One of the most widely-anticipated nights in Major League Soccer has come and gone after Monday's Real Madrid win over the Galaxy here on Planet LA. And while the Galacticos were clearly the draw on an absolutely magical evening at the Home Depot Center, I couldn't get one thought out of my mind.
Where was Landon?
This was one of those nights for Major League Soccer. Truly buzz-worthy events like this are rare. Through its marketing arm, Soccer United Marketing, the league entity has strived to own the soccer world here in the United States. Knowing that it makes good business sense to try and dominate any revenue-generating opportunities in soccer, from television to exhibitions, SUM continues to expand its reach and put on big-time soccer events outside of the regular MLS fare.
And I can't remember one bigger than the Galaxy playing a full-strength Real Madrid side at the premier venue in the United States. And imagine this: Los Angeles was the team that didn't have all of its players.
So where was Landon? Not released from the U.S. national team, which is preparing for a semifinal match against Honduras in the Gold Cup. The Bruce chose not to release the Galaxy golden boy, not wanting him to have to fly back and forth across the country after playing over the weekend.
Now I may be in the minority in this one, but I can't help but saying it: Landon should have been here in Los Angeles.
Yes, the Gold Cup is more than an exhibition match. There is a fair amount of importance to being the top dog in your region, there is a berth in the Confederations Cup on offer, too, in a few years time (although Colombia ruined the U.S.-Mexico final that would have really given the tournament some buzz).
But this was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event - OK, sure, MLS teams will play more of these matches down the road, but this was the first time for anything like this at The Home Depot Center and with an MLS team involved on such a big stage.
Star-studded nights like this are what will help the game grow here. The league as a business needs nights like this, and if they send the Galaxy into a match where Real Madrid brings all of its players, I think the Gold Cup can live without Landon Donovan for one night.
Everyone in soccer in the U.S. talks about how every related entity needs to work together to make the league work and the national team be a success. Landon is the calling card for MLS right now - the best American player in the league, a guy who can sell tickets (not that it was needed Monday), and a player who has taken on - and taken it to - the world's best. The USA's brightest star should have been a part of one of Major League Soccer's starriest nights. Heck, event the field boards were dressed up (the fancy electronic video boards on the television side of the field looked fantastic).
At halftime on the Fox Sports Net West 2 broadcast, the Galaxy's Doug Hamilton was asked about the situation, and through seemingly gritted teeth, blessed the situation. "Not the right thing to do, to be very blunt about it. You can't tell your national team coach your players need breaks."
I know the game meant nothing from a result standpoint. A Fox Sports World promo I saw this weekend calling the game something like a huge step for the growth of the game was silly.
But I just think Landon needed to be part of this event ... and make no mistake about it, it was an event. And a grand one, at that.
And speaking of events, now I want to see a lot more MLS teams play European powers. It's just fun. So here's a thought: Beginning in 2007 (next summer is the World Cup) at this time of year, the league takes a break for a couple weeks (there you go, Sigi). During the two weeks off, each team plays one match against a major international opponent in front of their home crowd. Call it the Sierra Mist All-Star Series, and put the biggest game on national television as your All-Star game. Done.
Or if you wanna get tricky and really love All-Star games, pick an MLS All-Star team and have them play an All-Star team made up of players from the visiting foreign powers as part of the series.
You bring over four or five big teams, they each play a couple MLS teams, and maybe another visiting team once, and suddenly you can draw some big-name teams by promising them three good games for their preseason. There is a market for these games, obviously, and MLS fans want to see their teams playing against the world's best. I mean, in addition to our own FC Dallas, of course.
And when they do, they need to have all of their players.
GRAB A COLD BUD (OR AQUAFINA) AND PUT YER FEET UP:
WHAT I'LL BE WATCHING:
Thursday - USA vs. HONDURAS (6 p.m. ET on Telefutura): It's semifinal time, so the lads may as well go and win the whole thing.
Saturday - UNITED at GALAXY (4 p.m. ET on The Deuce): Adunited comes to the Home Depot Center as Planet LA footie fans get their fourth game in seven days. All this soccer, pretty girls and the weather ... you sure you wouldn't rather live here?
Saturday - THE ALMIGHTY HOOPS at RSL (9:30 p.m. ET on Fox Soccer Channel): Yeah, there's trouble in Checkettsville. Many still think they are better when Cleetus is off the field, and it's not going to get much easier when the 2005 champs come to town.
I was going to write a ton of great flick-ons, but then I saw the Paris Hilton promotion for Fox Soccer Channel. And for once, I am speechless.
The Clean Sheet runs each Thursday on MLSnet. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or MLSnet.com. Send any questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org