Host: On to our first question. Is Europe the answer?
Oscar: I’m not convinced it is. I think when people pull out the Europe card, what they’re really saying is we need to get more of our players into more competitive leagues and matches.
Alejandro: For now going abroad gives a player the chance to compete at a higher level. But let’s face it, more players leave because they can earn more money outside of MLS.
Oscar: Going to Europe doesn’t automatically make a player better. Did Jovan Kirovski, Gus Kartes, or Ante Razov get better just by going overseas? I don’t think we need more players over in Norway or the lower divisions of England just for the sake of being Europe.
Alejandro: But going to Europe can open up better opportunities later for a player, both to play competitively, and earn a decent pay check.
Oscar: Other players will benefit more from a couple of season close to home in MLS until they are impact players.
Alejandro: The number of players in Europe is more of a measure of success than a means to it.
Host: What you are saying is, we’ll know we’ve made progress when we have more players on the bigger European teams?
Oscar: Yeah, I think it’s something like that. If they’re going to Europe, our national teamers should be fighting for spots on Champions League caliber teams. If you’re on the bench in Belgium, hows that sustaintively different thatn starting in MLS?
Host: What does the next coach have to do?
Alejandro: The next coach has to get his team playing in more competitive tournaments between World Cups. Definitely play in Copa America. I don’t want the next world cup game to be the first time anyone on our roster plays in a big match in a hostile stadium. Play the big teams more often. We constantly hear how we can on any given day beat any team. I say its time to test that theory frequently and without fear.
Oscar: Leading up to the next World Cup, definitely play better teams than Jamaica and Lithuania. Throw in more games away as well. The next coach has to get away from penciling in anyone on his starting roster no matter what. If Landon Donovan is playing poorly, then bench him.
Alejandro: If Landon is still in MLS in four years, he shouldn’t be on the World Cup team. The coach also has to find a way to have the MLS and European based players together for matches more often. Instead of having, in essence, 2 national teams. Players need to build up that familiarity that only comes from playing together.
Host: What can MLS do to further help the national team?
Alejandro: More Bolivians! Oh you meant the US team …
Oscar: Isn’t it obvious? Expansion is one of the keys. We have to get more of our players playing professionally early. As we add teams, more of them will get a chance to do so. More teams, and keeping the playoffs to eight teams, will also make the regular season more meaningful.
Alejandro: MLS has to loosen the purse strings too, but not in a cosmos like spending spree. In the long run, raising the salary cap along with the minimum salary would increase the quality of foreign players we can get and hold all the players to a higher standard.
Oscar: That last bit might be delusional. I think MLS teams have to be given more incentive to scout and develop their own players. Its criminal that the most touted prospects coming into the league each year are mostly from Brandenton or College. Too many players aren’t being identified early enough and kept in the sport.
Host: Ok, finally – what can the average fan do, if anything?
Oscar: Besides rant about it on a blog in the middle of cyber-nowhere?
Alejandro: Yes, lets think about this constructively.
Oscar: Keep bringing people to MLS games, buy them a beer. If anyone is going to capitalize on the interest this World Cup, its gonna be the fans. Bring your kid’s soccer team, your office, your church group, your book club, whatever.
Host: Thank you, that’s all we have time for today. Both of you seem decidedly optimistic on this team’s future. Let’s hope you are right.
Oscar: We were the only team who didn’t lose to eventual champion Italy. That counts for something right. At least it wasn’t the statistical 32nd place …
Alejandro: Hey, when you’re a Bolivian fan, you’ve seen more than your share of disappointment. We have a saying that describes pretty much how all of our games go “Jugamos como nunca, perdimos como siempre!”