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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Yeah, Right, Alexei Lalas

The sitting GM for a Major League soccer team and former World Cup player has garnered a lot of attention by saying that the U.S.'s Major League Soccer is on par with England's heralded Premiership.

Yeah, right.

Lalas also said that when David Beckham gets to the U.S., he'll be a bigger story than Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan.

Yeah, right, again.

What Lalas is forgetting is that the world's best soccer is played in the Premiership and the "A" leagues in Italy and Spain, not to mention in Lyon, France. What he also neglected to say is that Beckham is on the downward slope of his career, while Jordan was transcendant almost to the end and Woods is at his peak, which, for him, is a lengthy high-level plateau of excellence. Almost a year ago, when asked to fill in the blank to "David Beckham is . . .", Premiership and American World Cup goalie Kasey Keller said "a poseur." Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

I've blogged on this before, and I've opined that the reason the U.S. team hasn't fared well internationally is because many of the players play their professional ball in the United States, where they are not competing against the best. That statement holds up because when you look at the elite international teams -- Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Italy, France, England and Germany -- their players are all playing somewhere in Western Europe. The elite Brazilians are not playing in the Brazilian League, the elite Argentines aren't spending their prime playing for Boca Juniors or River Plate, and the elite Western Europeans aren't playing in the United States. To be the best you have to play and succeed against the best. The U.S. players haven't done that, and that's why the U.S. World Cup team hasn't had much success in the World Cup.

Lalas clearly is trying to draw attention to his league and his team, and it's working. Those comments will draw blog posts like this for a few days, at least, but his claims for the moment ring hollow. Until U.S. players who populate MLS teams get the U.S. to the semis in a World Cup, the MLS will be deemed, rightly, as an inferior league.

As for Beckham, he was predominant at one time, but no longer. According to one English friend, he's great on the set pieces (for you Americans, that means penalty kicks, free kicks and the like) but overall a bit too worn down and slow for international play. Still, the U.S. will get a good player with star power.

But no longer an internationally elite one.


Anonymous Jake Wilson said...

Actually, Beckham has experienced a shocking rejuvenation over the past few months that has England buzzing. He's rescued an England squad struggling to get out of the group stage in Euro 2008 qualifying and was the lynchpin of Real Madrid's dramatic turnaround that saw them take the La Liga crown this past weekend.

And the bit about the USMNT being composed primarily of MLS players isn't really true any more either. Bob Bradley essentially started his A Team last Saturday against Panama, and of the starting 11, six played overseas this past season (five in the EPL, one in the Dutch Premiership).

MLS doesn't get much love among domestic soccer fans, but it's probably surpassed the Mexican League at this point as the top league in North America. And the extra attention brought by Beckham and the hype machine surrounding him only will help matters.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Lummpy said...

I agree with you 100%. Beckman, is just trying to put himself and his team in the spotlight. Yes, it is working. The Kobe is doing the samething with the LA. Lakers.

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