U.S. Soccer fans critical of Michael Bradley’s move to MLS: get over yourselves!

17 Comments

Let’s say a friend comes to you today; he has a huge career choice ahead. He wants to bounce some thoughts off you. But honestly, you don’t even need to hear the details, do you? The bottom line, you’d say:

“Do what’s best for you and your family, what’s best in the long run for you and the people who love you.”

That’s where it’s going to end, right? If you’re a good friend, it is. That’s the advice that comes from every reasonable mouth, right?

Every man and woman has the right in our great land to make choices that benefits themselves and their family – not necessarily the choice that benefits the kingdom or the corporation or whatever, right?

Except this: when it comes to U.S. Soccer players making that critical choices of where to earn their pay, here or in the glorious “over there,” these soccer heroes of ours have somehow forfeited that right. That’s what plenty of aggrieved U.S. fans seem to believe, that these men have signed some secret deal with the devil, one that says they must do what’s best for the longing U.S. Soccer fandom.

And that’s so wrong.

Somehow, plenty of soccer fans in this country don’t believe that basic human right – again, and say it out loud, the right to simply do what is best in their lives – somehow doesn’t extend to this country’s talented, highly skilled soccer luminaries.  In that case, so many U.S. fans want the Michael Bradleys, the Clint Dempseys the Landon Donovans, etc., to make decisions best for us, not them, what’s best for the U.S. soccer-loving public.

(MORE: On U.S. player destination debates, all these conversations are different)

Too many soccer supporters here are falling over backward in selfish, sour-faced consternation over Bradley’s choice to leave the good, sweet, pristine air of European soccer for the allegedly grimy, polluted air of Major League Soccer.

Oh, the villainy!

But why shouldn’t he? If this is what Bradley wants to do, why hasn’t he earned that right? It’s the same argument I made with Dempsey and Donovan (for a bunch of years in Donovan’s case.)

(MORE: Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe unveiled at Toronto FCU.S. Soccer fans )

In some cases, it might not be the best thing for the player’s development. It may not be the choice that manages to squeeze the very most juice from this orange; the player may only gain 90-95 percent of full potential. Well, so what? Isn’t that the individual’s choice?

Because I’ve got news for you: fully accessing e every last store of soccer talent is a big part of these guys’ lives … but it’s not their entire lives, now is it? Don’t they have a right to think about their kids’ ability to be close to their grandparents, about where they want to live, about overall quality of life?

Soccer considerations are a big part of these decisions, but they aren’t always 100 percent of the equation. Because somewhere around age 31, 32 or 33, they’ll be looking for one last contract … and then they’ll be done earning a paycheck for playing soccer.

Here’s the bottom line on all this:

We must reframe these discussions. (About where the talented U.S. players earn their keep, that is.) And perhaps we need to reshape these conversations radically. Too many U.S. soccer fans continue to look to these guys for validation of where the game stands in our own country.

Too many continue to want talented, influential players like Bradley to validate the game they love in the country they love. And while I understand the complicated background and origins of the sentiment, it’s wrong.

source: Getty ImagesIt’s not Michael Bradley’s responsibility to make you feel better about the quality of soccer in your beloved land.  Period. If you think soccer here, Major League Soccer and the larger game, isn’t where you want it to be, that’s your right. But that’s not Michael Bradley’s problem.

(Honestly, the game here is fine, steadily progressing in so many areas, just as it has been for years and years, no matter what the soccer snobs may say, or what the last vestiges of old-white-guy fear of societal change may tell you about the game’s popularity here. But that’s a different conversation.)

To put it another way, United States soccer fans need to confront their insecurities – and in a lot of cases, they need to get over themselves.

Beyond the man’s right to make the choice that’s best for his life

I do get that a lot of people in the maddened crowd have trouble with Bradley’s choice because they fear the deterioration of his ability and its potentially negative impact on national team this summer in Brazil. They badly want the team (and the player, of course) to be the best they can possibly be. I get it. It’s about passion for sports and for your team.

I’ll address why you shouldn’t worry so much about that part in the next post at ProSoccerTalk, in about an hour …

(MORE: Where Bradley’s signing falls in all-time MLS significance)

(MORE: What Toronto’s starting lineup might look like with Defoe, Bradley)

(MORE: Why Bradley is worth the money for Toronto FC)

VIDEO: Goalkeeper sends Memphis Depay flying with skillful touch

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Former Manchester United attacker Memphis Depay has one of the brightest spots for Lyon this season that sees them battling with Monaco and Marseille for 2nd place behind a dominant PSG. He has scored 15 goals and assisted 11 others this Ligue 1 campaign, adding to his tally just four minutes into Friday’s 5-2 win over Dijon, the sixth win in a row for the club that pulled them within a point of Monaco.

However, there was a moment to forget for Depay in the victory as well.

With the score still at 1-1 in the 19th minute, Depay was sent high up the pitch to press Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet, owner of the leakiest net of the Ligue 1 season. Nevertheless, sometimes the underdog prevails, and that’s what happened as Depay flung himself at the ball to put Reynet under pressure.

One silky touch by the netminder was all it took for Depay to end up on his backside.

The 24-year-old Dutch winger has had a fantastic season and one that could potentially propel him back to the biggest stage and a bigger paycheck, but for now, we can all poke fun at his misery in the moment.

