By Tony Edwards – San Jose, CA (July 17, 2014) US Soccer Players – One of the great things about covering MLS is that some old debates never go away. For instance, should teams bring in international talent or be more patient with American players? Why do MLS teams regress after a successful season, even though their schedule didn’t change appreciably? Where should Landon Donovan play?
What is Landon Donovan’s best position?
One of the most enduring debates since Landon Donovan broke into MLS was what is his best position? For years, he played as a forward, to great effect, when I thought he should have been in midfield. Now, of course, when I think he should be a forward, Bruce Arena, who knows more than I do, plays him as an attacking midfielder.
“Playing that position, he’ll have more opportunities to make a final pass than a final shot,” LA Galaxy associate head coach Dave Sarachan told the league’s website. “But the message is still pretty clear to him that he’s still a guy we expect to make a third-man run out of the midfield and get on the break to help us get goals and to be a little aggressive getting goals himself.”
In the article, Donovan himself makes the point that he likes to receive the ball with the field in front of him. There are still few scarier sights for defenders and goalies than Landon Donovan running at you with the ball.
Where is San Jose looking for help?
Quakes President Dave Kaval told the San Jose Mercury News and the league’s website that his club was looking abroad for midfield help. Fair enough. Kaval told Geoff Lepper that the team is willing to release “additional monies” with its new stadium coming on-line in 2015, but also talked up the club’s success at finding “million-dollar players for less than that” on loan deals, pointing to Simon Dawkins and current winger Yannick Djalo.
It’s Kaval’s statement about attacking talent that boggles the mind.
“One of the key pieces of the puzzle, obviously, is bringing in players from other countries,” Kaval said. “As you’ve seen in the league, the most successful attacking players, the ones with the most creativity, have come usually from other leagues and other countries, whether it’s Argentina or Brazil or Portugal.”
Pardon me? Maybe the franchise that has discarded Bobby Convey, Ned Grabavoy, Mehdi Ballouchy, Justin Morrow, and Steven Beitashour and the like should ask itself what it takes to develop possession-oriented attacking talent or at least give those on its own roster a chance.
We all recognize there’s a big difference between selling 10,000 tickets at a college facility and 18,000 tickets at your shiny new stadium. If you want to sign a big name or two, that’s fine. Just stop the conversation there.
How did the Seattle Sounders handle the return of USMNT players Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin?
Head coach Sigi Schmid gave his returning players time off before having them return to practice. He told the News Tribune he thought it was the right thing to do.
“I think we did the right thing by giving Clint the week off,” Schmid said. “It gave him time to spend with his family…. DeAndre had some time off, and he will have a few more days off after the Tottenham game because I think you need to do that. Clint felt fresh when he came back … and DeAndre is a young kid and doesn’t know how to feel yet.”
Seattle has some time between MLS games, with a friendly against Premier League club Spurs scheduled for this weekend. If history is any indication, don’t look for Seattle to throw a first choice lineup against Spurs. For that matter, don’t look for Seattle to use a recognizable lineup against Spurs. Remember, this is the club that saw a packed stadium, Manchester United warming up on the other end of the field, and thought it would be nice to give youth a chance.
Does it seem like Colorado has become a place that develops young talent?
Shane O’Neill, Dillon Powers, Dillon Serna, Chris Klute, Clint Irwin, and now Marlon Hairston. All those players are 25 or younger, and Hairston, O’Neill, and Serna are 20. As Hairston told the Denver Post, he started playing when he was four and is making a mark across the midfield.
“It’s been good so far here, a real good learning experience. Every day I learn something new,” Hairston said. “This was always a dream, to play soccer professionally, so to have that happen and be picked in the first round by the Rapids — I mean, it’s been tough to comprehend it all. I owe a lot of people for where I am now.”
This much young talent in one place just doesn’t happen. Credit to Paul Bravo and the Rapids organization for sticking to their plan of youth augmented with some talented players like Edson Buddle and the underrated Nick LaBrocca.
What does Portland need to do to bounce back on Friday night?
First, after praising the Rapids last question, they’ll be without Shane O’Neill, the underrated Nick LaBrocca, and Vicente Sanchez because of suspension or yellow card accumulation. So just like Portland was missing key players last weekend against Seattle, their opponents are a little short-handed as they travel to Portland.
Friday night’s national cable game is the second in a series of important games for Portland over the next weeks. Portland is paying for too many ties earlier in the season and an inability to stop anyone through the midfield. While new target forward Fanendo Adi had some nice moments against Seattle, lack of a target forward earlier in the year wasn’t the reason Portland struggled.
Look, Portland had a great season last year. That they’ve regressed to the mean somewhat shouldn’t surprise anyone. This is a talented league dedicated to every team having a chance and it takes a while to figure out how to maintain excellence. A few wins in a row and this is all crazy talk.
Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.