Good afternoon folks. It is time for the latest segment of Your Questions Answered. I was able to finish another portion of the record-setting Q&A session from last month. I’m hoping to have it all done by this week, and with so many long questions and answers in this batch, I figured it would be good to post these now (and yes, this will be now be a six-part series instead of the usual four-part series).
There are a variety of topics, ranging from a question about the world’s best goalkeepers (a list that has to include Tim Howard), potential World Cup 2010 players and Eddie Johnson’s future.
Here they are. Some more of your questions answered:
SEAWARD– Ives, love the site, it keeps me busy during boring work days. Anyway, where does Tim Howard rank among the world’s goalkeepers? Is he top 10, top 5?
IVES– Good question. I would put him in my Top 10. I think Iker Casillas is in his own category, with Gigi Buffon a close second. After that I think there’s another category with the likes of Pepe Reina and Petr Cech. Here’s my overall Top 10, not in any order:
- Iker Casillas
- Gigi Buffon
- Pepe Reina
- Petr Cech
- Julio Cesar
- Tim Howard
- Brad Friedel
- Igor Akinfeev
- Edwin Van Der Sar
- Sebastian Frey
I’m sure I’m leaving some good ones out (I’m a fan of Doni and think Carlos Kameni is solid) but I’ll go with this 10 for now.
4NOW– Can Freddy Adu play alongside Landon Donovan in any reasonable formation that would provide defensive cover? Why hasn’t Bornstein been utilized as a flank midfielder? What has been the problem with Everton’s backline this year?
IVES– I think the Christmas tree formation we saw briefly in the Cuba home qualifier looked like one that provided fair defensive cover, with Adu and Donovan as the playmakers behind the lone striker. I don’t think Bornstein is good enough on the ball to be an international midfielder. I don’t think his crossing is that great and I don’t see him taking people on.
As for Everton, what hasn’t gone wrong? You can start with Jolean Lescott, who was one of the best defenders in the EPL last year. This year? Not so much. Joseph Yobo also hasn’t had a good start to the season, so with those two struggling, Everton was always going to have a bad start to the season. They seem to be straightening things out, which you had to figure would happen because there is no way they were going to be that bad all year.
MATT– What is your take on the UEFA/FIFA vs. Poland issue? Is Poland really going to have to forfeit their qualifiers over this?
IVES– FIFA had the authority to make good on the threat and it couldn’t really afford to be soft on it, so it should come as no surprise that the issue was resolved with an election to select new leadership in the Polish FA.
EDUARDO CASTRO– Hi Ives:What is the future for Puerto Rico Islanders since they are not in the plans for future MLS expansion unlike the Montreal Impact? I have been duly impressed with their play in both the USL and CONCACAF Champions League?
IVES– I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I don’t think the USL is going to fold up shop because some of its top teams move to MLS. I think USL will grow as MLS grows because growing interest in soccer can only help the league.
ART– Love the site, Ives! Its a great way to keep worktime alive! In looking at attacking midfielder, for the 2010 world cup, can you see Donovan or Dempsey being used in that way, and perhaps Adu used as a very dependable sub coming off the bench? I know the USA is still looking for a consistent starting 11, but we also need to work on depth. Its amazing what other countries can do with their benches.
IVES– I think there are still too many starting roles that are unresolved to even begin talking about the roles of reserves. What I do think is that there is a deeper pool of talented players playing at higher levels and this will lead to a stronger bench with better options than we have seen in the past two World Cups. I think Landon Donovan is the playmaker right now, though Jose Francisco Torres could potentially develop into that role.
ELOPING CAMEL– Is MLS planning on bringing in the next two expansion teams in the same year or will they stagger it?
IVES– The two teams are supposed come aboard in 2011, a year after Philadelphia, which would bring the league to 18 teams in 2011. That would mean eight teams will have joined the league in a five-year span.
NEIL– Being that you have been to the majority of MLS Stadiums covering the Red Bulls, could you rank the supporters of each team based on a combination of knowledge of the game, attmosphere and overall support of the team?
IVES– Neil, I haven’t been to enough games at other venues to offer a fair assessment of those things. For example, I have been to Home Depot center a few times, but never for an LA or Chivas game. I have also never been to Robertson Stadium for a Dynamo game (at least until before this weekend’s playoff game). If we are talking about just the Eastern Conference I could probably offer up an opinion.
Here are my completely unofficial rankings:
- D.C. United
- Toronto FC
- Chicago Fire
- Columbus Crew
- New England Revolution
(I think the Fire and Crew are closer now as Columbus’ fan base has seen a boost among its die-hard fans. I didn’t include Kansas City because I have only been to one Wizards home game and that was a few years ago.)
AC– Great site Ives! It is really awesome to have a consistent perspective and opinion on soccer from an American angle, considering there isn’t much of that on a consistent basis. 2 questions: 1) The USL teams have really impressed in Champions League. If the MLS salary cap is raised, can you see a large amount of USL player signings to MLS? 2) Given the million questions on who will start for the Yanks in 2010, what players would you see as a great sources of depth for the next World Cup?
IVES– Thanks AC, appreciate the kind words.
1. I don’t think the cap matters, I think MLS teams are going to start raiding USL talent this winter. Even under the current MLS salary cap you will find teams making room for USL talent. It will be up to USL to match MLS offers. Where USL has the edge over MLS is at the lower end of the MLS salary spectrum, but when MLS teams start rating top USL talent, and start offering them mid-level MLS salaries, I think you will start to see top USL players defect.
