National recap and an MLS look ahead
or at least the notebook -- prior to the season's start this Saturday:
Wow, was it cold. For someone from Southern California it was very cold. If you were from Argentina it was even colder. I was thrilled with our 2-1 victory against Argentina and the team attitude. We were the only team to have no preparation camp prior to this tournament, so that makes our two wins, the second against Egypt, even more pleasing. We lost to Korea, but beating Korea in Korea with Korean referees is a monumental task. Ask Argentina ... who was robbed in the last game.
MLS has certainly helped the under-20 national team as well as the full national team. Playing professionally has provided the U.S. player with an experience he would otherwise not acquire as quickly. I hope the league continues to provide these chances for not only young U.S. players but all U.S. players.
Traveling overseas and interacting with foreign coaches and club officials, I can assure you that we have made strides. The appreciation, of the "made in the USA" player, has improved. But, overall the game in the States is still looked down upon and the U.S. player is not valued as highly as foreign players.
We need MLS to continue to play Americans because the average U.S. player will not get the opportunities overseas like the average foreign player will. We need quality foreign players to help bring along and supplement the growth of our players. We need to provide the fans with a quality product, excitement and be representative of the melting pot that is the United States.
However, we cannot take the few chances that players raised in the USA have. I am talking about all American soccer players from all backgrounds and ethnicity. The percentage of U.S. players that will be starting in MLS this year needs to remain high to continue to provide the quality our national teams need to be successful.
While I was in Korea, MLS released the definitive bible on player rules. These are the rules as they pertain to roster composition, player acquisition, methods of releasing players, and player rights.
I wish I could say my article which got much of it wrong trying to explain some of this was behind the release of these rules. But, I think the player's association deserves the credit. The average fan does not know how significant this is. A coach like Bob Bradley who has been in the league from day one has never seen a document like this before. In fact, no coach has seen anything this complete -- ever. The dawning of a new age, or just a much needed clarification.
I still do not know if I truly understand how you trade a portion of an allocation, put part of Landon Donovan's belongs to San Jose and part to the MetroStars and therefore San Jose no longer has the right of first refusal. So therefore, Dallas is the low man and would get Landon, but L.A. needs to make a trade because he wants to play in Los Angeles and L.A. wants Landon. Everyone understand that?
How about this one: A portion of the Marco Etcheverry retirement allocation belongs to San Jose, another part is with Los Angeles which got that from Dallas. Didn't Marco retire a year ago? If he comes out of retirement, I guess Chicago would have first choice, unless D.C. made a trade to re-acquire his rights.
Confused? I remember when I was in Los Angeles we did not receive an allocation for Carlos Hermosillo returning to Mexico. Times have changed for the better. Although still confusing, the rules are becoming more transparent.
FIRST KICK 2005
Get out there. Cheer for your favorite team. The weekend will be fun. How quickly can players coming back from World Cup qualifiers be integrated? What other questions or expectations might exist out there?
Club Deportivo Chivas USA-D.C. United: Everyone is looking expectantly at what the crowd and atmosphere will be like. What will Chivas USA be like in their first real game? How much will Freddy play? Oh, that was LAST year's question. How will the defending champs do, that is this year's question?
MetroStars-Real Salt Lake: The Clint Mathis hairstyle -- always a question. But, his return brings back some flair on and off the field. Who are those guys in the MetroStars uniforms? Coach Bradley has shuffled the deck again.
Crew-Galaxy: Well, it is definitely Steve Sampson's team now. Is this Landon Donovan's debut for the 2005 season? The Crew needs to check the injury report, but I think they will have enough to field a team. But in regards to that reserve team, let's push that back a bit.
Wizards-Rapids: Kansas City will stay with the tried and true. Is it enough? The Rapids added speed and punch up front. Is it enough?
FC Dallas-Fire: The Brimstone Cup. Did I get that right? Good to see Greg Vanney back, a class player on and off the field, even though I am still waiting for my e-mail. (Just kidding, Greg.) The Fire is undermanned upfront. Who will step up -- Nate Jaqua, Chad Barrett or someone else?
Earthquakes-Revolution: Six games, means we have two more teams. Hopefully, more will be added soon. Growth is a good thing. How will the reworked San Jose team be? New England, is this the year they get out of the gate quickly?
Finally, MLS soccer begins the 2005 season. Enjoy it all, the beginning, the middle and the end. Soccer is a beautiful game.
Sigi Schmid is one of the winningest coaches in MLS history, having led the Los Angeles Galaxy to four honors in his five-plus years at the helm, including the 2002 MLS Cup championship. Send comments to Sigi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.