Bundesliga contributor Tim Russell wondered in a recent post about Germans crossing the pond — how will Frank Rost and Torsten Frings fare? Let’s try the impossible, and predict the future.
There is one thing that European stars who take the leap over the pond into the MLS mostly have in common. They tend to be older footballers, usually well into their 30s. Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez and David Beckham were all at their final stages of their career when they decided to join a team in the MLS. Big pay checks, lower standard of football being played in the States and the chance for regular playing time are amongst the reasons many European football fans site for those stars moves to the U.S.
Be that as it may, one has to admit that the MLS has taken many strides ahead since the time Lothar Matthäus played in it. The level of professionalism is much higher, and the standard of the performances displayed on the pitch are clearly better. Furthermore, the MLS is finally able to fill the stadiums of their clubs. If you talk to American football fans(or, soccer fans) many of them will tell you that they have the feeling that football is about to become a national treasure in the States. Maybe not along the lines of basketball, hockey, baseball or that other game where the ball is kicked twice during the entire course of the match (called football over in the States, for some crazy reason), but just beneath those sports.
The Germans are coming
How do Torsten Frings and Frank Rost fit into that equation then? Well, since predicting the future mostly is done by people who claim to have divine help, or phone services that do cost you more than the house the lady on the other end of the line has promised you’ll buy very soon, all I can do is to be reasonable and say I don’t know. However, I do have some reference points from similar situations of the past. That is why I started this piece by talking about David Beckham and Thierry Henry. On the face of it two transfers of European superstars in their late stages of their career, but with completely different fates once the two of them arrived in the MLS.
Beckham came from Real Madrid to boost the profile of the LA Galaxy, but under his leadership the team hasn’t achieved any success of notable character. Furthermore, even European football fans have started to associate the Galaxy more with Landon Donovan than with David Beckham who hasn’t had the best of times in the states football wise.
On the other hand we have Thierry Henry, who came home a disgraced footballer from the world cup in South Africa. He then moved to the New York Red Bulls, and has boosted the team, given them a force to reckon with on the attacking end of the pitch.
So which will it be for Frings and Rost? Mediocrity or new-found glory in the land of the so-called free? Let’s take a look at each individual player.
Frank Rost has a great career behind him as a goalkeeper for Werder Bremen, Schalke and the Hamburger SV in Germany. Still being amongst the most vocal players on and off the pitch, Rost put any doubts into the mind of any HSV: He was always in it to win it. His hunger for success got the better of him even in his last season at the club, when he publicly shamed the club’s officials, and told off his fellow team mates for lacking enthusiasm on the pitch. Rost is still eager to prove a point, he told ”kicker” just before the last Bundesliga season ended. Combined with a number of decent performances, this leaves little doubt that Rost still can be an asset to a number of teams. He may not be a long-term solution in-goal for any team, but the fans of the Red Bulls can be assured that their team just has purchased a hell of a goalkeeper. (Ed. Note: NYRB have already loaned out their backup keeper, Greg Sutton, to D2 Montreal Impact for the remainder of the season).
That leaves us with Torsten Frings. Predicting his future in the MLS is difficult. Back in January Frings said he looked forward to retiring, before he changed his mind after Werder’s 3-1 victory against Nuremberg in March. Frings did have a terrible Hinrunde along most of the Werder squad. Constantly off the pace, completing fewer passes than usual, and with the distinct disadvantage of always being late, he didn’t do Werder any good for the first half of the season. But, around the time of the Nuremberg game the fortunes of Werder and Frings changed. Suddenly glimpses of the old Frings were back. The man who leads an entire team, the man who is the face of the team returned and played a half decent second half of the season. There is little doubt, though, that Frings isn’t the sort of player he was back in his national team days.
Another difference is the situations the two former Bundesliga stars walk into. Frings is joining a Toronto FC side that has won only three of eighteen MLS matches thus far, whereas Rost joins a Red Bulls side that shares the lead atop the Eastern Division with Faryd Mondragon’s Philadelphia Union. Despite great fan support, Toronto FC haven’t made the playoffs in their four years of existence and are undergoing still more personnel changes.
The fact that the pace of the MLS isn’t as high as the Bundesliga’s pace might help Frings, although MLS is a very physical league not for the dainty. But, considering that Frings had offers from bigger leagues that would have given him less money is not encouraging. Maybe the former national team player just signed for Toronto to earn some nice lolly before retiring? I don’t know, and I thoroughly hope that Frings proves me wrong!!
Feel free to leave a comment.
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