It's not like Major League Soccer has never shelled out money for an American defender. Eddie Pope was given enough money to play his entire career here. Marcelo Balboa was the face of the Colorado Rapids for years. Paul Caligiuri negotiated a good enough deal that he won an arbitration when the league tried to change its terms. And Alexi Lalas might might still be the most famous American soccer player today, let alone when MLS was starting up. I'd hate to be nosy and ask him, but I think at the very least, his cut of image rights might have notched his salary above what was then the league maximum. If he was playing today, he would absolutely be a Designated Player.
I mean, to me it would be big news if the Designated Player was a foreign defender. Especially after Hong Myung-Bo and Rafa Marquez left their teams behind in orgies of bad-mouthing and finger-pointing. If you think of Shalrie Joseph as a defender, that's three that backfired pretty badly.
That, and as a Galaxy fan, my reaction to Omar Gonzalez being granted Designated Player status was much less "my goodness" than "but of course." There are plenty of reasons why the Galaxy have been awfully good the last few years, but Los Angeles has tended to stink without Omar, and I think most of the Bruce Arena/Chris Klein regime has noticed. Of the comparatively few internal promotions in the history of the Designated Player, this one strikes me as obvious as Barros Schelotto and Wondolowski.
Heck, the fact that the Galaxy didn't let Omar stroll off to Europe and overpay for someone like Ronaldinho or Kaka fills me with vicarious, unearned pride. See, we're not just about flash and marketing. We care about winning. We wouldn't trade trophies for jersey sales, unless it was a LOT of jersey sales and Omar sells a few.
Yet people were acting like this was a bigger deal than signing Robbie Rogers. Well, come to think of it, it should be, shouldn't it? MLS has locked in its best defender (sorry, Mr. Besler, but I think Omar is better) for either years or a lot of cash, when said defender could have played out the string and had many, many clubs lining up for his talents. It's very reassuring that something that benefits existing Galaxy fans, as opposed to potential glamor-chasers, is seen as good business.
The other surprising reaction to Omar's signing should not have been a surprise at all, for it was the same reaction too many had to Seattle signing Clint Dempsey - that the player is settling for a lower standard of competition and won't achieve his full potential.
Actually, that wasn't the only reaction to Clint Dempsey going green, and while I didn't have as visceral a reaction to how it happened as Bill did, I guess I kind of sort of see where people are coming from. What I don't understand is why the league hasn't yet announced the Sounders dispersal draft.
Hell, yeah, I remember! We lost Clint Freaking Mathis for no god-damned reason! We should have had a dynasty a decade earlier! We should have eight stars by now! And just try to tell me his deteriorating work ethic had nothing to do with leaving a solid team to join the Metrostars Crazy Train. Arena could barely trust him for the Nats, and he ticked off every coach in Europe. Dude should have been on three straight World Cup teams! Well...maybe he wouldn't have blown those ligaments! Get off my back, I want to be bitter.
Where was I? Oh, yes. Clint Dempsey and Omar Gonzalez are avoiding real competition. I admit I got a little chuckle out of that reaction being afforded to Clint Dempsey, whom Landon Donovan-haters among the US fanbase have long held up as the better role model - creating a distinction and fantasizing a rivalry, by the way, where neither should rationally exist. Now Dempsey is doing precisely the same thing as Donovan - shunning Europe for MLS, choosing to be The Man for his big money, big risk teams for the good of American soccer, and getting lots of playing time leading that team instead of rotating in squads by the grace of whoever's coaching this month. It was right for Donovan and right for Dempsey - but of course, fans know better than players what players should do.
And now we get to read about Omar Gonzalez staying in his comfort zone. You know what's not terribly comfortable? A qualifier in Azteca. Okay, well, maybe every team in CONCACAF can do it this year, but was a time when we would have sold our souls to shut out Mexico in Mexico City. I could tip my hat to everyone who thought Gonzalez and Besler could do so, and not have to buy a hat.
Yes, I know Steve Sampson did it with his team back in 1997, but that was because Jeff Agoos saved the day. Agoos knew he wasn't good enough to play for the national team, so he got himself red-carded by Sheriff Castrilli, allowing Brad Friedel more space to flex his mighty muscles and John Harkes to move to his natural position of left back in Agoos' place. This is my blog, and that's the way I'm telling the story.
In any case, anyone concerned that any US national team player has a comfortable, stress-free life has managed to miss every Hexagonal ever, and more than a few Gold Cups.
Sure, maybe we draw Argentina next year, and the last anyone sees of Omar and Matt are two blurry blobs in the back of a twenty-minute Messi highlight reel. Or maybe Gonzalez and Besler shut him down like a tax office, ever think of that? Right now, Omar Gonzalez is exactly where and what he should be. Yankee Stay Home.
Meanwhile, Chivas USA is being sued by the human resources director who was asked to fire Chronopoulos and Calichman. Thank you, universe.