Thursday, August 21, 2008

Developing a better American Abroad

It's time for another guest post, this time from NSC reader Michael Laborde, who has own take on the Michael Bradley transfer saga, albeit with a broader point. Take it away...


The Prem is my favorite soccer league in the entire world. It was the first league I started watching and it was my introduction into the world of professional soccer on the international level. I still watch it with baited breath and rejoice every Saturday morning that I can lie in bed, eat some of my favorite cereal (or eggs if I am feeling motivated enough) and watch a league that features some of the world's best players.

I hope what I said lessens the blow of what I am about to say: no developing American position player should be playing in the Premiership.

There, I said it. Not because I think they aren't good enough, but because there is no reason anyone should be developing in that league. Not even the Premiership's star players are developed in the Prem, so why should we, as Americans, think this is a good idea? Have you seen the track record of the non-goalkeepers playing there?

Outside of a select few, I wish Americans would apply their trade in a league that knows how to develop players with more technical skill, as opposed to a bottom feeding EPL club that thinks launching the ball to the striker is a sound way to score goals.

Let's face the facts: the top teams don't develop talent. They buy it.

For all the "Chel$ki" jokes, people negate to consider that Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United are all doing it the same way. With new money from television contracts and other revenue, more teams are buying big. There is no room for development in a league which survival means hundreds of millions of dollars.

Our friends at Fulham even splashed out almost 20 million U.S. dollars for Andrew Johnson. This team faces relegation, so do you really think they are worried about developing Eddie Johnson mentally and technically when they need immediate results?

The fact is that such player development isn't done in the Prem, and the England National Team has paid the price. There aren't too many Theo Walcotts out there being developed at top clubs.

Also, the EPL is a managing carousel. You can't have stability without having people at the top who aren't going anywhere. Outside of Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson, I have seen almost every team manager get the sack or move to another club or heard a rumor to that effect. Even Arsene Wenger thought he was gone last year.

It is a business and it's all about results. These clubs don't have time for someone to get in there and develop anything, as they might soon be doing it in the Championship (and losing money).

Americans come to Europe young, unpolished, and culture shocked. I am sure England is a lovely place to visit, but living there and taking in different customs, cultures, and being away from what you know isn't easy. Couple this with being young and having high expectations professionally, and trying to maintain some sort of stability can't be easy. I am sure a place like Germany is even worse, so I can't really blame Landon Donovan for running back to sunny Los Angeles the first chance he got.

Bottom line: there are better leagues to develop in, and its not such a bad thing.

All I have heard for the last few years are these swirling rumors about Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and other young American prospects playing for a huge club in England. This would be nice in the aspect that we would all be able to get a fancy shirt with their name on the back, or we would be able to catch the league on TV, but outside of that I can't really see anything positive long-term coming from it.

We have all watched over the past few years players like Bobby Convey, Benny Feilhaber, and the FulhAmerica guys fight relegation – I, for one, am over it.

– Bobby, you weren't ready for such a physical league and it cost you some quality years.

– Benny, you still have a lot to learn and you should be thanking your lucky stars you didn't have to play in some of those matches last season.

– Fulham, stop buying our players. I hate your team and its EPL purgatory, and I wish you a speedy relegation, so you can sell the remaining U.S. players and they can continue the careers in happiness.

Now this is all not without a silver lining. Our players have become smarter, and not a moment too soon. A lot of players, I think, have realized this is not a great league to start in and have chosen to go to more sound leagues that have better development programs and play a smarter game.

– Congratulations Jozy Altidore! You chose not to go to Reading and now have a chance to play for a club who has said they want to invest in you and see you develop. While you are there, tell Guiseppe Rossi to keep his ass in Italy.

– Another wise decision, Freddy Adu, as you got the chance to go to one of the best clubs in Portugal and play behind Portuguese great Rui Costa. It wasn't your fault they changed managers more than they changed underwear. Monaco will be more stable, and lets face it: it's Monaco... would you really want to land anywhere else? James Bond is officially jealous.

- Maurice Edu, you're a big physical player who has the speed and defensive abilities to play in the Scottish Premier League. Not only that, but you have the privilege to play under a great manager like Walter Smith and the passionate Rangers fans at the Ibrox to play for. Enjoy the Glasgow derby, as it will prepare you for bigger and brighter lights abroad.


Finally to the man of the moment, Michael Bradley. I love Mike and I love how he destroyed the Dutch league last season. I caught all the highlights on YouTube (see below) and I have to say you did all the right things. You played total football and represented us well. Your payday is coming soon and I wait patiently to see what your next move is.

Playing at Heerenveen was a great decision, and I hope you don't muck it up by playing for some relegation threatened EPL team when you could enjoy another season developing in the Eredivisie. If you do go, make sure to go to a place that allows you to grow as a player.

- Michael Laborde


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