Now we have confirmation that Landon Donovan will indeed have to resort to playing the role of cheerleader when the U.S. takes on Belgium and Germany in a few weeks -- and again for the three World Cup qualifiers against Jamaica, Panama and Honduras later in June. But as so often happens with the roster selections of U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann, that was by no means the only decision to come under scrutiny. Here are four others that caught the eye: 1. Is Carlos Bocanegra's national team career over?
A round of rumors about Chivas USA -- probably unfounded and actively refuted by Major League Soccer -- hit the internet last week, alleging the beleaguered club might be in danger of being seized by the league. Backing the claims was an anecdote describing Jorge Vergara's attempt to sign a sponsor that would directly pay player salaries (in exchange for promotional services) and the troubling lack of a television contract for the American Goats. Because MLS is a single entity that licenses the right to operate its clubs to third parties, the league is within its rights to take control of a team it deems -- for whatever reason -- in need of direct management.
It's a script that has been played out numerous times since the start of MLS back in 1996. A foreign player arrives and struggles to adapt to the league's physicality, not to mention the language and the culture shock than can come from living in North America. Rare are the instances where a player seems to adapt straight away on all fronts. But that appears to be exactly what has transpired in Dallas, where Michel has helped FCD to a league-best 24 points from 11 matches. The 31-year-old Brazilian has fit in seamlessly into FCD's midfield since joining the club in preseason, providing steady defense alongside Andrew Jacobson while also contributing to the attack, especially from set pieces.
Landon Donovan's absence hasn't left U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann pining for the team’s all-time leading scorer to return. So much so that Donovan has reportedly been excluded from the U.S. roster for a trio of World Cup qualifiers in June. And based on the player's recent form, it's the right call. Donovan famously took a lengthy break from the game following the Los Angeles Galaxy's MLS Cup triumph last December. He missed all of preseason training camp with the Galaxy, as well as three crucial World Cup qualifiers against Honduras.
How did this weekend’s MLS narratives play out, particularly after a full set of midweek games? Here's an attempt to answer the question. Chicago Fire 0-1 Philadelphia Union - Video Narrative: Underwhelming Chicago, a team that creates chances but rarely puts them away, hosts a Philadelphia team trying to shake off the ugly feelings of last week’s disappointing home draw. Narrative fulfilled. Once again, Chicago was the aggressor at home and managed to put six shots on the Union goal.
As homecomings go, Kei Kamara's return to Sporting Kansas City didn't quite go according to plan. In fact, Wednesday's encounter with the Seattle Sounders ended in nightmarish fashion, with the visitors capitalizing on a late error by Aurelien Collin to score a late winner in stoppage time. As for Kamara, his 23 minutes of playing time were relatively uneventful, even if the ovation he received from the SKC faithful reminded him that "it really does feel like home". That said, he was still kicking himself for not staying engaged in the play that led to Djimi Traore's tally.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Ryan Nelsen's career in professional soccer has taken him all over the world, from his native New Zealand to Stanford University to MLS and finally the English Premier League. Given such depth of experience, Nelsen is as qualified as anyone to dissect what separates North American players from their counterparts elsewhere in the world. --Big Head Read Head: Sir Alex, Wedensday's MLS He insisted that it's not athleticism, nor is it technical ability. "I'd say what [North American players] don't have is a hardened edge you get from cut-throat professional environments in Europe and South America and Africa," he said following Tuesday's practice session.
MLS Week 10 brought new storylines, built off old storylines, that played out (or didn't) on the field. A review of which teams held and which fell by the wayside. Portland Timbers 0-0 New England Revolution Narrative: High-flying Timbers should have no trouble with a New England team traveling across the country, no matter the Revs' encouraging win over Philadelphia the previous weekend The only thing keeping this narrative from coming through last Thursday was the erratic finishing of the Timbers and the solid play of Revolution keeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
There's a trend developing across MLS, and it's not just the rise of teams that missed the playoffs last year or the growth of exciting young players across the league: It's the failure of several teams to meet expectations. Unfulfilled expectations in sports usually means change. Change in the philosophy, change in the lineup, and sometimes, change in the coach. MLS is an unusual beast in that clubs rarely pull the trigger on firing a coach midstream. The playoffs serve as a lifeline, extending patience when it might otherwise run out.
As Robbie Rogers trained for the first time since announcing last February that he is gay, the excitement generated was palpable, as it was just the latest sign that after previously announcing his retirement, the former Columbus Crew midfielder might return to the professional game after all. But the sight of him decked out in Los Angeles Galaxy training gear raised a different type of question: Was L.A. guilty of tampering given that Rogers' rights are held by the Chicago Fire? As it turned out, there was nothing nefarious about Rogers' training stint with the Galaxy.
When MLS and the U.S. Soccer Federation teamed up last year to form the Professional Referee Organization (PRO), it was done with the intent of putting programs in place to improve the standard of refereeing in the U.S. and Canada. Yet the initiative also had an unintended consequence -- that of providing an opening for the creation of a referees' union -- and this was one call that the referees didn't miss. During training sessions in Dallas over the last several weeks, and under the auspices of the National Labor Relations Board, MLS referees voted 55-7 to make the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA) their official collective bargaining agent.
Just a week after a leading member of FIFA's Independent Governance Committee resigned in frustration over the slow pace of reforms, the committee's chairman, Mark Pieth, reiterated the panel's intention to carry on. Pieth, a professor of criminal law at Basel University, has led the IGC since its inception in 2011, when it was formed by FIFA to address corruption allegations related to, among other things, the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. But Pieth was dealt a blow last week when Alexandra Wrage resigned over the committee's lack of progress.