Benitez settles, Adu's future uncertain (cont.)
Here are a few other things I'm thinking about this Monday morning:
1. What next for Freddy Adu? With Swiss club Sion recently passing on the chance to sign him, Adu appears to be running out of options to resurrect his floundering career in Europe. To be fair to Adu, Sion didn't seem to be the right fit for him since it's actually looking for a striker, something that Adu clearly is not. That said, when a team in a lower-tier league that has a short window to sign someone (Sion's one-year UEFA ban on transfers goes into effect in January 2011) passes on you, it doesn't exactly bode well. Benfica remains keen to offload Adu, but after having failed to establish himself in the Greek league, and having been rejected by Sion, Adu's European market value is at an all-time low.
At this point, Adu is probably best served coming back to MLS, earning some regular playing time, improving his game and possibly getting back into the U.S. national team picture. Whether any MLS team would be interested enough in him (he didn't exactly set the league on fire the first time around) to pony up the type of money that Adu is presumably looking for is another question. Granted, some MLS executives probably feel that Adu would still provide a solid draw for the U.S. audience, but how much they'd be willing to pay for that is debatable. On top of that, will Adu realize a return to MLS is in his best interests? Several players and executives I've spoken with in the past have always maintained that Adu's lack of maturity has also been a factor in holding him back.
2. Thierry Henry's MLS debut. Henry was understandably rusty and far from sharp in his league debut against the Dynamo on Saturday, but even a subpar Henry proved to be a difference-maker with two assists to help the Red Bulls to a 2-2 draw. Despite missing a couple of chances he'd normally snap up with ease, it's clear that Henry's technique, positioning and soccer IQ are on a far different level to most players in MLS. Fellow forward Juan Pablo Angel remarked afterward that it'd been a long time since he'd played with someone of such ability (and probably not since his days at River Plate).
There's no question that Henry is the best player signed by MLS, and if he avoids injury, he is destined to have a huge impact in the States. Let's not forget that he's a little more than a year (in non-soccer calendar terms) removed from recording 26 goals and 12 assists in a single season (2008-09) for Barcelona, at a time when he'd already lost that yard of pace that was such a trademark during his Arsenal days and adjusted his game accordingly.
3. The MLS All-Star game. Granted, the final score of 5-2 was somewhat of an embarrassment to MLS, but this is Manchester United we're talking about. To any sensible observer, MLS was never going to be favored in this game, not even against a less-than-full strength United. After all, some of the All-Stars such as Landon Donovan were involved in CONCACAF Champions League action the night before and the team as a whole had barely had any practice time before facing Sir Alex Ferguson's men. Speaking of the Champions League, the Galaxy's 4-1 home loss to the Puerto Rico Islanders should be far more worrisome to MLS fans and executives. If MLS is going to get the full respect it covets, its teams need to start going deep in the Champions League and winning the trophy at some point -- or at least presenting a viable threat to do so.
4. Chicharito is a bona fide hit. Based on both what I've seen on the field and been told, Javier Hernandez has been turning heads at United, impressing both teammates and Ferguson alike with his pace, finishing and natural instincts. He's clearly going to put to rest any skepticism by those who thought his signing was partly brand-related for United to break into the Mexico market, and at $11 million, he was an absolute bargain. In fact, Ferguson sees Hernandez developing at a minimum into an Ole Gunnar Solskjaer-type performer this season, if not an eventual partner for Wayne Rooney. Of greater concern to the U.S. is the fact that a Mexico front line of Hernandez flanked by Gio dos Santos, Carlos Vela and/or Andres Guardado looks downright scary.