Recently, I’ve started following MLS. No, I’m not a traitor, I’m still very much a lover of all things British and called football not soccer, but the story behind the Seattle Sounders intrigued me – what other club allows their supporters to fire their manager every four years? And so I started to watch.
And I have to say they aren’t too bad, for a baby, US team – that’s mocking with love, by the way. They play good football and, at times, look like they could present a real challenge to some of the Premiership teams. However, they aren’t quite there yet.
They played Chelsea the other evening, and the differences were obvious.
They brought the game to Chelsea, which was impressive, but the likes of Montero just aren’t used to playing against such a finely honed defence (I don’t like Chelsea, it pains me greatly to type that). An experienced striker would have converted at least a 1/3 of the chances scuppered by the Sounders – giving them an easy draw, which I think they deserved. I was very impressed with Scott, Jaqua and Nyassi, and thought Boss was much better than Keller. But if you can’t finish, no matter how talented the rest of the team is, you don’t succeed. Points win prizes, after all!
I’m also impressed with the Sounders fans – their lack of hooliganistic traits (the atmosphere in every game I’ve seen has always been pleasant) makes them more reminiscent of a rugby crowd than a football crowd, but that is never a bad thing. The enthusiasm, the marching band, the chants – it’s the kind of thing you could take your kids to and not have to worry about it all going a little Milwallian.
The LA Riot Squad, by comparison, need to sort it out. I recommend they start with their name. Whether you agree or not with Beckham’s behaviour with the Milan Galaxy saga, there is a line between being disappointed and downright hateful to someone who still plays for you. In a time where football is all about money, his reasons for going to Milan? He wants to play at a higher standard to get into the National squad.
Now, this isn’t a slight on Galaxy, football has always been Srs Business across the pond. Consider the fact that the European leagues have been going for decades, have settled into certain styles and have a huge bank of international players to draw from because of the prestige of playing in Seria A or the Premiership. It’s annoying as hell, sure, but the most important thing in the game is to represent your country at the highest level, and that’s what the guy wants to do.
I thought he’d sold out by going to Galaxy (his reason of bringing the game to the US has certainly been proven true looking at the surge in game attendance across the board), but I’m sure US fans would just say we were being disparaging about their league. (Incidentally, if you want to read things from a US perspective, I recommend checking out Drew Carey’s blog – yes, you heard me correctly, he’s a big soccer fan and club owner dontcha know?)
But now, when he wants to leave for football reasons not money – and though I’m not English so shouldn’t really care, I think he’s past his prime for the International stage so it’s almost a waste of time on his part – he’s treated far more harshly. Sumthin’ don’t seem right there, huh? And, as much as it pains me to say it and disagree with Mssr Shankly, it is only a game; team loyalty means nothing in the grand scheme of things – you don’t see people not supporting John Hartson at the moment just because he scored a goal against them once.
The truth is, very few players stay for love of the club; you want loyalty, look at Ryan Giggs. I don’t even dislike Cristiano Ronaldo for going to Madrid; it was a childhood dream to play for them and he was given the opportunity – who wouldn’t take it? It’s love of the game that keeps these people going – or should, don’t even get me started on the likes of Chelsea and Man City’s appalling spending sprees – and I think that’s something every football fan comes to accept.
You may not like it, but it’s the way of the game. Embrace the players whilst you have them, then welcome in the new batch when they come; there are always lows to balance out the highs. It make’s the beautiful game more exciting – trust me, I’m a doctor.*
(*this is a lie)