Friday, December 31, 2010

Still more.

ESPN, has a lovely photo of Dwayne De Rosario and Freddie Ljunberg attending last night's Celtic match. There's also a little snippet of info from manager Neil Lennon regarding DeRo.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

DC United

From MLS flag bearers to MLS basement dwellers; DC United finished a disappointing 16th place last season. They amassed a lowly 22 points, while the next closest team Chivas USA finished on 28. Even expansion Philadelphia Union finished higher. No time in DC's long proud history have things been this dismal. How could things get worse?

Prior to last season DC supporters thought the same thing. However, they got worse by the managerial appointment of the directionless Curt Onalfo. Though he was a DC boy, all DC execs had to do was speak to the Sporting KC fans and see how Onalfo had done little to advance their club. Onalfo brought in Kurt Morsink and Adam Cristman from Sporting KC, and watched both do little in a dire season for the four time MLS Cup winners. He signed Christian Castillo who only played 10 matches and was released in June. Onalfo also brought in Danny Alsopp who did marginally better scoring five goals in 20 matches. It took about eight months for Onalfo to lose his job with United. The only thing good that can be said about Onalfo is he brought through MLS's prized young talent Andy Najar; who won the league's Rookie of the Year award. This could be credited to the club hierarchy and not Onalfo, however. But how long will he be around as several European clubs have been sniffing.

Enter DC's former talisman Ben Olsen as interim coach. Olsen was able to turn DC around slightly, though the team finished dead last in the league. Olsen was then told he wouldn't be considered for the permanent manger's job, but DC have done a U-turn and given Olsen the position. But why is that? Most likely it is because DC couldn't find anyone to take over the sinking ship that they are. United have, arguably, been on the decline since 2006 when they won the Supporter's Shield and reached the semi-finals of the MLS Cup Playoffs. Though DC won the Supporter's Shield again in '07 they limped to the finish line and went out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals. The team has brought in plenty of players who showed promise early and faded. The likes of Luciano Emilio, Fred and Marcelo Gallardo (the club's first DP) all showed promise, but fell to the wayside; some sooner than others. With the money the club has spent and talent they have had it's hard to believe they could be in the position they are in. But bad signings, scouting and player development seem to have caught up with the club.

A lot of long time DC fans are excited about Olsen taking over full time. But I think they're looking at this appointment with nostalgic eyes as Olsen was a fantastic patron for DC United as a player. Many fans screamed for him to be given the position after the season and now they've gotten their wish; but be carefully what you wish for. DC United were looking for a big name or at least a manager from abroad. Many teams are quite envious of what New York was able to do with Hans Backe and would like to emulate that feat. The appointment of Olsen seems more like a scapegoat than a wise move, however. Firstly, you have an inexperienced manager (does he even have coaching badges?) who is 33 years old. He is the same age as
Josh Wolff who was selected in the re-entry draft. Olsen maybe able to rally the youngsters around him early on, but what senior players are going to get behind a manager nearly the same age. Moreover, players like Clyde Simms have played along side Olsen and it's very difficult to look at someone from being your peer to being your boss. Secondly, if and when Olsen's DC results don't go well this gives DC owner William Chang the chance to say I told you so to supporters that screamed for Olsen's name.

Andy Najar has signed a new contract with DC and will hopefully be able to keep him for the foreseeable future. The team has also signed Dax McCarty in a trade for Rodney Wallace during the MLS Expansion Draft. This was strong acquisition. Wallace is a player who has shown promise, but truly has not developed into a strong MLS left sided player. McCarty deemed excess goods in Dallas now finds himself as the player DC could build their midfield around. However, since the trade was finalised it seems McCarty has become the best midfielder in MLS the way he has been spoken about by MLS insiders, bloggers and experts. It seems there aren't enough superlatives when some write about McCarty these days. In the last couple weeks DC has worked a trade with Portland to send goalkeeper Troy Perkins for allocation money and Steve Cronin. There could be three reasons for this: Perkins had a terrible past season, DC will give Bill Hamid the number one shirt or Perkins' harsh words about DC's lack of professionalism last season. Perkins gave an
interview with ESPN in which he criticised DC management and this could be the reason he was moved. DC United has been reportedly shopping around some of their veterans like Clyde Simms, too. Simms is a quality MLS central midfielder and there aren't many better defensive midfielders in the league. But this could be DC turning over their roster to get a losing mentality out of the dressing room.

DC have not only had problems on the field, but there are still possibilities they could move to Baltimore. There is no clearer a picture of DC moving out of the cavernous RFK, and rumors continue to circulate the team could relocate to Baltimore. This would be a true shame, but I for one can see the club relocating and looking for greener pastures.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It continues

I find it highly funny that TFC continues to deny Dwayne DeRosario is on trial with Celtic. Yet, pictures have been published as well as articles by Celtic regarding DeRosario's first workout with the club today.

It continues

I find it highly funny that TFC continues to deny Dwayne DeRosario is on trial with Celtic. Yet, pictures have been published as well as articles by Celtic regarding DeRosario's first workout with the club today.

Tuesday Tids

Beside DeRo training with Celtic Colorado's Omar Cummings is off to train with Aston Villa. If signed Cummings would join a very young squad that has been assembled by Gerard Houllier. Word is Villa will sell striker Rod Carew in Jan, and perhaps that is Cummings chance. Is this a sign of change from MLS and are they now open to selling league stars. Hopefully, they are coming around to the idea that many of us fans subscribe to and that is to sell older established MLS players and re-invest the money into younger exciting players. According to Colorado Rapids website, the Rapids are only interested in a loan, but if that would be worthless to Villa and hopefully enough money will push the Rapids into a sale.

John Rooney, Wayne Rooney's brother, who trained last summer with Seattle Sounders has officially signed a MLS contract and will join the MLS combine and MLS Superdraft. He has formerly played for Macclesfield Town in England's lower leagues.

