August 14, 2006
THIS OLD HOUSE
Giants Stadium rocked, MLS needs it to be for home club
If you ever returned to the neighborhood where you grew up and found the houses a bit run down and the yards overgrown with weeds, you know how I have felt the last few years making the trek to Giants Stadium.
Barcelona fans at Giants Stadium
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
See, I practically grew up there, when going to a soccer game at the Meadowlands was a magical experience. Pele, Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and all the rest. This just wasnít my neighborhood, this was my house and my family.
And people came to watch. And the place rocked. It has rocked a few times since then for special events, like the World Cup and the Womenís World Cup, and an occasional game involving club teams like Juventus and Manchester United, but never for the home team.
Even with a sellout crowd of 79,000 plus on Saturday, it wasnít for the home team. Sure the house looked great, but itís like seeing someone elseís family sitting in your living room.
All this coming just days after the Red Bulls formally set a groundbreaking for their new 25,000 seat stadium, which hopefully they will have no problem filling, but itís not the same. It will be like moving into a luxurious new 2 room condo, after living in the grandest house in town.
I know what the MLS types say about the economics of the league and sport, and not wanting to make the same mistakes the NASL made by signing high priced older players.
Most think thatís what led to the demise of the league. I donít happen to agree. Having owners who could not afford the high priced players is what led to the demise of the league.
The Red Bulls new owners seem inclined to spend money. Only the league wonít let them.
MLS is crowing about results against Chelsea and Real Madrid, and boasts about the huge crowds for doubleheader games involving foreign club teams.
Those crowds prove itóAmericans want to see the best, and while MLS clubs on occasion have shown they can play against a team in training, the soccer on a day to day basis is far from world class.
Even new Red Bulls coach Bruce Arena, in his post game press conference on Saturday observed about the National Team, and his new MLS squad ďWe donít have world-class soccer players in the United States. We had good players. Itís all relative, and I think itís not a whole lot different than it is here.Ē
MLS doesnít need to mirror clubs like Barcelona, Chelsea, Man United and Real Madridóor even the Cosmos, by trying to field a World XI, bit with a windfall now from TV money, it needs to use that money to make the league significant. Sign some name players. Get Beckham, get Ronaldo. Capture the attention of the American public who want to see the best.