The end of Adumania, and beyond

Wow, that was a nice goal from Davy Arnaud. Hopefully that's where the Beckham Effect pays off - a miserable game with one incredible highlight from someone in the home team should bring fans back, maybe, perhaps, some of them. If you missed it, on the perfectly understandable grounds that you had better things to do with your life than watch two awful teams play soccer badly, here's the link.

Nice, wasn't it? The MLSnet report churlishly pointed out that the Galaxy defense gave him more space and time than Doctor Who, but there are lots of MLS players who couldn't have made that shot against thin air. Maybe I'm just easily amused, but there have been an awful lot of fantastic goals this year.

Meanwhile, what shall we do about David Beckham? I realize one of his shots in the first half would have been another Goal of the Year candidate had it went in, but I think more alarming was the free kick he had earlier in the half. Let me paraphrase Watson and Rogo's call for you:

"Beckham sets up - and this is why people from all around the world come to see him. He's the greatest free kick taker that ever lived, and this is simply a beautiful opportunity for him. The whole crowd is on its feet - a hush falls over the crowd - people are switching channels just to see this free kick - this is almost certainly going to be one of the defining moments in the history of sports...and Beckham launches a Simon Elliott Special into Row 56, hitting a tourist from Nebraska while the rest of the stadium erupts in guffaws and horse laughs. Tune in after the game for high school football highlights."

Either the Associated Press, MLSnet, or both, focused on Beckham's many travels over the past week. The gruelling travel schedule has apparently taken a toll. Which would be a fairly feeble excuse coming from a rookie out of Coastal Carolina, let alone a Premiership, La Liga and Champions League international veteran. Beckham wasn't all tired and exhausted in 1999 when Manchester United won the triple (or treble, if you can't tell the difference between math and a car stereo) - hell, he followed that up by marrying Victoria. If the Galaxy's schedule is getting to him, it's because he's getting old.

We'll see how Beckham does this Saturday at home, but if it's as well as he's done in the past three months or so, the reaction from the Galaxy and MLS will be interesting. Does Bruce Arena have the stroke to bench the guy? Curt Onalfo and Gary Smith are able to sit their biggest names when they feel like it, but Beckham is on a different level.

(So is Cootiemac Breathalyzer, come to think of it, the other player in the league who is arguably bigger than his team. Blanco hasn't deteriorated quite as visibly as Beckham...but then, Beckham hasn't called the fans garbage yet, either. I wonder if Hamlett can ever say "Temoc, you're stinking it up. Grab some pine and grow a neck"?)

I apologize for talking about Beckham and the Galaxy instead of the thirteen actual teams in the league. But MLS has been fairly iffy about follow-up plans after their latest hype balloon fails. Or, more precisely, they've been remarkably fortunate. Doug Logan, as near as I can tell, had no backup plan for when the original novelty of the league wore off, or else had unrealistic hopes for the US in 1998, and it nearly brought the league to a halt by 2000 or so. The 2002 World Cup helped bring the fun back to soccer in America, or at least wipe away the embarrassment. Freddy Adu was hyped well beyond what was good for him or DC United...but darned if it didn't get the ink flowing. After a couple of seasons eating sweet, delicious golden goose, in comes Beckham. That move has paid off...but Beckhamania should pretty much fizzle out next year, barring an amazing comeback or a quick visit to the nice folks at BALCO. Ideally, the next big MLS hype would be the United States having a fantastic World Cup in 2010 with a team chock full of smiling heroes from MLS...but how did that plan work in 2006?

MLS could bring in another big name or two...but from the non-soccer point of view, I don't see anyone else moving the cliche - er, needle. Thierry Henry is not a household name. Ronaldo is clearly more trouble than he's worth at this point - the Red Bull non-signing was probably the narrowest escape the league has had since DC United was talked out of/forced out of signing Gascoigne. Ronaldinho's career arc is startling to resemble D.B. Cooper's. Zinedine Zidane has already told us where to stick it. We can't afford Cristiano Ronaldo.

There is an end to the constant cycle of hype and more hype, and that's when the United States next hosts the World Cup. That's why it was called Project 2010, that's why we're leering over South Africa all but openly rooting for them to fail, that's why we keep talking about how we can step in for Brazil, that's why we're going to go to the mat against England. Once MLS hosts the World Cup, its future will be set for pretty much the rest of our lives. They just have to get there. Soccer specific stadiums and revenue streams and concert stages are all well and good, but 2022 is a long way off.

Oh...look at that. I typed Adu in the title instead of Beckham. I wonder why I would have done such a thing.