Sunday, March 06, 2005

Americans Do Play the Other Football, Finale
By Imtiaz Mussa

It’s finally time for the last installment of ‘Americans Do Play the Other Football.’ Now if you think that my ending the series has anything to do with the fact that I am getting tired of the sport we call soccer in this country, you couldn’t be more wrong! I think it’s time to move on to other topics in the soccer world. But get ready for a ton of baseball and basketball on Sportszilla. I leave that stuff to my counterparts as I will continue to write about soccer with the occasional article on the Mets and other things.
Youri Djorkaeff will don the red and black.

So this installment is all about who is next to go over to Europe and show that Americans know how to play the game. It all starts with the New York/New Jersey Metrostars. Youri Djorkaeff just joined the team as the latest legend to come over after a great career in Europe. He will have a first hand look at Eddie Gaven and Mike Magee. The first reason I like Gaven is because he was born on October 25, 1986. For those of you who don’t know what happened on that date, I’ll recap it all in one name; Bill Buckner. He has played on every level for the US National Team including an appearance against Poland in a friendly. Arena can expect to call his name on many occasions. He played in 29 of 30 games for the Metros this past season proving that while he’s still young, he can put up with the workload of playing every week. While he will not put up big stats, it’s important to realize that he is constantly working in the midfield. He will draw fouls, make smart passes, and make solid tackles. For as young as he is, Gaven has a great workrate. Does he have the overall talent to make in England, Italy, or Spain? Probably not but look for him in Holland or Germany. Magee will remind people of DaMarcus Beasley. He’s not very big but he is a quick forward who can run right by a defender. He has also played on the national team but needs to get more consistent with his scoring in order to get any consideration from abroad. But he’ll end up there and probably in Holland.

The Metrostars did have another real good midfielder until they traded him to San Jose for virtually nothing and that is Ricardo Clark. Clark has established himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS. Again, just like Gaven he is best measured by the little things that he does. Clark is the type of player you can count on to just sit back while the rest of the midfielder and forwards would go up in attack. He is taking steps to constantly improve his game but his lack of pace will come into question. Look for him to head to England and play in the Championship.

Now if you saw Ben Valentine’s post about his love for Trinidad and Tobago, you will have read that he called Eddie Johnson the flavor of the month. Of course, I burned him up over it because this guy knows how to score goals. At 6 foot, 180 pounds, Johnson has the size not to mention the speed and skill to head over right now. He has blown people away by scoring 12 goals for Dallas last season as well as being the top scorer in the FIFA 2003 Youth World Championships. There is no reason why Johnson can’t play in England right now in the Championship or even the Premiership.
Dempsey made a big impression in his first year.

Remember the name Clint Dempsey. The New England Revolution midfielder was the 2004 Rookie of the Year for a reason. He is a classic two way player who has enough energy to run for 120 minutes. He is a tireless worker who will make things happen all over the field. What more could a team want? Did I mention that he broke his jaw in the middle of the season, sat out only a few weeks, and came back to play while keeping a high form of play. He finished the season with seven goals. Dempsey will play a few more seasons in order to establish himself but he looks like the type who could fit in the Scottish Premier League or Serie B in Italy.

And finally, he may not be an American but he’s been terrorizing MLS goalkeepers ever since he put on a Chicago Fire jersey. But he may be close to joining CSKA Moscow. Damani Ralph knows how to do one thing and one thing only; score goals. Ralph has that blend on speed, strength, and flair that people knew teams in Europe would just be salivating over and it has finally happened. Whatever Ralph thought was the definition of cold is about to be thrown right out the window.

Now if you were expecting Freddy Adu to be on the list, then all I can say is that he’s too young! Adu will not be heading to Europe until he is about 20 years old because it will take him time to grow and play into his body. But he has already shown that he has the talent to be a special player.

And that does it for Americans Do Play the Other Football. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I have writing. Don’t worry I’m not going anywhere though. Maybe I’ll even chronicle my adventures in MVP Baseball 2005.

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