Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America Classifieds
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Foreign experience, even short, is usually worth it
by Ridge Mahoney, May 15th, 2009 4:15PM

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

For every player who heads over to Europe from MLS and makes it, a la Carlos Bocanegra or Clint Dempsey, another dozen or so come back, some to great fanfare, some to barely a murmur.

Bobby Convey may yet transform San Jose from expansion hopeful to legit contender but so far he's been hardly a ripple, much less a splash. Landon Donovan's third German experiment is well-documented and again he faces the Sisyphean task of muscling Los Angeles into the playoffs with some help from older U.S. veterans who've gone over and back, Tony Sanneh and Eddie Lewis.

Brian McBride is banging them in for Chicago, Josh Wolff is getting a fair share of goals for Kansas City, and Clint Mathis is happy to be with Real Salt Lake, and vice versa.

The big names get the most notice, but many MLS teams have at least one young role player who tried his luck abroad. Some started out in MLS, others went overseas out of school to see what would happen.

D.C. United kept track of Andrew Jacobson's fate at French club Lorient, and grabbed him when he decided to come back. Steve Purdy forsook MLS for Germany, has played a few games for FC Dallas since returning, and FCD is hoping his return from injury will shore up its back line.

Kyle Davies stuck it out for a few years at Southampton before opting for MLS, and via a trade, has also landed in Dallas. The Rapids were very glad to sign 2007 pick Greg Dalby; he couldn't get a work permit in England and played briefly in Belgium before arriving last July.

Even a short stay in Europe instills a sense of pride and responsibility, since the game is an obsession as well as a business, and anyone who doesn't or can't take it seriously enough is quickly exposed. Way too many guys who take a shot and don't stick are labeled as failures or flops, when anybody who can cut it as a pro for a few seasons, anywhere, deserves credit.

They probably deserve a lot more money than they earn in MLS, too, but that's something for the MLS Players' Union to address when negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement get serious. The timing isn't great, since despite $70 million in expansion fees due from Vancouver and Portland, economic conditions have driven down attendances in most cities.

Houston took back Nate Jaqua for a few months when his stint in Austria ended last year and this season he's contributing to Seattle's success. Nat Borchers, one of many to try his luck in Scandanavia, may not be the most refined central defender in MLS yet he has certainly done the business for Real Salt Lake. Left back Wade Barrett, who spent two years in Denmark and Norway, helped the Dynamo win a pair of MLS championships and is the team captain.

The foreign experience is sometimes just that, an experience, an experiment, not necessarily the definitive career move. As great as it is to be steeped in a soccer culture, there's often the greatly added pressure as a foreign player expected to significantly improve the team.

In a way, it's fortunate that MLS retains such a stringent salary structure, since that encourages players to head overseas, and why not, if they can double or triple their salaries, even in a smaller European league, and get at least a whiff of the big time?

They come back more dedicated, more serious, more devoted to training hard every day to win and keep a starting spot, not just doing enough to get by, which, frankly, is the mood by which competition stagnates not only on the training field, but in games.

By opening up the vault to sign Designated Players and relaxing its restrictions on international players, MLS has increased opportunities for one segment of its work force. Now it needs fairer methods of obtaining and compensating its domestic players, since many of them are punished by being offered only minimum salaries if they were selected in the SuperDraft and instead signed overseas.

Should a player with overseas experience earn less than one-half of what a Generation Adidas player, who might be 17 or 18 and still doesn't need to shave and doesn't count against the salary cap anyway, is offered? That's messed up.

 



No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Confidential
'Cubo' brightens the gloom at Chivas USA    
In a little more than a year, Erick 'Cubo' Torres has dazzled MLS with superb goals ...
Rout of Quakes marks another step forward for FC Dallas    
FC Dallas is steadily erasing memories of last year's collapse and eighth-place finish.
U.S. U-20 women's exit is wake-up call    
What should we make of the USA's exit at the hands of North Korea in the ...
Is there truly a new way in San Jose?    
The Earthquakes are hoping a midseason identity change can spur them into the playoffs for just ...
Will the next Landon Donovan play in MLS?    
MLS fans have four more months to watch Landon Donovan before he retires from soccer. He ...
MLS's rise mirrors national trends    
I got hooked on soccer many years ago because of my love of sports -- I ...
Galaxy wants to be the 'now' team for the next three months    
It's not easy to find reasons not to jump on the Galaxy bandwagon, Back-to-back wins over ...
'Caps still in search of that missing piece    
A 2-2 tie with FC Dallas Sunday left Vancouver just out of the playoff tier and ...
At home in America    
The most entertaining part of the summer of soccer, I admit, has been Louis van Gaal's ...
No beach time for Lampard just yet    
One of the most-capped players in the history of England's national team, midfielder Frank Lampard says ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives