Opening the soccer mailbag

a position Bruce Arena is always looking for talent -- and as a striker. He deserved the call-up right after his rookie season, and he's only gone on to prove that he's one of the top players in MLS and a player that has to be included in future camps.

For Johnson, it's a bit different. For one, he's only 20 years old. Even before his recent scoring outbursts with the national team, teams all over the world were drooling at his potential given his tremendous speed and finishing ability. They knew they were looking at a player that is so far from the finished product. E.J. also had already made a name for himself as both a U-17 and U-20 national team player, highlighted by his Golden Boot performance at last year's FIFA World Youth Championships in the United Arab Emirates.

You must remember that Eskandarian has only recently come on. During the spring and early part of the summer, he was still fighting to be a starting player for Peter Nowak. Now that he's proven he can score goals in bunches, and in the biggest of games, there's no question that he'll get a look with the national team. You also must remember that Esky was a college teammate of Arena's son Kenny. So it's not as though this is a player that the U.S. manager hasn't seen perform over the last several years. And if he continues to be one of the league's top scorers next year, the clubs in Europe will surely come calling.

From Matthew Geisel in California: First, kudos for the overall quality of articles/coverage you are providing for US soccer. Second, Happy Holidays. A few random comments on most recent column on ESPN.com:

  • Jonny Walker: I think you have said this two times now. I concur. I can't believe Chivas USA passed on him. Even if they have 10 internationall spots. Walker would have been a great bridge between them and the "mainstream" side of the league. I lived in Latin America for 8+ years (5+ in Mexico). I am bilingual/bicultural. Mexicans have a soft spot for Spanish-speaking gringos. So, he would have done well from a PR perspective, too.

  • Panamians: I thought your list of 10 players we may see in 2005 would have contained more Panamians based on the article you wrote over the summer. I do not think Chivas USA will spend a single international roster spot on a non-Mexican. Chivas will have minimal cache with non-Mexicans (I'd even add the core will be first generation/immigrant Mexicans). Current MLS Latino fan support is dominated by non-Mexicans.

    Thanks for the kind words, Matthew. Of all the moves made during the Expansion Draft, Chivas USA not selecting Walker was the biggest surprise in my book. It just seemed like a perfect fit. And if I were Walker, I'd welcome the move, considering the negative comments made by his GM (Don't be fooled by the backtracking "wait, we love Jonny" quotes that came out of Nick Sakiewicz's mouth after the fact.)

    Without a doubt, the 6-0 thrashing the U.S. national team put on Panama back on Oct. 13 hurt the chances of several of the Panamanian players. Julio Medina and Roberto Brown are still names being talked about in a few front offices around the league, though. Despite being on a backline that got shelled, Luis Moreno is in interesting player that would be worth bringing in for a number of clubs. He can play as a centerback and on the right side. He's also in his early 20s and is still playing locally for Tauro FC.

    From Steve Treece in Ohio: Just finished reading your review of the 2004 MLS season and found it well written and informative. A good analysis. I also appreciated and agreed with your analysis of Jeff Cunningham (as a Crew supporter).

    However, I just wanted to "take you to task" for the misuse of a term that I see done far too often by American writers, broadcasters, and posters. That is the term "run of play." You used it to describe how Jeff only had three goals in 2004 that weren't from PKs or set plays. But that is not how that term should be used (as a description of the rather nebulous portion of a game when a set play is not taking place). In fact, those three words should never be used without the terms "with" or "against" tacked on the front, as that is the proper meaning. For instance, if Team A has most of the ball for 20 minutes in the game, constantly attacking Team B, but Team B suddenly breaks free and carries the ball to the other end and scores, then Team B has scored "against the run of play." If Team A had scored, then they would have scored "with the run of play." If you watch EPL matches you will hear these terms used often. Somehow, some in the States have taken these terms and changed the meaning (as we often seem to do).

    As stated by the title, just a pet peeve of mine and, again, very good article.

    Steve, my pet peeves include the overuse of the word "amazing", when people continuously take calls on their cell phones when you're with them and hearing bad youth coaches say "good ball" over and over again.

    I'll watch my use of "run of play" if you can give me a better term to use when trying to show how many goals a player scored that didn't include penalty kicks.

    From Luke Gates in Michigan: Who do you think is the best player in MLS that nobody has heard of?

    Outside of their local fans, guys like Marshall Leonard of the New England Revolution, Bryan Namoff of D.C. United, Matt Behncke of Real Salt Lake and Arturo Torres of Chivas USA are hardly household names. They were the first ones that came to mind.

    From Jason George in Bethesda, Md.: Now that we've seen former MLS players Frank Yallop, Dominic Kinnear and Peter Nowak do well as coaches in the league, who is next on the list?

    Great question, Jason. Current Kansas City assistant Brian Bliss is an easy answer, as he has been one of the top assistant coaches in the league retiring from MLS as a player in 1998. He's not likely to get hired by Colorado, but a head job will surely come for the former national team player.

    Thomas Dooley is another former MLS player who I think we'll see back here someday as a coach. Same goes for a player like Earnie Stewart. John Harkes will give it a try soon enough, as he's already trying to get the head job at Rochester after just one season of coaching at the youth level for D.C. United. Eric Wynalda always tells me that a guy like former L.A. Galaxy captain Dan Calichman would be an excellent choice for any club looking for a young coach with playing experience in the league.

    From Gerry Basile in New Orleans: I love the fact that MLS is increasing its schedule to 32 games. Do you agree that more games needed to be added?

    I go back and forth on this one, Gerry. When it is the offseason and I'm looking for interesting features to write, I always start thinking about how it would be better if the season started in early March and extended until late November. Yet, that opinion is gone by early September when it starts feeling as though the season will never end.

    With two more expansion teams added and with others on the horizon, I think the usual "dog days of summer" feeling will subside due to the more intense races for the playoffs that should develop now that more teams will be fighting for their lives come the fall. If it's 32 games now, then I hope the league sticks with it. Perhaps a slight shift in the calendar, as well, with an earlier start and later finish to allow breaks for the World Cup and/or qualifying and other tournaments that have taken away several of the league's best players in the past.

    From John in Sacramento: Landon Donovan says he'll return to MLS. When will that be?

    That's hard to say, John. I don't think it'll be for several years, to be honest. When it's all said and done, I'd be surprised if Donovan didn't make a stop in England or Spain to play for one of the top clubs in the world before his travels take him back to MLS. My best guess, on this day, will be after the World Cup in 2010 or the year after in 2011.

    Marc Connolly writes for ESPN.com and several other publications. This column runs each Wednesday on MLSnet.com and Marc can be reached at marc@oakwoodsoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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