Celtic invite DeRo for Training

In a move out of leftfield, and a move to put terror into the hearts of TFC supporters, Dwayne DeRosario is training with Celtic ahead of the January transfer window. The good news for TFC fans is that DeRo is 32 years old, and Celtic is more in the market for young players; especially a striker and defender. The bad news is DeRo is a cheap option compared to others and perhaps they feel he could feel a void for them.

From Celtic's manager Neil Lennon's comments it's hard to think they'd sign him. Everything Lennon has said is DeRo's coming into train, he's not a top target, but if he turns our heads will think about it. I thought one comment was very interesting that Lennon made saying, "He's a player who has been put to me." Obviously, scouts or agents have been in contact with the club. But more importantly are TFC so displeased with DeRo as their team leader, check signing goal celebration and want for more money that they are activily looking to rid themselves of him? Not to long ago we heard rumors of San Jose and TFC trying to work out a trade. Perhaps DeRo's time in Toronto is up, and more importantly are MLS teams uninterested in bringing him in.

I think it's worth noting that Mo Johnston is a former Celtic player and I maybe reading more into this than should be, but has Johnston who has influence in Scotland put the word to Celtic. Does he still have any pull with TFC behind the scenes? Remember it was Johnston who was able to get Maurice Edu an opportunity with Rangers. He may well be doing the same for DeRo.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Attitudes in MLS Changing?

I've noticed from nearly the beginning of MLS that teams on top of the league tend to have little to no changes between seasons. However, I feel beginning with the 2011 season that may chang. It has long been seen in Europe that when you're on top you still need to bring in fresh players and add to the talent already in place. Barcelona for example has been a fantastic team for the past several years. But every season we see fresh players brought in to replace aging stars or to just replace players (Theirry Henry) that are excess to requirments.

I think MLS are starting to go this way, finally. MLS is a league that it is incredibly hard to stay on top of with the drafts and ways new talent can be acquired. It seems lifespan at the top is 3-4 seasons. We've watched DC, Houston and New England all spend time at the top only to have all now missed the playoffs this past season. But rarely have these teams brought in fresh, proven MLS level talent to bolster their rosters. Columbus is a prime example as they continued to use the same players following their MLS Cup win in 2008 and only slightly altering the team, and not for the better. Last offseason, Seattle didn't add to their Open Cup winning team, and paid for it this season. Blame Freddie Ljunberg all you want, but until they brought in Blaise N'Kofu the team was practically stuttering.

MLS still relies to heavily on the MLS draft in my opinion. I'm not the biggest fan of college soccer, though gems are found each season. Players aren't being developed, and it's hard to develope when you're played in a system that is continually played by that college program. But even many of the highest touted players end up on the junk heap (Chance Myers anyone?). With the redesigned reserve league hopefully more players will come through now. We've seen several teams using their academies lately, and hopefully over time that will become a bigger than the college superdraft. Hopefully, with some of the new rules in place we'll see teams adding more quality to winning systems and I believe the league needs a team that is on top or near the top every season. A New York Yankees of sorts will benefit this league in marketing, name recognition and it will give those US based MLS fence sitters someone to cheer for or hate.

Freddie to Celtic

According to ESPN, former Seattle Sounder and Chicago Fire forward Freddie Ljunberg will arrive in Glasgow today to sign for the Scottish giants.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Come on People

I've read a few MLS related message boards today, and have read some of the most ridiculous things about Ronaldinho. As I wrote last night and has been reported since last night, Ronaldinho will most likely be signing with Gremio in Brazil. I've read so many comments about Ronaldinho's career being over now, the Brazilian league being terrible and that he couldn't cut it in MLS, so he picked Brazil. These people were being serious as well. What is the difference between Landon Donovan choosing to stay with LA Galaxy and not go abroad? Or Jay Demerit signing with Vancouver when there were European teams interested in his signature?

I'm not sure if most MLS followers know this, but there are more Brazilians playing abroad than Yanks or Canadians. This is just one node to how strong and technically gifted the Brazilian League is. For a league that continually has their talent plucked from them they are able to regenerate that talent very well.

Throughout the comments I've read people seem to see MLS as a league that is bigger than it is. According to one league ranking system I've seen today, things break down like this:
1. Spain
2. England
3. Germany
4. Italy
5. France
6. Netherlands
7. Portugal
8. Brazil
9. Argentina
10. Mexico
11. Russia
12. Turkey
13. US
To be honest I'm quite surprised that MLS would be that high. I find the Japanese J-League to be of very high quality and features players and clubs that rival MLS. I also see Demark, Sweden and Belguim's national leagues as the same quality if not slightly better than MLS. I digress.

This move should help Ronaldinho's slight hopes of making the national team. More importantly it takes him back to Brazil where many Brazilians have returned over the past few years to get their careers back on track. Players such as: Robinho, Roberto Carlos, (Fat) Ronaldo, Juliano Belleti and Adriano have all returned to Brazil and played at a high level. Two of which have returned to Europe (Robinho and Adriano) while the others are content to play out their careers in Brazil where it is warm all year round. Also, has anyone ever been to the Rio Carnival? That's enough to send every Brazilian abroad back home.

Blown to the Galaxy's hopes

Brazilian outfit Gremio, claims they have agreed terms with Ronaldinho. However, it appears that Palmeiras is still holding out hope according to news reports. This comes on the heels of Milan signing Antonio Cassano. More news continues to come slowly, but this should nearly put the nail in the coffin for LA Galaxy's hopes of landing the former World Player of the Year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wednesday Tids

ESPN is reporting Landon Donovan has ruled out a second straight loan move to Everton. Donovan raised his profile internationally last season with a short-term loan move in which he scored two goals for Everton. Donovan will now rest prior to the MLS pre-season.

