In the wake of a disappointing performance at the World Cup, American football has to start over. Landon Donovan is 28 and will be heading downhill by 2014. Most Americans currently playing in Europe are being treated shabbily, they're being called lazy and lacking in ball skills. They have no leverage to be treated better.
The next U.S. coach -- and it probably won't be Bob Bradley again -- needs to add agent to his skill set. He needs to take responsibility for having key players learning and playing constantly. While European coaches can complain about the selfishness of their hopefuls, the American coach needs to be selfish for his players.
The USA team was hurt last time by the fact so many of our stars and potential stars were sitting on European benches. Solving the problem needs to be job one. Since European games are now all over American TV this job is becoming more urgent. (Ironically part of the solution involves sending some of our kids to places like Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, where they are more likely to get playing time and the fans' abuse will toughen them up.)
But there is a job two that is closely related. That is getting our top stars onto top European clubs and onto the field of play.
As Europe heads toward the closing of its transfer deadline, much of the speculation concerns Donovan. He played well at Everton, and they want him back. But Donovan doesn't want to go back. There is one MLS player, however, who is at the top of his game, who would benefit enormously from European play, and who could become a starl there.
Buddle is 29. He has been scoring at a breakneck pace for a year now. He is the best scorer the Galaxy has, including Donovan. He is up for the challenge. He can go into an English side and do a lot more than Altidore did, because he has more experience.
American soccer deserves more respect. MLS is no longer a place where any European pro can shine. The level of play is on a par with the top of England's Championship -- and level with that of Scotland. (It's actually faster than Scotland.) But we don't get respect because our best young players aren't ready for top European leagues, they're shuttled from pillar-to-post and don't develop, and our best players tend to stay here.
Buddle can change that and I hope he does. Soon.