Thursday, July 28, 2011

United players assess Major League Soccer

After Manchester United's 4-0 victory over the MLS All-Stars last night at Red Bull Arena, Alex Labidou of was able to speak with Anders Lindegaard and Ji-Sung Park about what's needed for MLS, and specifically American soccer, to continue to grow.

Year after year, Manchester United continues to show that there is a huge disparity between the world’s best and Major League Soccer. Yet, the same questions remain after another drubbing by the Red Devils.

What can be done to change the league? What are players in America missing?

Manchester United’s goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard believes that in order for American soccer to improve, the way coaches organize their players needs to be better.

“Overall, it’s not on the same level as we are, with all due respect,” said Lindegaard. “I think the organization of the teams overall has to be better.”

Lindegaard started almost every one of United’s games during the club's United States tour this month and has seen the Red Devils beat MLS clubs by average of nearly four goals a game.

The Danish goalkeeper, who has been compared to United’s recently retired legendary keeper Edwin van der Sar, says that he doesn’t believe that players in MLS lack talent but they are missing out on the small tactical details that are stressed in Europe.

However, Lindegaard doesn't see a quick fix to the dilemma as Europeans have been perfecting their craft and coaching techniques for decades. The 27-year-old says that if Americans put more focus into the coaching side of the game, there is no reason why the development of players can’t catch up to the levels of Europe sooner than later.

“You guys have athletic players who can surprisingly play more technically then I expected,” said Lindegaard to the American press. “I was actually really surprised to see how many teams tried to play technically against us. It wasn’t like they were just trying to long ball it throughout the game.“

He added, “You have great facilities and beautiful stadiums; all it takes is organizing the game better out here.”

Ji-Sung Park, whose wonder goal secured him All-Star MVP, said that he thinks MLS is improving but also agrees that the one thing missing in its clubs is consistent and constant communication on the field. He also added more talented players wouldn’t hurt either.

“They need to improve a lot of things, it’s not just one thing, it’s everything” said Park. “More [talented] players need to come play but I think it will change over the next few years."

MLS All-Star defender Tim Ream acknowledges Lindegaard and Park's assessment. When asked what attribute from the Red Devils he would like to add to his own club, the Red Bulls' 23-year-old player said that he would improve the level of communication.

“I think their cohesiveness, how they played with each other and no matter if they are having a good day or a bad one,” answered Ream to “If we had that in New York, we’d be unstoppable.”

Still, both Lindegaard and Park were amazed by the progress made by MLS clubs.

“I was shocked because I heard soccer is your smallest sport out here,” said Lindegaard. “If that’s the case, then your other sports must be massive.”

Park revealed that if he was offered an opportunity to play in Major League Soccer, he would seriously consider it.

“The American league will be big,” said Park. “Yea, if I had an opportunity [I’d consider it] but for now, I’d like to focus on European football.”

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