According to the Daily Mail, Nottingham Forest has signed Robbie Findley. Findley should add much needed speed to the Forest attack. The Mail is also reporting Edson Buddl has been invited back to Birmingham for an extended trial. However, it appears both Stoke City and Wolverhampton Wanderers are interested in his services. I can't imagine Buddle getting much playing time with any of the three teams. Especially, with two of them fighting relegation at the midway point of the season. Wolves tend to play with one up front while Stoke signed Kenwyn Jones in the offseason and he has been effective this term. Birmingham signed Serbian Nicolas Zigic, who has failed to tie down a permanent spot in the starting 11 and Birmingham seems like the best choice for Buddle and quickest way into the starting 11. Jerome Cameron is the only other striker of note for Birmingham. With many Premier League clubs unwilling to spending money this season cheap MLS talent could be in demand.

It has been rumored for sometime now, but Nicolas Anelka has revealed yet again he maybe interested in a move to MLS when his current contract expires. Anelka is contracted to Chelsea for the next 18-months and would be open to a move Stateside following its completion. The 31-year old has also stated he would be interested in a move to the Middle East to play as well.

In Italy, Rafa Benitez's rein as Inter Milan manager may have come to an end. After giving Inter owner Massimo Moratti an ultimatum over the weekend it appears Benitez has had his contract teminated. Here's hoping he won't be back to manage my beloved Liverpool. I've got a fear that NESV may re-hire him as LFC boss.

Bob Bradley has released the list of 24 players that will join the USMNT winter camp in LA. Many of the names that are featured showcase the youth of US soccer including: Juan Agudelo, Mikkel Diskerud and Justin Braun.

Finally, former Houston goalkeeper Pat Onstad has called it a career. He will now join DC United as the 'keeper coach. Onstad's first job as a coach will be in shaping the promising Bill Hamid into the regular DC netminder.

More Robbie Keane News

Vancouver may still have a shot at signing Robbie Keane, as the Irishman and West Ham haven't been able to come to terms over a loan deal. Keane's demands are too high for West Ham, who are a club in debt currently. Keane is unwanted at White Hart Lane and was slated to sign for West Ham, however, his future has again been thrown in the air. Still, I find it highly unlikely Vancouver can bring him to MLS in 2011.

Cassano to Milano

ESPN, has broken the story that has been brewing for a week or s now. AC Milan has swooped for Antonio Cassano after he was fired from Sampdoria for insulting the club's owner by no-showing a VIP party. Milan add Cassano to an already star stubbed attacking line-up, and this should definitely see Ronaldinho to the door. Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi had a few choice words for Ronaldinho, but don't expect the Brazilian in LA with MLS outfit LA Galaxy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Keane to West Ham

Reports out of London today state Robbie Keane will not join Vancouver Whitecaps, but will join West Ham on a six month loan deal to help the Hammers avoid relegation. Keane could then move to Vancouver in the summer, but this move to Canada is looking highly unlikely at this point.

In other news from London, David Beckham is a loan target for Steve McClaren's Wolfsburg in Germany. Wolfsburg has been inconsistent this season and are hovering above the relegation zone. This would also add star power to the 2008-09 Bundesliga Champions.

MLS tids

A couple MLS tidbits, first off the MLS season openers have been announced. Check out for the full list. The one that jumps out at me though, is the first Canadian derby between Vancouver and Toronto. This is a tasty match-up on opening day. I can picture it right now, Vancouver routing TFC in the fashion of SSFC thumping the NYRB two seasons ago. Hopefully, MLS will get the marketing team behind this one as it could be massive for MLS in the Great White North.

Secondly, MLS/LA Galaxy are rumored to have tabled a $10 million a year deal  to Ronaldinho. 'Dinho is unhappy with his playing time at Milan as the re-emergence of Clarence Seedorf, the steady play of Kevin-Prince Boateng and the flair play of Robinho have seen the former World Player of the Year relegated to the bench. If the Galaxy is to get Ronaldinho one would think Milan will want a transfer fee somewhere in the region of $5-$15 million. Milan currently has a massive wage bill with the likes of Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Pato just to name three. There's no way they'd let 'Dinho walk away for peanuts, much less free. Milan will also look to purchase Ibrahimovic outright at the end of the season and may bid for Mario Balotelli, therefore they'll need for more cash for this to happen. With MLS reluctant to pay a transfer fee I cannot see this deal happening; much like I can't see Robbie Keane coming to MLS. MLS has to break the bank in their terms and with Ronaldinho's waning play and waning marketing ability it would be ridiculous to sign him. Where is LA to find the money to pay him? They've got Beckham and Donovan on DP money. Buddle isn't cheap and they are trying to negotiate with Juan Pablo Angel. This is just another reason I can't see 'Dinho in MLS unless Donovan or Beckham are permanently moved this winter; as they're both actively seeking loan moves again.

Ronaldino's current top destination is Palmieras in Brazil and many Brazilian stars love to return home as we've seen with Robinho, Roberto Carlos and so many more.

Calcio midterm report

Serie A has delivered an exciting first half of the season thus far with AC Milan currently topping the table three points ahead of their nearest rivals Lazio and Napoli. Milan's first year manager Massimiliano Allegri has turned around an old squad and has gotten the best out of his high priced, big ego stars. None more so than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whom had a hard time getting into the Barcelona squad at he end of last season. Ibrahimovic has found his form and has been an indespensible component for Milan. Milan still have weaknesses and they showed in this past weekend's loss to Roma. The midfield is ancient and when Milan push forward they are capable of being caught on the break. The fullbacks have been a questions mark all season, and adding a stronger leftback could help to shore up the backline. Another question mark is the depth at centerback; Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva have been fantastic, but Silva was sorely missed last weekend while out due to injury.

