A dark, dark weekend for MLS as Ferreira and Zakuani are crippled

By Paul Gardner

No one wanted anything like this to happen, for sure. Steve Zakuani, one of the few, the very few classy attacking players to come out of college ... out for the season with a broken leg; and David Ferreira, last season’s league MVP, also out for the season, with a broken ankle.

No, no one wanted this to happen. But there are those whose words and actions made it almost inevitable that something like this would happen.

Naming names is irrelevant here -- they know who they are, and we know who they are. Coaches and players who like to go on about the physical game, and how MLS is “a physical league.” The words pass their lips with great facility, rarely if ever are they uttered as a criticism. Quite the opposite -- the underlying tone is one of approval. Hey, this is a man’s league, see how tough we all are.

Now, suddenly, dramatically, tragically, those chickens of violence have come home to roost. Two fine, exciting, skillful players have been packed off to the hospital.

That is bad enough. But how obscenely tiresome it is to hear the excuses offered immediately, almost thoughtlessly, on behalf of the players whose tackles caused the injuries.

Brian Mullan’s foul on Zakuani was quite horrendous. Inexcusable. Yet, as we’re watching Zakuani in pain on the field, we’re treated to a nauseating paean from TV commentator Kyle Martino instructing us that Mullan “is not a dirty player” and so on and disgracefully on.

Martino, apparently, does not have the sensitivity to know when it is simply better to keep quiet about the aggressor. Instead, he wants us to sympathize with Mullan, while Zakuani is stretchered off the field.

Later, maybe. Though I’m not at all sure sympathy is in order for Mullan. We’ve seen him do this sort of thing before. During Colorado’s playoff run last year, he committed a very similar foul on Columbus star Guillermo Barros Schelotto -- a violent sliding tackle, so determined and vicious that there was no question of it being accidental contact. Schelotto -- who had also been, in 2008, league’s MVP -- was very lucky indeed not to have suffered the same fate as Zakuani.

Speaking about the Zakuani incident after the game, Mullan mumbled his way through a feeble apology, which included this gem: “It’s a tackle I’ve done hundreds of times, and I’d probably do again” ... showing that he understands, and has learned, precisely nothing. His coach, Gary Smith, did only slightly better. He admitted the tackle was “rash ... late” but quickly lapsed into praise for Mullan as a “very committed” player. Right. A useful euphemism when it comes to masking thuggery.

Smith even managed to come up with the cliche of all cliches for these situations, saying that Mullan is “not that sort of player.” Well, of course he’s not -- I’ve never heard a coach describe any player as “that sort of player,” so apparently they don’t exist.

And in a way, that’s quite correct. Because the defenders of physical play have such a weak case that they have to invent accusations against them that are rarely made. Do I consider Mullan a dirty player? No, despite what I’ve seen of him over the years, I’m perfectly willing to take Martino’s word for it that Mullan is not a dirty player.

The accusation against Mullan & Co is quite different. It is that Mullan -- and far, far too many players in the physical MLS -- are reckless players, or clumsy players, or thoughtless players ... players likely to be dangerous to opponents. But no one, certainly not the macho proponents who salivate at the thought of body contact, calls them dangerous players. We get more euphemisms, these guys are great competitors, they’re hard-nosed, they take no prisoners ... all terms that are uttered with barely concealed approval.

MLS can, should it so decide, increase Mullan’s punishment for his red card (an automatic one-game suspension). The case of Jonathan Leathers, the Vancouver defender involved in the Ferreira incident, is less clear. While Mullan was red-carded for his blatant violence, the Leathers tackle was not even called as a foul. Yet the tackle was clearly, shall we say, full-blooded ... in fact, it was the typical tackle so admired by the pro-physical mob, a powerful slide, studs up of course, into the ball. These are manifestly dangerous tackles -- so the English have come up with yet another euphemism, lumping them under the overall description of “getting stuck in” -- how’s that for a nice, sturdy, red-blooded approach to the game?

