Well, it’s been way too long since my last post. The busyness of fall is creeping up on me, thus crowding out things that don’t pay the bills, fun things like this blog. Funny how that works. Anyways, I’m about to enter soccer coaching season so the blog cupboard of the Total Football Café may look increasingly bare in the coming weeks, but I’ll do my best to slap some posts together as often as possible. I hope the semi-bare nature of the cupboard doesn’t drive you away altogether.
In the spirit of slapping posts together, herein are some thoughts on several topics that have kept the American soccer world buzzing during yet another international break. By the way, I can’t remember international breaks being so close together. I know time flies when you’re having fun, but didn’t we just have an international break?
Recently the debate resurfaced about whether the EPL should play some regular season matches in the U.S. (in future seasons). I don’t like this idea. I like the simplicity of each EPL team playing every team in the league twice, one at home, one away. In fact I look forward to the MLS being able to switch over to a similarly streamlined system. A “39th game” played in the U.S. as part of the EPL fixture list would be a superfluous money-grab. I really don’t like the idea, yet if they ever decide to do it, I’ll be one of the first hypocrites in line to buy a ticket. As for a UEFA Champions League Final played in the U.S. someday, bring it on!
Thanks to their enthusiastic new owner Anthony Precourt, the Columbus Crew finally ditched their puzzling, quasi-Gap ad logo with the three hard-hat dudes for a new, more traditionally soccer-ish crest. The change is long overdue, but a good one nonetheless. For all the fanfare surrounding its launch, the new crest is, well, it’s a crest. Very tasteful, and light years ahead of the hard-hat trio, but like most MLS club crests it’s ultimately rather bland. But hey, the important thing here is enthusiastic ownership and renewed vigor for one of the league’s inaugural teams.
Like most U.S. soccer fans, I’m sad to see Landon Donovan retire. He has been simply the best. Yes, there may always be some “what ifs” related to his career – I really enjoyed watching him during his brief stints at Everton, for example, and would’ve liked to see him play some full seasons in the EPL – but I also really admire him for sticking it out in MLS. It’s easy to forget that he was grinding it out for several seasons during the league’s pre-Beckham glitz era, when the stadiums were a lot emptier and the perks sparser. So for all he did for the U.S. National Team, he’ll also be remembered as a pivotal star for MLS in establishing and growing the league.
I’m also sad to see Donovan retire because it seems too early. When I saw him play in-person in the 2013 Gold Cup semifinal against Honduras, Donovan looked better than ever. His was a commanding performance, with two goals and masterful passing in the U.S.’ 3-1 victory. At that point I never imagined he wouldn’t be included on the U.S.’ 2014 World Cup roster, nor that he would retire from soccer just over a year later. I still believe he could’ve been a difference-maker at the 2014 World Cup. Imagine him coming on as a sub against Belgium in the final half hour.
During all of the farewell Donovan coverage leading to his final U.S. match against Ecuador, there were rumblings of Donovan writing an autobiography. This is a fantastic idea and I hope it materializes. If Donovan requires co-authoring, he should definitely consider J.R. Moehringer who co-wrote Open, Andre Agassi’s superb autobiography. I can see Donovan’s frankness resulting in a similarly fascinating book.
Unfortunately, team USA looked pretty flat with Donovan (1-1 draw vs. Ecuador) and without him (1-1 draw last Tuesday vs. Honduras). Between the friendlies, Jurgen Klinsmann renewed his rhetoric regarding his preference that U.S. National Team players challenge themselves in Europe’s elite leagues if possible. He seems particularly disappointed about Clint Dempsey’s and Michael Bradley’s decision to return to MLS rather than tarry on the bench for their former European clubs. Klinsmann’s been saying this for a while now, never mind the fact that he selected many MLS players for the World Cup squad over Americans playing in Europe. I get why Klinsmann says these things and I like the way he continues challenging the status quo in U.S. soccer overall. MLS commissioner Don Garber on the other hand is apparently fed up with Klinsmann’s opinion on the matter. As he explained during a rather unusual mid-week conference call with reporters, Garber takes Klinsmann’s comments as slams against MLS. I also understand Garber’s point of view and don’t blame him for trying to defend the league. Overall, the Klinsmann/Garber tussle is positive for American soccer. They’re both right.
It’s unlikely I’ll forget last week’s Klinsmann/Garber war of words anytime soon because I actually received a handwritten note from Garber on Friday thanking me for sending him a copy of my book! It was a very classy gesture of him and I sincerely appreciate his taking the time to write.
FC Dallas has clinched their first MLS playoff appearance since 2011. They booked their playoff spot with a 2-1 win over Landon Donovan and his LA Galaxy. The winning goal by Fabian Castillo in the 87th minute was thrilling and on a very short list of the best FC Dallas moments I’ve ever experienced at Toyota Stadium. Now that FCD’s in the playoffs, anything can happen. Seattle and LA have the most points in the league, but neither will want to face Dallas in the postseason. It should be a blast!