On Milan's heels are both Lazio and Napoli. Most surprisingly is Lazio who barely fought off relegation last season. Lazio has been excellent and fully deserve their position. Lazio is a well put together team, and as they showed in Sundays 3-2 win over Udinese, they fight for each other. I believe Lazio can keep this form and be Milan's main challenge in the second half of the season. Napoli has also been good, but I don't feel they can keep this form up and will fall off slightly; but if they can obtain a Champions League spot that will be a great achievement. Juventus dropped points over the weekend, and were lucky to leave Chievo with a point. Juve has the talent and manager to gain that third spot, but the inconsistent form has hurt them. Milos Krasic has been in great on the right side of midfield, while Fabio Quagliarella's goals have kept the club in contention for the Scudetto. Juve will be in the market for a striker come January and rumors abound of Antonio Cassano, however, Cassano will most likely join Milan if they can make room for him; and make room on the wage bill. Milan could very well sell Ronaldinho to make that room as his playing time has been reduced with the re-emergence of Clarence Seedorf. Roma and Palermo should contend for a Champions League spot, but will only have a shot at the Scudetto if they can get a good run of form under their belts.

Inter Milan, what can I say. The best team in the world last season, and now a team reconstructed by Rafa Benitez to get out of Jose Mourinho's shadow. To be fair Inter have been rubbish this season. However, injuries must be taken into account as Benitez has changed the training regime of the club (much like at Liverpool) and it has shown with many of the first 11 in the physio's room. The news today is that Benitez maybe out of a job, but regardless Inter will have to improve all over the pitch if they want to make the top four. They won't win the Scudetto. I'm picking Lazio in a surprise upset of Serie A heavyweights. But don't rule out Milan if they can keep the old legs going.

At the bottom, Parma and Fiorentina should do just enough to stay up. But it'll be Serie B football next season for Bari, Lecce and Cesena.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Winter Break

I thought it would be nice if I stepped away from being so MLS heavy and spent a little time on a few European leagues. This weekend marks the end of the first half of the season for the top four leagues here in Europe: England, Spain, Germany, Italy. Three of these leagues will now enter the nearly month long winter break; while England plays through the holidays. I think it's time to take stock of who look to be the title contenders and those doomed to relegation in May and June over the next few days.

I want to start in Germany. After living in England for a year and the price of SKY Sports being too high at the time, I am currently being blessed in my new digs in Eastern Europe where I have as many as 15 football matches a weekend to watch. Many of these matches come from Germany. I've always been a big fan of the Bundesliga and the first half of the season has been great. The Bundesliga is the most well supported league in Europe and typically the closest in terms of standings.

This season has seen Borussia Dortmund run out on top and take the coveted Autumn Champions' title in Germany. The young fiery upstarts that is Mainz currently sit in second 10 points behind Dortmund. Mainz is currently in uncharted territory and were tipped by many to fight relegation this season. However, new manager Thomas Tuchel has brought a fresh approach to the team that saw them win eight of their first nine matches. Bayer Leverkusen, who are known around Germany as the best club in the country to never win the league, sit third with a chance to move into second by the end of the weekend. Leverkusen have the most depth and arguably are the most well put together team. The only question mark for Leverkusen is the central defender partnership of Sammi Hyypia and Manuel Friedrich. Leverkusen's Achilles heel could come from there advancement to the second round of the Europa League tournament, while Dortmund can now focus their attention to the league campaign following last week's draw with Sevilla; which knocked them from the tournament. Last seasons Bundesliga champions' Bayern Munich sit in sixth place 17 points behind Dortmund going into the final game before the winter break. No team has ever won the Bundesliga being this far behind at the midway point. However, in '08-'09 Wolfsburg made up 11 points following the break to win the league. Bayern have had up and down form this season and will be lucky to secure a Champions League place. Too many top Bayern players competed at the World Cup and the fatigue is showing in the side. They are still missing the mercurial Arjen Robben, who should come back in the near future.

The bottom of the table is currently being propped up by Borussia Monchengladbach. Who have been absolutely woeful this season. 'Gladbach are seven points from safety and currently I cannot see them climbing out of the relegation zone. VFB Stuttgart is just ahead of 'Gladbach after an equally woeful start to the season. Stuttgart is missing Sami Khedira in midfield, after he was sold to Real Madrid, and big off-season acquasition Mauro Camoranesi hasn't fulfilled expectations. The third relegation spot will be a dogfight as it is currently a mess of out of form teams. FC Cologne occupy the last relegation space and are two points from safety. But sitting in front of them are St. Pauli, Werder Bremen, Wolfsburg and Kaiserslautern. The winter break has come at the right time for each of these teams to regroup and push toward safety. Though, Cologne are in the relegation zone, I expect St. Pauli (who were promoted last season) to occupy that spot at the end of the season. If there is a positive regarding the 16th spot in the table it is this; the 16th spot plays a two-legged playoff with the third place finisher of the second division to preserve their top-flight status.

The Bundesliga again this year is showing it is the most exciting league in Europe that is totally unpredictable. Regularly, teams who challenge one season get relegated the next. Just look at Hertha Berlin over the previous two seasons.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Faith in Hamid

DC United has sent Troy Perkins to the Portland Timbers in exchange for Steve Cronin and allocation money. I'm sure many are confused over this move, but this obviously shows DC will give Bill Hamid the chance to win the #1 shirt in pre-season. Hamid is coming off an injury, but should be ready for pre-season.

Meanwhile, Perkins returned last season to MLS from Valerenga in Norway where he excelled in net. However, he was unable to relive the success in Norway or success he achieved with DC previously in his career. Though, a terrible defense could be to blame for this. Perkins' return to MLS was under a little controversy as he expected to go to Philadelphia Union, however, they traded him to DC shortly after Perkins signed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Seattle Away shirts leaked

The great website that is FSC has released a leaked picture of the 2011/12 Seattle Sounders FC away shirts. Though I don't like the Adidas skin tight style, I do like the colour combination of black and green. I'm quite glad to see SSFC straying from the blue shirts they previously wore for road matches. Sporting KC, FC Dallas, Chivas USA, Vancouver, New England, NY Red Bulls, Colorado and Philly Union all wear (at least last season) some shade of blue on their shirt. Word is that Colorado will be going to a white shirt this next season.

