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Good afternoon all and welcome to the latest installment of Your Questions Answered. It has taken WAY too long to answer these questions, but thankfully only a few of them have become outdated. No matter though because even the outdated ones provide a chance to discuss some popular subjects.
Among the topics in this batch of questions are U.S. player development, players with the best hair in world soccer, lineup possibilities for the Red Bulls, left back options for the U.S. national team and just how good a player Michael Bradley is.
Now, without any further delay, here are some more of Your Questions Answered:
TBRYANT MU- We've all seen the effects of the DP rule in MLS and I've seen commercials trying to compare the MLS to american football, but it seems the general American public is still very unaware that soccer exists. Personally, it seems like a lot of people have some sort of vendetta against soccer (aka Jim Rome), and are completely close-minded toward the game. What do you think can be done or what will it take to really push soccer into the mainstream, and do you think soccer will ever be as highly regarded in this country as the NFL or MLB? I think MLS and US Soccer could be a little more aggressive in their marketing efforts. Thanks! Keep up the great work!
IVES- It's a long process and just not something that will happen in one year or even ten years. Soccer is fighting with the long histories and established fanbases of the big three mainstream sports. While I know that American sports fans who prefer the big three can be converted (I'm just such a person), I think the focus needs to be on cultivating the pool of soccer fans that already exists and trying to bring them all together just as much as trying to create new fans. If MLS continues to improve the on-field product so that the quality of play starts to convert the so-called Euro-Snobs (American soccer fans who prefer European soccer and ignore MLS) and focus on the younger generation of fans so that they become familiar with MLS at an earlier age, the MLS fan base will continue to grow and help keep MLS a viable league. It may not be a Top Three league in our lifetime but a large and strong league would be much more than this country has ever had.
MODIBO-Thanks for the site and all the work you do to keep us informed and entertained! Here's a "question from hell"*: Where do see yourself and the site in five years? Ten years? (Acknowledging that there are known knowns, unknown knowns, etc, like technology, the news biz, soccer decisions) * ("a question I hate to ask and you may hate to answer" (courtesy Chuck Mertz, host of "This is Hell" on WNUR 89.3 Evanston, IL).
IVES- In five years I would like SBI to be considered the top American soccer news and analysis site, with the best young minds in the business delivering quality coverage of all aspects of professional soccer. in ten years I hope to have knocked out a book or two and watched SBI turn into the first place people go for news on American soccer.
TIM- 1. Now that it looks like Sacha Kljestan is going to Europe he has been rumored to a bunch of clubs including Zenit St. Petersburg, Shalke, Manoco, and FC Twente. What league and/or team to you think would be best for him? If he goes to the Eredivisie could that hurt his progress defensively? His defensive is getting better but it is less than desired.
2. Why is Dempsey playing so well recently? Did Roy Hodgson get the best out of him by benching him in the beginning of the year and forcing him to play his best and earn his spot in the starting XI? Is it his USMNT form carrying over to the EPL? Or is it just him playing good and I'm just overthinking?
IVES- 1. Kljestan stayed put this winter, but should be on the move to Europe this summer. Where could he do well? I actually think the Dutch league would be a good fit for him. The French league could work as well. Not as sure about how he would do in the Bundesliga. As for the notion that playing in the Netherlands would hurt him defensively, last time I checked Michael Bradley's defensive qualities improved quite a bit during his time there (though his half season in Germany has certainly brought it to a new level).
CARL- How good do you think Michael Bradley is? After he had such a good goal scoring season at Heerenveen, I thought that success might continue to the Bundesliga. But although hes started a bunch of games, he isn't scoring a lot and has struggled lately. Is there an adjustment period when starting in Germany? Is his play a result of playing on a bad team? is it that he is playing a different position or can his lack of production be attributed to something else?
IVES- Carl, I believe Bradley's performance vs. Mexico answered your first question. Bradley is growing into a true top young midfield talent and he gets better by the week. He has fought to earn a starting place with Borussia Moenchengladbach and the experience of playing in the Bundesliga is making him even better at an even faster rate. Bradley was never going to duplicate his Dutch League goal-scoring exploits in the Bundesliga, but other aspects of his game continue to grow and while Bradley has managed just two goals this season, they have been clutch goals late in games (against Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen no less). Not bad for a 21-year old.
BACALAO- Here goes: in your estimation, who has the best hair in the world game right now? Hint, hint: you can't go wrong by picking any random Italian or Argy player. Having said that, there are some African players who have made tremendous strides in le coiffure.
IVES- So many to choose from. You've got Marek Hamsik's Jersey-inspired spiky hair, Maroune Fellaini's big fro, as well as the long hair of folks like Sergio Ramos and Marek Jankulowski. I can't decide. Not sure if any of them has hair better than Marcelo Balboa though. if I had to pick some players with genuinely nice hair I'd go with Fernando Torres and Kaka.
