EN ROUTE TO SAN JOSE — It’s funny: Even though there haven’t been any soccer games on TV from Monday to Wednesday—and how often can you say that these days?—it seems like there are a million things still going on in American soccer this week.
A bunch of top European soccer figures were in New York City for the announcement of this summer’s International Champions Cup and the Leaders in Sport event. And then there are all the World Cup qualifiers that will be on the tube starting Thursday, including the U.S.’s pressure-packed game against Honduras in San Jose on Friday (FS1, pregame at 9:30 p.m. ET, kickoff at 10:50 pm ET).
Plus, the Chicago Fire signed Bastian Schweinsteiger. Which brings us to the new Mailbag. Let’s dive in!
When will Bruce Arena call up Dom Dwyer? @MariaMentado
Is there really, really, really no better option than Wondo? Really??!! @CarmenBPhillips
With so much young U.S. talent, why is the USMNT starting to look like an old folks home? @sepler
Maybe it’s the angst of being in last place in the Hex, but lots of sass in the ‘Bag from national team fans this week. You should have seen the responses to my tweet announcing that Chris Wondolowski had been added to the U.S. roster earlier this week. The only real cure for the angst is a win on Friday. But let me answer your questions. I thought new U.S. citizen Dwyer or Juan Agudelo might get added instead of Wondo as a potential late-game sub for an injury-depleted front line (Bobby Wood is out, and Jordan Morris is battling an ankle knock). But Wondo is familiar to the group in a way that Dwyer isn’t yet, and Wondo is … local in San Jose? Is that a reason? I honestly don’t know.
I’d certainly like to see Dwyer get involved with the national team this year. The question for me is whether Arena sees Dwyer as a good fit for his group and a player to call up for the June World Cup qualifiers or for the Gold Cup. As for not having much young talent in this U.S. camp, I’d say it’s impressive when your best player is an 18-year-old (Christian Pulisic), and Kellyn Acosta (21) seems like he might be making The Leap at Dallas this season. But the theme of this game is: Three points by any means necessary. It’s not about experimenting with young guys.
Why are people who watch soccer saying a soccer team that finished last in MLS two straight years shouldn't sign Schweinsteiger? @FireOnIceSoccer
Was Schweini the Fire's best use of $4.5 million? Seem to be swimming against the MLS tide of getting younger. @ChilcoteTim
Well, MLS and U.S. soccer culture have advanced enough that not everyone is going to think signing the German World Cup winner is going to be a slam-dunk successful move. (Steven Gerrard was a legendary player, but ask the LA Galaxy if they would sign Gerrard again. The answer would be no.) What does the Schweinsteiger signing have going for it if you’re Chicago? Here’s a midfielder who has won the sport’s biggest trophies, who’s a great teammate, who should help bring more of a winner’s mentality to a team that hasn’t won much in recent years. Schweini shows that owner Andrew Hauptman is willing to spend money, and the signing may also bring a few more fans out to watch the Fire, which told SI.com it had only had 6,500 season ticket holders to start the season.
The question marks are there too, of course. Schweinsteiger is 32, with a lot of miles on his tires, and he has dealt with injuries the last couple years at Manchester United (where he didn’t play much). And while you can understand why Chicago didn’t spend its money on, say, another striker, having just bought DP Nemanja Nikolic, there is plenty of overlap in the skill sets of Schweinsteiger, Juninho and Dax McCarty. Will Schweini play as a No. 10? That’s what we may see, and that could get interesting. I’m still not fully convinced that Schweinsteiger will put butts in seats, and he had better stay healthy since he’s only in MLS for a guaranteed eight months.
Bottom line, though: The changes in Chicago, including Schweinsteiger, make that team compelling again. And how often have we said that about Chicago in recent years?
