Your February Questions Answered (Part 2)

Andy Najar 3 (ISIPhotos.com)

 

With this being the last day of the month, it's a good time to touch on more of the questions you submitted in our Old School Q&A earlier in February.

Plenty of topics to discuss this go round, including the U.S. national team forward pool, Carlos Bocanegra's national team future, my pick for MLS Sophomore of the Year and My favorite place to watch a game.

Let's get started with some more of Your February Questions Answered:

TIM CHAPMAN- Am I crazy to be excited about D.C. United this season with their young players as a dc fan?

IVES- Not at all. D.C. United has some pieces in place to turn things around in 2011. I still question whether the defense is good enough to make a complete turnaround, but I do think the D.C. offense could be a dangerous one, and a playoff spot can’t be ruled out.

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Tim Sheffield- Has the entry of Bunbury and Agudelo into the American Striker Hype Machine (patent pending) made people forget about Danny Mwanga?

IVES- I’d say so. Seems like not many people outside Philly are talking much about Mwanga and what he could bring to the national team pool. Obviously he’s not a citizen yet, but the fact is if he’s a citizen before the Gold Cup he’s going to get a look.

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ATX-With players securing contracts with the league before the Super Draft, is there any real incentive for a player to go high? Or, perhaps better stated, is there any reason I should want to be drafted by an expansion club rather than Sounders FC if I'm a player in the draft?

IVES- There are incentives worked into those contracts that lead to bonuses for being drafted higher. That doesn’t mean there are no cases of players sandbagging a bit to go to certain teams. I know that has happened in the past and wouldn’t doubt that it still happens.

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RON- Do you see DaMarcus Beasley coming back to MLS this summer? Back to Chicago? I'll never forget how great DMB was at PSV Endhoven and being their leading scorer in the Champions League back in 2004.

IVES- Considering his lack of playing time with Hannover 96 I can’t see what other move Beasley has to make. Not sure how many more big contracts he can squeeze out of Europe without actually playing and producing.

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DENNIS- The MLS has a reputation as a physical league (at least I think so). What needs to change for a greater emphasis to be placed on skill? Would simply having stricter refereeing be enough or will it take the replacement of the present crop of players with more skillful players?

IVES- MLS’ reputation as a physical league was established through some rough formative years, but I would say the league has improved quite a bit in that regard. The league is more skilled than it was a decade ago, and while physical strength and fitness are key aspects of the league, the league’s technical level has improved considerably. MLS will never be Mexico, a league light on defending and high on technical skill, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A league with a strong physical foundation and improved technical ability  can do just fine.

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MNMIKE- Obviously the top players will always make more money in England, Spain, Italy, Germany, but what about the second tier Euro leagues? How big of a wage gap is there between MLS and the Scandinavian leagues? Is it realistic that MLS could ever close that gap enough to entice some of these solid MLS players to stay in the US?

IVES- The gap is closing, but there’s still a way to go and it really isn’t a question of just salaries being on par. Players don’t just go abroad for the money, though that obviously plays a role. Players go to play in Europe, and be closer to the big leagues. As MLS improves its status as a feeder league to Europe’s top leagues it will begin to keep players longer. That’s going to take some time though.

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SEAN- What's up with Feilhaber playing in the second tier of the Danish league? Why hasn't he moved to a more competitive league? Is it due to a lack of interest? I thought his showing in the world cup would have generated some interest. Do you know if he wants to move?

IVES- It’s not as simple as him just wanting to leave. He’s been under contract and AGF Aarhus has to accept an offer.  There has been talk of interest from Mexico and Brazil, but Aarhus has to make promotion to the Danish First Division its priority. Right now Aarhus is in first place, but at this point unless he moved to MLS (with a window now open) he’ll have to wait until the summer to leave Aarhus.

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BRIAN- What was your favorite place to ever watch a game? 

IVES- Old Trafford was a pretty special. Estadio Azteca has also been a great place to watch a game. Alliaz Arena in Munich was also memorable. in the USA, I’d say Red Bull Arena is the best place to watch a soccer game.

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ZACH S- Who wins Sophomore of the Year in 2011? Ream or Najar (or someone else)? 

IVES- Najar should improve, as should Ream, but two players I think could have huge sophomore campaigns are Eric Alexander and Ike Opara. Alexander should get a chance to play more and I think he could break out. Opara had the makings of a Rookie of the Year season before being injured. 

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MAJORMAJOR- Do you think anything will come of the Anelka/Klose/etc to NYRB rumors, and whether Agudelo's potential has any influence on that? Also, do you think MLS is nearing the stage where they can hold on to young players like Agudelo, Montero, and Najar?

IVES- I think New York is what it has always been, a great club for agents to link their players to and a city players like to mention as dream semi-retirement destinations. 