Dortmund admits interest in signing Batshuayi permanently

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Michy Batshuayi might be out for the season with a serious ankle injury, but he may have already done enough to earn a permanent move to Borussia Dortmund.

The Chelsea striker moved on loan to the Bundesliga side in January and made an immediate impact, scoring two goals on his debut, and ultimately wound up with seven goals in 10 Bundesliga games before his ankle injury brought his season to a close. Now, the Dortmund front office is speaking very highly of the Belgian goalscorer, not so subtly hinting that they will take an aggressive approach this summer.

The interest to sign him is there,” said Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke. “But first we have to wait and see who will be Chelsea’s coach next season. Then we’ll start looking.”

Chelsea has Antonio Conte currently at the helm, but there are strong rumors that the Italian will depart at the end of the season as the Blues sit comfortably outside the Champions League places. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is known for his quick trigger, and despite Conte winning the Premier League just last season, this year’s disappointment will likely not be tolerated.

That yet-to-be-determined future has a significant impact on Batshuayi’s future, as Watzke mentions. The new Chelsea boss could take a liking to Batshuayi, which could complicate his permanent move. In addition, it’s possible that current players on the Blues roster could depart, like Alvaro Morata, Olivier Giroud, or Willian, making Batshuayi’s place at Chelsea more tenable.

There’s plenty to be sorted out in the coming months, but with Batshuayi’s 10-game performance at Westfalenstadion at the forefront of Watzke’s mind, it’s clear there will be potential here as the summer draws near.

Sessegnon scores 15th as Fulham equals Man City unbeaten mark

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Fulham equalled the longest unbeaten run in the English top four tiers this season as it defeated sixth-placed Millwall 3-0 on the road to increase its streak to 22 games without a loss and moving the club into position for automatic promotion.

The Whites have not lost since December 16th when they fell 1-0 to relegation-threatened Sunderland. The unbeaten streak matches Manchester City’s run of 22 games to start the Premier League campaign before a 4-3 loss to Liverpool in mid-January broke the spell.

Highlighting the match was the game’s opening goal from 17-year-old Ryan Sessegnon, the young defender’s 15th goal of the Championship season. Just a week ago, Sessegnon was named a finalist for PFA Player of the Year alongside Harry Kane, Leroy Sane, and Raheem Sterling. Also scoring in the win was Newcastle loanee Aleksandar Mitrovic who has bagged 11 goals in 15 matches since moving to Craven Cottage on Deadline Day of the winter transfer window, sparking talk of a possible permanent move should the Whites find themselves promoted at the end of the season. Fulham has not trailed a single second since he stepped on the field for his club debut.

Manager Slavisa Jokanovic has the team firing on all cylinders, outscoring opponents 49-14 during the unbeaten streak and racking up 56 out of a possible 66 points, with just five draws blemishing an otherwise perfect record. The club has scored first in 15 straight matches, and has not trailed since drawing level in the closing minutes of a 2-2 draw with Hull City on December 30th. The only teams in the top four leagues to score more goals than Fulham since Jokanovic took over are Liverpool and Manchester City.

USMNT defender Tim Ream has been arguably the club’s most valuable player during the streak, locking down a defense that has picked up 11 clean sheets during the unbeaten run. Ream has played in all but two league matches this season, completing the full 90 minutes in all 41 of his appearances thus far. He has been voted Man of the Match five times this season by the fans on the team’s official website, most recently in a 1-0 victory over Reading on April 10th. He also grabbed the award in a 2-0 win over Championship title winners Wolves on February 24th, a game that saw the Whites out-possess and out-shoot the league champions. Ream had this stunning goal-line clearance in the victory over Millwall on Friday, saving Fulham’s bacon with goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli on the ground after an acrobatic save.

Fulham still has work to do in the Premier League promotion picture, despite the spectacular form. They sit in 2nd position as it stands, leading Cardiff City by two points, but Cardiff has yet to play this weekend, giving them a massive two games in hand. Fulham could ultimately be done in by a slow start to the season that saw them win just twice in the first nine matches of the season as the squad adjusted to a host of new additions. In addition, Fulham suffered a disappointing draw last time out against Brentford as the Bees scored in the 94th minute to deny Fulham all three points, a massive blow to their automatic promotion hopes. Still, Fulham would be considered favorites in any potential playoff run, with Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, and Millwall currently the other teams in playoff positions.

There’s plenty on the line for the club over the next few weeks. Should Fulham fail to gain promotion, it could be a massive blow to the club as Sessegnon could be lured away from Craven Cottage, with Jokanovic and playmaker Tom Cairney also likely to garner speculation of a departure over the summer if the club was to remain in the Championship.

Espanyol fires former Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores

Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Espanyol says it has fired manager Quique Sanchez Flores with the club slumping in the Spanish league and in danger of facing a relegation fight to end the season.

Espanyol announced the decision on Friday, adding sports director Jordi Lardin has also been let go.

Sanchez Flores, a former manager of Atletico Madrid, Valencia and Watford, among other clubs, coached the Barcelona-based club for the past two seasons.

Reserve team coach David Gallego will take over for the remaining five rounds of the season, starting with a visit to Girona on Sunday.

Espanyol hasn’t scored a goal in five matches, and has only two wins in the last 15 rounds. It is in 16th place, nine points from the drop.