January 6, 2012
By Michael Lewis
Gonzalez injury illustrates the perils of MLS loaning players
For all you fans who wanted to know why I did not want the Red Bulls to loan captain and striker Thierry Henry to Arsenal, I give you Exhibit A:
On his first day of training with FC Nuremberg in Germany, LA Galaxy central defender Omar Gonzalez tore the ACL of his left knee after he collided with fellow American Timmy Chandler in training. He is expected to be sidelined as long as nine months.
Gonzalez doing his ACL on his first day with the German Bundesliga club is a prime example and worst case scenario of what can happen when a player goes on loan with a club. Anything can happen.
Gonzalez might be back for the Galaxy's stretch run of the longest Major League Soccer season (267 days), and should have plenty of time to bounce back and have a decent career. Regardless, it is devastating news for the 23-year-old Gonzalez, who decided to forgo a U.S. National Team training camp and a pair of international friendlies to train in Europe.
If you were wondering, Gonzalez has all of two caps. Given the U.S.'s backline problems -- age and inconsistent performances -- he was expected to be given a look by national coach Juergen Klinsmann. Now, it will be wait until next year for a serious look -- right smack in the middle of the final round of World Cup qualifying. Not exactly the time you would want to test anyone's mettle, especially against the likes of Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, etc.
Which is why I fear for the likes of Thierry Henry and Landon Donovan, especially the former. Henry is no spring chicken. He is 34 years old and was hampered by Achilles and hamstring problems last year. Do we really think they're going to go away? And add the rigors of the EPL, the Red Bulls are just asking for trouble down the road.
I hope I'm wrong, but I fear I will be correct.
And just wondering why the Red Bulls would allow Henry to play on a two-month loan in an extremely demanding league without a flinch, but goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul would wind up in coach Hans Backe's doghouse for missing a week in pre-season to play an international friendly with Senegal. What was wrong with that?
Sounds like a huge double standard there.
It just doesn't make sense.
Then again, a lot of things happening with this club these days doesn't make sense.
If players are going to play in Europe, it should be via transfer, not on loan. Just way too many land mines on the pitch.
The other concern I have with Henry is that he should be with his primary club -- the Red Bulls -- for pre-season training. If he is the captain, there is no excuse for him not to be there.
The Red Bulls like to talk about building team unity during the pre-season. Well, the captain should be there to lead the way.
If anything happens during the year -- whether it is an injury to Henry or team dissension that stemmed from the pre-season problems of the forward not being with the team -- then the captain and the club have no one to blame but themselves.