Hey, some old acquaintances who have been forgot and never brought to mind have returned to our lives, however tangentially. If someone asks you which Olympic team has the most MLS Cup winners...well, duh, it's the United States. However, if someone asks you which team has the most MLS hardware, counting Open Cups and such....nope, it's still the United States.
But right behind in both categories is New Zealand.
I was busy gathering a team of mercenaries to liberate Tibet from its Communist overlords, so I didn't even know/care that New Zealand had made the tournament, or that they had chosen our old pals as their overage guys. Since the Kiwis are in China's group, I've decided to hold off on counter-revolutionary activity until New Zealand beats them, and then take advantage of the ensuing chaos to lead my insurrection to victory.
Michael Lewis, as we see, thinks they're going to stink...and he's right, Brazil and Belgium will probably thump them. But Ryan Nelsen is easily one of the best non-Brazilian players in the group. You'd have to hook us American fans up to a car battery before we'd admit it, but Ryan Nelsen is more popular at Blackburn than Brad Friedel was. Christian Gomez won the 2004 MLS Cup for DC United, but without Nelsen, DC doesn't make the playoffs that year.
Simon Elliott was all but chased out of Los Angeles, in retrospect unjustly, since his career was far from finished. It's, um, pretty close to finished now - he's older than David Beckham, and is currently, to put it delicately, unencumbered with the day-to-day hassles of club commitments. He's clearly on the Whiteys for similar reasons to a fellow former Crew and Fulham Olympian - huge amounts of respect, veteran leadership, and not a little misguided sentimentality. It doesn't bother me nearly as much in Elliott's case, because (a) New Zealand is in the weakest federation in the solar system, and this really shouldn't hurt their World Cup campaign much; (b) McBride got to go to several World Cups, and Elliott never did; and (c) as a non-New Zealand fan, I don't feel the pointless urge to backseat coach like I do with the Yaks.
I think the only other MLS connections in China is Ekpo of the Crew...and Carlos Pavon, formerly of the Galaxy. Not that asthma is funny, but the idea of calling Pavon up to play in freaking Beijing kinda is. Maybe Pavon should stop signing up with teams that play in and around smog. Who's next, Cruz Azul? Zamalek? Houston?