Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Winning vs. Developing, The American Striker's Problem with MLS

MLS clubs are always looking for that special player that can come in, score/create goals and lead their club to win the MLS Cup.  The clubs are not to blame for trying to find a player that can win  games and hopefully in addition attract more fans to the club.

A problem that has arose from this formula for winning is that most of the players that are brought in are either foreign players or older Americans.  Of the fifteen clubs in MLS, only 7 regularly started an American striker under the age of 33(McBride is 37 and Twelleman is not included due to his long injury) this year.  Young American strikers are seeing this trend which is leading them to Europe or the a midfield role.

DC United is a great example, which has seen MLS legend Jaime Moreno and former MLS MVP Lucillano Emilio dominate the two spots up top for the last couple seasons.  This duo has created many goals for United and because their excellent play Chris Pointus and Santino Quaranta have been moved to the midfield.  Also, on DC United's website, all of its forward listed are from foreign countries.  This move to the midfield has been seen in other clubs as well, with Chris Rofle, Steve Zakuani, Dane Richards, Jacob Peterson, and Shea Salinas. 

Collegiate strikers are also passing on MLS for a chance to develop their skills in Europe.  Charlie Davies, Marcus Tracy, Mike Grella, Kamani Hill, and Joseph Lapira have all crossed the pond for usually more money and hopefully developing at the striker position.  But, Davies was the only one of the bunch that was seeing meaningful playing time. 

This is a tough predicament that the MLS clubs and US Soccer are in.  MLS head coaches cannot always wait to develop players at the striker role, especially when the owners and fans are demanding wins. Selling tickets is still the lifeblood of MLS and signing players like Blanco, Emilio, and Montero make the league more exciting and entertaining.  MLS and US Soccer must find a better way to develop young Americans at the striker role while continuing to make the league more profitable.

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