The appeal of a move to the MLS is starting to become clearer as Nigel Reo-Coker becomes the latest player to move to the US league. Following closely on the heels of former France and Manchester United defender Mikael Silvestre, who last week moved to Portland Timbers, Reo-Coker has spotted the potential in a move to America as a way to reignite his career. With increased awareness of the league global due to improved TV rights and increased newspaper column inches, the MLS is booming and is now becoming a more interesting destination for players still with a lot to give. Historically European based players have viewed the league as their last paycheck before retiring with the likes of Alessandro Nesta and Arne Friedrich moving to the league to extend their careers by a few more years. With a slightly slower pace to the game and superstar treatment given to designated or foreign players willing to play in the league, aging players have reacted kindly to the MLS as a more lucrative and attractive option than dropping down the leagues in their home countries.
But now players still in their prime, like Reo-Coker and Robbie Keane are looking at the league, not as a personal money spinner but as an opportunity to play competitive football week in week out, with the hopes that they can raise their profiles again to a level that attracts either interest from European clubs or international managers. Keane’s move to LA Galaxy not only breathed new life into his career, which was slowly on a downward spiral in England but possibly extended his Ireland adventure as well. Reo-Coker, who left Championship side, Bolton in the summer thought he was a good enough prospect for a Premiership club to come in for him but he was wrong and ended up signing for Ipswich Town in what was likely to be a very disappointing move for the player. Despite putting the best spin on it as he could calling the move ” the right club at the right time for me” and proclaiming ” Ipswich are a sleeping giant in the Championship – a massive club with a great history”, after going through another transfer window with no interest, he decided to leave the club.
Although it was Portland who actually approached Reo-Coker first and therefore hold his discovery rights (a bizarre system created by the league to avoid monopolies of players and complex salary negotiations), they decided to sell these on to Vancouver instead much to Reo-Coker’s delight as he wanted to work with head coach Martin Rennie after been impressed by his professionalism. He joins a growing Vancouver squad that already boasts the likes of Scotland international duo Kenny Miller and Barry Robson, Irish centre back Andy O’Brien and former USA players, Jay DeMerit and Joe Cannon. Reo-Coker will be looked upon as the midfield rock that Vancouver will build around when the season finally kicks off in less than two weeks time. With aspirations to play international football in the future, Reo-Coker will be keen to cement his place early and impress all that are watching both in Vancouver and abroad.
Although capped at England Under 21 level, Nigel has the opportunity to play for Sierra Leone having spent 6 years there as a child whilst his father was working in the country as a doctor. Reo-Coker had originally be open to the approach from the west african nation but when called up to play in a recent African Nations qualifying match, the player had a sudden change of heart stating that he would rather focus on his then Aston Villa career and a potential return to the England set up. Now three years on, and settling into his new life in Vancouver with the Whitecaps, an England call up looks literally a million miles away. At only 28, he still has the potential to play for England but appearing for Sierra Leone now might be the more realistic option. But first he needs to do the business as they say for Vancouver. He has less than fourteen days to prove his fitness if he is to make the season opener away to fellow Canadian side Toronto FC, now led by Ryan Nelsen. Reo-Coker will want to show the world that he can still play at the highest level, even if he won’t be doing it this season. He will undoubtably look towards a move back to England in a few years, once he has made his impact on the MLS. Until then, he will entertain from a far in one of the world’s fastest growing leagues.