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The Odd Couple: Torsten Frings And Major League Soccer

Der Kommandant, Torsten Frings.

Torsten Frings’ contract at Werder Bremen runs out at the end of the season, and there have been doubts as to whether the midfield general will be given an extension to his current deal. Frings has recently made clear in an interview that if his stay at Werder Bremen were not extended, he would not consider a move to another German club. What’s even more interesting, is that Frings also stated that New York is his ‘dream city.’ Seeing Frings go down the road of former European stars like Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez and David Beckham  makes me cringe a little bit. While Frings may still want to be promised a regular place in the Werder Bremen side and a handsome pay package to go with it, moving to New York to secure that may still be out of his best interest.

For one thing, New York already have three designated players in the forms of Juan Pablo Angel, Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez. Angel’s contract is nearing an end as well, and unless New York ship him off or offer him a regular contract, there won’t be any place in the New York side for Frings anyway. The only other option would be to wait for the New York Cosmos franchise to open up, and then to become their first designated player. Unfortunately, the Cosmos won’t become a franchise until (reportedly) the 2013 season, and by then Frings will already be 36 years old.

Torsten Frings has always been a very competitive, very aggressive player. Surrounding him with players who aren’t up to his calibre, players who he won’t consider up to par, will only create friction in the camp and a lack of passion for the game for Frings. Even if he was given a designated player contract that would undoubtedly be packed with cash and first-team assurances, he’d be in an unfamiliar surrounding with players he wouldn’t gel with.

Also, Frings would be completely out of the spotlight in New York. In Germany, Frings is a massive star who is respected by both players and fans for his approach to the game. In New York, they didn’t even know who Thierry Henry was! I went to see Toronto FC play the New York Red Bulls at BMO Field in Toronto, and fans called Thierry Henry, the legend that he is, ‘that Henry guy.’ All they could remember was his handball against Ireland! He’s a bloody legend, and all they could think of doing was booing him for a handball. It’s not so much that he was an opposition player and opposition fans were booing him for that reason, it was just the total disregard of his legacy that I couldn’t take. I just don’t think that Torsten Frings, of all players, would like to be surrounded by a largely ignorant fanbase, at least based on my experience, and just a lack of recognition of his achievements. People didn’t even know Henry was from France! Frings is like a warrior, you can’t put someone like that back to square one, where he’d have it all to prove again – especially after everything he’s done.

Meanwhile, Werder Bremen have included a managerial clause into Torsten Frings’ potential new deal at the club. If Frings stays on at Werder Bremen, he will be given the option to manage the club after his playing career ends. Even if he has to sit some games and becomes used like a Paul Scholes does at Manchester United, I think that’s a lot better than going to the MLS and playing his days out in relative obscurity. Frings is a Bundesliga legend, and his legacy will only continue to grow if he accepts Werder Bremen’s contract offer and eventually does assume the role of manager at the club. He’s extremely determined, he’s a great leader, and he’s mentally strong enough to roll with the managerial punches and ride out a run of losses or a dip in form.

In all, I think Torsten Frings should leave New York for his summer vacation, and keep his focus at Werder Bremen and his legacy there.

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  1. rod

    October 30, 2010 at 6:30 am

    I don’t know where YOU were sitting during that NYRB game but everyone around me KNEW EXACTLY WHO Henry is and was… his storied history and his obvious talent. We knew it and still booed him… he’s a Red Bull. We gave him the gears… and rightly so. Beckham got WAY WORSE. I’d love to have That Henry Guy on TFCs squad… but would rather have Frings! Maybe JK will make that happen?

    The real supporters at BMO are some of the best and most knowledgeable footy fans around… they know and love more than just “their league”, and have eyes on most of the planet’s leagues.

    PS. The Red Bulls aren’t even *IN* New York! Ha. Frings will be disappointed.

  2. David H

    October 29, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Nick — “Only us emigrants who play football and came from Europe care about football”

    Too true. And while I agree with what you write, that’s not the whole story.

    Our immigrants (not just from Europe, but Central & South America) are an ever-increasing percentage of the US population, and contributed greatly to the high TV ratings for the World Cup. The baseball/Am. football/basketball fans may not, probably will not, ever adopt (real) football, but they don’t need to for football to succeed (i.e. TV ratings, growth of MLS.) There are plenty of football fans in America. If 10% of the population loves football, that 30+million people. That’s a significant market.

