Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More MLS Finals Reaction

I have a few more thoughts on the MLS Cup Final.

Kyle Beckerman--he had a solid Gold Cup performance and looked like one of the best, unsung players in American soccer on Sunday night. He was an absolute destroyer in the midfield, but did so in a way that was clean and efficient. At age 27, Beckerman is something of a journeyman, but last night, when combining with Andy Williams and Clint Mathis, he looked the much better midfielder on the pitch. In my mind, I think Beckerman a far better option for holding midfielder for the U.S. National Team than Ricardo Clark. Beckerman is not hasty, he is hard but not reckless and I don't see Beckerman getting stupid red cards early in matches. But even more than that is that Beckerman is a better passer of the ball than Clark. In many ways, Beckerman is a more complete player than Clark. Now whether Beckerman can displace players like Mo Edu and/or Jermaine Jones remains to be seen, but Bob Bradley has to be thinking about it now.

Beckerman is certain to get a call in for the U.S. National Team camp in January, but I think he would be far better off going on loan to a European club for a few months, his game will get far more out of it than spending time just training. Spending some time in Holland or Germany might be a good way for Beckerman to spend his winter.

Robbie Findley may be a solution for Bob Bradley up top. In many ways, Findley is much like Charlie Davies, speedy, scrappy and a handful for defenders because of his movement. I think Davies is stronger and has better balance--perhaps because of his background as a wrestler in high school, but Findley is otherwise like Davies. Whether Findley can break into the National Team set up remains to be seen and had Real Salt Lake not progressed in the MLS Playoffs, I think Findley would likely have seen time with the U.S. squad in the most recent round of friendlies.

Andy Williams and Clint Mathis--these two journeymen players, Williams has spent his entire career in MLS and Mathis, who spent time in Europe and has come back, may be the two most under-rated midfielders in the league. Along with Beckerman, these two men were spraying passes around the pitch, letting the ball do the work and picking apart L.A.'s midfield duo of Jovan Kirovski and Chris Birchall, which forced David Beckham to come inside to pick up the ball and leaving Landon Donovan stranded up top. Although goalkeeper Nick Rimando won the MVP trophy for the final, I think these two men deserved the nod as well.

Jason Kreis--what can you say, at age 36, Kreis is the youngest coach to win the MLS Cup. Quite literally one day a couple of years ago, Kreis was a player for RSL and the next he is the coach. The transition from player to coach is brutal to begin with, but to do so in midseason is almost unthinkable, but Kreis has done it and done it well. I do believe that he had a vision for this club and has been successful in building a club to implement that vision.

As the underdog, it would have been almost permissible for RSL and Kreis to park the bus, put nine or ten men behind the ball and hope for a goal on the counterattack, particularly with the vulnerability of the L.A back line to a speed based attack. But Kreis has not done that all year and didn't against L.A. and credit to him for doing that. RSL played their game all season, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. But in the last month of the regular season, Kreis had found his starting 11 and a style of play that was successful. RSL plays possession, but it is not a negative possession style of play, they possess the ball looking for the pass forward that will unlock a defense.

Can Kreis' history as a striker (he is third all-time goals scorer for MLS with 108 and at the time he became coach, he was the record holder) be informing his coaching style? Perhaps, but I also tend to think that Kreis likes a free-flowing style of play and I think that his style of play is going to alter the way soccer is played in MLS. Kreis' style is not just athletic, but it is also aesthetic and he has quitely assembled a squad that can implement that style of play.

In an interview with Fox Football Fone-In last night, Kreis was asked about his aspirations. I think clearly Kreis will one day helm the U.S. National Team, particularly if he stays on this trajectory, proves that he can spot talent, develop talent and create a system that makes the best out of the talent he has. But Kreis also indicated that it would be a dream to coach in the Premiership or in the first division in a serious league. Kreis could do it, but I would like to see Kreis have another couple years of success on the MLS touchlines and then move to U.S. National Team for the 2018 World Cup Cycle.

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