It seems that fans just absolutely need something to gripe about. With Kaka, Frank Lampard now coming to NYCFC and the recent news of Steven Gerrard coming to Los Angeles, out come the laments, the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, chanting the requiem of American soccer and the MLS due yet another band of past-their-prime European players crossing the pond to play on North American soil.
Arsene Wenger of Arsenal sang that same tune a couple months ago:
"You have two steps. Being completely at the top finishes when you are 34 at the latest. After that, you have different leagues like the MLS and the Indian league. I encourage players to play as long as possible if they really love it."
Jurgen Klinsmann notably riled up MLS Commissioner Don Garber with his comments about Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley's form in MLS:
I made it clear with Clint's move back and [Bradley's] move back that it's going to be very difficult for them to keep the same level that they experienced at the places where they were. Reality is that both players making that step means that you are not in the same competitive environment that you were before.
Granted, Klinsmann is not obligated to be pro-MLS--his obligation is to make sure the USMNT players play in a "competitive environment" that will keep them in the best form.
Putting Klinsmann's view of MLS aside, let's look at this notion and angst of MLS being a retirement league. Let me ask one question:
Is this really a bad thing? I mean, really?
Sure, we'd have loved David Beckham to come in his prime, but really, did you see that happening in the early 2000s? Yes, why couldn't Kaka, Lampard, Gerrard have come 10 years ago ? (Besides the money issue--oh wait, if MLS only spent as irresponsibly and unsustainably as the EPL does). And on... and on ... and on it goes!
This Rapids fan actually bemoans something else--why can't some of these guys come to Colorado? But that's for another post.
David Beckham did much for MLS. As did Thierry Henry--although some believe he could have provided much more for MLS. And so will the aforementioned three, along with other players plying their trade here. Why?
- If they are men of integrity and teamwork, they will help raise the competitive level of our MLS players here. What made Lampard and Gerrard great was how they elevated their team--and they could do that here and help MLS raise their game.
- It'll get fans in the seats. I've actually circled the LA Galaxy game against the Rapids because (1) I hope they beat the stuffing out of our West Coast colleagues, but also (2) to see Gerrard play. It'll be special, for sure. We should embrace that. Introducing more soccer fans to the American brand will help. It's OK.