All well and good -- except that these slides nearly always end up making dangerous contact with the players being tackled, as seems to have happened here.

It is surely time, past time, to rein in this irresponsible insistence on a physical league. How bad have things gotten? This is hardly the moment for humor, but it was -- almost -- comical to listen to young Richard Eckersley, who has just joined Toronto. Eckersley has been playing in the English third division -- where they know plenty about physical play -- yet, interviewed after his first MLS game on Saturday, he was clearly surprised at how physical the game had been.

Toronto’s Alan Gordon remarked recently that “if we want to compete we’re going to have to be physical.” Gordon is a big man, without any noticeably exceptional soccer skills. The sort of guy who talks up the physical game. You will not hear a Lionel Messi or a Cesc Fabregas or a Kaka or, yes, a Steve Zakuani or a David Ferreira, singing the praises of physical play.

What makes the pro-physical approach so obnoxious is that its proponents will simply not face up to what they wreak. I have no hesitation in saying that those who encourage physical play bear an important part of the responsibility for the injuries to Zakuani and Ferreira. They are therefore responsible for the fact that MLS -- a league in great need of exciting attacking players -- will now be forced to do without two of them for the rest of the season.

I referred to the English term “getting stuck in” and it is largely the English influence that we can thank for the way that MLS has evolved as a physical league.

There is no secret here. The English are not trying to hide anything -- they are proud of their macho approach. The fact that it has been totally unsuccessful at the world level for nearly 45 years presents them with a bit of a problem, but they profess to see no connection -- what might be called tactical blindness.

This pernicious English, or British, influence is now pervasive in the USA -- because of television. We have ESPN, under the clueless guidance of their resident soccer genius Jed Drake, presenting us with nothing but Brit commentators. And over at Fox they have their own cabal of Brits, backed up by a resident posse of Americans, the wannabee-Brits.

Because so many of the Brit commentators are ex-players, we can hear, all the time, example after example of earthy Brit attitudes to roughhouse play. Which always, either blatantly or by insinuation, tend to approve. At the same time, we get the reverse side of the coin, which likes to belittle skillful play as merely “pretty,” or over-elaboration, and to single out the skillful players as divers and injury-fakers.

One might have thought, from the TV commentator remarks, that while Cristiano Ronaldo played for ManU, all he did was to dive, so persistently was he accused of flopping. How strange that, now that Ronaldo has moved on to Spain, we hear no more of this -- neither from the English nor the Spanish.

Fouls? Well, yes, occasionally players are admitted to have fouled, but equally likely is that the player who has been kicked to the ground is faking it -- “he went down too easily,” or “he was looking for it” (with the ludicrous implication that English soccer is so pure that a player needs to somehow entice an opponent into fouling him). Anyway, welcome to two more lovely Brit euphemisms to exculpate thuggery -- phrases that we hear so often that they are likely to enter our subconscious.

Yesterday morning, we saw Bolton’s Kevin Davies commit a pretty bad physical foul on Arsenal’s Alex Song. The referee failed to give a yellow card (which he surely should have done), and the commentator remarked that Davies is “well-known for his robust approach.” A criticism? If it is, why does it sound more like praise?

Last week we had a similar episode from Adrian Healey -- one of ESPN’s Brit bunch -- who, having witnessed the Red Bulls’ Luke Rodgers (a Brit, incidentally) aim a round-house punch at DC defender Dejan Jakovic, remarked that Rodgers “has always been a feisty character ...” Again, a “criticism” that sounds much more like admiration.

Ian Darke, ESPN’s Head Brit, had his say on this matter during the World Cup, when he lamented that referees were calling too many fouls -- “I feel sorry for defenders sometimes, it’s almost like tackling’s bad.” That comes from someone who made his name as a boxing commentator.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber, to his great credit, made it plain at the beginning of this season, that he was not happy with the attitudes that were developing in MLS. His call for a refereeing clampdown was always likely to fall on stony ground, for referees do not change their habits very quickly.

