The Fire's summer of discontent continues.
Already winless in its last seven games, the Fire on Monday received news that had long been inevitable: DaMarcus Beasley is packing up and heading to Europe
, where the best and richest soccer players congregate. Europe is the mecca of club soccer, and Beasley has made it. Good for him. The fact that his destination will be Holland's PSV Eindhoven, one of Europe's most historic clubs, is just icing on the cake.
Beasley had been adamant about moving onto bigger things. Fire GM Peter Wilt had been reluctant to let him go, denying all previous offers. Ultimately, $2.5 million dollars was too much to pass up, and Beasley became a free man.
It's hard to blame Beasley for his eagerness to leave. He already has more than proven himself in MLS as well as with the U.S. national team. Why not test himself against the best players in the world? And, hey, if the money happens to be monumentally better, that's not a bad thing. Besides, have you ever seen Dutch women? Enough said.
It hurts to see Beasley go, particularly as the Fire struggles, but the team will recover. Wilt will aquire new players. Coach Dave Sarachan will lead them. Life goes on. With a little luck, the Fire will quickly return to their winning ways. Fire fans will get over this.
My concern is centered more on MLS, a league desperately trying to gain a place among America's pantheon of glossy, in-your-face, media-frenzied professional sports. In an age when a blip on SportCenter is a major priority, endorsement deals often dwarf a player's salary and star athletes are often discovered shortly after puberty, MLS severely lacks all-important star power. It lacks sexiness. Sooner than later, it needs players that fans can immediately recognize and adore. The loss of Beasley further expands this troubling vacuum.
Who provides that elusive star power now? Freddy Adu, of course, but his fame is based more on his potential and the media's fascination than anything he's done on the field. Landon Donovon comes to mind, but he's far from a household name.
The problem is, America's best talent heads overseas at the first opportunity. Soccer fans can keep tabs via the internet or the rare game on television, but, other than that, America's young stars dissolve into the obscurity of being half a world away.
Of course, many would contend that this is no problem at all, that young American players can only benefit from playing among the best. This, in turn, can only help the national team. And, yes, of course, this is true. In fact, it already has.
Yet, how long will this exodus of American talent continue to hamper MLS? Until it teeters on the brink of destruction? Until it folds? Until its American fan base gives up hope of ever seeing it become a major league entity?
Look, if America is producing enough talent to continually see more players heading to Europe, then why not bite the bullet and make all efforts necessary to keep them here to form a pool of talent that will be both formidable as well as ripe with potential household names? Why not harvest America's brightest young talent and let it blossom in front of our eyes...right...here?
Ah, yes, money. But of course.
MLS does not have the resources to keep its best homegrown talent. How can the MetroStars keep Tim Howard when Manchester United, possibly the worlds richest and most famous franchise, comes calling? They can't. They didn't.
It's a dilemma, for sure. Hopefully, with the rise of more soccer specific stadiums will come a much-needed rise in attendance. If that happens, MLS will need to "take care" of its bigger names. No, it must
"take care" of its bigger names...within reason, naturally. While MLS has done an admirable job of avoiding the preposterous contracts that NASL clubs offered to the likes of Pele and Johan Cruyff in the '70s - contracts that ultimately doomed the ill-fated league - we all know that forever penny-pinching is no way to become a major sport in America, which loves its athetes and games as overbearing and exuberant as possible.
When America's best players stay at home and produce a quality league, then - and only then - will soccer, and MLS, have truly arrived on the American sports landscape. When American soccer fans, and not just MLS diehards, can tune into a game on TV and recognize many names, and lookout for stars, MLS will have arrived. Without being overly hasty, this must be brought about in a relatively speedy manner. Until then, MLS will remain a minor league outfit.
Also, it goes without saying that keeping America's finest talent at home would immeasurably improve the MLS's level of of play on the field, which, at this point, is improving, but nothing to get excited about...at least not yet.
Of course, counting on the bigwigs of MLS to oversee the transformation of the league from steady newcomer into a major force with adequate money and star power, is, unfortunately, a stretch. After all, these are the same people expanding into remote outposts like Salt Lake City and relying on cheap and desperate gimmicks such as the Chivas debacle. This is ridiculous when considering soccer hotbeds such as Seattle, Rochester, St. Louis and Detroit (among others) are being bypassed for reasons unknown.
But that's another story. I will surely bitch about it a later time.