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lf, the Tigers fought back
manzi98 #1
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Titre: lf, the Tigers fought back
Five years ago, I was presenting a radio show and had MLS Commissioner Don Garber on as a guest. Five years is a long time in life. In football, five years is a lifetime. Nevertheless, one thing I still remember from the conversation was the subject of players from the United States of America plying their trade in Major League Soccer. American defender Michael Parkhurst was a player I admired a lot, but had recently left the league to play in Denmark. I meant no disrespect to the Danish Super League when I asked the question, but I wanted to know how a league with lofty ambitions could justify losing one of its best players, who is American, to a lesser known European league. The commissioner, as he often does in interviews, gave a thoughtful, realistic view in that he knew, for many Americans, that the league could not stand in the way of their ambitions to make it to the top level in the game.  At the time, the designated player rule was so new, it wasnt even walking yet.  Born a year earlier when David Beckham joined Major League Soccer, the rule was seen by clubs as a way for the club to throw a large amount of money at one player from anywhere around the world to make their club better. The problem the league had at the time was that the spots, one per team, were so exclusive, clubs had to be very careful who they selected. Their pursuit was made even more difficult by the fact that few top players wanted to come. Clubs were shopping with deep pockets but were diverted from Beverly Hills to garage sales. In time, the league grew, more soccer specific stadiums were built with expansion on an almost yearly basis alongside new television deals and boosted revenues and, as such, the designated player rule evolved with the league, allowing teams to now purchase two or three players from around the world. These spots are the aces in the pack for a clubs general managers. Most of North Americas major sports are governed by a salary cap, designed to increase parity, which is supposedly good for the game. But what of the owners who want to spend more money on their team but cannot? These rich owners are used to getting what they want. In a one-on-one sit-down with TSN.ca last October, Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen told me some of the hurdles the organization has to face when it comes to participating in a salary cap league. "Some of the rules are incredibly frustrating when you are a club that has the resources that we have, you get held back," he said. "Its communism really, trying to make everybody even, where we live in a democracy and (TFC) is kind of the Canada of the world, we are very progressive but we get held back by league rules, some of which I still cannot believe, obviously designed for parity but thats the MLS world we live in and it is done for a reason, with the best intentions of providing parity for the league and putting the league in a position where it can move on and continue to be very successful." Nelsen believes the 19-team league has never been more competitive. "Clubs are running it so much better than when I played, they understand what it takes for success, theres only really been a few clubs that havent really caught up with the infrastructure of running it, and now that is changing, even the likes of Chivas and ourselves, we are getting back into that now, and next season I cannot see very many teams, like it was last year with teams like Chivas, DC and us on 20 odd points, do that, I think we will see even more parity which is going to be phenomenal, " the coach stated. Such parity puts an even stronger emphasis on getting an edge over your rivals. There are so many layers of the sport that allow teams to be better than others, even if they spend the same amount of money. Making the right decisions regularly at a number of different levels, including scouting, developing and coaching, can put a team ahead of many before a ball is kicked in anger. The designated player, however, is the only area where owners can flex their financial muscles. For Toronto FC owners, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, this provides an opportunity to separate yourself from some of the other owners in the league.  Every offseason, teams across the league are looking for value. It is not just whether the player is good enough, it comes down to how much the player is going to cost and if the team can ensure they will get that value, or even exceed it, from the player that season. This is no different when it comes to designated players. For MLSE, who have run a moribund franchise for seven years, these three slots needed to go from Hail Mary, shots-in-the-darks to golden tickets, capable of attracting the finest players available in the game today. When you are a company who, earlier this season, paid NBA player Rudy Gay over $340,000 US a week and, more recently, signed Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phanuef an average of $135,000 US per week, there is no issue in handing a similar contract to two international players to get them to come play for Toronto FC and ignite a team that could easily have been left to be watched by 5,000 diehards in three years if it carried on down the pathetic path it has lived on since it was born. The league does not let you overspend on the rest of your roster, so if you are willing to do whatever it takes financially to improve the squad this is your best bet. Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley are obviously not two of the finest players in the game, but they are two of the finest players available. They are players who are not coming to Toronto and MLS for a pension. They are players who can make a difference, are willing to listen, are available, and, of course, extremely interested in the money, which isnt anywhere close to the amount of money any team in Europe is willing to pay them. Some fans would take this to mean they are not worth the money they are being paid by Toronto FC, but that is incorrect. The money they are getting is only relevant in terms of how it is attracting them to the club. Defoe and Bradley are unique players who can make a difference on and off the field. Defoe is arguably the best player in the game today that Toronto FC could realistically get, someone who is accomplished at the most difficult thing to do in the game: scoring goals. Seeing that he tops such a list, you could argue he is being underpaid. There is no other genuine goal-scorer from a top