I'm hoping MLS teams will start having more dynamic road shirts and not necessarily stick to an away kit that is all white (ala Chicago Fire and DCU). I am a fan of Portland having a red away kit when red isn't a colour in their badge; but is red due to the nickname of the city (Rose City). Also, more MLS teams need third kits and to actually wear them during the MLS season. Salt Lake had a fantastic yellow third kit last season, but to my knowledge never wore them in MLS action.

MLS needs to spend more time in the marketing of kits much like teams do in Europe. In other American sports one jersey style seems to be fine for years, but not in soccer. One of my favourite aspects of being a Liverpool supporters is seeing the new kit every year.

Spoke a little too soon

Sporting KC has traded Frankie Hejduk to LA Galaxy, so they can be a much older team than they already are for Luke Sassano. This is a much better move than the original draft pick, which makes me wonder why either team didn't get who they truly wanted originally? In the end a very good move for SKC to address midfield and defender depth with Sassano.

Chris Seitz journey continues in soccer. Seattle picked him in the re-entry draft only to ship him to FC Dallas later on. He will now challenge Kevin Hartman for the number one shirt. It's a good move by Dallas as they want more competition for places.

Meanwhile, LA Galaxy has traded (sold) their priced young homegrown prospect Tristan Bowan to Chivas USA for allocation money. I am not a big fan of MLS teams trading/selling young talent in league, so they can acquire veteran players. Look at FCD, Salt Lake and Columbus in years past; those teams succeeded with young vibrant teams. They had pockets of veterans, but were mostly young teams. LA will most likely use the money to sign Juan Pablo Angel, but if they can't they will use it to acquire someone else. I'm a big believer that experience only goes so far, and especially in American sports we use it as a crutch. I hope Bowan goes on to great things.

Re-Entry Draft 2

The second stage of the re-entry draft has just concluded and my initial thoughts are LA Galaxy have done an outstanding job of picking the best player available and one of the best strikers in MLS history. I am talking, of course, about Juan Pablo Angel. The Galaxy also selected midfielder Luke Sassano who will give them a lower salary to work with and is a talented MLS midfielder. The Galaxy really got three players out of the draft as they also re-signed Jovan Kirovski prior to today's draft. The Galaxy now have seven days to come to terms with their picks.

In a move that completely baffled me, my home state Sporting KC (Wizards) selected Frankie Hejduk. I'm confused. You don't resign Jimmy Conrad, because he's too old to be paid the salary he wants and you select Hejduk; who has obviously lost his legs and if signed will still command a decent chunk of money. Conrad can still atleast play at a high level, and would be much better at coaching the youngsters. This continues my thinking that SKC has no clue on the players they release and bring in.

No other moves were quite as big as LA's, but some teams did try to address some deficiencies. DC United selected Josh Wolff from SKC in hopes he can find his scoring boots, though, he only scored twice last season and is 33 years old. Nearly as old as the manager of the team. DC took two strikers in the draft. On day one they took Joesph Ngwenya and now Wolff. We'll have to see if either make the team after pre-season and if either player can help DC out of the cellar of MLS.

Finally, it may come to an end

According to MLSR, there is a 50% chance that the Superliga competition could be going the way of the buffalo. In 2007, Don Garber and his MLS buddies conjured up this half-cocked eight team tournament in order to cash in on the USA/Mexico rivalary in international soccer. However, after a bright first year the tournament has slowly declined in both popularity and status for teams; and has definitely become thorn in the side of many teams.

With MLS in mid-season and the Mexican Premera in pre-season, was this every a good idea? Or, as I believe, was it just a way to make a quick buck by exploiting the fans? I believe those fans that were exploited by MLS during the tournament were the many Mexican immigrants or Mexican-American football fans that could more easily attend games in the USA to big Mexican clubs. A blatant example of this was in the inaugural year with LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas all competing in the competition. These three cities have some of the highest Mexican-American populations in the USA. DC United also competed, and DC is a heavily immigrant populated city. I can't see anything else, but exploitation here.

If this tournament has ended, as is rumored, then it will keep four teams from fight on two fronts; allowing them to focus on the MLS playoffs. How many points could Houston, Chicago, New England and Chivas obtained if they hadn't had to worry about Superliga matches from July until September. As you may recall none of those teams came close to making the MLS playoffs.

 Many people complain about MLS' involvement in the US Open Cup, but compared to Superliga USOC has a history and wasn't manufactured to make a quick buck. Ending this tournament is one of the best things MLS could do for the future of the league. This could be a good tournament in the pre-season, but it is absolutely worthless in the middle of the season.

Only one MLS team has won the competition, by the way, New England in 2009.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

DC and Columbus make there picks

The re-entry draft's first stage has just concluded and from the looks of things it was quite anti-climactic. It appears DC United has drafted Joseph Ngwenya, whom was with Houston Dynamo last season. The Columbus Crew have taken Aaron Hohlbein formerly of KC Wizards/Sporting KC. I can definitely understand picking up Hohlbein as he is still young and will add depth to the squad.

I am not sure why DC United has selected Ngwenya, however. Though, the propaganda machine of likes to imply he is a top striker. As a matter of fact, I am not sure why Ngwenya is still in MLS as he has never completely fulfilled his potential in the league; nor has he fulfilled his potential in his short stints abroad. The most surprising aspect is he has been picked by DC at an improved salary than last season. I know MLS teams do not have the ability or sway to bring in high caliber strikers from abroad, but I still think there are players out there who can give you more production, skill, work ethic and leadership than Ngwenya.

Ngwenya is in his second stint in MLS. He broke into the league in 2004 with LA Galaxy scoring four goals in 40 appearances (1 in 10). In early 2006, he was traded to Columbus Crew where he scored five goals in 20 appearances (1 in 4, better). In 2007, he added two goals to that tally in seven matches before being shipped out to Houston. He would go on to be apart of Houston's MLS Cup winning side scoring seven goals in 25 matches (better than 1 in 3, he's improving). From 2008 to 2009, Ngwenya played in Austria only appearing in one match for Austria Karnten. He then moved to Turkey appearing in 11 matches and scoring once for Antalyspor before returing to Houston for 2010 where he appeared 12 times scoring once (1 in 12). In 102 MLS appearances he has scored a meagre 17 goals (about 1 in 5, which many MLS heads will say is a good return). Not a great return if you ask me, and definitely not someone I sign at an increased salary from last season.

