SANTA CLARA, Calif. – For years, the conventional wisdom has been that in order to make an impact at the US national-team level, Americans had to head abroad to face stiffer competition than what MLS provided.
With the recent returns of San Jose Earthquakes defender Clarence Goodson, Chivas USA defender Carlos Bocanegra and, most shockingly, Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey, has that equation been stood on its head? Does the path to being a potential member of Jurgen Klinsmann’s potential 2014 World Cup squad – assuming the Americans don’t collapse in their remaining Hexagonal qualifiers – no longer require a move to Europe?
“I think you have to look at each situation individually and on its own,” Goodson said Saturday after the Quakes’ 2-0 win against Chivas USA. “Maybe for some people it’s the right move and for others, maybe it’s not.
“I think Jurgen’s done a good job of picking the talent from MLS and giving them a good opportunity to play on the national team. And I think those guys have done a very good job. You fill that in a little bit with some older players or some guys that have experience overseas, and I think you get a good mix of players.”
To Goodson, the biggest reason not to read too much into the boomeranging of homegrown internationals during this summer transfer window is Dempsey’s unique place in the U.S. firmament.
“As long as Clint’s alive and well, Clint’s on the plane [to Brazil],” Goodson said. “So he doesn’t have to play himself onto anything.”
That said, the landscape of domestic soccer has undoubtedly changed for the better from when Bocanegra (2004), Dempsey (2007) and Goodson (2008) departed.
“I think MLS is a very good league,” Goodson said. “It’s full of tremendous talent, great athletes and a lot of very, very solid players. The league is much improved from when all of us left.”
That’s a sentiment echoed by Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski, another U.S. international hoping to earn a spot in Brazil primarily on the back of his MLS performances.
“I think it just shows how far it’s come,” Wondolowski said of having Dempsey and Landon Donovan, the two leading goal-scorers in U.S. international history, both playing in MLS next year. “I think it’s going to continue to grow exponentially and it’s going to show that we can play with some of the best and we can compete with them. It shows that we have some of the best players, American and foreign, playing here, and I think it’s going to continue to grow.”