European league available with a proven track record better than Defoe, who could also put Nelsen down on his resume, as if he needed one, as a reference considering what he told me about the English striker back in October. Nelsens face lit up when we chatted about Defoe. "My goodness, one of the most natural goalscorers I have ever come across, always out training, always trying to score, a great guy, to get a guy like Jermain Defoe, gee whizz, never gets injured, doesnt drink, can play high, play low, scores all types of goals, perfect for the MLS, he would phenomenal," he said. Bradley is 26 and when news broke of his impending transfer to Toronto many people were stunned that he would be willing to come play in Major League Soccer at that age. However, this is no longer 2008. We should no longer be surprised. The designated player rule has given the league an opportunity to make talented players think twice about playing in Europe and thats how it should be. Bradleys expected wage in Toronto far exceeds what he was getting at Roma, and would get anywhere in Europe, just as Clint Dempseys deal with theSeattle Sounders does. Instead of these players sitting on the bench and getting occasional substitute appearances, because thats where they are supposed to play because it is the top level, they are now being rewarded for being close to the top of an exclusive list held in the hands of MLS general managers.  As I suggested to the commissioner in 2008, having the very best Americans playing in the league is extremely important. The likes of Bradley, Dempsey and Landon Donovan will become household names by millions before and during the World Cup and now none of them are disappearing off to play in a different league afterwards. They are all coming to play in a North American city near you very soon. The word Major in MLS is starting to really matter. Nick Fairley Jersey .J. -- New Jersey agreed with Petr Sykora to terms of a one-year deal on Wednesday, completing the former Devils bid to return to the NHL after an 18-month absence. Calvin Johnson Jersey . - Former NFL safety Darren Sharper pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he drugged and raped two women he met at a West Hollywood night club, while the emergence of a new accuser in Florida left him under investigation in five states. http://www.shoplionsus.com/women-reggie-bush-lions-jersey-sale/ . The 33-year-old right-hander was 14-7 with a career-low 3.64 ERA in 28 starts for his hometown San Diego Padres last season. He joins a rotation that includes NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and fellow newcomer Chris Capuano, who signed a $10-million, two-year deal last week. Barry Sanders Jersey .ca! Hi Kerry, I love the column, keep up the good work! It doesnt make me more sympathetic to bad calls by the refs, but it sure explains a lot! On Tuesday, Zach Bogosian and Lars Eller just went off to the Sin Bin together - Bogosian for interference and Eller for embellishment. Glover Quin Jersey . Pro Bowl centre Maurkice Pouncey ripped up his right knee and linebacker Larry Foote ruptured his biceps during Pittsburghs 16-9 home loss to Tennessee, likely sidelining both players for the rest of the season.DAYTON, Ohio -- So much for first-time jitters. Chris Eversley scored 19 points to help Cal Poly avoid its 20th loss of the season and win its first NCAA tournament game, 81-69 victory over Texas Southern on Wednesday night in the First Four. The Mustangs (14-19) were 0-3 and 4-9 early before losing nine of 11 heading into the Big West Conference tournament -- which they won to earn the programs first NCAA bid. The team with the worst record in the tournament now moves on to face the one with the best -- top-seeded Wichita State (34-0) -- in the second round in St. Louis on Friday. There have been 23 teams with losing records in the NCAA tournament since 1955. Only three teams had won in the first/opening round. Aaric Murray closed out his career with 38 points for Texas Southern (19-15), champs of the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament. David Nwaba added 17 points and Brian Bennett -- who was a perfect 5 for 5 from the field -- had 10 for the Mustangs. Cal Poly had participated in seven Division II tournaments, finishing third in 1981. The 81 points were the Mustangs second-highest total all season. They shot 57 per cent from the field (29 of 51). Coach Mike Davis, in his second year with Texas Southern after earlier leading Indiana and UAB to the big tournament, was clearly not happy during two timeouts to try to get his team to play better on defence. Murray was the top player on the court, but that wasnt enough for the Tigers. Originally a blue-chip recruit for La Salle, he left there for West Virginia where he was dismissed from the team. In his final year of eligibility for Texas Southern, he had 28 points against Stanford, 30 against Tulsa and 48 against Teemple in his return home to Philadelphia.dddddddddddd Cal Poly dominated most of the first half to build a 12-point lead at the break and never let it go. Down by as many as 16 points early in the second half, the Tigers fought back with a 9-4 run to get the lead down to single figures. It stayed there until the Mustangs awakened. Murray had a jam and two foul shots to narrow it to 70-62 with 4:42 left before the teams traded points. Cal Poly took time off the clock until Kyle Odister missed a long 3, but Nwaba was fouled on the rebound and hit the second shot with 1:42 remaining. Texas Southern then turned it over when Rodriguez bowled over Jamal Johnson on a drive. Eversley was quickly fouled and swished both and the lead was back to 76-66 with just over a minute left as the small contingent of Mustangs fans cheered across from their teams bench. The Mustangs salted the game away at the line in the final 60 seconds. Ganging up on the Tigers Murray at every opportunity, the Mustangs pulled away midway through the opening half. Trailing 17-16 after a Murray 3 which gave him 11 points, Cal Poly took the lead for good on Bennetts slashing move to the hoop. After a Texas Southern miss, Bennett scored again on a 14-foot jumper. Those two baskets keyed a 16-7 burst for a 32-24 lead. Murray ended up 14 of 23 from the field, 3 of 5 behind the arc and a perfect 7 for 7 at the line. The Mustangs led the Big West in scoring defence, allowing 63.4 points a game while finishing last in scoring (63.2). Conversely, the Tigers led the SWAC in scoring (76.2 points) but was near the bottom in defence (73.7). Texas Southern was making its fifth NCAA trip, and fell to 0-5. ' ' '
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