I’ll admit that I saw this coming but that does not make it in any way more justifiable. Major League Soccer has its newest Designated Player, and like some of the post Beckham/Blanco signings it is a player no major club in the world would even entertain a thought of signing. Freddie Ljungberg is a player that couldn’t find playing time at West Ham United, and was little more than a role player and cult hero on some very very good Arsenal teams earlier this decade and at the end of the nineties. But Ljungberg is not the type of player MLS needs to be signing with the DP rule. This player represents little if any natural fan base in the United States and is not of the type of quality to elevate the entire league or even arguably the Seattle Sounders team he signed for. Ljungberg like Denilson last season and Marcello Gallardo and Claudio Lopez this year are players who do not bring a fan base with them and are at best a slight improvement over the players available within the MLS player pool already. The initial “Beckham Effect” with the DP rule of signing David Beckham, Cuauhetemoc Blanco, and Juan Pablo Angel as well as the non DP signing of Boca Juniors legend Guille Barros Schelotto has worn off. Now once again MLS appears to be a retirement home for players looking for one last paycheck: not unlike leagues in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Major League Soccer needs to either repeal the DP rule at the same time as raising the salary cap or somehow encourage its franchises all of which are controlled by the league to a great extent to not pull the trigger on DP signings based on reputation of a player because he played for either a top flight national team (the case of Gallardo, Lopez and Denilson)or a top international club. (Ljungberg) MLS must find players who fit an ethnic fanbase as both Blanco and Angel did, or a player whose natural talent and quality will elevate the whole league as Schelotto did. (for what it is worth Schelotto has a massive following among Boca Juniors supporters in the USA: only second perhaps to Martin Palermo.) Unless a DP meets these criteria the league should reject a club signing the player. It’s not only best for the club and MLS’ sake but for the reputation football in America maintains abroad.
CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE NOTES:
- With Houston’s 1-1 draw against Firpo in El Salvador last night, the Dynamo simply need to beat the Salvadorian side at Robertson Stadium November 26th to advance to the knock out stages of the CONCACAF Champions League.
- The Puerto Rico Islanders became the second USL side to advance to the quarters of the CCL with a 2-2 draw in Panama against Tauro FC.
- All four CCL groups were won by Mexican sides. Clearly no question can exist as to what the best league in the region is. What’s more signifcgant is that Chivas, America and Pachuca, traditionally the three best Mexican sides in CONCACAF competitions did not even qualify for this event.