Harry Kewell Would Give MLS A Further Boost of Credibility

Tim YuSenior Analyst IMay 25, 2008

The English media will always have their favorites and scapegoats. One minute they fall in love with your ability, and the next they're waiting to attack you in any way possible.

And unfortunately for Harry Kewell, his name just happens to be amongst a long standing list of casualties.

"There are always scapegoats, there are always people they want to blame," said the former Liverpool man to reporters ahead of Australia's friendly with Ghana.

Critics landed a parting punch when they calculated that Kewell earned nearly £160,000 a match since signing on with Liverpool nearly five years ago. This prompted the media to call him as nothing more than an "expensive flop."

But then again, Kewell can understand the harsh criticism. After all, as the Australia skipper puts it: "When are [the English media] ever polite?"

After suffering from constant setbacks through injuries, there's a sense of having a point to prove in order to silence the critics.

Because in Kewell's mind, he still feels that, despite the injuries, he is still more than capable of contributing at the Premier League level. There's a belief that the player that first signed on from Leeds in 2003, the one with scintillating skill and pace, can re-emerge from the ashes to have an impact in the Premier League.

However, if Kewell were to take a look at his situation carefully, the avenue to redemption doesn't necessarily have to be through England's top flight. Because, in more ways than one, he finds himself in a situation that former Aston Villa star Juan Pablo Angel was in a little over two years ago.

After signing on from River Plate, the Columbian international bagged 23 goals in 38 matches during his career year back in 2003. However, shortly after the 2006/2007 season, Angel fell out of favor at Aston Villa, and like Kewell, was relegated to the reserve team at one point during his time at Villa Park.

Rejected, outcasted to the reserves, and branded as a "flop" or "bust:" there's a sense of frustration that can almost be unbearable to live with at times when looking back at football careers.

In spite of Angel's recent troubles, he could have very easily signed on to make a few extra pounds at another English club in the Premier League. Some argue that he still had the ability to regain his scoring prowess.

Instead, the former Aston Villa hitman resorted to another route—one that established footballers are only now realizing as a fantastic avenue of continuing their quality careers.

Ever since he put pen to paper on a three-year, $4.5 million US deal with the New York Red Bulls in 2007, the star striker hasn't looked back, as he has played an instrumental role in reviving interest in soccer at the Big Apple.

In his first season with the Red Bulls, Angel stuffed 19 goals in only 24 matches, a feat that blows past his seven goals in 54 matches in his last two seasons with Aston Villa.

However, while some are quick to point out the "lower standard" that Major League Soccer brings, the Colombian is quick to defend the league against any skeptics questioning the quality of the league.

"I think it's very good. I think people have a misconception of this league. It's very tough, very physical... I wasn't expecting to just drop in and perform like this, but I'm really enjoying it here," said Angel in an interview with CBC Sports in 2007.

And for Harry Kewell, he could be enjoying the scene as well.

In the past, Kewell has always indicated that he's had a fascination with America. After all, his wedding was in America and he has recently put forth the idea of finishing his career off in New York.

If his recent sporadic performances in the Liverpool shirt are anything to go by, Kewell could still be a force to be reckoned with either as a winger or an attacking midfielder in Major League Soccer.

The Australian will undoubtedly have to work hard for success, but at some point, Kewell's natural gifts as a footballer should eventually take the league by storm, especially with a renewed sense of confidence.

This has proven to be true for a number of the Designated Players and established players in MLS. Claudio Reyna, Cuahtemoc Blanco, David Beckham, Landon Donavan and Marcello Gallardo are just a few players that have found comfort in participating in a league on the rise.

If Kewell can stay healthy, he would bring much more than just a vast array of talent to North America, along with something Angel couldn't offer the league. Like David Beckham in Los Angeles, Kewell has charisma and a swagger that could make him a very marketable player in America.

There are those stating that Kewell would be more open with a possibility of returning home to the A-League in Australia, but with a comfortable Designated Player salary for a team in MLS, there's a lot to like about the prospects of the former Leeds and Liverpool man setting foot on a new continent.