Exclusive: MLS veteran Robert Earnshaw warns Ashley Cole ‘USA league won’t be easy’

Robert Earnshaw has some stern words of advice.

MLS fans at big game
Soccer in the US Goals like this have helped put the game on the map. Image Photo Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Former MLS hotshot Robert Earnshaw believes new boy Ashley Cole won’t have it as easy as he might imagine.

Ashley Cole completed his move to the LA Galaxy last week after being released by Roma, where he struggled to fit in. Once rated as the world’s best left-back, Cole started just 11 Serie A games in his 18 months in Italy and hasn’t played a single minute this season.

The former Arsenal and Chelsea defender joins a legion of British stars who have moved to the US. But ex-Premier League striker Earnshaw, who finished his career in the MLS and retired this week, has warned Cole that North American football is a lot tougher than it’s portrayed in the media.

“If you think it’s going to be easy, or less intense than playing in the UK then think twice,” cautioned former Cardiff, WBA and Norwich forward Earnshaw.  

“You have got to be fit, and that’s why I got fitter and stronger over the last years. You have to be right. You need the same energy that you would have had in the UK. You have to prove yourself, because everyone in the States wants to see you at your best.”

Although the national USA side has improved dramatically in the past decade, ex-Wales international Earnshaw believes the press still views its national league as a retirement home. Players including David Beckham, Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have played in MLS at the end of their career. 

But other footballers such as Bradley Wright-Phillips have revitalised their career in the States. Earnshaw insists the image is outdated, and dates back to MLS’ earliest days in the 1970s when it effectively hosted exhibition games for fading stars like Pele, Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer. 

“It’s not like when Pele and Cruyff played here,” Earnshaw explain. “It’s a totally different time now. There are people in the league that are super professional.”

Now 34, Earnshaw called it a day yesterday after playing for 12 clubs in 18 years. He finished in the MLS with Vancouver Whitecaps, after initially coming to play for Chicago Fire.

Robert Earnshaw retired
Hard work Earnshaw was keen t Image Photo Rich Lam/Getty Images

Earnshaw explained that the lure of coaching was irresistible.

He told Loaded: “Vancouver Whitecaps offered me a role, and it took a couple of weeks to have a think about it.

“To really look at it and make a decision, it was difficult. It came down to thinking about what’s next, and what I want to do.

Earnshaw insisted he would have been physically capable of still playing for Vancouver.

“It’s funny, because a lot of people think when you get to a certain age you start to slow down,” he laughed. “They think you’re not as good, but it’s actually been the other way around for me.

“My body has been telling me ‘OK, you actually feel fit’ but compare that to the future and what I see as a great opportunity. Vancouver Whitecaps have given me that opportunity.”

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Loaded sports writer Pearse Corcoran has covered news, sport and entertainment for several national newspapers and radio stations in Ireland. Follow him on Twitter at @PearseCorcoran

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