Thoughts From the Touchline

There’s no doubt a disparity between professional soccer in most of Europe and that of the MLS as far as quality goes. Still, the MLS Cup is a match I look forward to every year, especially when my hometown Galaxy is a participant. Here are some thoughts:

David Beckham and Robbie Keane are the best players on the pitch, and it’s not close.

The Galaxy should have let Beckham take the final PK instead of Keane.

If you’re going to give up a penalty kick, might as well do it with a right hook to the sack ala Tally Hall.

I’m impressed with how much the players care, especially Juninho, the little Brazilian midfielder who toughed through a painful achilles heel injury and defended resolutely in front of a kind of rickety back four before exhaustedly hobbling off late on.

Landon Donovan was among the worst players on the field again, despite slotting home the winning penalty kick. It’s time for him to retire before his legacy as one of the greatest American soccer players ever is compromised. It’s a “what have you done lately” sports world, and continued decline in his play will be what fickle fandom remembers, rather than his World Cup goal against Slovenia.

Houston has a future star in center forward, Will Bruin.

The Galaxy should make an effort to get Beckham to play one more year.

The Elephant in the Room

The game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers will go on as scheduled in the wake of the Jovan Belcher tragedy from earlier today. Belcher apparently killed his girlfriend and then himself shortly thereafter at team facilities.

Yahoo! Sports’ excellent football columnist, Michael Silver disagrees with this decision, but I think it’s the right one. No doubt, some of the Chiefs will need grief counseling, especially GM Scott Pioli who apparently witnessed Belcher shoot himself after unsuccessfully trying to talk him out of it with coach Romeo Crennell. That said, tragedy’s most pronounced scars are left beneath the surface where we are alone in the confines of our thoughts. For one hour, the players and coaches affected by this horrible sequence of events will have an escape.

Silver is definitely right about one thing though. As awful as today’s tragedy is, it’s not on the scale of the 9/11 terrorist attacks or the assassination of President Kennedy. It’s also not on the level of, say, the sudden death of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, Darryl Kile in 2002 of an apparent heart attack. I don’t want to take away anything from those who are grieving today. It’s sad to an unspeakable degree. But, assuming that the events indeed transpired the way all appearances would have it, Jovan Belcher was a murderer. The woman he killed was 23 years old, and the mother of his 3-year-old baby. Of course Belcher had friends on the team who no doubt loved him, and they’ll be understandably crippled emotionally. But I truly feel that today’s events are a tragedy that must be overcome, not simple waited on until it fades away. Maybe Jamal Charles will get his team a win with a long touchdown run the way Mike Piazza crushed a home run in the first game at Shea Stadium after 9/11.

If there are players who simply can’t or don’t want to play, they should not be compelled to. But those who are ready and willing to play should be allowed to. This isn’t the first tragedy professional football has encountered and it won’t be the last. To say that the show must go on is not in any way a suggestion that today should be forgotten about. But it needs to be moved past. That’s how the long road to healing and recovery starts.

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