PAUL- (1) Can you review or summarize which leagues around the world determine champions by regular-season records (e.g., Europe) and which leagues have playoffs (e.g., Mexico)? (2) Can you explain the transfer-window rules? To which leagues, players, teams, and "movements" (player leaving vs. player arriving) do they apply?
IVES- Brazil and Mexico are two leagues with playoffs. 2. the transfer window is the period of time when a player can join a new team. the window depends on the league but generally fall in the summer, winter, and in the case of MLS, the winter through to early Spring. Every league in the world has transfer windows.
GREGG- Why do you have no love for Portland? Enjoy your site BTW..
IVES- I wouldn't say I have no love for Portland, I'm just not on the bandwagon like some other folks. I'll be the first to admit that I have never been to Portland, much less a Timbers game, so maybe that would sway me. Seriously though, I'm not opposed to Portland getting a team, I just like some of the other candidates more. At this rate I'm hoping pulls it together and does enough to stave off the bids from Vancouver and Ottawa. Nothing against Canada. I just think Portland is more deserving than Vancouver and I'm holding out hope that Montreal returns to the table at some point, which probably wouldn't happen if Ottawa got a team.
TONY in QUAKELAND- I think the international tv rights for MLS is an interesting story. I think that once MLS is attracting younger international players closer to the prime of the careers (or on the early upside), they will be able to start selling rights more broadly. After all, a noon Saturday game in New York is a five o'clock game in London. There would be an audience for a quality product. Do you think MLS is thinking along these lines? Is it a viable idea?
IVES- I think the league's push to sign more international players in general ties in well with the league's attempt to sell international TV rights. Whether MLS is actually targeting younger internationals because of this remains to be seen, but I do think signing veterans like Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Claudio Lopez provide a big boost in that department.
MIKE- 1) Any news about the fringe players on the Red Bull? Will players like Ubi and Sassano get a raise? 2) Cat, dog, or other?
IVES- 1. There will be some tough decisions to make on the Red Bulls roster this off-season so be prepared to see some familiar names go. 2. No pets though I'd be a dog person (Rottweiller) if I were to have a pet.
JAMES- Great site Ives I appreciate all your hard work. Why haven't youth clubs made moves to grow into professional rank adult teams also? Start with youth teams and build them up to one day having a professional team say at the MLS/USL level. A real soccer club with full training facilities etc. Thanks.
IVES- That's not really a practical approach, mainly because of the money issue. Even the very best youth programs in this country don't have money to entertain a serious push toward a fielding a pro team, and fielding an MLS team would be downright impossible. Could a major club team consider trying to start a USL-2 team? That's an interesting idea, but one that would cost serious money for a youth club.
KEMPS VILLA- A year ago, the San Jose Earthquakes resumed play in MLS with part-owner Billy Beane, the man behind Moneyball and the GM of the Oakland A's. He wanted to bring to his Moneyball tactics from baseball to help him run the Earthquakes alongside John Doyle. My question is have you heard or seen any evidence of Billy Beane's Moneyball tactics being applied to the MLS franchise this past season? If so, please list some examples.
IVES- I can't say I have a list of examples but one incident that definitely had me thinking Moneyball was the Earthquakes complete mishandling of the Joe Cannon contract situation. For those who missed it, San Jose nearly lost Cannon because the club inexplicably decided not to pick up the option on his contract. What John Doyle and Co. didn't seem to consider was the fact that such a move would free Cannon to leave for Europe. The club clearly intended to try and play hardball with Cannon and try to get him to sign for a significantly lower number (he was set to be the league's second-highest paid goalkeeper after Kasey Keller from what I understand). Eventually the mess was cleaned up, Cannon signed a new deal, and a real disaster was avoided in San Jose. It wouldn't shock me at all if some Moneyball logic was used when the decision was made to not pick up Cannon's option.
JIG- Here's a link to an article on Sky a while back on the theory of player development according to Arsene Wenger. Some pretty interesting stuff. It's also a bit depressing because it shows that we tend to go about manufacturing players in the completely opposite manner than do the Gunners. I'd rather do it their way. happy new year! http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11670_3965309,00.html
IVES- JIG, while I would agree that Arsene Wenger's philosophy is ideal and common sense when you think about it, I'm not so sure you can say that his philosophy is what has Arsenal so loaded with young talent. Wenger has a great eye for talent and has brought most of the young talent from other clubs. Players such as Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey were developed elsewhere in their formative years before being bought by Arsenal.
I will also assume that when you say "we" you mean American soccer. I think the notion that American soccer develops its young players in the "completely opposite manner" than Arsenal is a sweeping generalization that better describes the state of soccer in this country 10 to 20 years ago than it does youth soccer today. The coaching and club systems in this country are improving dramatically and progress has been made, something some folks need to open their eyes to.
