Four years ago, U.S. coach Arena lauded Major League Soccer as a reason for the Americans’ run to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. Now, some think he’s trying to blame the 11-year-old league for a first-round exit from Germany 2006 .
“I think it’s ridiculous,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said. “If I were him I’d take a deep breath and think about what I say before I criticize anyone in American soccer.”
Six months after the 1998 showing, fired coach Steve Sampson blamed MLS for the failure, saying veteran players who left their European and Mexican clubs to come home for the start of MLS two years earlier had become “soft.”
While not identifying MLS, Arena’s comments in the past several days strike many in the American league the same way.
“And the way for us to get our players to get better is: We do need to get more of our younger talented players in Europe,” said Arena, who won two of the first three titles in MLS with D.C. United. “We need them in a year-round soccer environment. We need them playing in more intense games to help develop them mentally, as well as soccerwise.”
In a subsequent interview with ESPN on Monday, Arena, a member of MLS’ strategic technnical committee, said specifically he was not blaming the league. Others believe he was suggesting it was inadequate.
“The reality to so many out there is that coaching the U.S. national team is the easiest job on the planet,” said U.S. national team alltime scoring leader Eric Wynalda, now an analyst for ABC/ESPN. “You do have a league that provides you with a great team. For him to be so arrogant, to not recognize that fact. …The one thing his agent said as the reason that he should have the job was because of his success in MLS.”
Wynalda, who played in Germany from 1992-1996 and spent six years in MLS, put the blame for the U.S. failures squarely on Arena.
“He can take a team to a certain level, but he has no idea where the next level is,” Wynalda said. “How much does he know about playing in Europe, other than having a hot dog and a beer in the stands? Hearsay? Does he talk to the players? That’s justification to know? Has he ever coached there and have that pressure? No. Sorry, I’m just pointing out the obvious.”
It’s hard to pick which individual quoted above is the least sympathetic character. I don’t think Arena’s remarks are outrageous, but DaMarcus Beasley has played in a Champions League semi-final. Somehow, that in and of itself wasn’t great preperation for this World Cup.
If Wynalda is offended by the notion that playing in Europe is a higher echelon of competition compared to the MLS, maybe he should have a word with Freddy Adu, who used his 5 Good Minutes on PTI last week to state he wants to sign with a European club side as soon as possible. If a 16 year old who isn’t even close to the domestic league’s best player (and didn’t make Arena’s US team) is worried about his development (if not earning power) being stunted in MLS, it is hardly arrogant for others to wonder aloud whether the league has made any impact.
Spain have taken a 1-0 lead over France, courtesy of David Villa’s 28th minute penalty kick. Moments prior, Lillan Thuram brought down Pablo — how dumb would you have to be to not hit the floor dramatically in this competition?
No one has pointed out the incredible resemblance between Fabien Barthez and Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer. And I’m already sorry I’ve done so.
The Times is reporting that Juventus general manager Gianluca Pessotto (above) was badly injured following an attempted suicide leap. Pessotto jumped from his office window, bounced off one car and landed on another. No word on the condition of the cars, nor can we confirm the rumor that Isiah Thomas has asked to be moved to a higher floor.