Three for Thursday: Yet-to-be-written MLS autobiographies worth reading in wake of Jimmy Nielsen's book
As many keyed-in MLS fans (or the ones who read MLSsoccer.com's blog, The Sideline) know, larger than life Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen just released a second autobiography entitled Welcome to Blue Heaven, co-written with Guardian writer Paolo Bandini. And if the autobiography reflects the Dane's eccentric personality, you know it should be a good read.
And that got me thinking: What other MLS players, current and former, have stories that make for interesting reading? The answer is probably "quite a few," but even so, there are some whose journeys or personalities are so extraordinary that they seem tailor-made for a great soccer book.
Here are three:
The Colorado Rapids head coach is a known quantity in the league, having been involved in North American soccer ever since coming to the New England Revolution for the 1998 season, but the story didn't start there.
Pareja came up as a player in the Colombian metropolis of Medellín, playing for local powerhouse Independiente and the Colombian national team in an era when the soccer being played there was some of the most exquisite in the world – but also very much in the shadow of Pablo Escobar and the other drug kingpins who dominated headlines and their respective territories.
Between his history as a player and a coach, which is a special one in its own right, his experience has allowed him to be one of the main facilitators of the pipeline of South American talent heading to MLS, a key development in the league's increasing upswing in quality.
And with Pareja currently behind a side that's gone 4-1-1 since March despite a slew of injuries, he may even have more to say – both on the field and off – in his unfolding story.
In this current player, we're talking a man who has not only played professionally on three continents, but one who was a bona fide superstar in a locale (Vietnam) few, if any, American players have ever even considered playing.
Nguyen, who accumulated a massive fan following during his three-year stint in Vietnam could offer a perspective that's unique to all but a handful of players – what's it like to play with the eyes of a nation focused on your every move?
Safe to say, the New England midfielder's electric style of play and time spent rubbing shoulders with some of the game's elite players in Europe and MLS and his redemption story in a far-off land would make for plenty interesting reading, even as the 26-year-old continues to forge his path in MLS.
The former LA Galaxy man lands his place here not so much for his sparse on-the-field achievements in MLS, but more for his hairstyles and the wild stories that seemed to follow him around.
For starters, he offers a glimpse into one of the most chaotic periods in Galaxy history and the drama that unfolded between him, his buddy and Galaxy coach Ruud Guillit and the other characters in that high soccer drama.
And let's not forget his experiences at the highest levels of the game – memories accumulated while playing for Benfica, Liverpool, Galatasaray and Roma, plus internationally for Portugal – or the infamous steroid scandal that saw him banned from soccer for 18 months (later reduced to 12 months).
Lastly, it would certainly be interesting to hear from the man who has rarely been seen around the game since retiring in 2009, converting to Islam and taking the name Faisal. Wherever he is, his personality still stands as one of the wildest to ever grace MLS.