Friday, February 22, 2008

The Pride of American Club Soccer


On a night when the LA Galaxy despite a herculean effort from one David Beckham managed to embarrass themselves yet again and legitimately call into question the standard of play and development in the United States, the reigning league champion Houston Dynamo did to Sydney FC exactly what the Aussie club had done to the Galaxy a few months ago: humiliate them in the first half and in the process rescue some measure of pride for an embattled league.

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Unfortunately some in the European press do not pay attention to MLS beyond the circus that is the LA Galaxy. So as the Galaxy continue to struggle in foreign competitions it will be easy to pick on the MLS for many of its detractors both home and abroad. Ruud Gullit himself may have been guilty of this in the past. But Gullit should have taken in the second match of the semifinals as a scouting operation. If he did watch the second match he now knows how wide a gap exists between the bottom feeders of MLS, like the Galaxy and the top like Houston. Dom Kinnear has a system in place where he can plug in just about any player of his choosing around the core of Dwayne Dersorio, Brian Ching and Wade Barret (yes he is a core player as he was in San Jose) and make the thing work. LA, and other MLS teams save New England do not have that luxury.

How can a team coming off a three month closed season look so scary good, as the Dynamo did last night? How can a team that hasn’t played a competitive match since November and has lost several players this closed season have such chemistry and flow to where from minute one it looked like they were in midseason form? Dom Kinnear is not only a brilliant coach, but his players have a pride in the shirt, a pride in the club that most MLS players never develop for their club.

The Dynamo were simply scintillating last night. Sydney FC did not win the A-League this season, but were one of the better teams. But the gap in class between the Dynamo and Sydney is what you would expect between a LaLiga or Premier League side and a lesser side in a smaller league in Europe, or according to some critics an MLS side. The gap in quality, technical and tactics was striking, after watching a first match (which I missed part of because of my other sporting obsession: Miami Hurricanes Basketball) with very little to offer in the way of compelling football, the Dynamo rescued everyone’s night and the image of MLS for those who bothered to stick around for the second game.