Greg Vanney takes the captain’s armband from David Beckham for the final minute of his final game and moves on.
Photo by Scott Varley
Conventional wisdom holds MLS has improved since its 1996 debut, but now retired Galaxy defender Greg Vanney has a different perspective.
With almost his last words at a post-game press conference Sunday, the self-described “soccer junkie” who will now forge a coaching career in Arizona gave a thoughtful, cogent analysis of the state of MLS.
His words will have greater resonance for Galaxy fans who have suffered through a season of disparity in the ability and experience of veterans compared to inexpensive youngsters whose greatest attribute it sometimes seems is their willingness to take small paychecks and fit under the salary cap.
Here’s the (virtually unedited) view of a player who believes he “survived in the sport more because of my brain than my athletic ability” and credits discussions “on a different level” with veteran players for being a huge part of his development as a player:
“The league early on was more of a veteran league and there were more guys who had experience and were role players and understood what their role was within the team. And there were certain guys who had special qualities, but they still all fit within the team.
“I think in the (time) when I was here, when I left and when I came back a lot of those sort of role players, those guys who had six, seven, five years experience were replaced with young guys who had potential.
“To me, potential is a frightening word.
“So, we had a lot of guys out there who are talented in their own right, but maybe the thinking side of the game, the decision-making and all that side isn’t quite there yet.
“So, for me, the game is hectic now, it’s wide open, it’s all over the place. I don’t remember that as a young player, when the game made sense, and players did their job and there were roles. The game was much more fluid and now it’s just up and down and all over.
“And to be fair part of the reason I’m sitting here today is because in today’s game, the way its become in this league, I don’t survive very well in this game. Had the game continued where it was going and we wouldn’t have replaced the seven, eight year veterans who understood their day to day jobs with a scheme that’s very fast, almost out of control at times, who knows what would be around.
“That to me is the difference: we’ve replaced the good solid professional with potential.
“Maybe this league will be great in the future, but right now I think it has some growing pains it has to go through in order for it to get there and expansion is not going to change that at all because we’re talking about what, three to four teams in the next few years. And that’s just going to bring more younger players into the league.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I think it’s a growing pain thing. It’s a process we have to get through and it’s a teaching and education process. Now college players go from college to what would be the premier league in this country and there’s no step in between for them to learn what it takes to be a professional.
“They’re thrown out on the field and expected to have an impact. That’s tough, we’re asking a lot of those young guys.”