The US Men's National team is a a little more than a week away from a double dose of friendlies. Potentially, we'll enjoy the stark contrasts of the greatest American field player of all-time combined with the first NASL club player in over 30 years. We're back to the days of future past, and much like the Moody Blues, you'll either guiltily enjoy the Yanks suiting up for meaningless exhibitions or you'll dread the air play at the expense of fully staffed MLS rosters fighting it out during the home stretch.Here's what I'm watching for when the USMNT takes on Ecuador and Honduras.
1. New Blood- Much has been made up of the possible call up for Miguel Ibarra. Well, it's great publicity for NASL for one, and it does shine a light on the fact that there are some pretty good players toiling in the lower leagues. To me, this has a lot to do with the constraints of the salary cap. How many of these players would be on an MLS roster if clubs could afford paying a bigger wage to depth players? I think it should really highlight a spot on the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations, and the importance of a bigger piece of the pie for players 12-30 on MLS rosters.
That's a conversation for another day. I am glad to see new blood enter the picture from NASL, NCAA, USL Pro...anywhere that isn't AARP. Jurgen Klinsmann will be judged ultimately to what extent he broadens the pool with young players. Ibarra might never feature beyond one cap, but I would love to see him get a shot in the next 2 matches. If he could look slightly out of his depth but score a beautiful goal, how well would he compare to this guy? Hopefully, he shows well in camp and gets an extended run as a sub against Honduras.
2. Captain America- It is rare that we have been privileged to witness a de facto testimonial for a USMNT great like Donovan. When you consider that it's our all-time leader in goals and assists, it becomes even more unique. Add on to that fact that he was cut from what
should would have been his 4th World Cup, and he was openly mocked on social media by Klinsy's son, and we have a singularity that might disprove the proof that Black Holes do not exist.
The table is set for Donovan to nail a goal here. It's in the stars. He'll be doing it for Michael Jackson. He does have a lot of respect for Michael Jackson despite being one of the few Americans never to play at Fulham and roughly a half a generation from his hey day. As much as I respect Klinsy's body of work so far, I think it was a mistake not to take Donovan to the World Cup. He scores that sitter that Chris Wondolowski missed against Belgium, and we might be talking at even greater length about things Tim Howard could save. Here's hoping Klinsy is saavy enough to give us a healthy dose of Donovan for his swan song, and he puts ego aside to give him an attaboy' when he's relieved by Ibarra.
3. The Yanks' gain- Is MLS's loss. For that matter, it's FC Dallas's loss, too. I know that our ticket sales department is offering an opportunity to get a picture with Landon after his last appearance in Frisco, but will he actually play? He probably won't. Robbie Keane definitely will not. Local product Omar Gonzalez will almost certainly be absent. Optimally, the white hot Gyasi Zardes and up-and-coming Robbie Rogers would be in camp/playing as well.
Optimally, the Galaxy's last visit to Frisco this season shouldn't be made with one to one and a half legs tied behind their backs, and while we stand to benefit from a weakened LAG side, I think we win if they bring their full force, and I want this to be a statement game for the Hoops. It isn't going to happen unfortunately, but it does make me wonder when we start the season earlier.
With the league expanding, we can stack early season games in the South where it is relatively temperate. I also think this might help us get ramped up for Concacaf Champions' League as well. This all depends on the league's maturation; when will we be able to go dormant during international dates? I don't think we're at the point where we avoid a significant drop in attendance and interest mid-week, but I wonder how far we are from drawing midweek interest akin to baseball. Is this a generation away or something we'll see in less than 5 years? In most cases, we can depend on a match running for 2 hours and being an event the public can enjoy on a school night. How far are we from seeing the league enjoy full capacity on a Wednesday like MLB. Please share your thoughts below.