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Monday, September 03, 2007

British Media Doesn't Get It

Martin Samuel's column last week which our own BC John responded to in a classy fashion is the final straw with me in trying to understand the majority of the football writers in the United Kingdom. Samuel's article points out the major flaws in the reasoning of most British writers when evaluating the rest of the football world. I would never make the case Major League Soccer is a better product than the Barclays Premier League, but in reality the products are very different and the football is very different. That's why trying to subject the evaluation of the quality of MLS to a decidedly English standard is wrong and smacks of poor journalism. In his piece which appeared in the Times of London, Samuel clearly didn't take the time to research anything about any of the players in Major League Soccer who have not either played in the Premier League or are not English. Simply because a player has spent his club career playing exclusively in the Americas (like Boca Juniors legend Guille Baros Schelotto now with Columbus of MLS) or played in Spain and Italy but not England (Like Cuahatomec Blanco, Carlos Pavon, and Javier Morales) doesn't mean he is not a quality footballer who plays the game at a high level. Perhaps Samuel needs to consider he hasn't seen many of the players he's never heard of in England because of the style of play in the PL and yes the weather.

Comparing Major League Soccer to English Football is in some ways like comparing International Basketball to the NBA. Much like the NBA where many of America's top stars are developed (since prior to the recent rule change regarding age in the NBA Draft, so many top American stars skipped college where they actually learn the game from top basketball coaches) the flow of the game and general tendencies of the players is different than in the international game. That's why the US has had so much trouble recently winning big tournaments in a sport that was completely dominated by the US prior to the early 1990s. Major League Soccer's season is played during the hottest months of the year in the U.S. Players who excel in MLS tend to be the types who can hold the ball and have the stamina to play 90 minutes in oppressive heat. This reality naturally favors players from Latin America, who because of geography and the style of play have excelled in MLS. English Football is played largely in the air and at a fast pace in more pleasant weather. Does the faster pace mean the players are better? Not necessarily, because Serie A whose style of play more closely resembles MLS than that of the English Leagues produced the 2006 World Champions, with the entire Azzuri roster save one player playing their club football in Serie A.

Could English players of an average quality come and dominate MLS as many in the British press have speculated? The answer is a resounding no, Here are some examples of former English footballers who came to MLS and flopped.

  • Steve Howey played 191 games for Newcastle United and 76 for Manchester City before coming to MLS at age 31 in 2003 to play for Steve Nicol and New England. Howey had been capped five times by England as a Senior International in "A" matches. Yet Howey lasted four games in MLS and was quickly looking for work again in England. He landed with Bolton of the EPL before being let go and playing in the Championship with Leicester City.
  • Steve Guppy was another player capped by England at the Senior National Team level. In 2004 he came to the US and started for DC United in the highest rated game ever for the league on ABC, when Freddy Adu made his debut. Less than two months later Guppy, whose lack of quality touches and inability to play the Latin brand of Football DC United has become known for was released and he signed with Leeds United.
  • Mark Wlson was a highly touted English midfielder that even played for Manchester United in a Champions League match. After a failed stint at Boro, he came to the US and flopped totally at FC Dallas, demonstrating an inability to cope with the summer heat. He was released when the club signed Shaka Hislop, my next footballer to discuss.
  • Shaka Hislop was a top keeper in the Premier League. The English born keeper choose to play for his parents home nation of Trinidad and Tobago and he has been excellent for the national team and of course had a great World Cup. Hislop even started the FA Cup final in 2006 for West Ham just weeks before his awesome World Cup and a month before he signed for FC Dallas. Hislop however only started matches for the Hoops when Argentine net-minder Dario Sala was injured or suspended, and when Sala was suspended most recently, Hislop was beaten out in training by American youth team keeper Ray Burse Jr. Hislop has now been released by FC Dallas.
  • In 1995 Paul Rideout scored the winning goal for Everton in the FA Cup final against Manchester United. Two years later Rideout with a decent amount of fanfare signed with MLS and was allocated to Kansas City. A year later after scoring only one goal in league play Rideout was released. He is now back with the Wizards as the coach of the clubs U-18 team.
  • Chris Woods was one of the best goalkeepers in England during the 1990s. His play with Sheffield Wednesday and the National Team was outstanding. Woods career with Rangers and Sheffield Wednesday was near legandary. However when he arrived in MLS as a big signing in the league's first year he had trouble judging the ball flight and looked miserable. He was eventually replaced by Marcus Hannehman who had been signed from the Seattle Sounders of the A-League. Woods returned to England to play in the EPL with Southampton and Blackburn.