As for MLS holding on to young players, I wouldn’t worry just yet about people raiding the league’s young players because I think MLS is smart enough to place big price tags on young standouts. I’d say players like Agudelo and Najar will have to put 2-3 years 

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LAWRENCE- With Robbie Findley's injury- Charlie Davies and Kenny Coopers paths to recovery- Gomez's & EJ's lack of goals -do you think we're talking Agudelo in Gold Cup action? Or just Altidore, Buddle, & Bunbury? Is Casey or Wondolowski even in the mix? Thanks.

IVES- I think it will depend on how Agudelo starts the season for New York. If he’s starting and scoring goals and looking ready for a Gold Cup role then he will get the call. But if he’s coming along slowly I don’t see Bradley rushing him along. I think Danny Mwanga can’t be forgotten about and I don’t think Chris Wondolowski should be forgotten. You have Altidore, Buddle and even Clint Dempsey capable of playing up top.

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CPLDANIEL- Why did Starikov not get any time for the US MNT?? Is he flip flopping on what country to play for?? Is he just not ready to commit until he knows which of his three options will be most likely for him to find success?? Was it the coaches decision not to play him??

IVES- I’d venture that he didn’t get time because he didn’t impress enough, or have enough time to impress. It couldn’t have been easy for him to come into camp late and try to show coaches something. I hadn’t heard anything about him refusing to play or asking not to play in the Chile game. 

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SEAN- Odds that you think Bocanegra will remain a starter for the national team throughout this world cup cycle?

IVES- Can’t imagine a 35-year old Bocanegra will be at the 2014 World Cup, but he’s got a few more years in him. He still starts regularly in France and with no other left back options, I’d say he’s going to start in the Gold Cup and in the fall qualifiers. I’d say 2012 is when we can start asking questions and whether he’s an adequate left back/centerback or if there are younger players ready to take the role.

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CROCAJUN- I understand MLS has an allocation order that determines what teams outside players go to, but does the MLS have any rules set up that would allow US internationals that have made the jump to Europe return to their original teams to end their careers.

Would guys like Stu, Demps, and Altidore be granted special permission to return to their first teams?

Will there be a "Returning Hero" rule put in for these guys?

IVES- There is no such rule in place and there isn’t likely to be one. Call it unfortunate, but ultimately if a team wants a player bad enough it can always make him a designated player. That’s assuming a player wants to return to his original team.

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46 Responses to Your February Questions Answered (Part 2)

  1. ELAC says:

    What do you make of Robin Fraser’s roster changes at Chivas USA? Will it make a difference?

  2. fischy says:

    Interesting. You think the league rules allow for circumventing allocation by offering a DP contract? I hadn’t heard that before.

    (SBI-I’ve always understood it to be that Designated Player contracts trump everything else, but we have yet to have a case of an American coming back home for a DP deal so I’d have to get confirmation of that.)

  3. montana matt says:

    D you really think Boca has the required speed to play LB at the gold cup? I just don’t see him having the wheels needed to motor up and down the left flank, over lap landon or deuce, and play in crosses. It pains me to say so, but I’d much prefer Bornstein.

    (SBI-So a guy starting at left back for a good team in a Top Five League in Europe, a guy who plays in France, where last time I checked they have some speed, isn’t good enough to play left back for the USA this summer? I’d beg to differ.)

  4. aristophanes says:

    Bocanegra plays left back for a good club in Ligue 1. So… yes he can handle the Concacaf Gold Cup.

  5. Lipper says:

    “in the USA, I’d say Red Bull Arena is the best place to watch a soccer game.”

    That’s only because you haven’t been to Portland yet. Just wait. You will revise your answer accordingly, guaranteed.

  6. Mark says:

    NOOO, not Bornstein. He has made way too many amateur errors to see time this year. I’d take Zach Lloyd over Bornstein at this point.

  7. BellusLudas says:

    “Will there be a “Returning Hero” rule put in for these guys?”

    I love this idea…MLS brass should start thinking about this.

  8. aristophanes says:

    So MLS can have even more authoritative say over where and how players play?

  9. StevenG says:

    A converted baseball stadium is gonna be better than one of the biggest SSS in the country? gimme a break.

  10. John says:

    Designated players are signed directly to an MLS team and thus circumvent allocation.

  11. usa says:

    Starikov barely plays in Russia, and there is no risk of Russia ever calling him up, so I dont think there is anything to worry about.

  12. jig says:

    Ives, was Reyna a DP?

    (SBI-Yes he was, and thanks for reminding me of the example that supports my theory.)

  13. Mike Caramba says:

    I also think there’s some life experience aspect to “second tier” European moves that is often ignored. If I were a professional who spent some time in MLS, salary being equal and “Springboard Theory” aside, I might like to live in another country and play in a new league just for the experience. I’ve always wondered if/how heavily that weighs into their decisions.

