As we all wonder what’s next for Robbie Rogers, now officially estranged from Leeds United, perhaps this is a great time to re-open a discussion that most U.S. soccer supporters would prefer not to have.
First, quickly, the news: U.S. winger Robbie Rogers, who was always this close to “something special” status but plateaued too soon and never quite got there, is apparently done at Leeds United. The English club has terminated his contract by mutual consent. That’s clearly not something to highlight on the resume.
The next link in this story chain will be Rogers’ possible return to MLS. Back to Columbus? Reunion with his former coach, Sigi Schmid? We’ll see.
Meanwhile, there’s an important issue to examine here. This is the other side to the habitual push for U.S. players going abroad. This is the less attractive cousin to the domestic player drive for something better, something more lucrative, something sexier … a pro soccer life less ordinary.
Fans propel the effort; we all crave the next Dempsey, the next Bradley, the next Big Timmy Howard.
We all want our Yanks to go “over there,” as they once said. We long for for these fine fellows to reach the beaches of European soccer, to make us proud as walking, talking, passing, trapping and backstopping demonstrations of our growth and development as a soccer land.
Plus, it gives us another team or two to cheer on TV-friendly Saturday and Sunday mornings.
The trouble is, not everyone can be Dempsey or Bradley or Big Timmy Howard. Those are special athletes; by definition “special” translates roughly to “not everyone can do it.”
Just this morning, we wrote at PST about Robbie Findley, apparently en route back to the States after things went decidedly less than spectacular at Nottingham Forest.
Tim Ream at Bolton? OK, maybe the jury remains out on that one. But not for Ricardo Clark and his lost years at Frankfurt. How about Luis Robles for those years at Kaiserslautern? Edson Buddle for his lost time at F.C. Ingolstadt?
How much has Maurice Edu (pictured, left) progressed during his time in Scotland and England?
Brek Shea had a terribly disappointing follow-up to his 2011 breakout campaign. At FC Dallas he’s in position, at least, to rebound nicely. How much would those chances of a smooth bounce-back decline if the 22-year-old winger were starting from the bottom of the depth chart at Arsenal, where he trained a year ago?
This isn’t to say that talented Americans should conquer their quest to play abroad, that they should shrink at the chance to stretch and test themselves. It’s just a cautionary reminder: wisely identifying the right situation is the critical “where it’s at” here. Absent of a certain level of confidence in that regard, staying put might be the best option.
There’s been so much growth in professional soccer here over the last 10-15 years that it’s hard to keep track sometimes. But one thing has been constant, something the wise guys of our domestic game (Bruce Arena, for instance) have been saying for years, something I have written for years: playing regularly in MLS beats languishing on a bench in England, Scotland, Germany, Spain or wherever.