The six that got away
June 10, 2010
Of the 23 players on the US World Cup roster, 17 had played in MLS at one point of their career. There is not a single DC alum on the squad. A number of teams have one or two. LA has four, two of them current players. Metro has five.
That's right, our decrepit club has contributed more to the US World Cup team than anyone else. And once you add the head coach, Bob Bradley, the Metro presence becomes overwhelming.
Yet here we are, still trophyless, living through another rebuilding. So how did we let the six get away?
In the case of Tim Howard, it's hard to blame Metro. By 2003, Tim had outgrown MLS, and when Manchester United came calling, it was hard to say no. And now, with Everton, where Howard is one of the best goalkeepers not only in England, but in the world, one can't argue that the wrong choice was made. What did Metro get in return? An allocation, mostly used up on the failure of Sergio Galvan Rey. (Well, relative failure. More on that below.)
The departure of Ricardo Clark in 2005 is the one we'll always be on the fence about. Bradley wanted Youri Djorkaeff on the team; the French star agreed to play for Metro for a minuscule salary. However, MLS forced Bob to trade for an allocation to sign the Frenchman, and the only player Bradley could receive that allocation for was Clark, a player he drafted second overall two years before and groomed from Day 1. Bradley took the chance and sent Clark packing; Djorkaeff had a brilliant 2005, but the team fell short. Bob paid the price (more on that below), and Clark reached new heights in San Jose and Houston, before moving to Eintracht Frankfurt.
And now the Bradleys. Say what you want about Bob's tenure with Metro, but at least he had a plan. He built with youth, he built a consistent core, and that team showed oh so many signs of breaking through, often thwarted by what seemed to be fate. When the Alexi Lalas became Metro GM midway through 2005, he wanted to fire Bradley immediately. It took Bob losing his first home game in five months for the clown to pull the trigger. The fanbase was split on the decision then; now, after Bob turned around the morbid Chivas USA in one swift season and is now taking the US to the World Cup, the idiocy of the clown's actions is that more obvious.
The idiocy of letting Michael Bradley go was seen back in 2006. Obviously, Michael was not a fan of how Lalas treated his father. Obviously, he wanted to test the European waters. But MLS just didn't sell young players. And not for the measly (supposed) $90,000 that Lalas for from Heerenveen didn't even earn Metro an allocation in return. Bradley then proceeded to set an American record for goals in an European season, was sold to Monchengladbach for a number rumored to be in the 5 million range, and is not supposed to fetch twice as much. Alexi Lalas? He's clowning on TV.
Letting go Edson Buddle was a no-brainer. He came to Metro before the 2006 season, and had a forgettable campaign, scoring six goals (three in a 18-minute span against Salt Lake). By the end of the season, he wasn't even making the bench. Then-coach Bruce Arena dumped him to Toronto for Tim Regan after the expansion draft... the same Arena for whom Buddle is now starring for in LA. My, how times change.
The player who pushed Buddle to the bench? Jozy Altidore, who burst on the scene in 2006 as a 16-year-old. By the middle of 2008 he was gone, sold to Villarreal for a MLS record fee of 10 million dollars. He hasn't had much luck since then, either at Villarreal or Hull, but is still young, and should have a long and fruitful career, once he finds himself in a stable situation. What did Metro get for Jozy? An allocation wasted on the likes of Jorge Rojas, Juan Pietravallo, and Gabriel Cichero. (We said Galvan Rey's failure was relative, right? Ugh. What a trio.)
So, good luck, Tim. And Ricardo. And Bob, and Michael, and Jozy, and even Edson. Sorry you left. Well, maybe not Edson.