Thursday, January 11, 2007

beckham and dempsey

It's been ages since the beautiful game graced any of my posts. I haven't really had a lot to post about even considering the tumult that is US soccer. We lost Bruce Arena as coach for the US men's national team, screwed up the chance to get German Juergen Klinsmann and gave the job to a good coach but not really. Bob Bradley is a good coach, so the "not really" part refers to his seeming impermanence in the job. He's basically keeping the seat warm till a replacement can be found. Who know what will happen though as the US starts playing international games. Maybe he'll do a great job and get to keep the job. However, none of this is the point.

Soccer in the US isn't nearly as big or as popular as it is throughout the rest of (the entire rest of) the world. I can watch more high school football games on television it seems than professional soccer games, and that's really sad. It almost seems at times as if there are some powers in charge of sports in the US that are afraid soccer is going to steal something from the big three if they actually show too many games on television. Soccer is more popular than many people realize, and if more people had an understanding of the game, it could take its rightful place next to the big three. That's getting closer to my point here, though we aren't quite there yet.

Earlier on NPR news, I caught the very end of a story about English and Real Madrid has been David Beckham. He's turned down a deal with Madrid in order to take a job playing for a different team. The rumors of this move have swirled about for some time. Beckham has been spotted in L.A. and even has a youth soccer academy in California. The rumors are true. Beckham will earn almost a million dollars a week to play for L.A.'s MLS team the Galaxy. That story wouldn't really bother me, and it almost doesn't. Want to know why it almost does?

As soon as I heard that tidbit of news I immediately sat down at the computer to learn more. I have several feeds from different soccer news sites as my Google home page, though they seldom mention US soccer, and I don't really get into other leagues. Perhaps if there were more games viewable in my little corner of the country . . .

Before I even found the Beckham story I saw truly sad news for fans of US soccer. Clint Dempsey, one of the few bright spots of last summer's US World Cup attempt, is leaving his team, the New England Revolution, and will be playing in England for Fulham. They already have a few other US players, and that Clint has been offered the job says a lot for his talents and skills as well as a little about the upcoming talents of US soccer in general.

Dempsey is leaving for a mere fraction of what Beckham will be earning, and for the price Beckham costs, I think we could easily have kept Dempsey here. I'd personally love to have kept Dempsey here and hope that he will at least be able to play on the men's national team.

So what do we get? An aging superstar that hasn't done much lately but may very well be good for the game in the US. His name is certainly more well known to the average American than that of Clint Dempsey, and perhaps that alone will be good for the profile of soccer in the US. He will hopefully have drawing power, pulling people into soccer that were marginally interested before. Many people prefer the cult of fame over any sort of substance, and Beckham has buckets of fame and star power. As I mentioned, he hasn't really done much in the way of soccer lately and has been missing games due to injuries. He's still a hell of a player when he's well.

What do we lose? To soccer fans, the name Clint Dempsey is enough to know what we are losing. He's a damn fine player, and he's young, arguably not nearly as good as he's going to be with a bit more experience. He'll get that experience at Fulham.

I hope that David Beckham's name is enough to draw more interest to the game in the US. Soccer is growing in popularity here as never before, and Dempsey isn't the first US player deemed good enough to leave the states to play at a higher level. I'm glad for him and hope that the combination of his leaving and Beckham's arrival does push US soccer to a higher level. I'd hope that in years to come we can start pulling more top players into the MLS, and I'd love for our teams to become competitive on the world stage. That's my hope for this, though I'm sad to see Clint go.

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