As I have thought/said/preached, not many teams would dip into the first round. However, in next week's second round they can re-negotiate salaries and will most likely be interested in available players. Hats off to DC and Columbus for a gutsy move to draft in the first round. Columbus gets a B+ for their pick while I give DC a D-.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Robbie Keane Given Permission to Leave

ESPNsoccernet has announced Spurs' manager Harry Redknapp has given his permission to Robbie Keane to seek a new club in the January transfer window. It is believed the two teams leading the race for his signature are Aston Villa and Vancouver Whitecaps. Redknapp has stated he will not let Keane leave unless the price is right.

If Keane moves across the pond to Canada he could become much more than just a DP for a young MLS team. He could be a player they build the team around and the marketing potentials could be massive for the club. It would also give MLS proven player abroad who has played for several marquee teams. Keane is only 30 years old, and could have 4-6 years left in his body.

Re-Entry Draft Players

The Washington Post has released a full list of MLS players who will be entered into this year's MLS re-entry draft. As I said previously, I am very excited about this draft. There are some tasty individuals available that could help a team add depth or be used in a building/re-building process to push for next season's playoffs. Right away Juan Pablo Angel jumps out at me as a player teams could build around for next season; and if a team wants he is a ready made DP. I am a huge fan of Angel who is a proven MLS goal scorer and leader. The two problems with Angel are, however, DP salary and age. Last season he proved he still has it at the MLS level regarding age, but will many teams give a 35 year old striker DP money for one more season? He has scored 58 goals in 102 games for New York; and it must be said during that time they were one of the worst teams in the league.

The draft will also feature quite a few MLS vets who are passed their prime (Jimmy Conrad, Frankie Hejduk, Nick Garcia) who could add quality veteran leadership to a team and help the youngsters bed in. There are also players who can help a team's frontline (Barros Schelotto, Jeff Cunningham, Fred) and be quality backup players. Then there are players who are only sticking around the league by the skin of their teeth (Joseph Ngwenya, Khano Smith, Luke Sassano).

The biggest surprise (in my opinion) is Chris Seitz. This is a goalkeeper the Philadelphia Union paid $1 million to Real Salt Lake for last winter. A great deal for RSL. Seitz will also join the draft and could be a highly coveted 'keeper for the likes of Chivas USA or Houston Dynamo. But if he is relegated to the bench again will any team want to pay his salary.

The biggest questions is salary. Will MLS teams sign many of these players at the high salary? I doubt many will. However, this could be perfect for a team like DC United whom finished last in 2010 to add some veteran players.

I see many of these players sticking around until day two and only drafted as possible trade bait; or to bring into training camp for a trial. But just like the expansion draft many of these players are spare parts at this point in their careers, and will only be needed as depth or to plug a hole for a season.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Worthless Signing

Word from MLSsoccer, is the highly over paid and overrated Nery Castillo could be shipped out on a short-term loan deal to sunny Greece. This would be a move from January until March, much like Landon Donvon's deal last season with Everton. Castillo is anxious for this move to go through. Castillo signed as a DP last season following the World Cup and then rewarded the Fire faithful by not registering a goal or assist in eight matches. Once again proving teams should spend money more wisely in developing an over all team then putting money into one player, but I digress.

Make a Little Money

One of MLS' top players from 2010, Omar Cummings has been receiving a lot of interest outside of the States lately. However, it looks like Colorado will not sell the Jamaican who had a break out season for the Rapids scoring 14 goals. I, however, believe this to be a bad move on the Rapids part. Yes, you want to keep your top goal but that is the reason you acquired Mac Kandji late last season and still boast having Conor Casey (whom like always is rumored to be wanting out of Colorado). Too many MLS teams wait for a player to run down their contract and not resign instead of selling them on and using the profits to re-invest. I know there are rules in place in MLS to reward teams each year financially, however, if MLS wants to be a major league they need to use similar business practices as the rest of the world. Cummings could fetch around $1 million and with those funds the team could build on their accomplishments in 2010, or use that money on their academy or even marketing the team. There seems to be some naivety with MLS teams that a player will resign for the peanuts they make in the league. Players such as:
Jonathon Bornstein
Eddie Johnson- Though he hasn't settled in Europe Johnson was a highly paid MLS player who was beginning to find his feet again in the league. In 130 matches Johnson scored 46 goals.
Robbie Findley
Yura Movsisyan
Clarence Goodson
Hunter Freeman

There are many more who have left on a free. I know many will say those players haven't accomplished much in MLS or for their other teams. But the point is teams could have gotten something out of each of these players, and with the inflated price of players these days each one could have fetched $100k-$250k at the least. MLS executives need to be pro-active with their wheeling and dealings; not like Mo Johnstons' ridiculous turn over of 75 players. If the money's there MLS needs to take it.

Fantasy re-entry draft

If you were the GM for an MLS team and had to funds to add players who are available in next weeks re-entry draft, who would you pick?

I know a lot of names have been kept quite so far, however, if anyone knows of players I am not familiar with than let me know. Personally, looking at my current list I don't see anyone that truly stands out other than Pat Onstad; whom would be a good back up keeper and good at coaching the young 'keepers for the future.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Preparing for the first Re-Entry Draft

On Wednesday December 8, MLS will hold the first ever Re-entry Draft and though I was unsure about it at first, I am quite excited to see how this shakes up the league. It's good to keep in mind a player can have their option declined, but resign at a lower salary with his parent club if he cannot find a new club (in the draft) who is willing to sign the player at his 2011 salary option.

