In a winning stroke for U.S. soccer this week, Chelsea announced the signing of American defender Matt Miazga from the New York Red Bulls to a four-and-a-half-year contract.
The 20-year-old goes to Chelsea having made 38 appearances for the Red Bulls, having been with them since he was 18.
“It's a huge move for [Miazga]. Being 20 years of age and now getting the opportunity to go overseas and proving himself is big," said U.S. men’s team coach Jürgen Klinsmann in an interview before Sunday’s friendly with Iceland.
“It’s big I think for our program,” he told reporters. “It’s big for us when a player moves to a Champions League team, a big team, a big club. We are happy for him, we are pleased but we know also he is just developing.”
“Developing” is the key word here. Another key is the $5 million the Red Bulls receive for a player who has an opportunity to excel and be challenged in a competitive environment. So that when he returns home he can be a greater asset to our national team.
What isn’t likely to prove as much of a winning stroke is the L.A. Galaxy signing 35-year-old Ashley Cole – who, it should be pointed out, hasn’t played a competitive match since March.
So why isn’t it a good thing? After all, Cole has name recognition and will probably sell seats on that basis alone.
The problem was best stated by Juan Carlos Osorio, a former Red Bulls coach and now coach of Mexico’s national team: " I think the time when a player is at his peak performance is to be spent in Europe and not in MLS. I think, at this time, that league is for players at the end of their careers and not for a player who still has a lot to give.”
So Cole may not have the sort of impact on the field that the Galaxy hope.
From always expanding teams without solidifying the talent base of current ones and constantly bringing in aging stars, Major League Soccer behaves like it knows it’s a mediocre league.
Instead, MLS should follow the model of the Portuguese league, Lisa Nos. It isn’t one of the biggest leagues in Europe, but it produces and fosters fantastic talent that it sells to big clubs around the world.
The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Deco and Matic have not only drawn attention to the league but also brought millions of dollars to the clubs that gave those players their start. As a result, the league scouts young talent from all over the world.
I have witnessed many second-division games in Portugal live, and the quality of soccer is very high. Beira Mar versus Benfica B is likely to be a much better game than what you’ll see at most MLS stadiums in the U.S.
This isn’t so much a critique of the MLS, but of the model by which it chooses to populate its teams. Better talent makes a better league. A showcase for young talent rather than for fading stars may be just what the MLS needs.
Focusing on acquiring young talent, honing the player’s skills and selling them would put the MLS on better financial footing – and make it a league players strived for instead of one they think of as a retirement home.
Video of the week
We all love dribbling through a few defenders to score a goal, but this is a bit much.
From the wires
Pep Guardiola will take over as manager of Manchester City on a three-year contract starting next season, with the English Premier League club finally capturing soccer's most sought-after coach four years after failing in its first attempt.
City made the announcement Monday, minutes after current manager Manuel Pellegrini ended a news conference by saying he would be leaving the club at the end of the season.
City is already the richest club in English soccer, with the strongest squad of players and arguably the best academy in the country. Now, it adds one of the world's most decorated and admired coaches, who won 14 trophies in four seasons at Barcelona and has continued to bring in silverware at current club Bayern Munich.
"In recent weeks, (City) has commenced and finalized contractual negotiations with Pep Guardiola to become head coach for the 2016-17 EPL season onwards," City said in a statement. "These negotiations were a re-commencement of discussions that were curtailed in 2012."
Pellegrini said he knew "a month ago" that he was being replaced by Guardiola, who announced in December he'd be leaving Bayern at the end of the season.
"There has been a lot of speculation about things," Pellegrini said, "but they (the club) are not doing anything behind me."
City said the club made the announcement "to remove the unnecessary burden of speculation."
"Manuel, who is fully supportive of the decision to make this communication, is entirely focused on achieving his targets for the season ahead and retains the respect and commitment of all involved with the leadership of the club," the City statement said.
City had been heavily linked with hiring Guardiola. Two of City's top executives — Ferran Soriano and Txiki Beguiristain — worked with Guardiola at Barcelona, where the former Spain midfielder made his name as a coach by guiding a team led by Lionel Messi to unprecedented success from 2008-12.
After taking a year-long sabbatical, Guardiola took over at Bayern in 2013 and won the Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup the same year. He added a German league-and-cup double in 2014, and another Bundesliga title in 2015.
Pellegrini may yet go down as City's most successful manager — he won the Premier League and League Cup in his first season in charge, in 2013, and is in contention for four trophies this season — but has had to contend with speculation about Guardiola for the past two seasons.
Pellegrini signed a new deal with City last offseason to keep him at the club until 2017.
City has long lived in the shadow of neighbor Manchester United, but has been transformed since being bought in 2008 by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family.
That changed the landscape of English soccer. City has won two Premier League titles in the last four seasons, as well as the FA Cup and League Cup.
City, however, has failed to progress further than the last 16 of the Champions League in four campaigns in Europe's elite competition.