Leave your questions for next weeks Q&A in the comments thread here. Thanks again to everyone who participated. My replies will be posted Thursday morning of next week.
Matt Johnston asked:
Question on U.S. Open Cup procedure, why don’t MLS clubs come in earlier in the process. Why wait until the third round? Also, why isn’t the Open Cup, more Open?
I believe the incentive for MLS to participate in the competition which the NASL clubs did not do predicated byes in the first two rounds. It would be better to see these clubs in the 2nd round.
The open cup is an open literally but I would like to see more opportunity for PDL, NPSL and other USASA sides to qualify. If the tournament could be extended with one extra round more small clubs can participate and the MLS sides that miss the playoffs can being play in the 2nd round.
Soccer Guru asked:
Who do you ultimately see making the team for the USA in World Cup 2010?
What is your take on USL billboards that circled the field in Barbados Saturday?
Part two first. The USL-1 owners association is a proactive group in promoting the USL-1 product. Umbro who is the majority owner of USL is being bought by Nike and there is some sense that Nike may pump big money into USL to in some cases compete with MLS. Whether this actually happens or not is yet be seen, however one thing is for sure: USL-1 is going to leverage their presence in some of the largest metropolitan cities in North America like Montreal, Vancouver, Miami and Atlanta to the advantage of the league, making it potentially better than a typical 2nd division. Miami is the largest metropolitan area in the US without an MLS team (once Philadelphia joins in 2010) and Atlanta is the 2nd largest. Both are in the Southeast, where with the addition of Tampa Bay in 2010, USL-1 will have five clubs and MLS none. This is certainly something MLS must be concerned about.
Part one: Very few players are set in stone. Here is the list as of now:
Locks: Howard, Donovan, Adu, Altidore, Onyewu, Bradley
Likely: Beasley, Dempsey, Bocanegra, Edu, E. Johnson
All other spots open for competition
Everyone else has work to do. Guys like Eddie Lewis and Pablo Mastroeni will make the team if they don’t slow down. Others like Benny Feilhaber and Jonathan Spector have to be more consistent and stay healthy to make the squad.
The US has a growing soccer fan base but they tend to be, I won’t say uninformed, but less learned in soccer than other sports, and very reactionary. Do you think the fanbase will mature, or will this be a common problem that leads to kind of an England-junior type fanbase that is perpetually disappointed and disgruntled?
Also, how much do you think this may hold back the game in the US going forward?
Very good points Ryan. I agree with you totally. Our fans are not only uninformed and reactionary but very arrogant in many cases. For example our fans simply assume we should beat up on every CONCACAF opponent because of what they hear from certain commentators who don’t know the game at all in this part of the world. When we don’t, they complain endlessly. Moreover many of our fans don’t seem to rate players the way they should, basing who is playing well simply on statistics like in American sports.. Reactionary is the word you attribute to it, and I would echo that. Way too reactionary and angry it seems. Will it change? I believe much of it has to do with the fans that have just discovered this sport and watch the Premier League more than MLS, and seem to expect our players to play the same style and have the same success as what they see on TV. In addition, these fans don’t know the struggles we’ve been through with the game in this country and seem to always want to complain.
If the attitude doesn’t change the domestic game will be permanently held back and become stagnant in its growth.
You’ve had a pretty good track record of picking guys either in MLS you’d like to see on the national team like John Thorrington or vets out of the mix like Eddie Lewis. I give you credit for being the only person in the country a year ago on your old show advocating Eddie Lewis’ return to the fold.
I ask you then, who in MLS right now is off the radar and you’d give a look in an upcoming friendly? Same for veterans. Is anyone out there we need to call up again who has been forgotten?
Veterans: Steve Ralston. Can still help is qualify. Santino Quaranta. We all now know the story. He’s clean these days and never has played better.
Non vets: Sean Franklin, Colin Clarke, Stuart Holden, Mike Randolph, Jorge Flores, and Chance Myers.
EJ Sux: Can Eddie Johnson’s continued inclusion in the national team be in any way justified? Why does he keep getting called in?
He’s one of our best strikers and actually can draw fouls with his speed and is now willing to take guys on. EJ’s hold up play has also improved of late. He’s going to be part of the mix whether you and some other commentators like it or not.
Ian: Does Taylor Twellman have a national team future?
Yes, no doubt about it. Twellman is very good in the air and can find space. At 28, this should be his time. I think once he’s healthy he’ll be called in to the team.
JRT: Why is Bob Bradley so married to the 4-4-2? For all the criticisms of Bruce Arena, it seems he understood flexible tactics based on his personnel. We rarely if ever played a 4-4-2 under Arena. He liked the 3-5-2 but also used the 4-1-2-1-2, the 4-5-1 and at times a 3-2-3-2. Bradley on the other hand has a system and tries to fit the players into it unlike Arena.
Bradley was asked in one of his early press conferences about whether he would tweak is formation to the international game considering most Americans don’t play a straight 4-4-2. Bradley has played this formation in Chicago, New York and with Chivas USA. His answer was non committal but we’ve learned subsequently that he does not like to change. He is tactically more astute than Arena, but as you said less flexible. Arena played the 3-5-2 or a variation of it more often than not early in his tenure but did play some 4-4-2 in the World Cup of 2002 when John O’Brien and Claudio Reyna were both healthy. Obviously we played a 4-5-1 in the 2006 World Cup, a formation I like a great deal but a formation we did not have the players to execute properly.
EPLNFL: My question is this, assuming that soccer in the US has “lifted off” to take a phrase from the space program, will the American fans continued to be focused on foreign soccer, ie: EPL, Champions League, Mexican League, or will the American fan focus on the MLS, the Open Cup, and USMNT , for our main soccer fare?
Both. The Mexican League is actually the 4th most popular professional sports league in the US behind the NFL, NBA and MLB while ahead of the NHL. We’ve learned in the past few years that European oriented fans are discovering MLS isn’t quite as poor as they had thought and some have even embraced their local USL/PDL sides. So I think you’ll see a renewed emphasis on the domestic game with international events and leagues to compliment it. But the Mexican League will always be the king and MLS will continue to be more popular in this country than any European league.
Kwi Yank: What do you think of Carlos Bocanegra’s move to Rennes? Will he adapt well to the French League?
Great move to a top flight club. My only concern is that if he couldn’t see the field at a team fighting relegation, how is he going to be a first teamer at a club that is always in European competitions?
LZW: Any players you anticipate as potential surprise additions to the Olympic Team?
Eric Brunner whom I have watched in person with Miami FC bears some watching. Peter Nowak liked Brunner’s play in the Toulon Festival last month. Sammy Ochoa has a shot after his showing there, as does Brek Shea. Another name worth watching: 2007 Sueno MLS winner Jorge Flores.