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My Two Cents

My Two Cents

August 8, 2013
Some lessons learned from MLS all-star game

Vish Murthy is a long-time Red Bulls fan who lives in Princeton, N.J.

By Vish Murthy
Special to

So the great "hoopla" of the MLS all-star billing against Roma is over (this writer waited for the Real Madrid–LA Galaxy game before concluding this one)

As for Roma, it was a “Veni, Vedi, Vici”. Of course, as polite visitors do, they would also sign off with a thanks to Kansas City, a thank you to AT&T and thank you Disneyland for providing a carnival like, relaxed atmosphere for our summer pleasure and preparation in the USA.

If you are an American Soccer fan, you however got tested once again, to remain as cool as possible in your disappointment. You bury it deep within yourself. The only thing these days, that you can show for, is the bite on your finger nails reduced even further whenever your favorite American team gets pitted against a European Club. It has happened to this writer any number of times, between his favorite home team Red Bulls getting walked over by a European club to his favorite national squad, the United States, getting trashed by Belgium.

The only bittersweet redemption came with the U.S. showing was that single ascendancy over Germany. You cannot hold USA’s CONCACAF Gold Cup victory in the same breath as the others. In the turf where the Gold Cup is placed, we have just found ourselves as a big fish amongst minnows.

Thierry Henry is absolutely right when he tells us not to tinker with the current all-star format. He gives it to you as direct as possible. MLS needs the exposure, the TV bucks. Who he asks, outside America, is going to sit up and take note of an East-West game? There is, however, that distinct possibility that Rome may sit up all night to watch their two favorite Roman sons -- Marco Di Vaio and Francesco Totti, with Tuzla in Bosnia doing a similar thing with their favorite Miralem Pjanić.

Totti is an absolute "trequarista." You see that when the TV cameras pan towards ground level; not just his feet but when they capture his vision. When the same cameras pan on his face, he lets you know where he is coming from. With his eyes, he tells you he is a gladiator from Rome. It’s always a do or die for him. The grapevine had it that he was incensed to find an all-star poster that said that while Rome might have taken years to build, it could but be destroyed in 90 minutes. Destroyed by whom? MLS? We are also told that he took it personal and removed all traces of the poster, perhaps thinking loud in his mind “meet me where it counts."

Di Vaio was the flop of the match. Maybe the scenario of meeting his old rivals with whom he played hundreds of times back in his home country and going against them of all places, in Kansas City, at 37 may have been just a wee bit too much for him to absorb. At this stage in life, he would rather be partying with them in Italian and sending some photo-ops back home to relatives in Roma where he was born.

Henry, as serious as Totti can be about a soccer game, and wearing the captain’s armband to dictate a little more, tried to infuse the game with a little more fire. He tried to back track, pick up a little more room and pace and find Di Viao, bu this was not meant to be. Members from disparate clubs cannot find cohesion, overnight, and I doubt that MLS all-star coach Peter Vermes, passionate that he is on any normal day, did anything much with this one.

Aurélien_Collin‎, who played for 90 minutes, brought some flair to the game with jabs to the opponent, including what might be concluded as an own goal, but he might very well have been thinking that he is still out there at his clothes boutique. He could have been spared some minutes, for us to see a Jamison Olave.

The only sign of a more mature display in terms of footballing came when we saw Landon Donovan and Mike Magee and a few all-star rookies enter the game in the second half. To this writer, there is no better soccer face in America than Landon; he is the only one that has any IQ comparable to any competing European footballer.

Besides Donovan, the only other American worth watching that evening was the one who played for the other side, Michael Bradley. Connecting with Totti and Kevin Trootman, Pjanic and other. He was as smooth as silk. He made for a great boding for the USA’s World Cup quest under coach Jurgen Klinsmann. There is a tremendous maturity there in his personality, too, as he switches to different roles between club and country, between the Italian and the English. He also shares a common trait with Totti and Henry – no smiles unless warranted by a win!

Finally, as U.S. coach Klinsmann, with his vast world experiences best said it; he would rather play Belgium and European teams even once than play the likes of an El Salvador a hundred times. This brings in a serious thought in the light of three MLS all-star team losses in the last four games.

As everyone knows a knife is a knife, but there is a distinct difference between one that is constantly pared into sharpness and one that is left unattended and dull. The European teams compete each day at the highest levels with hundreds of the best athletes in a global football world. One does not know the impact of the word "global" unless one has delved deep into the world of football or thanked Franklin Foer for this one (“How Soccer Explains the World”).

Unless we enter a European world, and take part in challenging their clubs and do it constantly on a European timetable, we cannot hope to be on a par with them, in this game. We will have to be satisfied still with playing them only in pre-season, when they are still in a vacation dreamland; and we will have to be satisfied with them and a "global" world thinking we are only second tier and where their greats can come only when in retirement.

That will be the story for the next few decades. Of course, modifying ourselves to a European time table is no easy task. It has too many risk variables to contend with. Besides winter weather, distances in the country factoring in, it would once again spell financial trouble at home in terms of competing with the other major sports that dominate our landscape and usurps our TV coverage.

Only a newer generation’s support in the stands, their pressing of the right remote to a growing number of choices from TV channels, and a constant ripping, like Galaxy’s young Jose Villarreal intoReal Madrid’s goalpost can send the proper signals.

This writer and the game of soccer, have come a long way since the 1994 World Cup to definitely hope for this one. Those days, you had to gather signatures in a support group and all but beg ESPN to televise a soccer game.
"The opinions reflected in the My Two Cents columns do not express the views of the editors or management of BigAppleSoccer. com"
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