The Los Angeles Galaxy want you to believe that they are the Real Madrid of the MLS. They have the white kits. They buy the biggest players of anyone in the league. They now even have the most championships in MLS history with 5.
But the MLS Cup is not the Champion’s League Final, many of the Galaxy's “best players” are wash-outs or has-beens from Europe, and L.A.’s kits hardly command the regal air that surrounds Real Madrid’s. The Galaxy are the greatest team in MLS history, but they are also an example of how far the MLS still has to go until that means something.
The roster of the Galaxy is a manifestation of this distance. One needs to look no further than the team’s two star players: Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane. They are both talented, and of similar age, but that is all that they share in common. At this point in there respective careers, they are on two divergent paths.
Robbie Keane has played in the Premier League and for his country of Ireland for most of his life. He is a household name in the United Kingdom. At 34 years of age, he was just named the Most Valuable Player of the MLS after a 2014 that was his most productive campaign in his 4 year stint in the MLS. He finished the with 19 goals and 14 assists. Despite his age, his time in the league has only led to more and more productivity.
Donovan, on the other hand, is about to retire on about as bittersweet of a high note as possible. Yes, he is retiring a champion, but he is 32-years-old, two years younger than Keane, and the most recent noteworthy moment of his career was being left off of the U.S. national team for the World Cup in Brazil.
Landon Donovan is universally considered the best soccer player in United States history, and he didn’t make the team. That is as much a testament to the progress of the USMNT in recent years as it is an indictment of Landon Donovan, of what being “the greatest American player ever” really means.
Keane and Donovan both played Sunday in the MLS Cup final. In a match that was a poor one - a let down after the pyrotechnics of the semi-finals - they both had average games. Keane however, still managed to score the game winning goal amidst his bout of mediocrity, while Donovan struggled to make an impact from the midfield.
Yes, they are both now champions, but the MLS Cup is a glorious reminder of the distance that needs to be traveled. We all feel good for Landon Donovan, but our reaction to his success is not as pure as it would have been had Donovan not been dropped from the USMNT. Our joy for him is tainted by charity.
The MLS is tainted by the fact that it isn’t what we want it to be. The future of the league will be determined by our nation’s ability to not be discouraged by that. We all need to change the insurmountable into the motivational. The United States has a history of proving people wrong, because we pride ourselves on our ability to do what the rest of the world says we cannot.
That, more than anything else, should give the MLS confidence. Because right now, the world does not believe the MLS will ever be great.
If you liked this, you might also like…