All-Stars coach hits back at MLS critics

July 20, 2007

Major League Soccer All-Stars coach Steve Nicol has hit back at critics of the Los Angeles Galaxy and insisted David Beckham will help raise the standard of the MLS.

Nicol, the former Liverpool and Scotland defender who now coaches MLS side New England Revolution, guided the MLS All-Stars to a 2-0 victory over Scottish champions Celtic in Denver, Colorado last night.

Nicol defended the level of play in the MLS and claimed the criticism was uninformed.

He said: 'First of all, if you look at the people that are probably criticising and having a go they probably don't know anything about the game.

'They're only there to try and sell papers so first and foremost, if that's who's doing the criticising you just don't listen to them.

'If you've got people who know what they're talking about then you have to look at it and take something from it and if it's something good then use it.'

Nicol also dismissed notions Beckham was past his prime and coming to America in semi-retirement.

'The guy was captain of England at the World Cup a few months ago. He's only 32 and he's a Rolls Royce coming into this league. What he'll do for this league is he'll up the ability and the professionalism and the desire of everybody around him.

'On the field it won't be a problem. The guy's a player.'

Nicol's MLS side dominated a first half which saw them wrap up the game with goals from former Aston Villa striker Juan Pablo Angel in the 36th minute and his Colombian compatriot Juan Toja just before half-time. Eddie Johnson even had the luxury of having his penalty kick saved by Celtic's Artur Boruc on the half hour.

Nicol believes the win was a great boost for the league's profile and reputation as is the arrival of top-rank players like Angel, who joined the New York Red Bulls, and Beckham.

'We've come a long way in 11 years and we've really reached a point where we may be on the threshold of really taking that extra step.

'I think it's great that the likes Juan, Beckham and some of these other guys are coming in. They are going to be a great example, with the professionalism that Juan shows, for all the young guys coming into the game and wanting to get better.

'I think what you'll see is a lot of the young American players are going to be better professionals and better equipped to take on better teams and better players because of the influx of good players.

'That can only be great for our league and our game.'

On beating Gordon Strachan's side, Nicol said: 'I think we deserved to win the game. In the first half we were the team who looked most likely to create and take chances.

'Unfortunately, Eddie missed the penalty but Juan Pablo's goal was fantastic. One on one with the goalie, keeps calm, goes around him and puts it into the net. Superb.

'Second half they came out stronger but we kept them out and generally didn't have too much to worry about. I think the game was won and lost in the first half.'