Questions: Is it Winning or Identity in Major League Soccer?

Chivas USA's 2005 lineup in their first year as a Major League Soccer club.  Credit: Michael Pimentel - ISIPhotos.com

Tony Edwards - San Jose, CA (Jan 24, 2013) US Soccer Players - In Thursday’s column, Tony looks at what’s more important: winning or an identity in Major League Soccer.

What's the ideal way to improve on your last-place finish from last season?

  • Dump your MLS experienced coaching staff who you gave little to work with?
  • Trade away one of your best players from last season, who also is one of the few in his athletic prime?
  • Go weeks without communicating with your all-star goalkeeper?

It shows you how ridiculous the off-season has been in Montreal, New Jersey, and Toronto that you can almost be lulled into thinking that maybe Chivas USA isn't running themselves further into the ground. Tuesday's trade of Nick LaBrocca, whose main problem seems to be that he was born on the East Coast, as far as Chivas is concerned, is another odd move from Chivas, in that LaBrocca was one of their few creative pieces from last season. Apparently having an “identity” is more important than, say, winning. Colorado gets another piece in their makeover, this one in the prime of his career who may well thrive in Denver.

If an MLS team went with a regional identity, would fans rally behind them?

If San Jose suddenly announced they were only signing homegrown players or those who played club, high school, or college soccer in Northern California, would fans salute them and see it as a focus on having a community-oriented team? No, they wouldn't. Why? Because ignoring a vast swath of this country's soccer talent isn't community building, it's condemning your franchise to losing seasons.

Even the oft-cited example of Athletic Club Bilbao, and their Basque-only policy, isn’t a relevant comparison to an MLS club in 2013. For Bilbao, survival and the occasional success is enough. For an MLS franchise, winning and continental competition have to be the goals. Which is why Chivas' “re-focusing” on players with a Mexican background is bound to have the same result as it did its first go-round in 2005. Ignoring talent for no other reason than their background isn't the way to win.

How did DC United’s Dwayne DeRosario spend his offseason in Mexico?

Luxury vacation at a five star resort? How about hours of running up and down sand dunes. According to a column from CSN Washington’s Kellie Cowan, DeRosario didn’t have much of an offseason, between his own rehabilitation from last year’s knee injury and the opening of training camp for the Canadian national team.

However, DeRosario let out that even a short offseason sometimes seems too long. "After three weeks of being in the offseason you're ready to get back into it anyway. You start to get jitters and you want to get back out there and play so I'm happy that we're here," De Rosario said.

How are the Sounders team and management moving forward without Fredy Montero?

One underrated strength of athletes and coaches is their ability to understand, at a core level, that this is an entertaining and results business. Seattle said all the right things about Montero having a great opportunity to play for his national team and play in the Copa Libertadores, but the Sounders have moved on.

In the Seattle Times, Steve Zakuani (now the team’s leading active scorer), said they’d miss Montero, but, essentially, that’s how it goes. “…it's just the turnaround at a professional club, Zakuani told Joshua Mayers. “We wish Fredy, of course, the best in his career and for his next step, but we have to focus on what we have next in Seattle."

How is it going for US National Team player Jonathan Spector and his Birmingham City club?

Well, Spector has appeared in 22 of their 28 games, 18 as a starter, for the 20th-place team, who are five points about the relegation zone. As difficult as that is, a BBC Sport report confirmed the club had made all 30 first-team players available in the transfer window as they looked to cut the wage bill while seeking new investment. Jeff Lynne’s favorite club hasn’t reported its finances for the last two years, according to the BBC article.


Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.

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3 Responses to Questions: Is it Winning or Identity in Major League Soccer?

  1. Herb says:

    Chivas is plainly a bunch of bigots!

    I support all players based on their ability and not on their mexican heriage or lack thereof…

  2. MandziGOL says:

    “If San Jose suddenly announced they were only signing homegrown players or those who played club, high school, or college soccer in Northern California, would fans salute them and see it as a focus on having a community-oriented team? No, they wouldn’t. Why? Because ignoring a vast swath of this country’s soccer talent isn’t community building, it’s condemning your franchise to losing seasons.”

    I disagree. If San Jose announced that they would only sign California players, I would start to support them. I don’t like the goats, but I certainly don’t have a problem with them building a Hispanic team. Simple demographics shows there is plenty of “Hispanic” talent in the States to develop 24 first team players(on a regular basis). The same would be for San Jose: if there is not enough soccer talent in California to develop 24 first team players, then soccer is doomed in the States.

    • Let’s accept your point about the unique strength of California in soccer development. The National Hockey League used to have regional exclusivity in picking players. That’s one of the reasons the Canadians were so dominant years ago in the Original Six era. They moved to a draft system in the early 1960′s. Imagine if they still had regional exclusivity when they expanded in 1967. The new LA Kings get all the players they like from Southern California while Montreal picks from Quebec. It’s a competitive imbalance issue, especially in our hypothetical MLS example where all the other teams are also scouting California.