A Balding Dovovan and Rookie Superstars Don’t Mix

onenil.gifIt’s a new game in the U.S. MLS looks great this year, the U.S. National Team, while losing to Brazil in Europe earlier this year, is going strong in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Unfortunately, they have to face Brazil again this Wednesday to advance and all hopes lie on the balding frat boy, Landon Donovan.

Iim not a big fan of Donovan, if you hadnit guessed, but more for his selfish play than his receding hairline. In fact, even with his four goals against Cuba this past Saturday in their 5-0 drubbing of Cuba, he may be the only thing wrong with the team.

Sure, he can score goals, set up plays whenever he isnit busy making absolutely sure he canit score himself. But, all one needs to do is watch MLS club action for a weekend to see the level of teamwork we have finally gotten to.

This is no longer a league of aging veterans or failed internationals, but a league that has some of the most impressive youth talent ever seen in the USA. Names like the MetroStars Mike Magee, and Chicago Fire rookie of the year contender Damani Ralph are now leaders in their own right. The age of the aging vet is gone. Hristo Stoitchkov, Carlos Valderama, Marco Ecteverry and even the great Peter Nowak were names that carried the league and led the scoring sheets for so long that itis hard to believe that there is new talent so quickly filing into the upper echelon of MLS.

Being a Fire fan, the extraordinary talents of rookie forward Damani Ralph seem even more spectacular than to, say, a depressed and Ray Hudson-hating D.C. United fan. Heis fifth in MLS in points and looks like he will keep climbing up the ranks, racking assists and goals like a true professional.

Since Donovanis name doesnit appear on the list, itis hard to compare the two except in one simple arena: the field. While Donovan has been doing a good job up front for the Nats, he is helping the league stagnate. He is a veteran in 22 year-old-shoes.

If you followed MLS in the early years, say 1996-1998, each team was loaded with internationals ending their careers and back then it was necessary to make the league a competitive and interesting to watch soccer spectacle. To ask a professional level of talent from our youngsters would have been too daunting a task. But, now, with the youth talent exploding, itis time to let the old mentality go and move on.

Since the youth of the league in 1996-1998 wasnit nearly the caliber it is now, the vets had a lot of work to do. Those who were true leaders trained the youth on their team and used their experience to guide their up-and-coming stars rather than take over and solely drive a team. Peter Nowak was damn good at this. Marco Etcheverry still isnit.

There is a new MLS, one that is built on team mentality. Youngsters are coming along and working together to fight for wins. They donit wait for the aging and tired senior internationals to get up front so they can dish the ball off. They do it themselves and with great results.

Donovan, change your tune. Look for the outlet pass. Look for your teammates and help the league thatis given you so much. Because if you donit, these new youth, in their shining football boots, will walk all over you.