On the whole, was the "Aging EPL Star as DP" era good or even necessary for MLS? @jepBklyn
I mean, David Beckham and Robbie Keane worked out pretty well for LA, and I’m glad Thierry Henry came to the Red Bulls. Didier Drogba had some moments for Montreal, as did Frank Lampard when he was healthy for NYCFC. But Gerrard was a bit of a buzz kill, and I think it’s a good sign that we’re not seeing a lot of MLS demand for Wayne Rooney and John Terry. We are entering a new era in the league, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the younger DP model (with mainly South American players) that we’re seeing in Atlanta and Portland is the way things are trending.
What does a coach complaining to the fourth official accomplish? Does the official have any authority to reverse a call? @queenofnutmeg
I’ve found myself asking this question a lot, especially with coaches who spend a ridiculous amount of time berating the fourth official during games. There is some communication between the fourth official and the rest of the officiating crew, and coaches know that. But in terms of a coach getting a call reversed by carping to the fourth official? Very, very rare.
What are the positives and negatives of covering soccer (on the field) as a pure journalist compared to ex-players or -coaches? @seth_bo
In terms of writing about strictly what’s happening on the field, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have played at a pro level and lived the X’s and O’s. I get that. But there are also plenty of writers who didn’t play pro who are masters on the tactical side—a group led by SI.com’s Jonathan Wilson, whose book Inverting the Pyramid on the history of tactics is a classic. If you put in the work and use your eyes, you can analyze the sport. The best ex-players and ex-coaches on the media side in any sport are the ones who do the work to prepare and don’t just show up—and who aren’t afraid to be critical of their own ex-teammates and ex-coaches.
When a Brit refers to MLS as "soccerball" should we be offended or amused? @ProdGuy
In my experience, laughing at them works best. We can be too sensitive in American soccer to stuff like that. Just tell them you hope they’re enjoying “USA Soccer Guy” on Twitter.
How can #NERevs supporters in Boston enable change and get a true soccer-specific stadium? And can @MLS do anything? @SeanMalvey
From what I hear, the Krafts are finally getting in gear and we may not be too far away from an announcement on a stadium in the Boston area. It always helps to have support from local politicians, though, so you might want to register your thoughts on a stadium with them.
What would it take for you to get Jonathan Kraft on the podcast? I'd give anything for you to have him on. @WeberKing
I’ll give it a shot. He’s actually more reachable to a media guy like me than you might expect, and he really does care about his soccer team, judging from some of the conversations I’ve had with him over the years.
What's the expert analysis/explanation on the rise, fall and rise again of Radamel Falcao? Knee needed time, that's it? @BoxingLegal
It’s crazy, isn’t it? As far as I know, it’s just a longer-than-usual recovery from his knee problems. But that guy was a chalk outline in England, and now he’s back to being El Tigre with Monaco (albeit with another more minor injury lately).
Atlanta looks fast and lethal! I have found myself following them. What's your odds for a playoff run? Title run? @marcgaskins
For me, Atlanta so far isn’t just the most fun-to-watch attacking team in the league this season, it’s one of the most entertaining MLS teams I’ve ever seen. It’s a long season, obviously, so things could change, but I’m fully onboard the Atlanta hype train. (P.S. They might give up a lot of goals, too.)
Grant, have you ever fancied a game of Quidditch? I wager you'd make a good Keeper. @MagicalLockhart
I’m still scarred from going to a Seattle Sounders training session a couple years ago and seeing adults playing Quidditch on the field next to the Sounders.
If Tim Tebow decided to play soccer, would an MLS team sign him as a goalie? @SchooleyWally
I would be bummed out if Orlando didn’t have Tebow train with the team at some point, just like KC brought in Chad Johnson a few years ago.
Do soccer skills translate to hacky sack skills? @lucaswmuller
Do people still play hacky sack? All I know is some of the best players I’ve encountered (like Landon Donovan) aren’t big “trick” guys when it comes to regular-sized balls, oranges or whatever, so I’m assuming hacky sacks are in that group.