Billy’s Beat on MLS Today
This past week, a tradition that has helped build the popularity of the English Premier League for decades: national team players returning home.Both Mix Diskerud and Jozy Altidore have returned to MLS, with Mix headed to the upstart New York City FC and Jozy headed to Toronto FC to replace the disgruntled Jermaine Defoe.
For years, English players have played in their domestic league, denying lucrative opportunities elsewhere to stay in the Premier League and play in front of their fellow countrymen every week. Now, it seems more and more Americans are returning to MLS, specifically those looking to find a place on the national team.
This past World Cup, 12 MLS players found their way onto the national team. Now two more have returned stateside in hopes of more playing time and a chance to play in front of the hometown fans week in and week out.
Mix seems like a clear replacement for Frank Lampard in New York, as it appears that the English star may not come to MLS in the timely fashion that many fans expected. Diskerud provides the creativity in midfield that should help set up David Villa and Patrick Mullins with a number of scoring opportunities that should help put the ball in the back of the net for the newest New York team. Additionally, his move to MLS should help raise the profile of Diskerud amongst the American soccer fan base, as the Norwegian top division hardly gets any play in the American sports landscape. NYCFC will have a number of national TV games this season, which will allow MLS fans to get their first good look at the game of Mix Diskerud.
Jozy comes into a slightly different situation in Toronto, as he joins a squad that narrowly missed the playoffs last season despite spending a ton of money in the offseason to bring in three designated players. While Michael Bradley and Brazilian youngster Gilberto have stayed put in Canada, Jermaine Defoe has headed back to England after one season in MLS.
Defoe apparently caused massive locker room troubles last season, which eventually led to the sacking of manager Ryan Nielsen. Now instead of Defoe, Toronto has added Altidore, a striker who possesses every physical quality that coaches want out of a target striker, but struggled to find his place mentally with Sunderland. Now with his return to MLS, Jozy is ready to once again show what makes him the best striker in the national team pool.
Mix and Jozy both bring unique and talented skill sets to MLS, but more importantly, they have rekindled the debate about Europe vs. MLS and seem to think MLS is the better choice.
The chance to be a star in the United States overcomes the chance to be a middle of the road player on a struggling European team. Both Jozy and Mix made attempts to be the best they could possibly be in Europe, and while Mix found success, Jozy definitively did not.
For Diskerud, the trip to MLS will be a coming out party, as the United States will finally get the chance to see one of their dual nationals play on a regular basis. For Altidore, the return to MLS is a shot at redemption, as the man who struggled at Sunderland has the chance to be one of the top scorers in the league. Overall, this gives fans of the national team to see their favorite players on a regular basis, both on television and in person.
That is certainly a chance that American soccer fans have to be happy about.