But this past weekend should have created enough of a crisis for Garber to read the riot act -- not so much to the referees as to the coaches. The Brian Mullans of this world do not play the game like run-away bulldozers unless they have the overt, or more likely the silent, approval of their coaches. Coaches should be made to share responsibility for any serious damage inflicted by their players.

Until that happy day arrives -- and I am not holding my breath -- we can look forward to an MLS season deprived of two of its most exciting players and we can only wonder, with fear and trembling, who will be the next victim of the Brit-induced machismo blight.

35 comments about "A dark, dark weekend for MLS as Ferreira and Zakuani are crippled".
  1. john davies, April 25, 2011 at 8:23 a.m.

    At last someone calling it like it is, I remember a couple of years ago Stevie G making a tackle and all we heard was his not a dirty player. The truth is if you have ever played the game at any level you know when a player wants to hurt another player,but when money runs the game as it does now this will always happen.You can play this game hard and fair, there is a right and wrong way to tackle, ball first not second, but the game is not the game I grew up with back in England today, players will turn around and say who me!!!!!!! knowing full well what they have done, but hey it dont matter if you can get away with it, the guys who committed these fouls last weekend will be playing in a couple of weeks. If the leagues want to do something about it they would but they dont. Its just like the NFL, they say they want the game to be safe, but what highlights do you ever see when promoting a game, you see the big hits, yes us English like to play the game hard, but in my day it was a lot fairer than it is now, today money rules to roost, and not the game.

  2. Bill Anderson, April 25, 2011 at 8:29 a.m.

    10-15 game suspension for "FOREVER STAINED" Brian Mullans. This was a rash, angry, immature tackle. Poor Steve Zakuani just happened to be the next guy with the ball when Mullans got up and threw his temper tantrum. Don Garber can send a clear message to all the players, and their coaches. Colorado especially should come under the microscope. It disgusted me last year that MLS allowed them to BRAWL their way to the championship. I think that Gary Smith gets exactly what he wants out of his players, which is pretty sad.

  3. John Daly, April 25, 2011 at 8:42 a.m.

    So, the English are again to blame, Mr. Gardner. You have become laughable in your predictable ranting against all things English. Did you watch the thuggery of Real Madrid and their players' treatment of Messi and Iniesta? I suppose that was England's fault as well. After all, some of those players went on vacation where English players were on vacation! You have become pathetic in your ranting and raving about English football and all thingws English. Have you watched Uruguayan football? What happened in MLS has nothing to do with English football.

  4. Wayne Root, April 25, 2011 at 8:47 a.m.

    No matter who's to blame, it must stop. Have the refs start a thorough crackdown.

  5. John Toutkaldjian, April 25, 2011 at 8:48 a.m.

    I'm sick and tired of reckless, thoughtless, ugly and dangerous tackles that injure players. Here's my solution.

    Send off a player who leaves his feet in a prone position to make a tackle.

    In almost every case of severe injury, that's what happens. Simple solution, isn't it.

  6. Mark Edge, April 25, 2011 at 8:54 a.m.

    Quite right John. Gardner is beginning to sound like the insane old man in the pub that people make fun of behind his back. There are so many areas of US soccer that could use an intelligent editorial, but Gardner chooses to use his column to voice his jingoism. No mention of the Mexican, Argentinian or Italian cynical approach to a tackling.Or indeed the examples you give from his favored Latin approach to the game. I assume Nigel DeJong must also have some English ancestry.I'm sure Zakuani must be lying in bed saying, "Curse those Brits!"

  7. Mark Edge, April 25, 2011 at 8:56 a.m.

    To Mr. Davies, please google Chopper Harris, Paul Reaney, Billy Bremner et al.

  8. Bruce Nielsen, April 25, 2011 at 9:03 a.m.

    In such cases as these, the league should extend the suspension to last as long as the injured player is out. Until Zakuani returns, Mullan is out.

