MLS Competition, National Team Confusion

onenil.gifWhenever one season starts and before the other one begins, there is a time where the footie fan will have to turn their attention to other things. Gardening, for example, is a wonderful, albeit boring pursuit in the summer. Or even rebuilding a scooter, though you should really have that done by the time Niagara rolls around. For us here in the United States, we are somewhat lucky that we have MLS to keep us sane soccer fans until the next Premier League, Serie A, La Liga or Deutsche Bundesliga season.

Don’t get me wrong, I love MLS. Our current crop of youngsters seems ready to take on the world and our U.S. National Team sits at 11th place in the world rankings ahead of Italy and Mexico. Being a Chicago Fire addict, MLS is sometimes more exciting than watching a Premier League season, even if they lose in the first round of the playoffs as they did last year to the New England Revolution. But, having a season that takes place when no other major soccer seasons does is dangerous and sometimes unhealthy.

There are so many competitions that take place in the summer mainly because all other major soccer countries’ seasons have ended and there won’t be player conflicts with league games or recovery or training. In MLS, however, we often have to sacrifice some of our best club players to play or train with the national sides.

The Fire, unluckily, suffer from these loses every few games, to the tune of at least three starters. Chris Armas, DaMarcus Beasley and Carlos Bocanegra all are regularly called up to play for the national team, and the Fire needs to endure a game or two without its star players.

Head Coach Dave Sarachan, in his first year with the Fire, has added a considerable number of players to the squad to add depth, which certainly helps. But the real question is this: Do we benefit from holding our season in the summer, when the NFL, NBA and NHL seasons are all on hold?

It would seem so on the surface. There is a chance of greater attendance figures and a considerably greater chance of getting the fat and lazy American housebound male to halt the progression of his clicker long enough to watch (and maybe even enjoy) the “beautiful game.”

But how can he enjoy it with the teams’ stars not getting their chance to shine every week for their home side?

It is a tough question, but one that Bruce Arena, the U.S. National Team Head Coach, is willing to consider. For qualifiers against considerably weaker teams, Arena has let some of the stars stay home and continue on with the club sides. Kudos to Arena.

For MLS fans, our season is one that is not merely a distraction from European competition, but one that we are closest to and we feel damn passionate about. The 1871 Barnburners know what I’m talking about. So do the Screaming Eagles and even some of the Sam’s Army. This MLS season, with a greater push towards making the league a more solid and respectable place to be, our eyes should be on the future and on Arena’s dedication to MLS. A solid league, with homegrown stars a plenty, will have us playing in Europe soon enough, challenging the best in the world and making American soccer no longer the sideline sport in this nation.

Champions League 2010Oe hmmmOe the Fire vs. ArsenalOe what to do, what to do?