Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Lost on Earth

Eleven Devils would probably cease to exist if it weren't for Du Nord (see the blogroll), a fanatically all-encompassing, near-daily aggregator of American soccer news. I don't know how (or when) he does it, but The Wolf's compendium of all the football news that fits is an invaluable resource.

Today, for example, Du Nord tabs two pieces that between them say a lot about both the potential of American soccer and the baffling oversights and shortcomings that seem to hold it back. In a recent interview, former US National Team coach/newly minted New York Red Bulls capo Bruce Arena scoffed at the notion that there are any significant veins of hidden talent out in the vast, tangled, often-unexplored universe of the American game. Specifically, he belittled a reporter's suggestion that there might be unscouted pro-calibre talent lurking in urban ethnic leagues, for example. (Arena has also been heard to say that he thinks MLS was actually *better* back in the '90s, when he managed DC United; is he on something?) Apparently, the all-seeing eye of Major League Soccer's scouting apparatus and the US national team development program are sufficient to identify all the quality players in the United States.

Meanwhile, US Soccer insists it is determined to win over Latinos and tap those communities' talent resources. Well, okay. By my count, our World Cup squad included a total of *one* Mexican-American player, Carlos Bocanegra. The remainder of the side's extremely limited "Latin flavor" came courtesy of Reyna and Mastroeni, both of Argentinian extraction.

Today, via Du Nord, two very interesting articles. First, always-excellent Sports Illustrated soccer specialist Grant Wahl raids the journalistic gold mine that is Watford FC defender Jay DeMerit. Here's a guy who graduates from college and gets completely dissed by MLS and the United Soccer Leagues. He's never been called up for the national team at any level. He ends up playing for free for the Chicago Fire reserve team, then literally tending bar. He goes over to Europe on his own dime, paints houses for spare change and plays in London pub leagues.

Now where is he? The friggin' Premiership. He's already scored one legendary goal and is acquitting himself nicely in Watford's long-shot bid to survive in the top flight; it would seem that if the Hornets get relegated, DeMerit will swiftly move to a bigger club. He's *still* never been capped by the USA—in fact, it's starting to seem like we better get on that, before Denmark beats us to it.

So, wait a minute. We're supposed to believe that, even though MLS proved utterly oblivious to a white middle-class dude playing NCAA Division I soccer IN A CITY WITH A MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER FRANCHISE, it has every ethnic league in the country wired? DeMerit may be the most high-profile Yank to back-pack his way into a European contract, but there are many other guys trying the same thing. It beats waiting around for an obviously anemic system to catch up to you.

Meanwhile, Soccer America weighs in with a brief look at a few Mexican-American players currently with MFL first-division clubs. None of these guys is exactly ripping it up south of the border, and it does seem like a couple have been involved with US Soccer developmental programs. But if they're good enough to play down there, why aren't any of them in our national team picture? Any time a 17-year-old scores in MLS, he's immediately hailed as a World Cup prospect. These kids—all of whom are Americans—seem like they're slipping through the net.

Okay, end of rant. Hey—what else are blogs for? Time to limber up for Albina Going's crucial futsal clash with Real Sur, 9 pm tonight. SEE YOU THERE, SOCCER FANS!

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