Talking the Talk

The fact that there's almost literally no news at all from the MLS/MLSPU CBA talks, made the report from yesterday that the sides met...

EIGHT HOURS ON TUESDAY!!!! AND THEY"LL BE MEETING AGAIN WEDNESDAY!!!!! SERIOUSLY!!!!!

...seem like actual news instead of a, "well duh, did you think they took the family to Disney this week?" moment.

However, PAT ONSTAD made some comments yesterday that may actually shed a little light on how things are going:

"Both sides have conceded certain things that are important to each party and now we only have two or three major stumbling blocks, which is a lot better where we were two weeks ago when we had 15 or 16"


"Insiders" have been hedging their bets for well over a week now, saying that while there may not be a deal in place by midnight Sunday they believe the sides will be close enough that they'll let camps go on and have something signed by mid-February.

Here's hoping that's not the case. Let's get this done and over with.

RE: Donovan's goal yesterday:

Here's the thing: American fans love seeing him do well over there. They're not resentful or angry or burning Don Garber in effigy, and BigSoccer won't be inundated with threads titled "How Can American Soccer Survive if We Let Our Best Player Leave MLS?"

Among other things, Landon succeeding in England (and no, three games does not a career make) isn't a strike against MLS; rather, it validates it.

Conversely, his inability to get traction or interest abroad despite being, unarguably, the best player in Major League Soccer was always somewhat puzzling if not worrisome. If even Landon Donovan can't catch on someplace like the decidedly mediocre Bundesliga, then we must be even crummier here than we thought.

So it's nicely reassuring to see him off to a strong start at Everton.

Moreover, for what it's worth I think there's a lesson here for guys like Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore and the rest:

Landon could have done what those guys are doing any time he wanted; sign overseas someplace - anyplace - get loaned out, bounce around from one unfancied outfit to another scrambling for fifteen minutes of PT once in a while, get released, have his agent scrape up some club willing to give him a shot someplace else, all the while putting a good face on a career going nowhere.

In fact, Donovan has taken a ton of heat for not doing just that.

So tell me, who did it right? The guy who hung around MLS, playing his ass off, making ever-better money, occasionally sticking his foot in the water overseas but not willing to settle for a contract and a seat, or the kids who run to Europe the first time someone waves a piece of paper at them?

To top it off, he's now the undisputed leader of the USMNT as it heads to the World Cup. Freddy and Jozy, meanwhile, are working from the Jovan Kirovski career blueprint, counting on being "at" someplace famous to make up for the fact that you're not actually "doing" anything there.

On the plus side though, they're both probably making good enough money to afford nice big TV's to watch South Africa on.

On the flip side there's Kenny Cooper, whose exploits are going to be much harder to follow as the arc of his paycheck-chasing has now traveled from Manchester United to, apparently, PLYMOUTH ARGYLE , and his World Cup team chances, whatever they might have been at one time, are apparently sinking along with the rest of his career.

Herewith, courtesy of HILLCREST ROAD comes news of the matchup we've all been waiting for:

I figure if Kei Kamara can hit from outside the arc and Kevin Hartman keeps Pau Gasol out of the lane, they've got a real shot.

Just because this column doesn't link to nearly enough walking pieces of excrement, I figured I'd give a shout out to the truly appalling Perez Hilton, who a) HAS A PIECE ABOUT THE BECKHAMS and how much they love LA and b) makes me feel like I need a shower.

The big news here is that, as Hilton asures us, DBecks "could be purchasing a new league for MLS in the near future".

I'm guessing NuRock would make him a really really good deal.

I'm certain that the fact I have only a vague recollection of seeing Oka Nikolov between the pipes (as they say) for Eintracht Frankfurt means that I'm a hopelessly parochial Americentric MLS goober. (Oh wait - Steven Cohen is off the air, isn't he?)

That said, for some reason or other I'm always surprised when American professional teams look to aging foreign players to fill the need for a goalkeeper, as RedBullNewSweden did in aquiring the aforementioned Mr. Nikolev, a native of Macedonia.

(And Kansas City, which used to be in Missouri but is hereafter going to be located in Kansas (along with, presumably, their little dog Toto, too) is apparently ON THE VERGE OF SIGNING former Tottenham #1 Ian Walker to be their #2 although in fairness Walker is better known for cavorting with Las Vegas strippers than shutting down opponents. Quite a boon for KCs' call girls but for the Wizards maybe not so much)

I keep hearing about how the USA can't come up with playmakers, shooters, midfielders, left backs and, well, any other position player but boy oh boy the one thing we've got over here is GK's because, doncha know, all our kids grow up playing sports with their hands.

Indeed, if the US has made any contribution to world soccer it's surely been with our keepers, guys like Friedel, Keller and Howard.

Now I grant you that most MLS fans would need heavy sedation if they heard their home team had just brought in, say, Dusty Hudock or Jay Nolly to handle their goalkeeping chores, although I myself think a few guys, Wild Bill Gaudette at Puerto Rico among them, deserve a shot (or, in his as in several other cases, "another" shot).

Still, this isn't how it was supposed to be. And the reason it hasn't entirely worked out that way is simply that MLS has expanded to 16 teams and is on the way to 18 next year and probably 20 soon afer that. There are simply too many spots to fill.

In response, one solution used to be to put a recent college grad out there before he was ready, normally with disastrous, confidence-shattering results.

So despite the presence of some quality younger keepers (Hesmer, Pickens) and plenty of very solid veterans (Busch, Reis, RImando, Thornton, Hartman, Cannon and, of course, Keller), with guys like Howard, Guzan and Hahnemann (to say nothing of that Friedel fellow) overseas we're still, remarkably, coming up short.

That's not to say that bringing in a guy like Nikolov makes a bit of sense to me - talk about a guy trying to pad the old retirement account - but the original theory that using an international roster spot on a GK was always going to be pretty much unnecessary has fallen victim to the reality of numbers.

As for the "Americans are good keepers because they play all sorts of sports usin their hands" theory, there's undoubtedly an element of truth to that..

But the larger truth is that Friedel and Keller and Howard became keepers instead of forwards not because of their nifty eye-hand skill set but because, frankly, they're not built like forwards.

The real story is that they became keepers rather than tight ends or power forwards, which is what most 6' 2" - 6'4", 230 - 250 pound American elite athletes choose to do.

And when guys like them start bringing along more of their 5'9" freinds with blazing speed, ridiculous periferal vision and agility and coordination to die for, the ones who they last saw playing point guard and second base, along to soccer practice with them, THAT is when the rest of the world better start looking out.