I am by no means claiming MLS is on the same level as the Premier League. What I am trying to point out is that the league and its style of play are dramatically different from that of English football. To assume as many do that any English player with any accomplishments whatsoever can dominate in MLS has been dis-proven by fact. Additionally the theory that any international playing in MLS is simply not good enough to play in the English Premier League is again folly. Names such as Ryan Nelson and Shaun Bartlett among others should lay rest to that arrogant notion of many in the British press.

Major League Soccer is different than the English Premier League. The writers in Britain that understand that more quickly will be doing their readers and their nation a service. Much of England's problem on the international football scene stems from a lack of understanding or appreciation of continental football or the beautiful game the way it is played in Latin America or even in the United States.

34 comments:

Soccer Guru said...

Not only do they not get it, they dont't want to get it. They just want to run down anything that isn't British in order to mask their own insecurity about the poor quality of their national team and the failure of Premiership clubs to dominate in European competitions.

Anonymous said...

MLS is crap.

Simply because some English players failed in the league, probably because the supporting players were not up to the high standard they are used to means zilch.

As far as Serie A that is a boring, rubbish league. It is even more unwatchable than MLS. Simply because guys there dive and cheat doesn't mean anything. Place those guys from AC Milan in the Premiership and they'd fail.

Anonymous said...

To the second person to comment on this post,

What an arrogant pathetic moron. I'm sorry has the thought of they couldn't cut it themselves ever cross your mind? Oh that's right your 'it can only be English or else it's rubbish' brainwashing prevents you from forming your own opinion on anything.

What I do wonder is if you think American football is 'crap' as you put it, then WHY THE HELL ARE YOU BOTHERING WITH READING A BLOG ON US FOOTBALL? Do everyone who cares about American football a favor and go back to supporting a nation that won't make to Euro 2008.

Josiah of Footy Fame said...

Very well said Kartik. Good letter by John as well.

As for you anonymous see you at Euro 2008 where you'll be watching in the stands with the England team!

Soccer Guru said...

Well said, 5:09. That poster was an arrogant pathetic moron. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Anonymous said...

I AGREE!

HERNANDEZ said...

BRITS HAVE NEVER HEARD OF BLANCO? HE IS MOST SPECIAL FOOTBALLER WITH A TRICK MOVE TO GO WITH HIS FANCY FOOTWORK. MLS IS FAR GREATER QUALITY THAN MANY IN EUROPE THINK. IT WILL PROVE ITSELF IN THE FUTURE.

Kartik said...

2nd poster: AC Milan would quite possibly win the PL. You obviously don't know what you are talking about. They've benefited from Seedorf no longer playing for Holland and Kaka being used sparingly in call ups by Brazil. I'll see Kaka and Ronaldinho this weekend in the US-Brazil match and I am excited!

Harpers B said...

Well Kartik now you have outdone yourself. You claim to be a fan of the English game but by turning totally nativist by attacking anyone who is in the least bit critical of anything American, you've joined the George W. Bush, if you don't agree with us you are the enemy crowd.

Kartik said...

Wow, G.W. Bush like? That's pretty harsh criticism.....I'd liken Bush, Rummy and Cheney more to the British media than to supporters of football here in the states.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the English press would respect MLS more if they didn't play right through international breaks.

Zizou06 said...

Well put Kartik, good post.

