More exclusive insights from New York Red Bulls hit-man Luke Rodgers. Here he tells Kris Heneage about the MLS Cup, winter breaks and wage structures...
Well the season has finally come to an end, with LA Galaxy being crowned MLS Cup champions. You canÃ¢ÂÂt take anything away from them, they were fantastic. In some ways to go out to the eventual winners - as we did in the Conference Semifinals - does soften the blow. For me, we were the only team that really challenged them all season, having beaten them 2-0 at our place in the normal league season.
The first leg was a bit of a let down because we conceded a soft goal to Mike Magee. He actually spent five years at New York before moving to LA, so the goal obviously meant a lot to him. Of course that wasnÃ¢ÂÂt the main talking point, that was saved for the scuffle at the end between Juninho and Rafa Marquez.
I know people have been questioning Rafa lately but IÃ¢ÂÂll say this much; I hope he stays in New York because for me he is still a fantastic talent and someone that can be a major asset to this team. Rafa was handed a three game suspension by the league in the wake of what happened. That meant he missed the second leg, which was a blow.
We started the return leg in LA brilliantly. I scored very early on and it silenced the Home Depot Centre which gave me such an adrenaline buzz. Unfortunately we couldnÃ¢ÂÂt capitalize on our early goal, and LA eventually made us pay with two goals of their own. At 3-1 it was always going to be difficult to overturn that and in the end we just couldnÃ¢ÂÂt do it.
The positives for us are the fact that we made the playoffs and were able to get close to a team like LA, those are definitely things to take into next year as we look to push on.
Now that the season has finished IÃ¢ÂÂm back in England, which is nice. This will be my first Christmas off which is definitely one of the advantages of our league schedule. IÃ¢ÂÂm looking forward to spending time with my family and in particular my daughter Lola, because I know how important Christmas is to her. If IÃ¢ÂÂm lucky I might even get to catch a Birmingham City game or two while IÃ¢ÂÂm home.
A few of my team-mates, including USA international defender Tim Ream, have departed for training sessions with clubs in Europe. Tim has gone to West Brom for a few days and will then head up to Bolton after that. ItÃ¢ÂÂs a great learning expericne for him and it also gives a chance for clubs to take a look at him, which is nothing more than he deserves. I know IÃ¢ÂÂve said it before, but I really do think heÃ¢ÂÂll play in the Premier League one day, heÃ¢ÂÂs that good.
I read a recent interview with my old teammate Dwayne De Rosario in which he said he thought he was due more money. In MLS your wages are posted at the start of the season on a spread sheet, which is one thing that still surprises me. IÃ¢ÂÂll be honest and say IÃ¢ÂÂm not a fan of the transparency when it comes to salaries. I just think it causes trouble, and I donÃ¢ÂÂt see the relevance of it.
I think Dwayne raises a good point though, if heÃ¢ÂÂs performing well he should get paid. Take Wayne Rooney as an example; If he starts playing really well and scoring goals for Manchester United, he gets a new contract on more money because heÃ¢ÂÂs earned it. Now that isnÃ¢ÂÂt always the case here, they take into consideration your marketability and how you appeal to new fans I understand they have to do as they are still a fairly young league but they have to draw a line sometimes. Talent should always be rewarded in my opinion.
The big announcement last month was clubs releasing their draft lists. Thankfully New York decided to protect me which means I couldnÃ¢ÂÂt be picked up by another MLS team. As I said a few months ago, the trade system is still a bit crazy to me but IÃ¢ÂÂm slowly getting my head around it. IÃ¢ÂÂm just pleased that my future is sorted for next season.
I donÃ¢ÂÂt return to New York until January which means IÃ¢ÂÂve got just over a month back home. After that IÃ¢ÂÂll begin pre-season training and gearing up towards the new season. Despite a few injury setbacks this season, IÃ¢ÂÂve had a fantastic year out here and IÃ¢ÂÂve not only enjoyed being here but being able to share my experiences with you, so thank you for reading.
I hope you have a fantastic festive period and a great New Year. Hopefully 2012 will be a great year for us all.
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