Here at the Tavern it is probably widely assumed that we ‘don’t like American things’, well that may go for some people lurking in the corners, but me personally, well I am open to some of their ideas. Major League Soccer, or MLS as it commonly referred too is pretty different too our game in terms of the existance of playoffs to determine the ‘Champions’.
The rules however remain unchanged and it is becoming a hot destination for many professionals who are reaching the twilight of their career.
When I started dipping my toes into the MLS waters last year I was amazed at some of the players plying their trade over there, for every David Beckham, there is a Terry Dunfield, and for every Thierry Henry there is a Luke Rodgers. So I therefore thought why not take a look at some players extending their career in the US and in some cases, players in their prime just fancying a change of scenery.
Fans of Newcastle and Southampton may well remember French full back Didier Domi, who spent 3 seasons on Tyneside in the late 90s. After a career that took in England and France he has recently signed a contract with the New England Revolution. Not all the players however are that random. Fellow French man Ousmane Dabo is also persuing a career on the otherside of the Atlantic, the competitive midfielder who famously took a beating from Scouse bad boy Joey Barton had a long career playing in Italy, and he too has made himself part of the revolution in New England (see what I did there?).
The recent MLS transfer season also brought about a new phenominon, in the past English players have been hesistant about moving abroad because of language barriers, obviously that isn’t the case with America and there is now a stream of young English players who rather than lumping about in League 2 have decided to jet off to play in more glamorous settings.
Arsenal youngstars Kerrea Gilbert and Ryan Smith have left the turmoil of loan spells in England to join the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City respectively. Former Manchester City and Macclesfield Town Canadian born Terry Dunfield has also gone onto carve out a career in the MLS, maybe not as illustrious but still a competitive level.
The lesser famous John Rooney brother of Wayne has gone to make a name for himself in New York along with former Notts County and Shrewsbury striker Luke Rodgers.
The New York Red Bulls appear to have the most diverse squad in the league, as well as Rooney and Rodgers, amongst their ranks they also have Teemu Tainio who was a one time Tottenham ‘legend’, Carl Robinson who made a career for himself playing for Wolves and Portsmouth amongst other clubs is also part of the setup at Redbull Arena.
A team that could field a midfield containing Carl Robinson, John Rooney and former Barcelona great Rafael Marquez may seem bizarre but that really encapsulates what is exciting about the American league.
It is not too surprising I suppose that the teams that find it easiest to attract foreign players are based in more glamourous locations, the New York side seem to get their pick and not forgetting Los Angeles, the Galaxy currently the home of David Beckham and former Aston Villa ‘star’ Juan Pablo Angel.
When discussing the MLS questions always get raised over the quality of the league, and while not as pulsating and exciting as the Premier League it is by no means a dreadful spectacle.
It does throw up some interesting twists though, the aforementioned Angel obviously struggled massively during his time in England playing for Villa but in the USA and throughout his time with the New York Red Bulls whom he recently left, his scoring record has been exceptional. The Colombian managed to net 58 goals in 102 games for the New York side, he often found himself up at the top of the scoring charts.
Interestingly enough during the 2010 season which he played with former Arsenal favourite Henry he outperformed the Frenchman, admittedly that could be down to niggling injuries the former Barcelona striker suffered but it does demonstrate that to succeed you still need to be a good footballer.
So I urge you, if you get the chance this year to watch an MLS game when the season kicks off in a couple of weeks time. It is of decent quality and some of the players you come across could really surprise you. Games are normally broadcast on ESPN late at night, and seriously, there is nothing else worth watching at that time, so give it a go and maybe you too could end liking a couple of ‘American things’.
For more of my thoughts on football, transfers and other goings on, follow me on twitter @soccercityjoe!