I expect to see numerous MLS vets changing teams, or not even being on a roster come the opening of training camp. A few teams have already declined options on players and those players will enter the draft unless they come to terms on a smaller contract; and that is only if the club seeks to keep hold of the player.

Sporting KC has released Josh Wolff. The excellent Down the Byline blog has a little information about that. Houston has declined the option on seven players including Pat Onstad, Richard Mulrooney, Eddie Robinson, Ryan Cochrane, Joseph Ngwenya, Adrian Serioux and Anthony Obodai. All can now enter the re-entry draft in hopes of being resigned at their 2010 salary. Pat Onstad is the only player rumored to be kept, but at a lower salary. Houston has also parted ways with Cory Ashe and Dominic Oduro. However, they will not enter the draft as they are out of contract and have not had their option turned down and according to my information do not meet the requirements to entry the draft.

Personally, I am not a huge fan of any of these players and I can't imagine too many teams wanting to sign them at their 2010 salary. Serioux maybe the best of the lot being an experienced defender. However, he has bounced around the league for a few years and could either be used as cover in defence or he may be on his way out of the league.

In November, the Columbus Crew declined the option on Guillermo Barros Schelotto, which would pay the 37 year old $650,000 for 2011. That sounds quite high to me, however, thesocceroom writes Schelotto could be resigned by an MLS team at $325,000. This can only happen if he is not selected in the first re-entry draft and goes into the second draft. Still at $325k I don't think MLS should be resigning a 37 year old forward. The Crew have also declined options on Frankie Hejduk who is rumored to be in linked with a possible Chivas USA move. Gino Padula and Duncan Oughton have also had their options decline..

As the list grows with the little news leaks every day I can't see many of these vets being drafted at their 2011 option; but I do see some of these players renegotiating a new contract at a lower rate. Many of these players do not have other leagues to go to unless they want to make a step down into division 2 in North America or a possible move abroad to a lower level of play. This could also be the end of the line for several MLS vets, but with the return of the reserve league and two expansion teams many of these vets should find a home as depth or may even challenge for a starting role.

Montero Now A DP

Seattle Sounders FC has signed Fredy Montero as their third designated player. Montero was on loan to Sounders FC for 2009 and 2010 from Deportivo Cali in Columbia. Montero burst into the league in Sounders FC's first MLS game against the New York Red Bulls and became the talk of Seattle; though his production did cool off toward the end of his first MLS season. In 56 matches Montero has scored 22 goals and is a constant threat in Seattle's attack.

Montero has been the center of some controversy during his time in Seattle. In April 2009, he was linked with a sexual assault charge that was later dropped for insufficient evidence. Montero has also been rumored, more than once, to be drawing interest from teams in Europe. In the past he has done little to qwell those rumors; however, now as a DP and one of the three highest paid players at the club, it should keep the front man happy for the time being.

Montero joins Blaise Nkofu and Alvaro Fernandez as Seattle's DPs.

Lastly, in other MLS DP news, Real Salt Lake has signed Alvaro Saborio as a DP. Saborio Spent last season on loan from Swiss League team FC Sion. The 28 year old scored 12 goals in 27 matches and becomes the clubs first DP. The signing of Saborio was classified as RSL top offseason priority, and my thinking behind the deal is that Saborio would only stay in the barren lands of Utah as a DP and not on his previous wages. We shall see in time if this was good business on RSL's part. Being that I am highly critical of signing a DP I am anxious to see if Saborio can fulfill expectations.

Sampdoria and Juve out

In Europa League action last night both Sampdoria and Juventus crashed out of the continent's second favourite competition. This is a massive blow for Italian football. The Italian league will lose a Champions League spot, because their coefficient in the European competitions is now lower than that of the German Bundesliga. Italy will go from four to three teams in the Champions League while Germany will increase from three to four. This will not go into effect until the beginning of the 2011-2012 season.

If you have watched any of the matches played by Italian teams in the Europa League this season, you will have seen teams full of reserve players and patch worked line-ups. No doubt Sampdoria and Juve are putting all their eggs in one basket and aiming for the Champions League places in Serie A, the coveted top four.

Meanwhile, Germany's Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund continue to duke it out in the competition  with Bayer already making it to the round of 32; and will begin play again in Feburary.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bolton is my 2nd team this season

I've jumped on the Bolton bandwagon as my second team this season, and it helps that USA international Stuart Holden is in the starting 11. Bolton drew 2-2 with  Blackpool yesterday. Check out the highlights from the game as the lead up to Bolton's second goal was fantastic.

USA international Clint Dempsey got his fifth goal of Premier League season yesterday, as well. His came on a scrappy header to keep Fulham out of the relegation zone. Which obviously shows the worth of one Roy Hodgeson, whom may lead Liverpool into the top six today with a win versus Tottenham Hotspur.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Robbie Keane possibly moving to MLS

According to the Sun, Tottenham Hotspurs' star Robbie Keane could be moving to MLS with the Vancouver Whitecaps leading the pack to sign him. Paul Barber, former Spurs chief executive, is currently in charge of Vancouver and is looking to add his former associate to the squad.
In 2008, Keane made a dream move to Liverpool despite Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez not wanting to sign the Irishman. Keane was sold back to Spurs six months later after being frozen out of the squad by Benitez and has failed to find his form since. Keane did spend six months on loan last season with Celtic scoring 12 goals in 16 matches.
This would be a fantastic move if Vancouver or another team is able to sign Keane and rumour is New England is looking at signing Keane as well. Keane is a hard working player and would fit right in in MLS and surely become a fan favourite in no time. Keane could also be very marketable as opposed to other DPs or former DPs such as: Omar Bravo, Nery Castillo, Mista, Julian De Guzman.
Keane is only 30, and if he can stay injury free could have a long MLS career. He also would be a key signing at an early age, still. Again this would be a great move for any MLS team and for Keane himself who has had an illustrious career spanning some great European clubs that include: Wolverhampton Wanderers, Conventry City, Inter Milan, Leeds United, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Celtic.

