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Progress Update On MLS’s Plan To Shed “Retirement League” Rep – Not Great, Bob!

Sam’s Safe Space For Soccer Stoolies

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Hi haters™,

So, yeah, Chelsea shat the bed (again) and Huddersfield successfully turtled (once more) yesterday, thus setting the stage for one of the tamer final days – the inaptly (this year) named “Championship Sunday” – of the EPL season in recent memory. Very unfortunate. Swansea are still mathematically alive but need a couple miracles while on the other end of the table Chelsea need to win and Liverpool would need to drop points for the Blues to climb into the top four. That’s it. That is all there is to play for this weekend.

Fear not, though, fellow lawn fairy fan, as there mercifully are plenty of other things to hold our attention for the time being, including the Championship playoff along with FA Cup and Champions League finals… and before you know it the World Cup will be upon us.

But that’s not what this blog is about. Nay, this is a short and sweet blog about the newly mooted marriage between MLS and Wayne Rooney, and the implications thereof.

So it seems a deal “in principle” has been reached in which Old Man Rooney will be leaving Everton and joining DC United when the MLS transfer window opens in July.

Opinions have been flying left and right on the twitter machine this morning. So it only seems right for me to offer you my opinion – aka “the one true correct opinion” – so you can use it to go around impress your friends with how smart you are… and my opinion is that there are a lot of losers and only very few winners from this move. Actually, just one.

Let’s first establish the facts of the situation: Wayne Rooney is 32 years old. That is pretty old for a soccer player, but roughly around the same age as other “aging” European stars have come over to MLS and been productive players – think David Beckham, Robbie Keane, Thierry Henry and David Villa. However, in contrast with most of those guys, Rooney’s skills seem to be falling off a cliff. For example, compare Rooney to his erstwhile teammate…

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…and arch-frienemy…

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…Ronny.

How old do you think the Portuguese striker is? What if I told you he is 33 years old? That’s right, older than Rooney. But whereas Ronny has completely refashioned his game, transitioning from a speedy and powerful attacking winger into an intelligent and clinical goal poacher, Rooney has thus far been unable to reinvent himself. He is now just a slower, more plodding version of the straightforward bulldog (with, admittedly, great vision) that took England by storm a decade-and-a-half ago.

So who wins and who loses?

DCU: Short-term win, long-term loss… they will put some much-needed butts in the seats of a shiny new stadium, which is all well and good, until – assuming the club doesn’t make some other shrewd moves to improve what is, was, and has been for a while now the league’s worst team – the people attached to those butts are not entertained by the rapidly-aging Rooney and disappointed by a lack of wins from the team. Putting butts in seats and keeping butts in seats is, sadly, a very different proposition.

MLS: LossShort explanation: the league is in a lose-lose situation where if Rooney succeeds, MLS looks bad; if Rooney fails, it doesn’t help MLS but once-proud DCU continues to suck. Long explanation: MLS was long known (and is probably still thought of by many people – particularly outside the US) as a “retirement league” for aging European superstars, and with some reason. All those names listed above – Beckham, Keane, Henry and Villa – did a lot of great thing for MLS, as they were all productive players, but the very fact they were so successful helped contribute to the notion that players no longer able to perform at the top of their game in Europe can hop over to MLS, get paid handsomely, revel in the bells and whistles of American life, and enjoy another spell of dominance on the field. More recently, the league has tried to do away with the “retirement league” talk by moving in another direction. Think of the youth movement for which Atlanta United is a posterchild, with it and other teams focusing less on aging Europeans and more on hungry, talented South Americans just coming into their prime.

Zlatan was a one-off. The league got a pass for him because he is Zlatan.

MLS will get no such pass for Rooney, who – in a cruel twist of fate – will either succeed and make the league look even worse, or fail and do little to help the league’s image while also bringing (or should I say keeping) DC United down given the lack of flexibility from his massive contract.

[Note: comparisons with Bastian Schweinsteiger are also not appropriate because of the role that Ze German is being asked to fill as a more defensive leader… Rooney will be judged on whether he significantly and immediately resuscitates DCU’s anemia offense – which strikes me as a recipe for disappointment.]

Everton/United: continue to LOSE… United has been eating a HUGE chunk of Rooney’s $20M/year salary and they will continue to do so, and now Everton will also contribute to paying for a player they no longer employ the services of.

Rooney: WIN… he will be getting paid to live and play in the US rather than rainy old England while not being subject to anywhere near as much criticism from fans and the media over here (except in certain corners of the soccer twitter universe).

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And that’s pretty much all I have to say about that. One game on the calendar today – West Ham vs United (preview + prediction HERE) – which seems like a good time to offer my traditional reminder that some soccer >>>> no soccer.

Back on Friday for the next edition of the weekly preview that you have all come to know, love but usually ignore.


Holler,
Samuel Army