The Founding Fathers

Back at the Dawn of History, when Alan I. Rothenberg looked down upon soccer and saw that it was good, he raised up his countenance over all the land and brought forth Major League Soccer.

Out of the ashes of the 1990 Bob Gansler-led World Cup disaster and the prospect of Werner Fricker and his drinking buddies running World Cup 94 like some kind of community bake sale (while the only thing even his opponents could think of to complain about was that FRICKER HADN'T YET COME UP WITH A MASCOT, a situation which was described as "a tragedy") came, just six years later, a professional league the US could call our own.

Or at least until Canada started demanding all expansion teams for themselves due to their "great, great fans".

We all know the story: Rothenberg and his pal Sepp Blatter took Fricker, Stiehl and the rest out back and bludgeoned them with a tire iron until they agreed to let them run USSF.

Then Rothenberg showed the in-way-over-his-head Gansler the door and bought in the funny looking oddball coach from the Martian national team, Bora Milutinovic, who proceeded to create a soccer team where none had existed before.

After Rothenberg generated roughly 88 bazillion dollars from the tournament - reportedly Sepp Blatter, a la Scrooge McDuck, had a swimming pool filled with US $100 bills that he swam laps in every morning - he took a big chunk of what FIFA didn't hand over to various national federation bag men and started up Major League Soccer.

Rothenberg's personal, up from the dungeon Igor, Sunil Gulati, proceeded to build the league around the "stars" of the 1994 US team. They were, collectively, the Golden Generation, the guys who would lead America out of the soccer wilderness and into the bright light of respectability.

Guys like John Harkes and Alexi Lalas and Marcelo Balboa and Eric Wynalda and Tony Meola and Fernando Clavijo and the rest were the guys who figured to build this league, and soccer in the US, both on the field and, when their playing days were over, on the benches and in the front offices and on the air.

So have these guys lived up to the expectations?

Alexi Lalas has been nothing short of a disaster, leading a collection of teams straight down into the cellar, and it's beginning to lok like even the deaf, dumb and blind kids at AEG are noticing.

Eric Wynalda got tossed out of a broadcast career for telling the truth. Marcelo Balboa, (still wearing the same retro ponytail-and-goatee deal he apparently sees as his trademark but which most everyone else thinks is starting to look a bit creepy) is still working TV games but only because his employers don't know enough to understand how truly bad he is.

Only John Harkes seems to be on the way to announcing competency, but he's really just starting out.

Frank Klopas is the newly-minted Technical Director of the Chicago Fire. Way too early to judge, particularly since the TD position is still pretty new with most teams and nobody seems 100% positive what it is they actually do.

Meola was last seen playing for the NewJersey Ironmen in a league which just folded, and is reportedly now coaching youth soccer in New Jersey.

Fernando Clavijo cannot possibly last much longer as a head coach, although he IS perhaps the snappiest dresser amongst his peers. Then again, when your competition includes Sigi Schmid, maybe that's not such high praise.

John Doyle is also running an FO, in San Jose. Too early to tell, but at the moment he's wheeling and dealing like a madman.

Tab Ramos is MIA. Paul Caligiuri, once the most hated man in Columbus Ohio, coaches Div II soccer on the west coast. Dominic Kinnear has a job in Houston someplace.

But this isn't supposed to be a "Where are they now?" piece. Those are invariably the dishwatery-dull scrawlings of someone desperate for something to write about.

This is more of a "How are they doing" or maybe a "Are they where they ought to be" kind of a piece.

Out of all of them, you have to say that Dom Kinnear has been an unqualified success, while Lalas and Clavijo seem to be on the brink of needing to check out monster.com.

The early signs from Doyle and Klopas are encouraging. Not much of anyone else is on the come in a front office capacity.

The benches seem surprisingly thin. Someone will I'm sure point out that I'm missing a guy or two but the only one who comes to mind is Mike Lapper in Columbus.

And in the booth, the only guy you'd bet on long term would be Harkes, and he has a long ways to go.

Overall, I sort of expected more. Maybe 10 or 15 years from now it'll look much different.