2. I think players like Jeremiah White, Charlie Davies, Jose Francisco Torres, Marvell Wynne, Chad Marshall, and Kenny Cooper have all made great strides in the past year and are all good candidates to push their way onto the World Cup 2010 radar screen.
LUIS– Why does MLS always lie about the attendance, when they post it up in the website. For every single Galaxy home game, it shows that it was 27,000. I have a hard time believing that that is the actual attendance. Thanks
IVES– Luis, the attendances teams announce are for tickets distributed. A lot of times you have people who have bought tickets who wind up not using them, particularly in the case of season tickets.
Take the Galaxy this year. They sold a bunch of season tickets to Beckham-driven customers (let’s call them ultra-casual fans). A good number of those fans stopped coming long ago and let’s face it, there isn’t exactly a high demand for those tickets on the open market so chances for re-sale are low. This isn’t just for season tickets though.
A number of teams do ticket giveaways and group deals that can often wind up in tickets given out but not used. This practice isn’t unique to MLS. Other major sports do the same thing, they just have lower no-show rates.
CACuzcatlan– Why is the Gold Cup played every two years? If it was every four years, it seems like the prestige would be enhanced because there would be fewer chances to win it, and it can be made into a bigger event. Really, what’s the prize for winning the 2009 Gold Cup? Pride. But the winner doesn’t get to go to the Confederations Cup.
IVES– That’s a fair question. It does feel like a bit of overkill to have the event every two years, and 2009 seems like a silly time to have it considering you have the final round of World Cup qualifying as well as the Confederations Cup. Some critics might accuse CONCACAF of having it every two years as an easy payday.
RANDALL– What single factor do you think will play the greatest role in improving the quality of the player pool for the US relative to the soccer powers around the world? Better athletes choosing to play and stick with the sport? More emphasis on skills? Exposure to better competition at a young age? Or will it be something more marketing/branding-related, like a higher profile for MLS–or a breakout MLS star–pulling more American athletes into the game? And on a related note, do you think the US player pool is consistently improving already?
IVES– All of those things are important (though I’m not so sure about the exposure to better competition at a young age one) but I think establishing stronger player development programs is key to producing more high-quality players.
The U.S. Under-17 national team residency program is clear evidence of that. Do people really think that program is cranking out good pro players and national team players because the program’s staff members have been that good at identifying elite talent? Those coaches do deserve some credit for finding good players, but it boils down to exposing good players to an intensive training program and proper youth academy-type setup. The more programs you have like that the more players I think you will see emerging as quality pro prospects at younger ages.
That’s not to take away from the current system of youth soccer, which I think is headed in a good direction, especially now with the establishment of U.S. Soccer’s Player Development Academy. This country’s youth soccer set-up needed better organization and a more uniform approach to player development and the USPDA has done a good job of establishing that.
NICO– With the CONCACAF Champions League to help, do you think you might start a CONCACAF power rankings? What might be your current top 10 or so? (hopefully you haven’t answered this already). Thanks.
IVES– That’s an interesting idea and something to definitely consider in 2009.
IVES FOR MLS COMMISSIONER– VIVA SOCCER BY IVES! Looking into a glass bulb, can you see the trio of Adu, Altidore, and Davies being a dangerous attacking triplet for the 2014 World Cup?
IVES– I could but so much can happen in five to six years.
NEIL– With the recent success of USL teams in the CCL do you think there will ever be a pre-season game that pits the MLS champs vs. the USL champs or do you think a game more like the Community Shield where the MLS champs vs. the US Open champs would be more likely? I think either of these games would be a step in the right direction for MLS. Thanks again, love the site.
IVES– I would absolutely love an MLS champions vs. USL champions game, but I never see it happening. While it would certainly appeal to the die-hards, I’m not sure that game could be a marketing success, which is going to be a factor in MLS adopting that kind of match.
A Community-shield type of match would be great. If anything, MLS could just make that match-up part of the opening week of the season rather than what the Community Shield is, which is essentially a friendly.
ALTICOOPER– As for Eddie Johnson, don’t you think it would be best for him to return to the mls? He clearly doesnt have the confidence or technical ability to stay overseas at a high level. However he could have a lot to contribute to the mls. A young american pure striker who has proven himself already in the league could provide some flash and marketability. Plus doing well and keeping fit while playing a lot could throw him back in the national team mix… what are your thoughts about it?
IVES– I’m a bit conflicted when it comes to Johnson. While part of me just doesn’t think he will ever get any better, I do think it would be premature for him to return to MLS already. If he were to return this winter that would mark just one full year in England. I don’t think any young American player should turn tail and run from Europe after just one year.
European soccer is a tough business and playing time isn’t guaranteed there, but the reward for perseverance is the possibility of establishing yourself as a player over there. I think Johnson has to stay at least through January of 2010. At that point if he’s floundering he should come back to MLS.
PAUL– As a Newcastle Fan watching the horror show that is going on now there now what US sports organization(s)are just as messed up as they are? Enjoy the website keep up the great writing.
IVES– Given the ownership problems and underachieving ways of a once strong club, I think you could equate Newcastle to the Oakland Raiders. Dysfunctional ownership, rabid fans and black and white uniforms.
RANDALL– Who in your opinion will be the first true world-class star to emerge from the US? Is it someone like Altidore, someone from the next generation like Renken, or do you not see anyone in the current pipeline with that type of potential?
IVES– I think Altidore has the tools to be a successful player in Europe, but as far as a world-class player I’m still not sure I’ve seen a player who is ready to be an world-class American player. Charlie Renken looks like a great prospect, but I think we’re still two years away from knowing just how good he can be on the next level.