  9. Bobby Pinto, April 25, 2011 at 9:14 a.m.

    As far back as you can go in Soccer there have always been THUGS and the great players have suffered from them, Pele (England 1966, Maradona (while playing for Barcelona). It is unfortunate and hopefully they penailze these thugs in order to discourage this. As for the Brits they have been here since before the NASL days and they still think they invented the game. Most of the commentators on TV are so biased its sickening. We need more unbiased commentators and the same with Sapnish TV mostly all are Mexican or working for Mexican stations so biased. It's sickening and you're right even American commentators are becoming English lads on TV right before our eyes. Give me a break. Hopefully it changes in all arenas both the violence and bias.

  10. Joe Shoulders, April 25, 2011 at 9:15 a.m.

    In response to the reader comment by "John Daly" The reason Mr Gardner continues to mention Brits as a huge part of the problem and not other nationalities is because of the overpopulation of Brits coaching our youth here. Also the embarrassing fascination espn and MLS seem to have with the British. The Real Madrid thuggery has been mentioned by PG in the past but has no influence on the US game compared to the annoying Brits I have to hear on TV, coach along side of, play with against on Sunday and see drinking in the pub all night. (clearly through my soccer experiences I too have developed a problem with the Brits) 

  11. Joe Shoulders, April 25, 2011 at 9:25 a.m.

    and Mr Edge, if the Mexicans, Argentines and Italians were coaching our youth players in nearly every US soccer club for last 20 years Mr Gardner would be commenting on them the same way. Far too many Brits are holding way too much power on the youth and college level. The result, unfortunately, has been the adancement of so many ordinary, less skilled, "sturdy" American players at the expense of some very creative, smaller, highly skilled players that don't fit into their brittish approach. This is the problem he writes about. We don't have Mexicans, Argentines and Italians here sending the same misguided messages.

  12. Albert Harris, April 25, 2011 at 9:50 a.m.

    I was going to respond to to Daly and Edge re: the British influence on the American professional game versus the other nations named by them who engage in thuggery, but Joe beat me to it. So far as it is possible for Garber to counteract these outrageous tackles, I would like to see him do it. I know the season or half season suspensions they deserve are out of the realm of possibility, but I would hope for something more than the 1 or 3 game suspensions we're used to. Massive fine and 5 game suspension for Mullen at the minimum.

  13. Juan R, April 25, 2011 at 10:06 a.m.

    Well said Paul. If your red card caused an injury, you sit out until that player returns. Simple. Also straight red cards should get an automatic 3 game ban like in England.

  14. Mark Edge, April 25, 2011 at 10:07 a.m.

    Gentlemen, no doubt there are plenty of British coaches employed in the US, along with many Spanish and German coaches. (The original coaching license curriculum was written by a German) I never heard any of them teach, "Get stuck in."

  15. Paul Lorinczi, April 25, 2011 at 10:08 a.m.

    It is an English influence. The first coach to teach me how to cheat was an English bloke. After watching "Damned United", I understand it now. The tackle against Zakuani was a tactical decision by the Coach. It happened at 2:45 into the game in Seattle's defensive 3rd. Obviously, they wanted to slow Zakuani down. If Mullin commits that tackle all the time, he should be red carded every time. Physical play is the excuse used, when players do not have the technical ability to compete against good players.

  16. Chris Mitchell, April 25, 2011 at 10:16 a.m.

    It's not solely an English problem, but English football's culture of physicality is definitely one of the worst in the world. It's not a coincidence that the world's most talented players all want to play in Spain.
    I'm an Arsenal fan and this hits home hard for us. Promising and gifted young players in Abou Diaby, Eduardo and Aaron Ramsey all suffering broken limbs from bad tackles. Diaby and Eduardo have never really recovered; with Ramsey it's too soon to tell.

  17. Carl Walther, April 25, 2011 at 10:43 a.m.

    Mullen NOT a dirty player? He's always been a gambero. It was strange that three players, all who's last name began with a M, playing for Houston all were dirty players, and continue to be even when they moved to other teams.

