ASN Weekly Debate

Should National Teamers Stay in MLS or Go Abroad?

Robbie Rogers and Robbie Findley both returned from unsuccessful stints in Europe. Two ASN staffers discuss whether it makes sense for these players to try their luck overseas. Plus, bonus MLS draft action.
BY Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon Posted
January 18, 2013
8:16 AM
Noah Davis: Before we start any other conversations, I would be remiss if I didn't bring up Walker Zimmerman's amazing website.

Ryan O'Hanlon: Whoa whoa whoa! That WZ symbol where the z is really struggling to tackle the W is making me uncomfortable because letters aren't supposed to fight like that.

Davis: Right. Exactly what I was thinking. I was also thinking that I wonder how much the general United States national team fan should care about the MLS SuperDraft. Go.

O'Hanlon: Well, if you're a United States national team fan, you care about soccer in the United States because: duh. And the MLS SuperDraft is a thing that happens in the MLS, which is the major American soccer league, so therefore: you should care about it in some kind of capacity.

Davis: I think it's fascinating. I know people are down on the draft, but it does produce some USMNT-related talent. It's just never exactly clear where that is going to come from, which is part of the magic. The really frustrating, annoying magic.

O'Hanlon: I know this is how things work, but it does feel weird having a soccer draft, which I guess is a bigger issue and another conversation. But with the MLS Draft it seems like everyone is either a big, athletic centerback or a fast, athletic striker/winger. And that's definitely an oversimplification, but I don't think it's a stretch to say that, for whatever reason, The Best players going into the draft are always similar players.

Davis: Welcome to college soccer in the United States. Didn't you play this thing of which we speak?

O'Hanlon: That I did, and now my bitterness is clear because I am not big, and definitely not a centerback. But it says something about the college game—which is also, vaguely: the game in this country—that the most viable pro prospects always fit into a certain couple molds and that someone like, say, Conor O'Brien—someone I played against in high school and college, so I'm probably biased—needs to go overseas to make it happen.

Davis: I suppose. (I'm sorry you didn't get drafted.) It will be interesting to see how Carlos Alvarez does with Chivas USA. He's in that second category along with, perhaps, Mikey Lopez. I also think Dillon Powers from Notre Dame can ball, but what do I know? Also, believing that the college system is going to a) produce playmakers and b) solve the problems with the development of soccer talent in the U.S. is ludicrous. I'd be happy if the draft produced a few American starters every year, and we can go from there.

O'Hanlon: No, exactly. I'm w/you w/r/t all that. Which makes the idea of a (mostly) college draft seem even more ridiculous to me. But I guess each dude needs to figure out what works for him, whether it's being an American trying to make it in MLS or being a foreigner somewhere else.

Davis: ...which leads directly into our next topic: Going overseas vs. staying in MLS. Robbie Findley and Robbie Rogers both had their English contracts cancelled after less-than-stellar years abroad. Would these guys have been better served staying in MLS?

O'Hanlon: Eh, maybe? I guess it depends on what you mean by "better served." Like, are they worse off by presumably challenging themselves and failing? I don't think we can say it was the wrong decision—trying to take a step up from a league they were already two of the better players in—just because it didn't work out perfectly.

Davis: Pick one or the other, O'Hanlon.

O'Hanlon: They would not be any better at the sport of soccer if they'd just stayed in MLS, no.

Davis: I totally disagree, especially in the case of Findley, who never showed a whole lot besides speed. (Then again, neither does Rogers.) You can't tell me it's better for Findley's game for him to go to Nottingham Forest/Gillingham F.C.(!) and sit on the bench than it would be for him to stay at Real Salt Lake. I may be an MLS homer, but it's an underrated league. If we're talking about personal brand, maybe you can make the argument that going to Europe is a better idea, but not playingwise. Not for these two.

O'Hanlon: That's not meant as a shot at MLS, but they tried to do something different. It's not easy to leave the country you know and the league you're known in—even if where you go ends up being a similar level of play—so it's really hard for me to say that they're somehow worse off for it. How different is either Robbie's career, today, if he just stayed in MLS? Not much, I don't think.

Davis: Well, for one, he actually played. Findley, that is. There is this desire to constantly go to Europe. And I understand that desire. But we are getting to the point where MLS is a viable enough option that some guys should think twice about making the jump. Going to Europe for the sake of playing in Europe is dumb. But, then again, I'm not a professional athlete.

O'Hanlon: It's tough, I think, and different from being any other kind of professional athlete. For as much progress as MLS has made, it's still not The Best League in The World. So, once you've kind of done the MLS thing and feel like you've proven yourself there, there's gotta be some itch to take some kind of step—even if it's not directly forward—toward that next level. Or at least I would think so.

Davis: Gillingham F.C.

O'Hanlon: It's not like he signed with them. Also: don't hate on The Gills. And sure, it did not work out, but now he's back on RSL, where he'll probably do just fine.

Davis: I hope so. I just don't think he ever should have left.

Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon do this every week. Occasionally, there is cake.

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