WITH A SINGLE comment, Robert Pires will now go from potential savior to scoundrel in the eyes of the Philadelphia Union faithful.
OK, perhaps savior is a stretch, but definitely a player who would have made a major impact.
On Wednesday, Pires told French daily L'Equipe that he rejected an offer to join the Union and, subsequently, Major League Soccer, by the summer transfer window in July. The reason? Philly isn't "beautiful" enough.
"It does not please me to [go to Philadelphia]," said Pires, 36. "I do not want to be difficult, but [if I had to] take my family away, I'd rather do it in a beautiful city. Otherwise, I will put an end to my career."
Despite Pires' aspirations of staying with Villarreal, the La Liga club declined to renew his contract after the 2009-10 season, making the Frenchman a free agent. Memed Djemmal, Pires' agent in the States, noted he was "aware of [Pires] comments."
Maybe Pires doesn't know that, according to the 2008 population figures, Philadelphia is the sixth-largest city in the country. Or that some of its suburban towns rival hotspots such as Beverly Hills and the Hamptons. He had the chance to experience our "Brotherly Love" in early March, but declined an invitation by Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz.
"It's a bit of a shock as to where all this is coming from," said Sakiewicz. "A, He's never been here and B, we never made him an [official] offer. Look, I think Robert is a good player with a lot of experience and a lot of good football left in him, but he may just not have been for us; and obviously, given his comments, he clearly is not for us."
In MLS, clubs vie to attract top players. In regards to designated players, under MLS' single-entity system, it's first-come, first-served on signing said player. Thus, if Pires is saying no to Philly, he is saying no to the league as a whole.
"I will say some have very little understanding of the rules of the league and its single-entity structure," said Union manager Peter Nowak, a former star in Europe. "People need to understand the rules before they open their mouth. Also, I think he is looking at cities like Chicago, New York, Miami and Los Angeles and thinking Philly is a small town compared to them. There are a lot of guys [who think] like this, where except the four major [cities], they don't know much about the U.S.
"When you come to the U.S., you are trying to mold and improve the game as much as possible. [Former MLS] players like myself, Marco Etcheverry, [Carlos "El Pibe"] Valderrama and [current D.C. United's] Jaime Moreno realized that they aren't just here to better their team but to help raise the profile of the sport. Mr. Pires is supposed to come here and promote soccer, not worrying about being in a vacation resort in some 'beautiful' city."
Pires has never tasted a Tastykake or a cheesesteak. He's never perused the Main Line or shopped on Walnut. So it's evident that his comments come from a place of sheer ignorance - and a whole lot of orgueil.
Guarda is Gone-zo
FC Dallas midfielder Bruno Guarda has been suspended by the club and fined $750 for kicking the ball into the seats of Lincoln Financial Field Saturday, in addition to making an obscene gesture to fans. Referees did not see the kick or the gesture, but it was caught on video.
My bad, y'all
Got a couple of mea culpas:
* Yesterday, I mistakenly wrote that single-game tickets for games at PPL Park go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. It is a Monday, except it's Monday, June 7.
* I neglected to mention last week that Ryan Rogus, of Mount Ephraim, N.J., correctly answered the Trivia Time question that no player has ever won a World Cup and MLS Cup.
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