They are the players who put the butts squarely in the seats…
Beckham, Donovan, Joseph, De Rosario, Kljestan, etc…
But for the next couple of weeks, international friendlies will ensure some will miss key matchups. Coaches will have to turn to unproven, raw youngsters to replace stable, storied superstars.
But such is the task of the modern soccer manager, who must not only be brilliant with his full arsenal of players, but also when they are called away to bigger stages.
MLS has long endured the Catch 22 that is international soccer. To a certain extent, fans and coaches alike have to understand that national team glory is what drives many youths to begin playing soccer in the first place. So, on one hand, there is a certain degree of honor in watching your club’s star succeed on the World stage.
But the other shoe, as they say, drops inevitably. While your club’s leader chases national heroism, his teammates have to make due with a less stellar option at his position. One man’s shining moment can easily become his entire club’s glaring flaw. It has to be hard for a manager when his chain’s strongest link suddenly becomes its weakest.
So, with that wisdom in mind, let’s consider the full menu of upcoming friendlies and their affect on the MLS schedule. Some teams will be fully stocked, while others will endure startling omissions. Who wins when Bob Bradley and other international managers come calling?
Believe it or not, Toronto FC will be hit the hardest by the international schedule. Amado Guevara, the straw that stirs the Canadian scotch whiskey, will be gone this weekend to represent Honduras. Jarrod Smith could go to New Zealand later this year for World Cup qualifying. Greg Sutton and Jim Brennan will be in Seattle to play Brazil on Friday. Marco Velez may get the call to suit up for Puerto Rico and Carl Robinson will play for Wales on June 1 against the Dutch in Rotterdam. To top it all off, perhaps their best player, Maurice Edu, has been selected by Bradley for U.S. National Team play.
The Rapids will also likely be big losers. Buona Coundoul, who has looked great for COL so far this season, is already in Senegal for the African World Cup qualifiers. As Pablo Mastroeni will also miss time due to the U.S.’s friendlies with Spain and Argentina, the Rapids will be without their best keeper and best defender. Houston looks to fall even further after losing Dwayne De Rosario, Pat Onstad (both Canadians) as well as Brian Ching and Ricardo Clark (U.S.).
Who else is hit hard? Well, of course, the Galaxy. Becks and Donovan could both be likely out of this weekend’s MLS game due to Wednesday’s matchup at Wembley. Ante Jazic is also expected to miss time playing for Canada. Chivas also will look strange out there without Kljestan or Guzan.
Other teams who wish the MLS would just brake (or is it break?) for friendlies? New England, who loses Kenny Mansally to Gambia, Sharlie Joseph to Grenada and Khano Smith to Bermuda. DC United will lose Francis Doe to Liberia.
Columbus loses hot young American talents Eddie Gaven and Robbie Rogers, while Dallas cedes Kenny Cooper (U.S.) and Adrian Serioux (Canada). New York must play without the inimitable Jozy Altidore (U.S.).
Well, the Quakes (which must be nice, you know, to win something, anything…) They lose no one. Also losing no one, RSL. Well, actually Chris Seitz will be gone, but he hasn’t spent much time between the posts for RSL anyways.
Finally, (and cue the scary music), the one squad that is losing no one, but probably should, is Chicago. The team with the best record in the league will be fully stocked as they take on lesser squads with dimmer stars.