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Minding the Schopp

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(come on, it's not the worst of the Schopp puns you've heard - or will hear)

When a half-decent offensive foray by Marvell Wynne, and Taylor Graham not ending up with an own-goal are your highlights, you realize that ”highlight” can be such an inappropriate word sometimes. Such was the case with Wednesday night’s match against New England – a too-predictable, somnambulant loss in front of eight or nine hundred predictability and somnambulance enthusiasts. The final nail isn’t in the coffin yet, but rather an extremely fat carpenter exhausted himself nailing in the next-to-last, and has fallen deep asleep on the lid. It’s pretty much the same thing.

Oh, and then there was Markus Schopp, whose at-least-he-looks-like-he’s-professional 45 minute coming-out already has some fans looking forward to his contribution next year. Without any concrete knowledge of Herr Schopp’s mindset, first impressions of MLS or (most of all) contract details – with nothing but a pronounced desire to show how clever we can be - let’s spend a moment speculating on the odds of him even being around this team come the new year. The sense here is that chances are, he’s not. Consider some information that’s been making the rounds, as well as what the man said himself at

“The main reason for my return was Kurt Jara, Salzburg’s new coach….another reason was probably the length of my contract. Salzburg wanted to obligate me for three years – till the EM 2008. I now have the possibility to establish something with this club over 3 years. Until then I hope that my achievements will keep convincing the coach of the Austrian national team and that I will be drafted in for the EM 2008 in Austria.”

Reportedly, one of the factors delaying Schopp’s arrival (besides the proverbial-with-this-team work permit delays – it’s like Giants Stadium was built over an ancient customs and immigration officers’ burial ground) was the prolonged hashing-out of how much of Schopp’s wage Salzburg would continue paying. In which case, the notion that Salzburg and New York would mutually support each other in dominating their respective leagues – vorsprung durch corporate synergy! – looks a little shaky. But it also implies that, despite running him off the team, Salzburg still holds a claim to him (and will, for between one and two more years). Per the usual with MLS transfer announcements, the terms of his move to NJ were “undisclosed.” A loan? A sale? If you can make sense of this interview (wacky google translation), it’s a short-term loan with a player option in December. And that’s what we’ll go with, till someone credible – are you out there, Ives? – tells us differently.

So what, hypothetically, goes into the "opting" part of this player option?

Well, he has to like the team, the league and the atmosphere. Who wouldn’t, after Wednesday night’s stirring display on the field and in the stands?

But furthermore…

If his stated desire to return to the Osterreich mannschaft for a shot at Euro ‘08 is real and not just wishful thinking, then he knows, or he has to know, that he’ll have to get back to Europe post-haste. Markus, it’s just not going to happen in MLS, and that has as much to do with the visibility of MLS in Europe (almost nil) as it does the perceived quality of the league. That in itself might portend a move.

For one thing, European observers have noted his connection to former coach Kurt Jara. So if Jara turns up coaching somewhere in Europe (hardly unimaginable), then a move might soon be in the offing, as well.

Then there’s this; the major difference between acquiring the Djorkaeff-type, free as a bird and wants to go to America to chill type player, and acquiring the JP Garcia/Paco Palencia/Schopp type, who don’t really fit into their home teams’ plans yet can be cajoled/coaxed/paid to do a stint at the branch office (which is what the NJ team is).

In this case, if Schopp sucks, then it’s no help to Metro anyway – just another in a long line of foreign flops. But if he performs well with Metro, he’s a likely bet to be summoned back to Salzburg (who are paying the lions’ share of his salary anyway) or else sold on somewhere else in Europe. This is only the right thing to do, by the way – it would be totally crass of MLS to hold on to him if he can make more money, and increase his chances of making the national team back home.

Of course, it wouldn’t be unheard of, either.

In other words, while grasping at straws is a ritual aspect of Metro fans’ lives, please don’t go getting attached yet.

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