Ricardo Clark said a few weeks ago what everyone knew and no one wanted to admit - "MLS" stands for "Must Leave Soonest."
Well, that's life in modern big-time football, for everyone below the Big Four (or Big Three, if the Bundesliga is going through one of its periods of self-doubt and ennui). From Scotland to New Caledonia, players either want to play in Europe, or they have no ambition. If you're not a Eurosnob as a player, you're probably not much of a player.
But...seeing it in black and white like that. Are they so brutally honest in Johannesburg and Melbourne? What about those brutal rivalries in Rio and Mexico and Argentina? Are we all just feeder leagues for the Champions League?
Usually, MLS hate is so entertaining. Like, for example, this ****ing train wreck. And I mean exactly that. It was like watching two train wrecks fall in love and show their special feelings for each other.
I love that kind of hatred. The screams for promotion and relegation, the defiance of geographic realities, the delusions of popular support, the inability or unwillingness to realize the appeal of the domestic game...I devoured each and every word, thankful that such people were busy entertaining me, instead of out doing damage to things people might care about it.
But now...you know, maybe it's the protracted labor wrangling. Maybe it's the after-effect of years of gimmicks, from Freddy Adu to David Beckham, devaluing the contributions of players who actually produced and entertained. Maybe it's years and years of expansion fan bases insisting that their popularity gives them priority over older, weaker, feeble teams.
(Which, and I can't emphasize this enough, is the proper way for expansion fans to behave. It's an MLS tradition by itself dating back to 1998, and the last thing anyone needs are more Charlotte Bobcats. Seattle? Toronto? Don't change. Salt Lake? Turn up the gloating. Philadelphia? Got HIGH hopes for you guys. Portland? Oh, I KNOW you're ready. Vancouver? Don't pretend, you're not watching the Olympics any more than anyone else is.)
The US national team is more popular than ever, but criticism of its much-maligned awkward teenage daughter is louder, more cogent, and more sustained than ever.
I can only find one guy willing to stick up for MLS anymore. He's in Liverpool right now, but he seemingly can't wait to get back to good old, down home Major League Soccer fun.
I'm not sure I believe it, either. And there are no shortage of Earthquake fans who remember similar promises in 2004.
In fact, I'm not sure anyone believes Donovan is returning to Los Angeles, except for Donovan, David Moyes, and Tim Leiweke. Sure, two of those guys cast deciding votes, and none of us do.
But David Beckham was not, let's be fair, the best player for AC Milan in January and February of last year. Yet both Milan and Team Beckham were willing to play chicken with MLS until they got plucked.
In comparison, this should have been a slam dunk. Everton's official freaking website is talking up a player lauded by their rather demanding fans.
Now, maybe Landon Donovan could get hundreds of fans to the Adidas store on Santa Monica Promenade, and maybe he couldn't. Why would Everton lie about it, though? More to the point, why would Everton tell the truth about it? "Here's our best player! We're letting him go back to the Mickey Mouse league in a couple of weeks, though."
If Donovan had played this well a year ago, we'd be reading about him in German today. (I'm still not sure he didn't play perfectly well, and it was simply Landon getting caught in the middle of Die Bayern fusterclucking itself. They couldn't have used Landon when he was tearing up MLS and FC Hollywood was gagging away the Bundesliga on the last weekend? If you say so, Franz.)
Grant Wahl, who is to Landon what Boswell was to Johnson (no, not Bobby Boswell and Eddie Johnson), can't quite believe it either.
People can't get their heads around this. It's like a Royals prospect saying he wouldn't mind going to back to spend his career in Omaha.
But that's the conclusion we're left with. Wahl implies that Everton might try to extend the loan, but I take the claims of poverty from Premiership teams very grain-of-saltly - at least, Premiership teams north of Waterloo Station. Everton's not going to make an offer at market value? Isn't every game in the Premiership vital? Don't they all matter? Aren't teams fearful of relegation, and hopeful for European play? Does any team dare risk that awful stick or that delicious carrot, because they can't satisfy the miserable excuse for a single entity contraption run by colonial rubes?
Wahl says that Donovan's value as an American player might complicate the negotiations, but how many shirts does Landon really sell? Both AEG and Everton know by now, one imagines. But if Donovan was that big a draw here, he'd be playing in the Quakes' soccer specific stadium and the Dynamo would be the horrible expansion team.
All the speculation misses the point - Donovan signed his new contract before the Everton loan. If he was intent on ditching the Galaxy, he probably wouldn't have signed. And if AEG thought Donovan was going to pull a Beckham and say how difficult it would be to come back, they almost certainly wouldn't have let him go in the first place.
What's amazing is that even after Donovan's success (barring, of course, an own goal, a red card, and maybe a broken leg against Manchester United in a few hours), both AEG and Donovan still seem to feel the same way.
Maybe Donovan needs to talk to Ricardo Clark?