Donovan comes to MASL

by Michael Lewis

Only time will tell whether Landon Donovan's signing with San Diego Sockers will open the door for former U.S. international players to perform in the Major Arena Soccer League.

Donovan became the second ex-Major League Soccer standout to join an MASL this season after one-time Canadian international Dwayne DeRosario signed with the Mississigua MetroStars last year.

Several MASL players and coaches certainly hope so.

"I have always hoped the league would regain the hype of the glory days," Utica City FC forward Joey Tavernese said. "This is definitely a start with having both these class players join the league and have an impact. It will be interesting to see how the league progresses. There are some great owners in the league that are trying to point the league in the right direction. Hopefully with players like this sponsorship and television deals will begin to come in more regularly.

"It's definitely exciting times for the leagues and we can all only hope for the best. Maybe Landon and Dwayne can convince some of their outdoor superstar friends to come and play. It’s great for the fans, and as for us players it’s always a joy to play against the best!!"

There are many outdoor players performing with a roof over their heads on a regular basis.

Orlando Sea Wolves defenders Luke Bohen and Tyler Turner and midfielder Lewis Neal, who played for Orlando City SC in the United Soccer League and Major League Soccer, and Florida Tropics defender JP Reyes sees that just as the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

"I do foresee other players coming in," he said. "I think these are great steps towards what the MASL could be. It could be another place, another home for players that haven't quite found a home in the USL or MLS and could make a living and help make the league grow and continue to build."

"I hope this opens some eyes and other players take notice where they can come back and have an impact on the indoor game where they are through their careers with the outdoor game," Tropics Chief Operating Officer and co-owner Chris Economides said. "You don't get much bigger in American soccer than Landon Donovan."

No, you don't, but Sam Fantauzzo, owner of the Rochester Lancers who play in MASL 2, was hopeful that some of Donovan's "friends" from Major League Soccer or the U.S. national team would take notice and follow suit.

With the sellout crowds and World Cup ratings for Landon and our national team in the recent past, this is like Pele coming to the NASL in a new media era," he said. "This could be start of something huge. Could you imagine Dempsey, Howard and Bradley joining our sport soon" Landon will soon realize the quality of play and talent throughout the MASL."

That would be Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Michael Bradley, Donovan's U.S. national side teammates.

Kansas City Comets head coach Kim Roentved also was hopeful that Donovan will pave the way for other outdoor players.

"If Messi or Landon Donovan or Ronaldo signs for the MASL, it's great for the league," he said. "I hope he's not the only big signing in the future or next year. I hope there will be a lot more of those of those guys coming so we can be proud of the talent that we put on the field."

Perhaps Baltimore Blast head coach Danny Kelly put it into perspective best.

"It's such an exciting game that's continuing to grow, but we need to be in front of more people, be on TV, in the newspapers, etc, etc.," he said. "I'm hopeful that Landon Donovan joining the San Diego Sockers will do just that, and consequently raise the level of awareness of our great game nationally.

"I think our game appeals to players like Dwayne and Landon because it's fun to play,” he said. “You're always involved in the play, it's up and down, a ton of scoring chances. A bit like hockey and basketball in that regard. I think it brings you back to why you started playing soccer when you were a kid. You just loved to play."