Arena questions benefits of MLSers training in Europe

CARSON, Calif. – It’s all the rage in Major League Soccer these days: young MLS players heading overseas to train with European clubs.

It seems that the number of youngsters doing that this offseason has become higher, and with the MLS offseason typically slated for late fall/winter, the numbers may only increase in years to come. However, training abroad may not be as glamorous as it sounds.

“It’s not what it’s built up to be, believe me,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said before the team embarked on their postseason Asia Pacific Tour 2011.

The Galaxy kicked off their tour on Nov. 30 with a 1-0 win over the Indonesia Selection, followed that up with a 6-1 rout of the Philippine national team three days later, and concluded with a shootout win over Melbourne Victory in Australia on Tuesday. Thus, younger Galaxy players like Omar Gonzalez have not had the chance to go train abroad.

Training with a big club, though, may not necessarily speed up a young player's development.

“This thing, training with a foreign club, they don’t really care about that player,” Arena said. “The big clubs are in competition three times a week, so you’re training with the reserve team or the academy team.”

Perhaps the impetus for helping players pursue training opportunities abroad came at least partially from US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who has said the MLS season is not quite long enough. But training with other teams is not something that came from Klinsmann’s urging, Arena said.

“We’ve been doing it for 15 years, just to let you people know," he said. "This is not a revelation where someone has discovered you could do that. For the most, part it’s OK, but it really doesn’t move anyone further along, to be honest with you.”

So while some players may see training stints abroad as something grandiose, others would agree with Arena that it’s not all enchanting.

“The guys who do it and come back understand that,” Arena said.

Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at buenodad@gmail.com.