MLSPR: Will the Galaxy miss Beckham?
Face of the League
Since the inception of MLS back in 1996, the league has almost always looked to foreign players to be the face of the league.
David Beckham was brought in with this in mind but his recent injury means that now the biggest star in the league is an American. Landon Donovan’s recent successful spell in the Premier League has raised his profile in the footballing world and his confidence is sure to be sky high coming into the season.
The criticism over many foreign players who come to MLS has been that they are past their prime and only play in America because they could no longer cut it at the top level. But the same cannot be said of a Landon Donovan.
He is more than capable of playing at a high level in any league in the world. I wonder if any of the Bayern officials who questioned Juergen Klinsmann’s decision to bring the U.S. international to Munich last year watched any of Landon’s impressive performances with Everton?
How does the loss of Beckham affect the Galaxy and the league?
The injury David Beckham picked up while on loan at AC Milan means that the England international will likely miss the majority of the MLS season, but I don’t expect it to affect the L.A. Galaxy too much.
One of the most impressive parts of the job that Bruce Arena has done in L.A. has been getting his team to focus and play well without their most recognizable player. The reality is that if Becks was fit he would have been away on international duty anyway.
The Galaxy will be just fine without Beckham, but if he does return late on in the season, it will be a nice bonus for Bruce Arena. The league may feel the sting from the injury a little more because many teams build ticket packages around Beckham’s visit to their city.
New CBA agreement
The good news for all MLS fans is that the season will go ahead after the league and players came to an agreement last weekend.
Soccer is still a growing sport in this country and a stoppage in play would not have benefitted either side of the bargaining table in the long run. Now both sides can focus on building on the good work the league has done over the last 15 years.
It is nice to see in the new agreement that players over 24-years old who have played over three years in MLS will now receive guaranteed contracts. It is the least these players deserve after proving their dedication to the league and to developing soccer here in America.
This is definitely a step in the right direction and hopefully in five years the league will have moved on to the point that the players can negotiate an even better deal.
Best Fans In the league
With the addition of the Philadelphia Union to MLS, the league now has another passionate fan base that will want to lay claim to the title of best fans in MLS.
Toronto’s faithful have been superb despite their team’s struggles, and Seattle’s fans definitely gave their side an edge at home last season. These new franchises have set the bar high and it is now up to MLS veteran teams like Los Angeles, D.C. and New England to show that they can create the same kind of atmosphere and following in their respective cities.
Toronto and Seattle may be two of the newer sides in MLS but they lead the way when it comes creating an incredible atmosphere at games and I expect more of the same from the Philly faithful.
Foreign Coaches: Despite the struggles of several foreign coaches in MLS over the last few years, Chicago and New York decided to look abroad when they made coaching changes in the offseason.
Ruud Gullit was a disaster in L.A., John Carver and Chris Cummins struggled in Toronto, while Juan Carlos Osorio’s spell in New York was almost laughable over his final few weeks.
Foreign mangers struggle to understand the college system here and many times opt to bring in average talent from abroad, which invariably struggles to adapt to the game in America.
It is important not to judge Carlos De Los Cobos and Hans Backe before they have even coached a game, but it would have been nice to see some of the talented American coaches given a chance to take on some of the big jobs when available.
On to the MLS Power Rankings …
1. Columbus Crew: They may have failed in the playoffs last year, but the Crew is still the most consistent team in the regular season.
2. Los Angeles Galaxy: Playing without Becks is nothing new and they still have the best player in the league.
3. Houston Dynamo: The Dynamo has underachieved the last few years but this talented squad should change that this time around.
4. Seattle Sounders: The Sounders had a superb first year and with the core of the squad back, I see them challenging for honors again.
5. Real Salt Lake: RSL may be the defending champions but they still need to be more consistent in the regular season to top the rankings.
6. D.C. United: Curt Onalfo got K.C. to the playoffs, so making the postseason with a more talented D.C. team should be a cakewalk, right?
7. Toronto FC: Toronto has always had talented players, but in Preki they now have a coach capable of getting this team into the playoffs.
8. Chicago Fire: The Fire has a talented squad but just how long will it take Carlos De Los Cobos to get used to coaching in MLS?
9. New England Revolution: The old guard has been split up and Steve Nicol’s side is in danger of falling behind the top sides in the east.
10. FC Dallas: The Hoops produced a remarkable end to last season, but the jury is still out on whether Schellas Hyndman can build on that and lead his side a step further.
11. Chivas USA: Martin Vasquez has been an excellent assistant coach but that doesn’t always translate into a successful head-coaching career.
12. Colorado Rapids: Gary Smith may start feeling the heat if he can’t add some consistency to his side’s play this season.
13. San Jose Earthquakes: If the Quakes start the season as slowly as they have over the last few years then Frank Yallop may find himself out of a job.
14. Kansas City Wizards: Peter Vermes is a talented young coach but he has his work cut out to make the playoffs with this subpar squad.
15. New York Red Bulls: The good news for Red Bulls fans is that things can’t be as bad as last year, right? At least they can stink it up in a beautiful stadium.
16. Philadelphia Union: Peter Nowak is a great coach but history shows that new teams tend to struggle in their first year.
Keith Costigan covers MLS and U.S. Soccer for FoxSoccer.com.