  14. Josh D says:

    I think that’s a typical mindset we see in the US: speed > intelligence. I think a smart, experienced Boca has out shown the younger, speedier Bornstein over and over again…

  15. Josh D says:

    In terms of a stadium, RB have the best but atmosphere surely has to go to Seattle as it stands.

  16. Josh D says:

    Yes but the Ukraine might. And we never know if he becomes the next Drogba : ) Better to cap all potential players!!

  17. jig says:

    no problem!

  18. bottlcaps says:

    I am always seeing top-notch (but older) foreign Euro players linking with a move to the MLS.

    But there is a policy of the the MLS that pretty much squashes these transfer rumors.

    If an MLS club that buys a player with a transfer fee, that fee is added to the salary cap of the purchase.
    Beckham and Thierry Henry, all were free transfers and Rafael Marques , asked and received a release from his contract, an so there was no transfer fee for him. Anelka has a contract till 2012, if he is purchased by an MLS team, the transfer fee would be prohibitively high.

    Whenever you start for a first tier league, and especially one in Europe, you SHOULD be available and start for the USMNT. Unless their is an injury, a surfeit of players at that position, or a specialty position like goalkeeper, age should not enter into it.

    Besides, I think B.B. Should think more outside the box, like his European counterparts, and put Gooch at left back. Gooch is a natural defender not like Spector or Bornstein, who were forwards before and were converted to their defender positions.This would free up a position for an up and coming central midfielder, like Ream, Gonzales, Goodson, etc..

  19. DC Josh says:

    Elaborating on Dennis’ question…

    Ives, I always hear people say (including you) how foreign players need time to adjust to the MLS. What exactly is there to adjust to, aside from the travel? If I am a world-class player like Marquez, Henry, or Ljunberg, should I not be able to come into this league and not have major issues with acclimatizing to the level of play?

  20. DC Josh says:

    Oi Vey! Gooch at left back for the USA would be disastrous. Gooch is so big and slow, he would get torched. He is also our best center back, why take him out of his best position?

  21. Eric says:

    That’s about the only way the Revs will get a DP. But they would probably pass.

  22. jloome says:

    Not level, style. MLS soccer is a weird hybrid of intense pressure and physical play with emerging technical play. The lack of time on the ball, relatively, either kills a European player coming in or makes his day, because of how much other space it opens up, if the player has skill on the ball.

  23. Charles says:

    I like QWest as a stadium too. Absolutely great stadium.

    And none louder for sure.

    I think that Ives should be mentioned on the world coversation not just some dimished area. His opinion and I am biased of course, but I don’t think I am wrong.

    We were watching Man City-Fulham yesterday and were left wondering, why are they so quiet ?

  24. Shmenge says:

    Correct–a player who can accurately pass the ball out of pressure should always be able to find an open man in MLS. Should….

    The trouble is that MLS is horrible when it comes to players showing for each other and making runs off the ball.

    It’s probably the worst facet of the league–everybody pegged into position like a foosball table.

    Let’s see if DLC at Chicago can get the two Uruguayans, Pappa, Nyarko and Husidic to play a free-flowing attack.

    Dallas already does this, to some extent, and are much less rigid. With Ferreira, they’re free to develop one-twos that open up the attack anywhere on the field.

  25. Woody says:

    Starikov would have to take some serious steroids to ever get near Drogba just in terms of physique.

    I think the whole Starikov thing is the pure mystery of the guy. Nobody has seen him play, and the idea that he is playing in Europe only adds to the rumor.

    The fact is right now he is not good enough to play for Ukraine, Russia or the US. Zenit did not even bother to play him when their team was decimated by injuries earlier this year. He’s on loan to a miserable Tomsk team that is essentially Zenit’s minor league team.

    Neither Ukraine nor Russia are calling the kid in because the fact is they have better players than him. Ukraine already has plenty of good young players who recently won them a U-19 UEFA title. Players like Kravets, Stepanenko, Konoplyanka are attacking players playing for Dynamo, Shakhtar and Dnipro in the champions league knockouts and going deep in the Europa League.

    Nobody in Ukraine has even heard of Starikov.

  26. golfstrom says:

    You can’t underestimate how fast and physical the league is compared to others. Think of the American athlete stereotype: big, fast, strong, fit, never-say-die attitude. Add in refs who don’t seem to mind hard fouls and there you go.

    I also recall a story about Schelotto when he first joined MLS. In training, he would get upset that other players wouldn’t return 1-2 passes back to him. He thought it was personal. Hint: it wasn’t…

  27. seth says:

    with the acoustics in RBA, even though there are less people singing I have to think they are generally louder in the stadium. When I walked all the way around the concourse the supporters were still loud.

