US Soccer and the overall credibility of the MLS has been boosted over the past week due to five significant events which have pushed soccer from the back pages of the sports section to positive discussions about the game across the country, if not the world.
1. Donovan’s second spell at Everton.
The sport got a welcome boost this week with Landon Donovan’s first game for Everton since returning for his second spell with the Merseyside club. The US soccer community was abuzz with expectations for the countries all-time leading scorer.
2. That goal.
While all eyes on Donovan for the Premier League game vs Bolton, it was US compatriot Tim Howard who scored from 95 yards out and became only the 4th ever goalkeeper to score in the EPL. Replayed over and over again as a true play of the day!
3. Dempsey hits a Hat-Trick.
The FA Cup is a knockout cup competition in England and is the oldest soccer competition in the world. Currently sponsored by Budweiser, USMNT player Clint Dempsey was sure to have had one to celebrate his hat-trick against Charlton Athletic. The U.S. star now has seven goals in his last nine outings.
4. Beckham rejects Paris move.
When the final whistle was blown at this year’s MLS Cup Final commentators almost immediately signaled this was the end of the Beckham era of US soccer. With rumors swirling about a big money move to Paris St Germain, the MLS was resigned to losing one of its biggest assets. However a month later and Beckham has rejected the move and looks set to sign a new contract with the LA Galaxy.
5. Henry scores on his return to Arsenal
New York Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry will always be remembered as an Arsenal legend – but a few eyebrows were raised when he made a short term loan move back to the Emirates during the MLS off-season. Fans were worried he would ruin his own legacy left at the club, yet this was put to bed within 10 minutes of him coming on as a substitute and scoring the winner vs Leeds United in the FA Cup.
The Henry and Beckham stories have more of an impact on the MLS than people realize.
Henry’s classy finish and 14 goals in the 2011 MLS season will have many thinking that the MLS is of a higher standard than they give it credit for and that players are not moving to the US for that one last pay check. Henry went to Arsenal with so much to lose and today’s cameo just goes to show the ambition and drive he has left to play at the highest level.
Beckham’s decision to remain in LA may have jeopardized his personal ambition of representing his country in an Olympics but has shown his overwhelming support of the games potential in the U.S. Seemingly a family/slash business decision, turning down a return to Europe shows the great lifestyle options that can be offered to players and the post-career earning potential of world class players (Beckham has long been rumored to have options to buy an MLS franchise in the future).
We mentioned our previous post that two measures establish a country’s place in world soccer: strong national team programs & strong professional game, starting with a robust, tier-one association. But what reflects a tier one association? Does recruiting high profile world superstars to the MLS have a positive impact on the growth of the game?
With rumors of Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Michael Ballack wanting to move to the MLS we are interested to hear your thoughts. Join the discussion today by interacting with us on Twitter @soccersupport or by tweeting with #growthegame