ED- What do you think about the future of the USL? Teams are trying to leave to MLS, Atlanta folded, and there are rumors of some teams breaking away to form their own league. Will the league continue to survive and will it be able to expand?
IVES- I think USL will continue to exist because there just are too many markets that aren't going to be seriously considered for MLS, but that do have strong soccer fanbases. Losing teams like Seattle and Atlanta does hurt, as would potentially losing a Vancouver or Portland, but I think there are enough quality soccer markets in North America to keep USL viable.
ALTICOOPER- One thing that really bothers me is the hole we (USMNT) has at Left Back. What do you think our best options are? I personally would like to see Boc move to lb as he has distinguished himself as one of the top lb's in the French ligue. Spector is also another intriguing prospect. I have never been a fan of Bornstien or Pearce…Wade Barret and Harrington are even farther below. Thoughts?
IVES- Here's the issue with Bocanegra playing left back. While he has been solid for Rennes at left back his role doesn't call for him to get forward much at all. In the U.S. national team's system, the fullbacks need to be able to move forward into the attack, which allows for a more fluid attack and better ball movement. Bocanegra could play left back in an absolute pinch, but the fact remains he's the team's best central defender and moving your best centerback to play left back is counterproductive.
I like Heath Pearce more than most and while I will agree that his form in the past few national team appearances hasn't been great, I also think he is a player who needs a change of clubs in order to play more regularly.
The reality is that, in my opinion, the best left back in the national team pool is DaMarcus Beasley, but he also remains the best left winger in the pool. As long as the second-best option at left back (Pearce) remains a much more viable option than the second-best left winger (Robbie Rogers?) Beasley and Pearce need to stay put. And no, Jose Franciso Torres is not a viable left wing option in the current preferred system the U.S. team plays.
BOB- If you were to make a USMNT soccer player from spare parts of either former or current USMNT players, whose parts would you use? i.e. whose head would you use, best for headers, whose eyes, has best vision of the game, whose hands, goalie, whose legs for speed, whose feet for touch, and brain for overall abilities?
IVES- Interesting one. Here goes:
Brian McBride's head
John O'Brien's vision and first touch
Brad Friedel's hands
Tim Howard's legs (kicks)
Marvell Wynne's legs (running)
Claudio Reyna's brain
I'm sure there are more I could add, and I'm sure there are plenty debates to be waged based on this list (such as Reyna's first touch being better than O'Brien's) but I'll just start with this list and see where we can go from there.
TIM F.- With only 24 roster spots available on MLS teams, there will be fewer spots available to those leaving college. What are the best options for college soccer players attempting to play soccer professionally? USL? Overseas?
IVES- I would say that USL is the best way to go. Finding clubs in Europe can turn into a wild goose chase and USL clubs play reasonable salaries and there are plenty of them around the country.
ISAAC-1)I thought the ussf should have hired a tandem of Steve Nicol and Mo Johnston. Or even Peter Nowak as head coach. Would this have been a good idea. 2)Do you think Toronto FC will be a 20 game winning team next season if they pickup Osei Telesford, a DP forward and 3 1st round picks.
IVES- The USSF made the right hire in choosing Bob Bradley. That said, I don't think Nicol or Nowak would have been bad choices either. 2) Nobody in MLS is a 20-win team. Could Toronto be a 15-win team? It wouldn't surprise me given what they've added and plan to add.
PUHE- It seems that Jossimar Sanchez has left the Red Bulls Academy for PDA. Do you know why? And who remains as the top RBNY prospects? Thanks
IVES- Sanchez left the program a while ago. As to the why, the last I heard on the subject I heard Sanchez wanted to focus on playing for St. Benedict's and wanted to join a program that worked in conjunction with that better. Sanchez is now with PDA and is considered one of the best young defenders in the U.S. youth national team pool. For my money, he is still one of the best young defenders I have ever seen at his age.
MARC SILVERSTEIN- Hey Ives: Thanks so much for taking my question. Would you ever consider an article providing us with information about charities which have an affiliation with soccer? I know that some of the MLS teams have their own charitable groups that they support and some might have their own foundations and such. I know about the local GrassRoots soccer group from that Survivor winner, but I'm sure that there are other worthy charities out there that could use the publicity in these trying times. What do you think? Happy New Year!
IVES- An article on soccer charities definitely sounds like a good idea.
CUBILLAS- Best wishes for the coming year. Knowing that NYRB is in desperate need for more depth, what players in your opinion, should they be looking at for the midfield and defense? I’m interested to see what lineup would you put together for our first game in ’09 using existing players? And, who do you think might make the most sense to play with Angel up front?
