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Monday, January 30, 2006

"Little by little you have to teach the United States that this is the best game in the world."

Late last night TDH had the distinct pleasure of watching a US team made up entirely of domestic players trounce a Norwegian team of similar breeding. It wasn't a particularly good indicator of how the team will perform at the World Cup, since most of the US starters ply their trade in Europe. At best, we now know that the US has a credible bench.

No, the important thing to glean was that Major League Soccer has improved. How does TDH know this? Consider two lines of evidence:

The all-MLS team created buckets of chances (24 shots, 13 on goal) while keeping the Norwegians' almost to nil (2 shots, 1 on goal). Sure, the match was in front of a home crowd at the beautiful Home Depot Center. But the 5-0 scoreline was well-earned.

Now look at UEFA's coefficient rankings. These aren't as ridiculous as FIFA's rankings - they're based on much more data, and much more consistent data at that, from the club competitions. They're used to figure out how many spots each association gets in the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. In the last rankings, Norway was on the same level as Turkey, Scotland, Belgium, Switzerland and Ukraine.

The best of MLS comprehensively destroyed the best of Norway's Tippeligaen. It was only one result, but it seems fair to say that MLS could be on roughly the same level as the leagues in the other countries ranked alongside Norway.

Because of MLS's socialist structure, there aren't any American teams that stand out quite as much as Rangers, Celtic, Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, Besiktas, Rosenborg, Anderlecht, Dynamo Kiev or Shakhtar Donetsk. But that's the great thing about this type of international match - only the quality of the best players matters.

From what TDH saw, MLS has come a long way. And that is an achievement indeed.


Blogger the Maradona of Malawi said...

the strength of the domestic league probably gives a better indication of potential than of actual capability in the national side. The best players in the domestic leagues outside of the big 6 (Eng, Sp, It, Gmy, Fr, Ned) are either youngsters or not good enough to be world class. A good domestic league team then either indicates good young prospects (e.g. Brazil), or a large pool of good but not great players who will probably not improve much.

That said, eventually, the US and China will have brilliant teams. The law of averages dictates that from such a large population they're bound to have 11 world class players-in-waiting.

2:24 PM  
Blogger The American Geordie said...

Well, let's not put the cart before the horse. The argument is that in a face-off of the best players from their domestic leagues, the USA showed itself to be much better than Norway. The conclusion is about the leagues, not about the national teams.

You make a fair point, though, about the usefulness of the comparison. The average age of the US starters was 27. We'd hope for that to drop. Then again, if Brazil fielded an all-domestic team, you'd probably have Romario propping up the average....

4:10 PM  
Anonymous kb said...

One thing to remember though is that the norwegian league finished its season back in October, so most of the norwegian team will have been lacking in match practise and probably fitness to boot.

6:04 PM  
Blogger The American Geordie said...

Good point, kb, but the MLS season has also been over for a couple of months - most teams were done by the end of October.

I guess I'm just trying to take away what I can from the international season, since the US's chances of making it to the quarterfinals of the Cup again are pretty darn poor. Even if we can finish ahead of Italy or the Czech Republic in the group stage, we'll probably have to meet Brazil in the Round of 16. It's not looking good.

7:35 PM  
Anonymous kb said...

"Good point, kb, but the MLS season has also been over for a couple of months - most teams were done by the end of October."

True though , at least the MLS players have the fight to get into the final WC squad to keep them focussed, whilst the norwegians are most likely focussed on getting back to drinking beer on the beach.

"guess I'm just trying to take away what I can from the international season, since the US's chances of making it to the quarterfinals of the Cup again are pretty darn poor"

I'm not so sure. I saw the italians in milan and glasgow and wasn't convinced about them. Good , great players but recently they've always seemed to be less than the sum of the parts.And against a lot of other teams they seem to turn in a rather complacent performance.

Reckon the Czechs will win the group and if the US can nick a draw against the italians then it could come down to the result against ghana (just watched ghana on the bbc in their game against Zim and wasn't impressed) but if the ghanians come out fired up in their first game against the Italians and manage to hold them to a draw (or even a 1 goal defeat) then i reckon the US could get out of the group.

And then get knocked out by brazil.

Which is hardly the worst fate in the world,try supporting scotland.....

8:45 PM  
Blogger The American Geordie said...

Yeah, I know all about that. My sister's married to a guy from East Kilbride. Photos on the wall of Wembley in 1967 and all that.

Can't beat the Scots for schadenfreude, though. I was at a Tennents once where a bunch of locals were wearing DFB shirts as they watched England play Germany....

9:13 PM  

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