And, as far as G.W. Bush, I can say, without any doubt whatsoever, that Kartik ISN'T a Bushie!

Anonymous said...

Both sides are out of whack here.

Anonymous said...

All the players on your list with the exception of Mark Wilson were well past their prime when they went to the MLS. As for Wilson, he has never been confused with a decent English footballer. Any player who has currently played for the England National Team would instantly become one of the best players in the MLS.

Josiah of Footy Fame said...

2:16, while it is true that those guys were past their prime the way the British media has represented MLS, any retired or semi retired player good enough to play in the Premier League would instantly dominate MLS. Sure Gerrard or Lampard would be among the best players in MLS but would someone like Nicky Shorey or John Lescott really be huge impact players? Or how about Paul Robinson or David James? In my view they would be below average keeper in MLS.

Hat Trick Peter Crouch said...

I love how Americans always hide behind keepers claiming they are real footballers. Name one footballer of impact on the international stage your stinking national team program has produced.

Name one quality footballer that your rubbish minor league has produced who has gone on to a successful career in Europe?

Anonymous said...

Hat Trick,

Ever hear of Claudio Reyna, John Harkes, Brian McBride, Alexi Lalas, or Brad Friedel?

How about McBride, Tony Sanneh, or Frankie Hedjuk?

Anonymous said...

Beckham attacks critics of MLS:

http://sports.yahoo.com/sow/news;_ylt=ApNdgMcqxXPtZTtHZekLHegmw7YF?slug=afp-fblusamlsgalaxyengbeckhampeople&prov=afp&type=lgns

Anonymous said...

Screw Beckham. He's being paid zillions of dollars to promote MLS. It would nice if he got his rear end in shape instead of dogging it and coming in half committed on tackles. Anyone would be out 8-10 weeks if they tackled half heartedly like him.

Harvey said...

NM

Harvey said...

Look, the bottom line is while English football is clearly more advanced today than the MLS, the products are essentially different.

In addition, I recall when EPL clubs were accused of spending too much money on players who were washed up and unwanted on the continent. Sound familiar?

Anonymous said...

Kartik, you are dead on.

HOWEVER YOU ARE AS BAD AS THE BRITS ON YOUR PODCAST. YOUR SAYING ITS A DIFFERNT STANDARD AND YOU ARE RIGHT, BUT YOU ARE SO AFFECTED BY THE BRITS YOU CONSTANTLY USE THE TERMS "PITCH," "SQUAD," "QUALITY," AND YES EVEN RUBBISH ON THE PODCAST. IF YOU ARE AS INTO CREATING A SEPERATE AMERICAN IDENTITY BASED ON OUR DIVERSE POPULATION AND PLAYING STYLE THAT MIXES LATINO, SPANISH, GERMAN AND SOME BRITISH STOP BEING SO AFFECTED IN THE TERMINOLOGY YOU USE.

Your blog post here was dead on. Now practice what you preach.

Hat Trick Peter Crouch said...

McBride is a decent player at a small rubbish club.

Reyna was skilled but more often with the physio than on the pitch.

Friedel? You must be having a laugh, helpless yank bloke? He couldn't even come near beating out David James for first team duty here and had his work permit revoked.

The rest are all rubbish, particularly Hejduk. That long haired surfer dude bloke got knocked around in the Champions League when Leverkusen went down. Haven't seen or heard from him since.

Hat Trick Peter Crouch said...

I saw your poll and I vote for DeMerit. He is quality and has almost by his lonesome taken Watford to PL and now mat bring them back up. He is one Yank worth buying in the transfer market. The rest of the names are rubbish. Onyewu? He and Bramble formed quite a duo at the Toon. Bocanegra? That's a good one. Conrad? Never heard of him. Once again the Yanks try and promote footballers with no skill, no quality and no savvy.

Sams Army said...

Great column Kartik. Right on brother.

Rafael said...