  18. Ken Jamieson, April 25, 2011 at 10:53 a.m.

    Pele referred to soccer as Jugo Bonita, the Beautiful Game. Unfortunately a few players are sullying the game.
    Is MLS expanding too fast for the quality of players and officials to keep up? With more teams, more players are needed at the higher level and the lower tiers have only so many quality players to give up.
    The real sad fact about this whole situation is that it is not soccer-specific. How many times in other sports have superstars and highly talented players been targeted by goons? Anyone who watches any hockey understands exactly what I am talking about. And Mr. Gardner is correct, the coaches have a very high level of culpability whether its explicit or implicit, a coach must be held responsible for the conduct of his team.
    For the sake of Jugo Bonita, let's get the BS out of the game, even if it means a rash of red and yellow cards for a while.

  19. Ian Plenderleith, April 25, 2011 at 10:57 a.m.

    So two US players in a US league make two leg-breaking tackles and it's the fault of... the Brits. Who would have guessed where this column was heading? The meek, oppressed Americans were only taking orders from the evil, imperialist soccer dictators, because this country - absent of all rugged individualism - is famous for not taking its own path, and just kowtowing to the influence of outsiders. US soccer is well on its way to growing up, and that includes taking responsibility for its own style of play, and administering its own punishments. Surely it's big enough and old enough to shake off the lingering influence of British coaches too. By the way, there's nothing wrong with 'physical play' in itself within a contact sport - you can be a hard but fair player too, if you're good enough.

  20. Dave Oyer, April 25, 2011 at 11:07 a.m.

    I dont often agree with Paul Gardner, but in this area, I do agree 100%. Hopefully, Don Garber, will take this opportunity to take a strong stand and send a message today, not only to the "thug" players we see but to the entire MLS and those coaches that promote this style of play by putting this type of player on the field. I believe there are enough true "soccer" fans in America that will continue to get behind watching skillful soccer and keep this sport growing in America. The MLS does not need to feel pressured to bring any of this "barbaric" mentality to this sport. I realize that is part of what makes the NFL so watched and loved, but that passion is kind of testament to a sickness in America. I hope Garber is man enough to make a statement against it

  21. Bob Escobar, April 25, 2011 at 11:47 a.m.

    The MLS is a continuation of college soccer...the tackle sustained by Zakuani is performed in every college game, seldom a yellow card is shown. Unfortunately MLS and college coaches encourage this kind of tackles, some call it a "man's tackle", others a "we don't care if you are Messi tackle", unfortunately the players responsible for these kind of tackles don't think they are doing "anything wrong", they've been taught that way and its not their fault...well, it is their fault and everyone that "taught" him and encouraged that kind of play. In my opinion many players commit those kind of tackles because they are simply "clumsy", "reckless" and "immature" tackles, no one have ever teach these "former college kids" how to properly "slide tackle"...also, these kind of players are not very good players at all (none or very little skills at all) and try to "make up", "impress" their coaches with their "hustling" and "hard play", sort of like a "goon" in hockey, good to have them around just in case there's a brawl or to intimidate the other team's best players, while coaches love and encourage these kind of play. In South America a "tackle" like the one Mullan committed is a "I want to break your legs" tackle, a tackle of "revenge", a tackle of "I want to kill you mother f%$@#", and that kind of player "must" pay the consequences, usually a one year suspension and a stiff, mr Mullan will get his one game suspension and "please don't do it again" blah blah blah by the MLS office...sad very sad, because if the MLS wants to be considered and respected by the rest of the world, the MLS must cracked down on "dirty players" and coaches encouraging this kind of plays, until then, only "over the hill" players, "unknown players" looking for a job or college kids looking to extend their soccer careers will be the only show we'll keep getting in a weekly basis...and for Mr Gardner, thank you again, you are right on the money, because you are the most decent, knowledgeable soccer writer this country has.

  22. Brian Something, April 25, 2011 at 11:56 a.m.

    I’m sick of people making excuses for these horror tackles just because a guy “didn’t mean it” or because he’s “not that kind of player.” Baloney! Mullan IS that kind of a player. Not malicious but serially reckless. And if you’re serially reckless, that’s nearly as bad as being an outright thug. The effect on the safety of players with an ounce of skill and on good soccer is the same.

