A remarkable characteristic of the soccerine blogosphere is the healthy percentage of the better sites that are North American controlled, with Run of Play and Pitch Invasion two notables in this respect. Although distance from the action leads to an often unhealthy reliance on secondary sources (we ourselves can clutch at straws and take the moral high ground as my fellow blogger Lloyd makes the trek to Colchester tomorrow), their coverage continues to meet a high standard and nowhere more so than in their analyses of the stateside game’s showpiece platform, Major League Soccer.
Now, I myself am being forced to undergo exile under the Star Spangled Banner, and from my bolthole on the Upper West Side have been eagerly acquainting myself with stateside soccer. A blisteringly vibrant atmosphere and a crowd of over 86,000 for the first big college gridiron encounter of the season in Landover, Maryland last Monday does illustrate how far the global game still has to go in these parts and I have explored before the clear comparisons between BCS college football and our Football League…but, the MLS is thriving for all that. I therefore thought it would be informative to uncover a few of the former English league stars plying their profession à l’americaine. Rafael Márquez, Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg and some fella from Leytonstone are all here of course, but nostalgists may also be surprised to discover some familiar names with less storied backgrounds.
Columbus Crew, in possession of one of the best crests in football, number Léandre Griffit among their ranks. Players who have etched up little more than 50 appearances for 9 clubs in more than a decade must be two a penny and it’s true that the Frenchman’s spells at Southampton, Leeds, Rotherham and Palace were more notable for constant and erroneous anglicization of his name – be it to Griffith or Griffiths. His time in the US has been hardly more noticeable and he has scored just once from the bench since coming to Ohio in July.
To the east and the nation’s capital, and DC United number in their ranks Danny Allsopp
, author of 39 goals in 102 matches for Notts County and 22 in 64 for Hull, sadly before the Tigers hit the Big Brown Time. The Aussie followed this with a productive spell back in his home country with Melbourne Victory before heading to the Mall this year via a spell in Qatari football. He was a mooted wunderkind
at Man Citeh although his Wikipedia entry
mentions a pre-season goal he scored for the Citizens against Newquay – do you remember when you had to put “Tuck Shop Monitor” on your CV?
is the kind of player who can give a whole league a bad name. Miserable in England with Middlesbrough, the Bolivian came along with other more successful South Americans and racked up just two goals in a quarter of a century of appearances, one of them, somewhat ignominiously, in the Anglo-Italian Cup. Lightweight and entirely lacking in impact, his elevation to become the all time leading scorer in the MLS has US apologists twitching with defensiveness of their League. Now 36, he continues to fire them in for the District club and he has hit the back of the net a cool 132 times. My fellow blogger Mike of The Two Unfortunates
and Strife of Brian will no doubt have a view.
In a roster of footballing nepotists, Craig Rocastle would surely feature. How many times must a coach have decided to give the kid another chance because of an absurd soft spot for George Graham’s Championship winning Arsenal side of 1989. He’s the cousin of the late legend and wingside artist David of course, but Craig has never hit those heights and none of his 14 English clubs will remember him with much fondness; Sheffield Wednesday having provided him with his highest profile and afforded him a berth in a dramatic play off victory over Hartlepool. He’s now at Kansas City Wizards.
I saw Adrian Serioux
put in some crunching tackles and some seriously
long throws for Millwall in a match against Reading back in 2004
. At the time, the dreadlocked Canuck looked the part and a cockney wide boy columnist in the Lions programme of that day purred at how much other players would just hate
playing against him. But, he only made it onto the pitch 24 times at the New Den, quickly fading from view and is now in his second stint at Houston Dynamo. Sharing a midfield with Dennis Wise may not have suited him.
That same match featured Royals’ diminutive hope Bobby Convey
, and a performance short of confidence left him prone to the boo boys that first campaign in England. Happily, he came back for Year 2 utterly refreshed – a dramatic three quarters of the pitch dash
crowned a massive win over the same opponents and provided the launchpad for an annus mirabilis
and 106 points. Injuries blunted his latter years at the Mad Stad and he is now rehabilitating himself amid the hi-tech start ups of San Jose and their Earthquakes.
Convey graced the pitch during the United States’ patchy 2006 World Cup campaign and another alumnus of those finals can be found alongside the megastars at LA Galaxy. Trinidad and Tobago’s first white player for eons was a familiar face on our screens at those times but a jump from Port Vale to Coventry City proved beyond Chris Birchall
and he actually replaced Golden Balls to make his debut in the City of Angels a year ago. We can sneer, but one one might prefer Malibu or Beverly Hills to the Ricoh.
This is by no means an exhaustive trawl and PNE yeoman Eddie Lewis (LA Galaxy), Welsh mainstay Carl Robinson (New York Red Bulls), ex-Terrier John Thorrington (Chicago Fire) and Bradford City netminder Donovan Ricketts (also LA Galaxy) all deserve a mod, but I’ll close up by mentioning Geovanni. Sure, the Brazilian has never featured in the Football League, but his entanglement with Hull City Association Football Club is so completely symptomatic of where that business finds itself as we enter September 2010, that his presence alongside Convey at San Jose is telling.