The British media has been nothing but condescending and insulting towards futbol in this country and by extension towards the large number of Latinos in this nation who have a distinct impact upon the style of play and quality of our domestic game.

England is a very insular and proud country. This was the case before World War I when they practiced splendid isolation and allowed the great powers of Europe to create alliances that entangled each of the nations in Europe.

The English mentality has not changed in the least since then. The British media nor the fans of its national team have any understanding of football outside England.

British pundits constantly harp on how American sports commentators use poor terminology to describe the game and call the game soccer rather than football. Yet it is alright when the butcher the names of most Latin or even Italian players and even worse disparage the Latinos playing in MLS or the Mexican Football Association without knowing anything about these players. They call the game slow and claim because of this it is an inferior brand while not appreciating the skill involved. They take same attitude towards football played on the continent of Europe, implying everybody plays an inferior brand of football to them.

When they focus on MLS they also tend to obsess over the number of players who are American who they feel lack quality while not paying any attention the superior foreign talent that has come to this league and while avoiding the obvious fact that the US' best World Cup performance in the past 15 years matches that of England's.

Good riddance on them and their ilk.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I find some of your other comments both immature and inaccurate. To comment on how England have performed in World competitions, and to base your argument on our rivals having tried and tested systems, is laughable. The Spanish national side has under-achieved for several years on the big stage, however, the Spanish top flight division - the Primera Liga - is possibly, technically, the joint best football league in the world, along with Italy's Serie A (although in recent times, blighted by controversy) and England's Premier League. Millions and millions of people in countries throughout the world view the English Premier League week in, week out; and its television rights were sold for approximately £1.7 billion, which is divided accordingly between the 20 competing sides. And to say that England takes “friendlies seriously when 90 percent of other countries use friendlies to see who fit their systems” is a testament to English mentality, in which the English football fan cannot stand to see his team lose – be it at club level or on the national stage. We, as a nation, demand 110% every game from any player who is privileged enough to wear the “three lions” shirt.

Anonymous said...

Of the 19-man roster named on 3rd September 2007 by the USA's head coach for the upcoming match against Brazil, 14 players in the squad are currently playing their football in Europe. This leaves five players drafted into the squad from the MLS league. Of the 14 players from Europe, 8 players are currently based in England, although not necessarily playing their club football in the English Premier League (take for instance Frank Simek of Sheffield Wednesday and Jay De Merit of Watford). Should Brian McBride not be out injured, I would also have expected his name to be on the roster. And from the five players, which have been selected from the MLS, not one of those is a "true star" of the MLS league. There is no place on the US national team’s roster for Taylor Twellman - a previous winner of the MVP award and one who you feel is ‘one to watch’ for the future. From Taylor Twellman's bio on the official MLS website, it states that, during his brief time in Europe with TSV 1860 Munich, he "Appeared in more than 40 games for the club's reserve side, including qualifying games for the German Cup", and "in 2001, he declined a two-year option with the club" - one can only assume he was fed up of playing reserve team football and didn't have the character to break into the front side.

Anonymous said...

This should be a hoot to hear the whiny yanks respond.......

Anonymous said...

The Yanks have given up and know their clubs and national team are shitte.

Hat Trick Peter Crouch said...

Shocking, the Man of the league could not even get a match in Germany. As we all know Germany's Bundesliga is a tier below The Premier League in world footballing terms. The German league produces few European clubs of quality and few international of the stature of the Premier League. Yet the top MLS player could not even play there. That is shocking when you consider all the banter from the Yanks.

Kartik said...

Time for everyone to take a deep breathe for a minute.

Okay.

Some valid points here but let's try and take the rhetoric out of this debate and focus on some of the points both John and I made which are now being bitterly contested.

I agree with the anonymous poster about La Liga not being fairly judged due to the lack of success of the Spanish National side. Any way you slice it, in my humble opinion LaLiga is one of the joint top 4 leagues in the world along with the PL, Serie A and the Bundesliga. However, the English press and English football fans CONTINUE TO JUDGE MLS BASED ON THE FAILURES OF THE US NATIONAL TEAM. If you don't want the PL or La Liga judged on the under performing nature of England or Spain's national teams don't subject the US domestic league to the same standard.

