January 20, 2017
By Brian Trusdell
Major League Soccer's second generation
Soccer News Net Contributor
MLS is not The Villages
For all of the United States’ tourist and vacation offerings, from New York and Los Angeles to Disney – which are kind of the same thing -- Andrea Pirlo is telling his Eurosnobic colleagues that MLS isn’t one of them.
In a Q&A with Italian daily La Repubblica, NYC’s 37-year-old midfielder characterized the United States (and Canada) as having a “more serene approach” to soccer. But then…
"On the field, it is serious,” he said. “If someone is looking for an easy ride, they are in the wrong place.”
The declaration, by far not the first from a European who played in MLS, comes two months after Italian national team coach Giampiero Ventura explained his decision not to select Toronto FC’s Italian forward (and 2015 MLS MVP) Sebastian Giovinco for the Azzurri because “he plays in a league that doesn't count for much.”
Pirlo said he would pick Giovinco if he ran the Italian national team. Maybe Pirlo can use his status and influence to enlighten his compatriot as to the relative competitiveness of MLS.
Should the Washington Post report come to pass that MAC Hermann Trophy winner Ian Harkes has agreed to terms with D.C. United and is expected to sign so he can start training camp next week, he would become the fifth son of a former MLS player to join the league and second in less than two years.
Ariel Lassiter, son of 1996 MLS scoring leader Roy Lassiter, made his MLS debut for the Galaxy in 2015 and signed a first-division league contract last season. Teal Bunbury, son of former Kansas City Wizards (Sporting KC) striker Alex Bunbury, was the first when he played for SKC in 2010, and was followed by Konrad Warzycha, son of Columbus Crew midfielder Robert Warzycha, when he took the field for KC in 2012.
The other father-son combination completed the feat in 2013, when Jose Adolfo Valencia, son of former MetroStars forward Adolfo Valencia, donned the Portland Timbers jersey.
If Harkes, 21, makes it to the field, he would follow in the footsteps of his father, MLS original – like Warzycha and Lassiter – John Harkes, who helped D.C. United to the inaugural title and now is coach at USL side FC Cincinnati.
Another prodigal son?
Ian Harkes’ decision to remain in the U.S. and sign with MLS comes in contrast to a report on the official Birmingham City FC website, quoting coach Gianfranco Zola, that Jonathan Spector is being “targeted by a Club (sic) in his homeland.”
"But there might be a request for Jonathan Spector to go back home and that case is something I have to consider,” Zola said.
Spector, 30, was in the U.S. U-17 residency camp and Chicago Fire youth academy before a Manchester United scout saw him playing with the U.S. U-17s and off to England he went in 2003. He has remained there, bouncing to three other English clubs and finally ending at Birmingham since 2011.
Despite playing in what some consider the best league in the world, including what many of the same people consider the most famous club in the world, Spector has played in only three matches over the past five years for the U.S. national team.
Still stalled in St. Louis
Although it appeared for a time that St. Louis’ hopes to submit a bid for an expansion team by MLS’ Jan. 31 deadline had been given new life, the funding measure for a new soccer stadium was tabled by the local Board of Aldermen on Thursday.
The primary sponsor in the city council of a proposal for St. Louis to pay about $80 million toward a $200 million stadium last week said the bill was not “moving forward." However, with the amount cut to $60 million, the measure that would put the issue before city voters on April 4 was to have gotten another committee hearing this week and then would have to be passed by the full Board of Alderman by Tuesday to get on the ballot. The original plan was to have the city pay $80 million, ownership bid group SC STL another $80 million and $40 million in state tax credits toward the stadium.
The Board of Aldermen held a reportedly contentious discussion of the matter on Thursday before setting it aside without resolution. Chairman Stephen Conway told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that while the proposal was on the agenda for Monday's meeting, it was "on life support."
New Gov. Eric Greitens has ruled out any public funding from state sources for a stadium.