To start, I am not trying to insult Major League Soccer, I’m just providing constructive criticism. I’m just going to kind of rant, since the I’m still a bit mad at the United States’ performance at the Copa.
Way back in 2001, Eddie Johnson became the youngest player to be drafted in Major League Soccer’s short history at the age of 17. With blistering speed and tremendous stamina, Eddie Johnson looked sure to become a great player. He performed poorly in his first year, but there was still very much hype about his potential. He has had a couple of good years in MLS leading up to the 2006 season, when he scored only 2 goals. At that point he began to look like he may never get his career on track.
In comes the 2007 season and a chance to make a new start. Suddenly, Eddie starts scoring again. He even scored MLS’s first ever back to back hat tricks earlier in the season. It looked like he was finally getting back on track. Out of no where, he hit a brick wall. He did not have much of an impact during the Gold Cup. (As a matter of fact, all of the U.S. strikers performed poorly.) So he hit a slump, the Copa America was coming up and he would be able to get back to scoring form. Once again we were all sadly disappointed. We saw all of these problems from the 2006 season resurface:
1. Eddie lacks completely in confidence. He has no faith in his own ability. He is one of the fastest players I have ever seen, yet he doesn’t know how to use that speed. The only time I saw him blaze by someone during the Copa and Gold Cup is when he lost the ball and raced back to catch up with the defender and attempt to steal it. Why can’t he use that speed on the offensive? He has speed that can be compared to Thierry Henry in his prime.
2. His first touch is terrible. The ball goes like 4 feet away every time he tries to settle it. It reminds me of Julio Baptista’s first touch from last season. Worthless.
3. He has no ball skills. It is impossible for him to control the ball close to himself, so it is impossible for him to have precise control.
If he improved in these areas, which I think he can, it will greatly change the effect that he has on games. Now many of you may be asking, “How are all of Eddie Johnson’s problems the fault of MLS?” It comes down to 3 things: competition, coaching, and transfer policies. The level of competition, though it is improving, is still not high enough to create world class players. Johnson can’t improve because he doesn’t need to. He has the necessary skills to beat most defenders in MLS, so he has no drive to improve in any technical areas.
The other problem is coaching. We Americans need to face the facts, the coaches in this country to not have the resources or skills that that can be found in Europe. If Eddie Johnson were to leave for England or Spain at age 17 instead of signing with MLS, he would have made it on to a youth team and would have been able to develop properly.
The worst problem is MLS’s transfer policy. And THIS is where MLS truly ruined Eddie Johnson. Everything above has had at least something to do with Johnson personally, but this point is completely MLS’s fault. MLS desperately wants to hold on to promising players. So much so that the league actually owns the rights to the players. So in order to a player to be sold to a club outside of MLS, the buyer needs to get permission from MLS and the MLS team that the player plays for. In 2005, when Eddie Johnson was still on a great path, a rumored bid was placed for Eddie Johnson by Benfica. It is believed that Dallas had began to negotiate a sale, but MLS believed that selling MLS would not be the best option for the league itself. I understand league officials trying to keep the best players, but being owners of the players means that the player’s best interests are not at heart. The deal eventually fell apart and Johnson stayed in MLS.
In August 2006, the tables were turned. MLS agreed to send Johnson on a season long loan to Real Sociedad. This time, Johnson’s team, the Kansas City Wizards, decided that they need Johnson and did not allow the loan to go through.
Most transfers of players in England, Spain, and Italy take an immense amount of time and negotiation. Making the selling club, buying club, and player happy is very difficult to do. Now add making the league happy, and it becomes near impossible to sell top players. With MLS not allowing some of its best players to leave, that ultimately limits the player’s careers. And this is what has happened to Eddie Johnson. To become a great player, Eddie Johnson NEEDS to go abroad next season.
MLS needs to change its rules to have the rights of the players go solely to the clubs. After that, their biggest problem will be finding someone to buy Taylor Twellman. He also needs to go abroad. Not to develop, but because I can’t stand watching him anymore.