By Kyle McCarthy
Clarence Seedorf has made his interest in MLS clear time and again. With eyes around the world firmly fixed upon him on Tuesday, Seedorf provided yet another reminder why MLS should satisfy his curiosity with a Stateside move sooner rather than later.
While Seedorf's former Dutch international teammate Edgar Davids hobnobbed with MLS commissioner Don Garber in his role as an ambassador for the UEFA Champions League trophy tour winding its way through America, the AC Milan midfielder bounded on to the field after 72 minutes at the San Siro as part of his quest to lift the trophy for a fifth time at the Santiago Bernabeu on May 22.
Although Milan's Champions League dreams are now all but extinguished after Manchester United's flattering and ruthless 3-2 away victory in the first leg of a round-of-16 tie, Seedorf conjured a moment of fantasy to keep Milan's hopes flickering ahead of the trip to Old Trafford next month.
Few players would have approached Ronaldinho's low cross on 85 minutes with Seedorf's panache. Instead of attempting to sidefoot awkwardly with his left foot or trying to slot home with the outside of his right boot, the Dutch playmaker allowed the ball to roll through his legs and flicked it into the net with an audacious swipe of his right heel.
Seedorf's artistry may not arrive consistently at the highest level any longer considering his 33-year-old legs and Milan's depth in attack, but the goal offered a flashback to the days when Seedorf captivated audiences regularly at the height of his powers. The sequence also showed the former Ajax and Real Madrid star could still provide MLS with a desperately required infusion of top-class ingenuity.
If there is one facet of play MLS acutely lacks, it is the inspiration supplied by truly bold and creative attacking midfielders. Seedorf's temporary Milan teammate David Beckham and Seattle's Freddie Ljungberg offer accomplished quality on the ball and consummate professionalism off of it, but the ebb and flow of their approaches betrays their European careers as wide players and strays more toward precision than endeavor. Everton's on-loan sensation Landon Donovan deserves mention in the same breath as Beckham and Ljungberg on current form, yet he prefers to slash and exploit rather than jink and unlock. Columbus schemer and former DP Guillermo Barros Schelotto comes closest to meeting the creative standard among the current crop, though former Chicago playmaker Cuauhtemoc Blanco's complement of tricks best represents the ideal. The high-priced failures of Denilson and Marcelo Gallardo should not scare MLS away from it.
MLS clubs often eschew mediocre attacking midfield options to employ a stodgy central midfield pairing designed to disrupt first and push forward second. While there is no doubt to the effectiveness of determined tactics at this level, MLS must cultivate a diversity of tactical deployments to increase the standard of play and improve poor results on the continental stage. Real Salt Lake's impulsiveness – and its willingness to stick with Argentine number ten Javier Morales despite his indifferent form for much of 2009 – showed attacking football can reap titles even among the resolute status quo.
Significant hurdles – a Milan contract that doesn't expire until June 2011 and a negligible box office impact among them – suggest Seedorf's arrival remains a topic for the future rather than the present. MLS should plot Seedorf's eventual destination wisely and ensure any manager hands him the freedom to operate without much in the way of defensive strictures.
Obtaining Seedorf's signature quickly, however, is well worth the money it might cost to make those obstacles fade away. Fantasy, as MLS has discovered to its bemusement, doesn't arrive cheaply. In Seedorf's case and with yet another magical reminder in tow, transforming the dream into reality makes sense for everyone involved.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSnet.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
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