that is their federation, but the Canadians controlled more of the match than the US has ever controlled against Brazil and seem to have the right mix of players to give a top team fits. Mexico has more to worry about right now: facing a coaching change and a transition between generations of players and a crisis of confidence. Honduras who struggled with Venezuela the other night has the type of attacking players in David Suazo, Amado Guevara, and Carlos Costly both the US and Mexico wish they had right now.