IVES- I would say the Red Bulls have done a good job of adding depth in the attack. Right now the club has Juan Pablo Angel, Mac Kandji, Dane Richards, Dominic Oduro, Matt Mbuta, Jorge Rojas and John Wolyniec as an attacking group. While you can point to the fact that all but Oduro were on the team last year, Kandji, Mbuta and Rojas arrived later in the year and did not have a pre-season to acclimate to the club.
The big area for concern right now is in the back, where Osorio is still looking for a center back as well as fullbacks on both sides.
Here's the starting lineup I could see playing if the season started today:
Here is a lineup you could see at some point:
ART- Even if Kansas City paid half of VDB's salary last year, shouldn't the Red Bulls shell out in 2009 at least the full amount of what VDB earned last year if not a little bit more? The Red Bulls need a center attacking midfielder, center back and forward; shouldn't they keep a proven player like VDB rather than have to replace him as well?
IVES- The Red Bulls traded Van Den Bergh, who wanted to leave. The club was also wary of signing Van Den Bergh to a multi-year contract at 250K to 275K a year. I also think a lot of Red Bulls fans look past some flaws in Van Den Bergh's game, including his inability to cover the wing as a true two-way player. This limited what the club could do with its left flank
BITS- How is Johnny Exantus doing with the Belgian club? What is his update?
IVES- I have reached out to some sources to find out the latest on Exantus. He is listed on the Royal Racing Montegnee website as being on the roster, but has not played in any recent matches. I will try to provide an update later this week.
EUGENE- Ives – Should Sarah Walker and Chuck Bartowski get together this season? I say yes; I don't want one of those dragged-out plot lines. What do you think?
IVES- The sexual tension adds too much to the show to have them actually hook up. I like the current plan, which is to parade in random hot females to hook Chuck up with. Let's be honest, who didn't enjoy Jordana Brewster's appearance on the show? I say wait until next season for the hook-up, then introduce some new female lead to the mix.
MIKE CARAMBA- Thanks for the site and congrats on winning Top American Blog. Few quick questions.
1. What do you rate more highly–Charlie Davies' season at Hammarby or Kenny Cooper's season at Dallas? They're about the same for me. Anyway, this leads me to question two…
2. Is Scandinavia really a gateway to bigger European leagues? I've heard this line for quite some time, and I'm wondering which (if any) American players have been able to use a Scandinavian team as a springboard to, say, England, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, or even Holland or Portugal? I'm not necessarily knocking those leagues–the paycheck is certainly better, so I fault no one for plying their trade their–but it seems like if you perform well in MLS, European clubs are starting to notice. Just wondering if you think the springboard theory is, at the very least, overstated. And on to completely unrelated number 3…
3. I've never been a big fan of Hejduk. He's bad on the ball, he's reckless in the tackle, and his one great skill–running fast/getting forward–is largely negated by his inability to throw in a good cross. a. Do you think he'll make the 2010 roster? b. Do you think he deserves it? I think someone needs to tell him "you had a…run, it's over, 'No Woman No Cry,' stay in Columbus–you've got a good thing going."
IVES- 1. Not sure I rate one season more highly than the other, but I do rate Davies as a better international prospect right now.
2. I would agree that the Scandinavian route hasn't exactly been a good route in the past for American players looking to reach the bigger European leagues, but I'm not sure the players who have made the moves to Scandinavia made the moves with larger leagues in mind. It hasn't been the best of the best from MLS moving on to Scandinavia. Michael Parkhurst, who just left in January, is the most accomplished MLS player to give Norway/Denmark/Sweden a try so he will probably serve to provide some evidence of the viability of a "springboard" theory.
3. Frankie Hejduk has his limitations but he's still a very viable option for the U.S. team, as evidenced by his performance against Mexico. Hejduk keeps himself in good positions, makes well-timed runs forward and has experience in big matches, so he's a reasonable option, if not an ideal one. The reality is that after Steve Cherundolo there just isn't much available. Marvell Wynne has a bright future and could develop into the role, but he's not ready yet. Frank Simek is fighting injuries, just as Jonathan Spector is. Until players like Wynne and Sean Franklin can develop, or Simek and Spector can get and stay healthy, Hejduk remains a useful option, and one folks should appreciate rather than criticize.
JUSTIN- Do you think David Beckham will come back to the Galaxy on March 9, no questions asked, or will he try and stay in Milan?
IVES- Um, yeah, Justin, about that…..
JOE B.- Great site Ives, Has there been any more speculation/talk on where Beasley, Edu, and Yes Eddie Johnson may end up after the Jan. Transfer window? Thanks.
IVES- Edu looks to be staying put, as does Johnson. I'm still convinced Beasley will wind up in MLS this spring, but there has been no news on that front lately.
What do you think of these answers? Didn't agree with my 'Best Hair' selections? Think I'm crazy for not being in love with Portland's MLS expansion bid? Like the idea of DaMarcus Beasley playing left back?
Share your thoughts below.