Thierry Henry: No. 1 in New York – for now (AP Photo).
When Juan Pablo Angel was introduced to the Los Angeles media after signing from New York in the off-season, he was asked about the weight of expectations in MLS compared to the pressure of, say the EPL, where he once played for Aston Villa.
Angel laughed and without answering the question directly, acknowledged that there was plenty of pressure in England, leaving unspoken the fact that in the U.S. most fans are interested more in other leagues than MLS.
Still, it’s a fact there are already players this young MLS season under pressure to perform for one reason or another and they are responding – or not.
Read more in today’s column about Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry, D.C. United’s Charlie Davies, Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, former Galaxy and Chivas USA forward Alan Gordon and yes, David Beckham (you knew I couldn’t write that column without mentioning him, right).
One player not featured in the column for space reasons, but who could well be, is Columbus Crew winger Robbie Rogers, who grew up in Rolling Hills Estates and Huntington Beach.
Rogers, a good friend of Sacha Kljestan, seems to have the same problem the former Chivas USA midfielder did on the field toward the end of his time in MLS when he appeared disinterested and stale.
An early pass Rogers attempted in the game against Chivas USA Saturday seemed to sum up his situation – it was lazy, inaccurate and appeared to show he doesn’t really care (although he insists the opposite is true in interviews) about MLS and wants out so he can head back to Europe after finishing the last year of his contract.
Rogers’ problem, however, is that he appears to be squandering his youthful potential and is failing to grow as a player. And the root of the problem, as he pretty much admits, is more psychological than physical.
Rogers is in and out of the USMNT (these days more out than in) and Crew Coach Robert Warzycha told reporters Saturday he expected to see more from Rogers considering his potential.
Rogers did not disagree when he talked to reporters after the game.
Question: What did you think of your performance against Chivas USA?
Answer: “First half it was not great. I created some good chances for us, but it wasn’t my best (showing) and then I thought the second half was better, I created some chances and I thought I was dangerous, I got some fouls – I thought I was OK.
I agree with (the coach). I hold myself to a high standard. I think that I can do it more consistently. I think I need to be more dangerous. I think I need to be held more responsible for creating chances for our team. So, it’s something I really need to do this year. I’ve worked my butt off. But it’s not about how hard I work now, it’s just getting my mind right and doing it. So, that’s what I’ve got to do, that’s what I’m going to do.
Q: Is this a make or break season for you because you’re in the last year of your contract?
A: No, not at all. I’m excited this is the last year of my contract. I’m excited in the interest (from other clubs) I’ve had so far. I think so far this season I’ve started to get back to myself, I feel more happy on the field.
I think in the past two seasons there was a point in the first half where I haven’t really had the confidence to cut back and get a cross off and that’s kind of what I used to do. I’ve felt a little bit more like myself. It’s stupid to say you should always be yourself, but sports are difficult. It’s a mind game. Like I said I need to be more consistent and dangerous for 90 minutes and help my team out more.
Q: Is returning to Europe the next step?
A: Yes, of course, I want to go back to Europe. I think that’s every player’s dream here in MLS. I was close to making the last World Cup (squad) and if I really want to make the next World Cup I really need to get to Europe.
If I fail, at least I took that chance. Obviously I need to go there with confidence and be positive and just not let myself fail. This is the last year of my contract – I’m going to work off my butt with the Crew or wherever I am and I’ve just got to be positive and confident.