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I was glad to read your article on the local soccer scene (“La Vida Futbol,” 7/28), a scene that has been too neglected by the local media, given the huge numbers of locals who play and/or watch the sport.
I have to say, though, that the whining of many area Salvadorans is really starting to get old. The complaint was that D.C. United does not recruit enough from the local amateur leagues and focuses too much on getting players from the college game. I fail to see how this is any different from how teams in the NFL or NBA operate. I think no one would deny that playground basketball in the inner city features some very gifted players with a passion for the game that equals the passion felt by the soccer players mentioned in your article. Yet the NBA teams know that what they are looking for in a player is generally best met by looking to the college game or to other pro and semi-pro leagues like the CBA and European leagues.
Sure, there are exceptions like Kobe Bryant who went straight from high school to the pros, but your article forgot exceptions in the soccer world, too. Carlos Llamosa of D.C. United was recruited from an amateur league in New York. He is a regular standout on defense, not just for D.C. but for the U.S. national side, and has completely shut down more heralded international players on a regular basis. The key factor is ability. What on earth makes the players in the Washington City Paper article think they are good enough to play in the MLS? Because MLS is a young league, and soccer is not as ingrained in the U.S. as it is in other countries, that means that MLS players are no better than local amateur players? Although MLS is certainly second-tier compared with the top leagues around the world, it ain’t that bad!
Let’s see…D.C., currently bottom of the MLS, just beat the English Premier League’s Newcastle United, 3-1 last week. OK, it was a meaningless game, but D.C. also beat the Brazilian league champions two years ago to claim the club championship of the Western Hemisphere. MLS players get recruited to play in the best European leagues, and MLS itself poaches from Central and South American leagues. Meanwhile, as your article points out, El Salvador de Maryland couldn’t even beat a made-up team featuring Jamaican national players—indeed, felt happy to be tied at the end of regular time. I got news for you: Jamaica is not a soccer powerhouse; the national team is currently ranked 60th in the world.
More to the point, the amateur players mentioned in the article are apparently not even good enough to play for the El Salvador national team, yet MLS teams are supposed to be interested? El Salvador is ranked 92nd in the FIFA world rankings. Players who have played for the El Salvador national team have hardly burned up the MLS. Raul Diaz Arce played great in his first MLS season for D.C. Then his goal-scoring touch left him, and he got traded many times over until he is now back with D.C. and has scored only one goal in MLS play in the past six or seven games. L.A. has Cienfuegos, who is a good, productive player, but his best years are behind him.
Basically, the folks mentioned in your article should learn to appreciate their local pro team and should bring the passion they feel for their local amateur teams, and for the pro teams in El Salvador, and bestow some of it on D.C. United. After four MLS final appearances and three MLS championships in four seasons, D.C. United deserves no less from local soccer fans—all local soccer fans.