Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Late Tackle, 02 14 2017: Of Returning Prodigal Sons

Ah, Fredy! Ya beautiful prick! Come on in, son!
I want to start with a couple quick notes, then it’s on today’s topic (moving fast, people, go go go!).

First, I decided to skip rolling out preseasons results as they come in. Think I’ll just roll that into the final All-MLS preview post for 2017 that I’ve been fantasizing about since late January. Wholesomely fantasizing, ya sickos.

Second, articles like this one (e.g. “10 Observations about the New England Revolution Preseason” or something like that) are starting come out and these are just nice for getting a bead on where fan-bases are on their local team’s rebuild. I’m working this week to combine them into a big mega-post. I hope to post by the end of the week, but failing that, I’ll post it Monday.

Or I won’t finish it. You know how these things go. Just know I wanna (and that’s usually enough).

Coming Back And Why A Player Does It
A couple things come together for this one. First, MLSSoccer.com pulled together a list the author (Ben Couch) titled, “Which Former Players Should Return to MLS”? I resisted the initial temptation to come up with my own list – because, that’s a bigger universe than I want to wrap my head around for so little return – but it does include a nifty player or two – e.g., Andy Najar, Krizstian Nemeth and, for all you Portland Timbers fans, Jorge Villafana.

The thing I want to flag with this is how much more contingent this whole concept has become. Jorge, for instance, wouldn’t feel like the same homecoming as, say, Fredy Montero, who’s rumored (strongly enough to call it done, right?) to return to MLS with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Along with Seattle’s new kid, Gustav Svensson, Montero’s could follow from not so much success or failure during his one year in China as a change to the care and handling of foreign players in the Chinese Super League. A quick review of Montero’s CV shows a guy who’s continued to score for the teams he’s gone to (the main ones being Portugal’s Sporting CP and China’s Tianjin Tedo), even if he’s not lighting it up quite like he did with Seattle.

From what I’ve heard on Jorge’s time in Mexico, he’d be coming back because he’s struggling to find playing time this year with Mexico’s Santos Laguna.

There’s another wrinkle for a guy like Oguchi Onyewu, an American who climbed to the higher reaches in Europe…even if one body part or another betrayed him before he played for AC Milan. Because he took the last couple years off, it’s fair to ask if Onyewu could have landed anywhere that his name didn’t carry some currency – e.g. MLS. That said, after coming in as a trialist for the Philadelphia Union, and one that, from what I read, one not expected to get much out of the trial, a couple things came together and it now looks like Philly might have landed not just an experienced defender, but a much-needed one.

All three of those tales tell a slightly different story, and none of them have all that much to do with how much MLS has grown as a league. One could even argue there are multiple ways to read each of those returns to – e.g. Montero feels more like a player who’s plausibly in demand, while Onyewu reads more like the beginning of a redemption (or maybe just the steady build-up of hubris for an older player with a history of injuries to prime for an epic fall).

And maybe that’s the real way to read this. Maybe MLS is nothing more or less than another league where players can ply their chosen trade. Maybe there’s something nice about these having no meaning. It’s the equivalent of saying that MLS is just a normal league…

…still, stoked to see Montero in Vancouver. Cascadia is gonna be a goddamn hoot in 2017!

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