    Intent matters but it’s not an excuse. If you injure someone because of recklessness, the law treats you differently than if you injure someone intentionally, but you still punished severely either way. And soccer should do the same.

    It’s one thing to play hard but there is no doubt what he wanted to take somebody out. And that’s NOT excusable, just because he didn’t actually want to break someone’s leg. If you look at the whole incident, Mullan was pissed that he didn’t get a foul called against him and as soon as he got up off the grass, it was clear that he was hell bent on taking out the first green jersey that happened to come into his line of vision.

    MLS is trying to become more skillful and if it wants to succeed, it needs to purge garbage like this from the league, even from saints like Mullan.

  23. Charles O'Cain, April 25, 2011 at noon

    I completely agree with the need to eliminate highly dangerous tackles and to adequately punish the transgressors (3-match ban for straight red cards at a minimum, plus review for additional ban for particularly egregious fouls and/or repeat offenders). But this is not a British problem (they already have these sanctions in place), and it does not derive directly from being a committed player (there are many committed but fair defenders who play the game skillfully). Of course you don't here the Germans say "get stuck in"; they have their own phrase for it, as do the Italians, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Serbs, Swiss, Bulgarians (remember our friend Hristo), etc.To believe what Mr Gardner continues to preach one must believe that all injuries in all other leagues must be simply hamstring pulls and not the result of any physical contact (unless there's a Brit coach or player involved, or a player or coach who has had any contact with a Brit, from whom such barbarity must have evolved). Let's move in the direction Mr Gardner advocates, but puh-leeeese give it up about blaming the Brits for every bad foul committed anywhere on earth!

  24. Joe Hosack, April 25, 2011 at 12:01 p.m.

    Most, if not every, player does not 'intend' to hurt their fellow professionals. The part we always end up debating is; the intention vs. the result. If the "caretakers" of the game do not do what is best for the sport, the market will settle the issue. Let a few more Mom's watch this "stuff" and the progress MLS has enjoyed will creep to a halt. Why do you think the NFL now has to advertise its sport and promote flag football leagues?
    Wake up pelople, this is a NO BRAINER!

  25. Kevin Lash, April 25, 2011 at 12:47 p.m.

    Mullan and his old Houston chronies (except Brad Davis) have always been overly physical, dangerous players. If you want to see how real tackles are made, watch Jamison Olave-- the strongest physical specimen in the league, not afraid to shy away from a challenge, but never injures an opposing player. And, wait for it...... he's a South American. It is a miracle in this league that we have any creative midfielders who are still able to stand let alone run. David Beckham's tackle on Javier Morales in MLS Cup final 2009 a classic example.

  26. Mark Edge, April 25, 2011 at 3:49 p.m.

    Ric, the US National team program employs mostly Latin coaches. The academy league coaches are rarely British. You just have to open your ears and eyes.

  27. beautiful game, April 25, 2011 at 9:46 p.m.

    Leathers wents through the player to get a touch on the ball. As usual the MLS refs continue to interpret the rule in a bizzare manner. Going through the player for the ball is an automatic card and if it is deemed malicious, a red card. In this instance the ref must of had a brain freeze or acted totally irresponsibly.

  28. Kevin Mcclintock, April 25, 2011 at 9:54 p.m.

    I am curious as to why Mr Gardner and every other commentator has not pointed at the Ref about the Zakuani situation. Mullan was hacked horribly and did not get the call and in the rush of adrenaline dove in too hard for the ball. It was absolutely the Ref not taking control that lead to this foul. Had the Ref called the original foul that was committed against Mullan, it would have been a Free Kick for his Team and the play would have been stopped and then Mullan's foul would not have occurred. I am not saying that Mullan was right, but having gotten Red Cards because the Ref did not call the fouls committed against me which lead to my adrenaline rush such as the one in Indoor Soccer where the guy grabbed my should from behind while I was on the breakaway and he damaged my MCl, but the Ref did not make the call and in my adrenaline rush I gave him the old fashed Hockey charge right into the boards. My point is that the Refs need to control the games so that we don't have these situations in the first place.