  28. seth says:

    the revs can get someone. they’ll just live in NY

  29. Jack says:

    I cant believe anyone would say Red Bull Arena is the best place in the USA to watch a match.

    Qwest field is hands down the best place to watch a game in the country….end of discussion

  30. Brian says:

    Unfortunately, the thing about Qwest Field that doesn’t make it the best place to watch a game in the country is the turf, and that affects the quality of play.

    I remember MLS Cup 09 being pretty terrible.

  31. mnmike says:

    No question some players would love the chance to live in Europe, and there are some things MLS can’t compete with (chance in upper leagues, culture). I’m more curious for the players that realistically hit their ceiling in Scandinavia. If MLS offers equal pay, I think at least some would want to stay. I’m thinking of someone like Hunter Freeman or Chris Rolfe. Not MNT players but someone who is a solid+ MLS player.

  32. Warren says:

    Gooch isn’t torched by young speedy guys in Netherlands; Twente’s pitched several shutouts with Gooch at LB.

    Why not let Gooch play LB in next friendly?

    Gooch certainly wasn’t our best CB at World Cup; he was our worst. Now he’s in better shape but we have serviceable guys Boca and Goodson now; and young talent Ream, Gonzalez, Gale…to name a few up and coming CBs.

    Whereas at LB, it’s either Boca or..Mexican league benchwarmer Bornstein? Please.

    Gooch is at least our 2nd best LB after Boca right now, give him a shot.

  33. Warren says:

    +1

    Well put, exactly why folks were eg ragging on Dempsey with USMNT a while back; because he foolsihly got used to players passing and moving to nerxt logical open spot, rather than standing around or running around aimlessly.

    MLS quality of play is improving year on year but at times it is still painful to watch.

  34. Primoone says:

    With all due respect…Gooch has not been torched because there is always a second-man- mark helping him neutralize the opposition’s speed.

  35. usa says:

    if america wont cap him, russia and ukraine def won’t. No one knows him in either country, they have many much better players.

  36. curmudgeon says:

    Yeah. A place with plastic grass isn’t going to win that discussion.

  37. micah says:

    Any word on how Bradley is doing at Villa? I see he is getting a lot of dressed but did not play. Is that a sign that he isn’t cutting it, is hurt, or just hasn’t learned the system yet. Thanks.

  38. Grayson says:

    So is Landon Donovan not a Designated Player?

    (SBI-He didn’t return as a Designated Player. He returned to MLS as a player who’s over-sized salary was grandfathered into the MLS salary structure, so if you’re question is “Was he a DP when he came back to MLS” the answer is no. Is he a DP now? Yes.)

  39. Kriz says:

    Why dosent the national team just cap players to keep them even if they might not play into the future?

  40. louie says:

    +1

    I’d venture further and say more focus is always put on youth and potential than current ability.

  41. Big Smoke says:

    I read somewhere that, after a number of years (?4?), some Scandinavian countries take an exorbitant amount of taxes from players’ income. I think that affected at least one player’s decision to leave…

  42. Grayson says:

    I think that Americans tend to think that peripheral European football countries are comparable to peripheral North American football countries. They are not. Take Ukraine as an example. They have a CB/DM starting for Bayern Munchen (Timoschuk), and their great player of this generation, Andriy Schevchenko, was a world class footballer that was classes above anything America has ever produced. To assume that countries like Ukraine are waiting to swoop up every 22 or 23 year old who is owned by a big club but is playing at lower sides on loan is a bit narrow-minded.

  43. socnow says:

    You are talking about aesthetics. Lipper is talking about atmosphere.

    RBA is impressive looking and I’m happy it exists, but I’ll take atmosphere at an old “converted” civic stadium downtown any day over driving out the boons for aesthetically pleasing “newness”.

  44. Grayson says:

    We also tend to not understand the “cap tie” rules. If a player who is eligible to represent multiple countries and has not played in an official FIFA tournament for a country, then playing in a “friendly”, or even an official FIFA tournament does not “cap tie” him. As long as he was eligible for another country at the time, he can opt for the one time switch, a la Jermaine Jones switching to the US after playing for German youth teams.

  45. socnow says:

    It’s a cliche’ worth repeating, but it’s about fan atmosphere in the NW (and good play too). Atmosphere being something MLS and U.S. soccer has generally lacked, and really needs.

    Another cliche’ worth repeating, because of the climate in the NW grass fields are impractical. At least it is in Portland, where putting in grass would require getting underground and updating a very old drainage system. It would be enormously expensive, time consuming, and since the Timbers don’t own the land the stadium is on… not to mention dealing with Portland city council is a pain… grass just isn’t happening.

  46. Brian says:

    Capping them in friendlies doesn’t do anything. You have to cap them in official games like the World Cup, World Cup Qualifiers, Euro Championship, Euro Qualifiers, Gold Cup, etc.