    Football is here to stay & will continue to grow in its many forms, even if the morbidly obese, redneck suburban American sports fan (!) doesn’t ever join in.

  3. Nick

    October 29, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    I went to the Red Bulls stadium to watch Juve….about 80% of the people there came to eat in the stadium! I don’t know why these people come to play here, because NOONE cares about them here, ok maybe 100 people lol, but the regular NY guy doesn’t give a flying fck about “soccer”.

    Only us emigrants who play football and came from Europe care about football, I still haven’t seen A THING about the red bulls on TV, NEVER. When Beckham came, he had his 5 minute run, and noone cares about him anymore.

    Come on, be real, USA is never going to adopt to football, it will never. If Frings was a basketball,baseball or an american football player, then yes, he should come, but if he enjoys his spotlight, let him stay there.

  4. Mark

    October 29, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Further to my earlier comment, I just read that Toronto FC are in final negotiations to hire Jurgen Klinsmann as a consultant to overhaul the team. If that happens, I would actually start to believe that a player like Frings might even come to Toronto (maybe not Frings himself, but other German players reaching the twilight of their careers). Check out the article here:

    It is true that in the MLS we will be destined to only have star players for the last 2-3 years of their careers, but my hope would be as the league grows and more stars come here and become DPs, there might be a very slow transition to better players, and larger salary caps that don’t require DPs anymore. This could take 10 years or more, but it would be nice for MLS to become a more attractive option for players eventually.

  5. David H

    October 29, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    I was disappointed when Frings was dropped from the national team, but it worked out for everyone in the end. I love him as a player.

    I don’t know how celebrities are treated in Germany, whether Frings can go grocery shopping w/o being mobbed. That’s been sometimes stated as a reason to like playing in the US, the ability to blend in, be anonymous, after a career in the fisheye lens.

    I’ve attended a fair number of MLS games in the past, but none w/in the past 5+ years. I simply can’t feign interest, plus the nearest team is 150+ miles away. I surely wouldn’t travel to see a specific player, no matter who it is (OK, maybe Sr?an Laki?!)

    Frings isn’t a man who seems like he’d go somewhere just for the pay day, though I would never criticize a man for doing so. We (and our extended families, and possibly our families’ next generations) all have to eat. So I think the point is moot. He’s angling for leverage in negotiations with Bremen, and will eventually take whatever they give him.

    Though Thomas Schaaf may have something to say about Frings becoming 1st team coach!

  6. Mark

    October 29, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    I’d much rather see Frings come play for Toronto! (ok I’m biased). It would be great to see some Bundesliga stars in Toronto. I went to the friendly against Real Madrid last year, and believe it or not I was more excited to see Christoph Metzelder play than Kaka and Ronaldo. Metzelder has lost his shine now, but he had a good game and it was great to watch.

    Frings would be the solid and gritty midfielder TFC could really use to change up their squad, but who knows if Frings even knows where Toronto is?

    • Dylan Thomas

      October 29, 2010 at 1:20 pm

      It would be cool to see Frings or any other big European star come to the MLS, but I’m not sure it doesn’t anything for the teams they join in the long run. Frings is old, the longest he’ll last, if he joins next season, is three years. He’d solidify toronto’s midfield in the short-term, but in the end Toronto would have to fall back on average players to fill his place once he’s gone.

      And like you said, it’d take a lot to get a guy like Frings into Toronto, or any other MLS team. He’s built for the highest level, and I don’t think he needs to leave Europe at all.

  7. Anarchy Ant

    October 29, 2010 at 10:47 am

    While it would be great to have another legendary player come to MLS, I’m sick and tired of the league being where great players go to die.

    I’m not a huge MLS fan (although being in Colorado I really enjoy watching Cummings and Casey play together) but I think not creating it’s own stars is only going to hurt the league in the long run.

    • Dylan Thomas

      October 29, 2010 at 12:38 pm

      That’s the point I’m trying to make with the Henry situation. He’s a legend. He’s won everything under the sun, and he comes to the MLS and is subject to that kinda stuff? Frings wouldn’t have it!

  8. Ossington Mental Youth

    October 29, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Only reason we called Henry ‘that henry guy’ is because HE PLAYS FOR NY, Hes not our player. You cheer for players on the opposing team because they are big stars? Gimme a break. We know who he is and what calibre he is, we just arent going to let him know.

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