  29. Derek Mccracken, April 25, 2011 at 10:03 p.m.

    I just watched Youtube video of the Zakuani leg-break several times. It is disgusting - Both the break itself and reckless way Mullan slid into Zakuani without even sniffing the ball. Just because Mullan felt he was fouled by another player seconds before the break, gives him no right to do what he did.

    I don't care if, as many others say, he is an upstanding player, is well-regarded within the MLS front office, etc. The bottom line is that he commited an unspeakable offense against a fellow professional soccer player. It is freakin' unbelievable that an MLS player would commit such a violent infraction against another human being! I mean, the way he intentionally came in hard into Zakuani . . . If he had committed that type of violent, multiple leg break outside of the game of soccer, say in a park, or something, and a policeman saw him doing that, he would be arrested on the spot.

    I wish there was a rule in sports which states that, if one uses violence so far outside of the scope of the rules of the game, that police could be brought in to arrest the perpetrator. Do you think these yahoos would be doing what they are doing know, protected from the law by the sport itself?

  30. Joe Shoulders, April 25, 2011 at 10:54 p.m.

    Mr Edge I was out in Phoenix this past December at the Development Academy Showcase and the British accents were all over the place. I remember watching with a friend and walking from field to field and commenting that nearly every game we saw had a Brit yelling from the sidelines. We joked that even without the accents, the hectic, direct play and the physical nature was enough proof of Brits' coaching presence.

  31. Leland Price, April 25, 2011 at 11:13 p.m.

    Mr. Gardner, as usual, is completely right.

    I would say we should add to the mix those college soccer coaches (I am thinking of quite a few in the Middle Atlantic states) who engage in what I call "NFL Think". They coach soccer, but they think American Football. Why use a finesse player when you can just get a big guy to maul people? Why play quick when you can play slow and engage in physical play? One wonders if these coaches have ever watched a team like Barcelona play.

  32. Mark Edge, April 26, 2011 at 8:19 a.m.

    John- you are obviously concerned over the development of soccer in this country, and that is a credit to you. But to blame the UK for everything that appears to go wrong is ridiculous. Gardner would have us believe that the reason project 2010 failed is because on the British influence. I would suggest the problem goes much deeper. One reason being the combination of too many "governing" bodies pulling in different directions with their own agenda. Soccer has become a business at the youth level that impedes the developmental process.I don't believe that the UK coaches teach anything that the other nationalities employed here do as well. They are employed to win games, and at the youth level the biggest and strongest win, at the expense of development. I'd like to see Gardner use his column to address these issues rather than vent some anti-British vitriol that he seems a little obsessed with. Let's start by banning travel out of State for U12's.

  33. Peter Orona, April 26, 2011 at 12:13 p.m.

    It all starts at the youth level. Referee's allow physical play and do nothing to punish bad tackles. Coaches encourage their players to play dirty. Youth league organizers look away and do nothing about it and say they do not have a say in how the referee's call games. A lack of leadership in youth organizations allows for the physical play to continue.

    No one is nothing is done to control physical play.

  34. Joe Shoulders, April 27, 2011 at 11:04 a.m.

    mr edge makes a great point about banning travel for U12 and younger .. it will never happen but he's right. playing for points at the youger ages is killing the creative process. but mr Gardner has been a great voice of these concerns in the US for over 40 years .. the so-called "anti-British" claims have only to do with that very point. unfortunately the overly British and yes northern european also coaching school mentally is a big problem. so naturally many issues come back to their influence on the game in the US

  35. Paolo Jacobs, April 28, 2011 at 5:43 a.m.

    I would hate to see MLS become known as a "Physical league" but thats what it looks like... bring me more skill, better Refs,,, as we can all admire the way Spain plays the beautiful game.

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