I have said it before and will say it again: If I were picking a team of 18 squad players from MLS to compete abroad in some sort of international club competition, I'd have three Americans on the team: Landon Donovan plus two goalkeepers. The other 15 players would all be foreigners, mostly Latins who none of the journalists who write articles attacking MLS in the British press seem to have any knowledge of. The best players in MLS are not American, but are in fact internationals, so stop judging our league based on domestic players and your league based on foreign players.

Secondly regarding international friendlies, that maybe the English mentality but perhaps you should evaluate how your FA operates and how your supporters perceive each match. The fact that Germany and Italy seem to lose countless matches to allegedly inferior opposition between World Cups but then peak at the right team owes itself to the products of the systems they employ for the national teams and the understanding clubs and the FA have with one another. This sort of understanding of the importance of friendlies, deepening the pool, building relationships with the top clubs seem to have escaped Barwick and the clowns at your FA. Don't cry when your "rival" Germany once again advances beyond you at Euro 2008 and South Africa 2010.

Now MLS has some major problems with scheduling, issues I addressed with Brant Parsons of the Orlando Sentinel on the soon to be released episode 17 of the Major League Soccer podcast. (shameless plug, I know.) Thanks to MLS' arcane scheduling practices, Bradley was limited in the players he picked from MLS for this match with Brazil. So you cannot assume that 14 of 19 players chosen under normal circumstances would be from Europe, and even if they were from Europe such a England club heavy side would be chosen. Players like Danny Califf, Kanami Hill, Lee Nguyen, Charlie Davies and Sal Zizzo have all been called up recently for the national team, and all play in Europe outside of England.


As far as Goalkeepers are concerned let's get something straight. English goalkeeping once the best in the world outside of Holland is now very poor. I grew up watching Gordan Banks when he came to the NASL and he is the best keeper hands down I have ever seen in person. But right now the standard of English goalkeeping is very very poor. I still find it amazing American keepers like Mike Amman, Juergan Sommer and Ian Feuer who were never able to get a game with the national team and were in the case of Sommer and Feuer marginal keepers in MLS lasted so long as first teamers in England. Obviously both were playing what was then the 1st division (now the championship....Amman was in the EPL) but still the fact that both struggled in MLS, and Feuer actually returned to England to find a job speaks for itself.

Brian McBride has retired from international football, but Taylor Twellman who as you noted flopped at 1860 Munich is now a stronger and more technical player. I'm not sure I totally agree with John about his quality, but he is certainly not the same player that didn't see a first team game in Germany. Someone like Clint Dempsey who was a slightly above average player in MLS, and in fact took a back seat to Twellman when on the same side, seems to be finding his niche in England. Again some guys do well in some places than others. Does the failure in England of Andrei Shevachenko, and Michael Ballack mean they are lousy players? I certainly hope you don't take that view because on the biggest stage in World Football, Ballack has been far superior to any English player currently in your national set up. Sure he's no Gary Linekar, but those days are over for the three lions. The faster you accept it and the realities of world football today, the better your national team will be. Sir Bobby Robson isn't coaching your national side again, so McClaren though you people take shots at him is just very typical of the poor tactical savvy English managers have. I know as competitive as your nation is, and trust me I love your people, and have visited the UK more than any other nation other than my parents birthplace India, it is tough to accept reality, but the reality is you guys aren't fielding a national side with a great deal of quality at the moment. Sure you'll probably beat Israel and Russia to qualify for the Euro 2008, but if you are delusional enough to believe you can win that tournament, you haven't watched much international football lately.

Anonymous said...

Writing a novel guys?

Hat Trick Peter Crouch said...

Ballack is complete rubbish. He and Lampard play together and yet he sits the stands. The entire England midfield is superior in footballing terms to Ballack.