With this being the last day of the month, it's a good time to touch on more of the questions you submitted in our Old School Q&A earlier in February.
Plenty of topics to discuss this go round, including the U.S. national team forward pool, Carlos Bocanegra's national team future, my pick for MLS Sophomore of the Year and My favorite place to watch a game.
Let's get started with some more of Your February Questions Answered:
TIM CHAPMAN– Am I crazy to be excited about D.C. United this season with their young players as a dc fan?
IVES– Not at all. D.C. United has some pieces in place to turn things around in 2011. I still question whether the defense is good enough to make a complete turnaround, but I do think the D.C. offense could be a dangerous one, and a playoff spot can’t be ruled out.
Tim Sheffield– Has the entry of Bunbury and Agudelo into the American Striker Hype Machine (patent pending) made people forget about Danny Mwanga?
IVES– I’d say so. Seems like not many people outside Philly are talking much about Mwanga and what he could bring to the national team pool. Obviously he’s not a citizen yet, but the fact is if he’s a citizen before the Gold Cup he’s going to get a look.
ATX-With players securing contracts with the league before the Super Draft, is there any real incentive for a player to go high? Or, perhaps better stated, is there any reason I should want to be drafted by an expansion club rather than Sounders FC if I'm a player in the draft?
IVES– There are incentives worked into those contracts that lead to bonuses for being drafted higher. That doesn’t mean there are no cases of players sandbagging a bit to go to certain teams. I know that has happened in the past and wouldn’t doubt that it still happens.
RON– Do you see DaMarcus Beasley coming back to MLS this summer? Back to Chicago? I'll never forget how great DMB was at PSV Endhoven and being their leading scorer in the Champions League back in 2004.
IVES– Considering his lack of playing time with Hannover 96 I can’t see what other move Beasley has to make. Not sure how many more big contracts he can squeeze out of Europe without actually playing and producing.
DENNIS– The MLS has a reputation as a physical league (at least I think so). What needs to change for a greater emphasis to be placed on skill? Would simply having stricter refereeing be enough or will it take the replacement of the present crop of players with more skillful players?
IVES– MLS’ reputation as a physical league was established through some rough formative years, but I would say the league has improved quite a bit in that regard. The league is more skilled than it was a decade ago, and while physical strength and fitness are key aspects of the league, the league’s technical level has improved considerably. MLS will never be Mexico, a league light on defending and high on technical skill, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A league with a strong physical foundation and improved technical ability can do just fine.
MNMIKE– Obviously the top players will always make more money in England, Spain, Italy, Germany, but what about the second tier Euro leagues? How big of a wage gap is there between MLS and the Scandinavian leagues? Is it realistic that MLS could ever close that gap enough to entice some of these solid MLS players to stay in the US?
IVES– The gap is closing, but there’s still a way to go and it really isn’t a question of just salaries being on par. Players don’t just go abroad for the money, though that obviously plays a role. Players go to play in Europe, and be closer to the big leagues. As MLS improves its status as a feeder league to Europe’s top leagues it will begin to keep players longer. That’s going to take some time though.
SEAN– What's up with Feilhaber playing in the second tier of the Danish league? Why hasn't he moved to a more competitive league? Is it due to a lack of interest? I thought his showing in the world cup would have generated some interest. Do you know if he wants to move?
IVES– It’s not as simple as him just wanting to leave. He’s been under contract and AGF Aarhus has to accept an offer. There has been talk of interest from Mexico and Brazil, but Aarhus has to make promotion to the Danish First Division its priority. Right now Aarhus is in first place, but at this point unless he moved to MLS (with a window now open) he’ll have to wait until the summer to leave Aarhus.
BRIAN– What was your favorite place to ever watch a game?
IVES– Old Trafford was a pretty special. Estadio Azteca has also been a great place to watch a game. Alliaz Arena in Munich was also memorable. in the USA, I’d say Red Bull Arena is the best place to watch a soccer game.
ZACH S– Who wins Sophomore of the Year in 2011? Ream or Najar (or someone else)?
IVES– Najar should improve, as should Ream, but two players I think could have huge sophomore campaigns are Eric Alexander and Ike Opara. Alexander should get a chance to play more and I think he could break out. Opara had the makings of a Rookie of the Year season before being injured.
MAJORMAJOR– Do you think anything will come of the Anelka/Klose/etc to NYRB rumors, and whether Agudelo's potential has any influence on that? Also, do you think MLS is nearing the stage where they can hold on to young players like Agudelo, Montero, and Najar?
IVES– I think New York is what it has always been, a great club for agents to link their players to and a city players like to mention as dream semi-retirement destinations.
As for MLS holding on to young players, I wouldn’t worry just yet about people raiding the league’s young players because I think MLS is smart enough to place big price tags on young standouts. I’d say players like Agudelo and Najar will have to put 2-3 years
LAWRENCE– With Robbie Findley's injury- Charlie Davies and Kenny Coopers paths to recovery- Gomez's & EJ's lack of goals -do you think we're talking Agudelo in Gold Cup action? Or just Altidore, Buddle, & Bunbury? Is Casey or Wondolowski even in the mix? Thanks.
IVES– I think it will depend on how Agudelo starts the season for New York. If he’s starting and scoring goals and looking ready for a Gold Cup role then he will get the call. But if he’s coming along slowly I don’t see Bradley rushing him along. I think Danny Mwanga can’t be forgotten about and I don’t think Chris Wondolowski should be forgotten. You have Altidore, Buddle and even Clint Dempsey capable of playing up top.
CPLDANIEL– Why did Starikov not get any time for the US MNT?? Is he flip flopping on what country to play for?? Is he just not ready to commit until he knows which of his three options will be most likely for him to find success?? Was it the coaches decision not to play him??
IVES– I’d venture that he didn’t get time because he didn’t impress enough, or have enough time to impress. It couldn’t have been easy for him to come into camp late and try to show coaches something. I hadn’t heard anything about him refusing to play or asking not to play in the Chile game.
SEAN– Odds that you think Bocanegra will remain a starter for the national team throughout this world cup cycle?
IVES– Can’t imagine a 35-year old Bocanegra will be at the 2014 World Cup, but he’s got a few more years in him. He still starts regularly in France and with no other left back options, I’d say he’s going to start in the Gold Cup and in the fall qualifiers. I’d say 2012 is when we can start asking questions and whether he’s an adequate left back/centerback or if there are younger players ready to take the role.
CROCAJUN– I understand MLS has an allocation order that determines what teams outside players go to, but does the MLS have any rules set up that would allow US internationals that have made the jump to Europe return to their original teams to end their careers.
Would guys like Stu, Demps, and Altidore be granted special permission to return to their first teams?
Will there be a "Returning Hero" rule put in for these guys?
IVES– There is no such rule in place and there isn’t likely to be one. Call it unfortunate, but ultimately if a team wants a player bad enough it can always make him a designated player. That’s assuming a player wants to return to his original team.