Scottish football is currently at a pivotal moment in its illustrious history. While the Scottish National Team has taken a dip (as evidenced by the thrashing the United States awarded the Scots in May), their Premier League has continued to be a mid-level league in Europe. The fate of one club, Rangers F.C., not only threatens the health of the SPL, but also leaves uncertain the future of several US Men’s National Team players.
The SPL’s current popularity and quality appears contingent upon the Glaswegian rivalry between Celtic F.C. and Rangers F.C. The Old Firm Derby is a classic matchup between two sets of supporters that bitterly detest each other. There’s politics, there’s religion, and there’s football – it all gets wrapped up in this rivalry.
The Old Firm Derbies could well be gone though, if not for a season or three, maybe for good. Rangers F.C. has been liquidated. A new corporation, “The Rangers F.C.” has been formed, and the path forward isn’t clear. One thing does appear certain – the other SPL clubs will not allow the new corporation to join the top division immediately. Obviously this is the just move in terms of 11 other teams which purport to use prudence in their finance, while Rangers (or more appropriately their owner) did not. The loss of Rangers (and the Derbies) will raise questions about the viability of the SPL without the big draw fixtures. There have even been rumors of The Rangers F.C. considering options for entering the English F.A. pyramid – though those rumors have been rebuffed by both parties. It just goes to show you that the chances of Rangers being a part of the top division for the 2012-13 campaign being very slim.
Two of the players at Rangers F.C., Carlos Bocanegra and Maurice Edu, continue to factor prominently in the 2014 World Cup aspirations. One other, Alejandro Bedoya, made appearances in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup but has not been picked under Jurgen Klinsmann thus far.
It’s no secret that Bocanegra, current captain of the USMNT, is getting on in age, but Edu is in the prime of his international career at age 26, and where he ends up will certainly impact his level of play and ability to crack the roster for the United States. If you want evidence of the importance of where Edu lands, see the way Michael Bradley has reshaped his career in one full season in Chievo of the Italian Serie A.
Here is what we’ve heard thus far for the three American players who are Rangers property until the transfer window opens:
Carlos Bocanegra – While Boca may still have the ability to earn a contract in Europe, rumors have it that he could make the return to Major League Soccer. The former Chicago Fire standout would be subject to the Allocation Lottery, with the Vancouver Whitecaps at the top of the list. This could be a very favorable move for Bocanegra. Vancouver has become a darkhorse team in the Western Conference, a team with a mixture of experience (Jay DeMerit, Lee Young-Pyo, and the newly-joined Barry Robson) and youth (Camilo, Darren Mattocks, and Omar Salgado). Boca would have a great familiarity with DeMerit from their days on the USMNT. The odd man out for Vancouver might be Martin Bonjour, but if they can swing all the salaries and egos, having 3 solid center backs would prove well for their run.
Maurice Edu – The rumors before the US World Cup Qualifying had Edu heading to Turkey to play for Trabzonspor. This would at least get him back into Europa League play. In terms of play, Turkey is five places higher in the UEFA league rankings than Scotland, so that would be a move upward for the former Toronto F.C. midfielder. The competition in the defensive midfield ranks for the United States is strong, and so he needs to continue to develop his game.
Alejandro Bedoya – This would be the one guy who might stay. The 25-year old is still trying to make a breakthrough in Europe after spurning MLS out of college. If The Rangers F.C. is forced to start at the bottom of the Scottish professional pyramid, you’d think that he’d look to get out fast. If they can convince the SPL that their presence in the top flight is a necessity for league success – or find a way into the 3rd or 4th tier of the English pyramid – Bedoya would probably fit into their plans. It wouldn’t be optimal for Bedoya, but the guy needs playing time to earn a move to more prestigious clubs – and ultimately to rise his stock in the eyes of Jurgen Klinsmann.
It’s not easy to predict where these three will end up (though the Bocanegra move makes a lot of sense at this point). The Scottish Premier League is in decline, and the uncertainty around Rangers likely weighed upon these players in the 2011-12 campaign. While moving back to MLS is probably a step back for Bocanegra, it’s inevitable considering his age. It would be a boost for the Whitecaps, adding to the 2nd year team’s hopes of a Cup run. As for Edu and Bedoya, time will tell if they get moves, and whether it will benefit the players as well as the National Team.
What do you think? Are the developments with Rangers going to help, hurt, or mean little to MLS and the US Men’s National Team? Leave your comments below to let us know.