Reports this morning out of Colombia indicate Fredy Montero will be called into the Colombian National Team. From my vantage point, this is a potential big step towards MLS regaining the ground its lost in South America since about the year 2000.
For years, I have stated that MLS’ quality of play and quality of international signing hit a high water mark in the 1998 to 2000 period and then dipped thereafter and has only begun to recover in the past few years.
I use as evidence the numbers of players called by non CONCACAF nations for World Cup qualifiers, Continental Championships and International Friendlies to back up my theory. I also compare games often: I have a number of games from the early days of MLS on tape, and the first touches and tactical formations were more consistent in those days if you could get beyond the awful kits and crazy clock rules.
Colombia was a prime example: From 1996 to 2000 they called in while active in MLS the following players for international matches including the 1998 World Cup: Carlos Valderrama, Henry Zambrano, Oscar Parreja, Leonel Alvarez, Adolfo Valencia, and Anthony DeAvila.
At that time as well, the core of the US National Team was in MLS. These days, fewer and fewer members of the US “A” team are in MLS, although the league boasts more Canadian national team regulars than ever before, which is in the leagues favor.
Colombian coaches have stated recently that MLS of today does not resemble from a quality standpoint the MLS that the likes of El Pibe and DeAvila played in. So strong was the contempt for MLS, that Juan Toja was called into the team immediately before he signed with Dallas, and right after he left but not while he was in the league.
Recently, I have found more people in the soccer press in the United States and among fans who agree with me about the general regression of the league’s quality.
Freddy Montero’s call up into Colombia’s National Team is a step towards MLS answering the critics like myself. Now if MLS can only improve its clubs play in CONCACAF, we’d be entering a brave new era in American club football.