Simple look at the draft and Robbie Findley

A lot of flack seems to be directed towards one Robbie Findley at the moment. Portland drafted Findley in this year's expansion draft, though Findley who is out of contract with MLS, will most likely have a trial with unnamed European or Mexican clubs. First, it seems a lot of Timbers', Whitecaps' supporters and MLS followers are confused about the tactics both teams took with the expansion draft. Both clubs have traded away picks and aquired international slots and cash. This shows that both teams aren't interested in the expendable players of MLS and are out to bring in their own players from their past season(s); or they are interested in bringing in non-MLS players. I think this is a great idea and shows that both teams are confident in many of their previous players. Holding on to a core of these players will allow the team to settle into the league quicker. I also believe the gap between MLS and division 2 isn't as great as others believe. Many ex-MLS players must go to D2 when they don't make it in MLS. This actually shows the massive divide between college and professional soccer. Hopefully, with the reserve leage returning it will allow those college players to not be discarded as quickly as they have been before.
Robbie Findly was Portland's 6th pick in the draft with the club knowing full well it was a wasted pick. Again this was on purpose as they didn't have to worry about trading him or signing him. It was almost a bye in the draft round. Findley has been getting massively ripped to shreds by Timbers' and MLS followers following this draft. Findley can be quite inconsistent and may have had a down year this past season. However, Findley has still scored 31 goals in 100 MLS matches (one goal every three matches) which is a fantastic rate in MLS where quality strikers are hard to come by. Findley currently isn't the answer for the national team, but he has been a very good MLS striker; and he brings much more than goal scoring to the team. Findley is rumored to be having a trial with Randers FC in Denmark, where his former RSL teammate Yura Movsisyan plays. Movsisyan currently has five goals this season and is near the top of the scoring charts in a very competitive Danish League. With better coaching Findley, just like Movsisyan, can become a better striker and better national team player. Findley will only grow as a player by moving abroad.

Findley 31 goals in 100 MLS matches, here's how a few other MLS strikers stack up with him:

Alan Gordan 17 goals in 108 appearances
Alejandro Moreno 46 goals in 244 appearances
Carlos Ruiz 90 goals in 164 appearances
Edson 90 goals in 231 appearances
Chad Barrett 33 goals in 147 appearances
Conor Casey 42 goals in 89 appearances
Chris Wondolowski 25 goals in 81 appearances (21 goals this season and winning the Golden Boot, before he'd only scored four goals in four seasons)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Get over it

Today I've had enough of reading about MLS' low ratings for the cup final as well as the low ratings all season long. The doomsayers seem to be out in mass all of a sudden. I've even seen articles dedicated to the end of the MLS playoffs, because apparently people just don't care about them. I'm not exactly sure why that just because it's the cup final that everyone in North America has to be interested in soccer. It seems fans forget it is a niche sport in America. Hell, 80% of the kids in America who are registered soccer players could care less to watch an actual game on TV. Even Colorado's Conor Casey has admitted he isn't interested in soccer outside of playing it as a career.
Lets not forget the final was played by two teams that don't even draw much support in their own cities. Not to mention the game was on a Sunday night going up against Sunday's primetime TV. I still feel the playoffs aren't cared for as much, because MLS plays a 30 plus game regular season now. Once the playoffs begin people have lost any interest that they had begun to build up early on.
But the biggest reason the ratings are low is simple really: The TV deals allow MLS to draw low ratings and because of this it's no doubt the exposure isn't there. ESPN doesn't take MLS and soccer seriously. This is evident during the regular season when the game of the week can change from Thursday night to Saturday night to Friday night each week without real warning. There's no continuity. Not to mention they seriously lack advertising for the game of the week. FOX Soccer Channel carries MLS matches, too. However, FSC is a premium cable channel. The people who purchase FSC aren't buying it for the MLS matches each week, and when these MLS matches are on (typically on Saturday nights) these people obviously have other things to do. Finally, MLS biggest TV mistake is their deal with Telefutura. How ridiculous! MLS bigwigs seem to think Spanish speakers are dying to watch MLS. MLS seems to try and market itself so hard to Spanish speakers by the signing of Latin American players, too (i.e. Nery Castillo). It's sad when I have to find Telefutura to watch a MLS match that practically no one else is watching. Why is MLS trying to export its league before it has caught on in the country it is suppose to represent and being the English is FIFA's recognized language for events they could atleast try to keep it in English.
The ratings need to be taken with a grain of salt, though. Until MLS sorts out a new TV deal and sorts out their thinking behind it, the ratings will continue to drop. If LA Galaxy and New Redbulls would have played in the final this wouldn't be an issue. I feel bad for Colorado and FCD as they put on a good show Sunday night.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My top 10 picks for today's expansion draft

I've decided to pick the top 10 players I think would be perfect for either Vancouver or Portland. I did not allocate them to either team, but instead just picked the 10 I think are the best available.

John Thorrington (Chicago Fire) midfield- A solid MLS vet who fell off the radar this season, but I believe that to be more the Fire's manager than Thorrington who showed quality up until this past season.

Eduardo Lillingston (Chivas USA) srtiker- Though he may have an attitude I feel Livingston is a good player who has bagged eight goals in 25 matches in MLS, a decent return for MLS and Chivas standards. Lillingston is a big bodied striker who could be used as a target man for either team. Being 32 he maybe past his prime, but either team could get a good one or two seasons out of him.

Adam Moffat (Columbus Crew) midfield- In Columbus' MLS Cup winning season many raved about Moffat until his 2008 was cut short by a knee injury. Since then the Scotsman hasn't achieved the heights that were expected of him. However, a move and a fresh start could be what he needs. Making Moffat the intragal part of the central midfield could be exactly what he needs.

Dax McCarty (FC Dallas) midfield- McCarty is a solid MLS player who helped FCD to the MLS Cup Final this past season. McCarty maybe looking to test the waters in Europe and that could be the reason for his surprise inclusion to the draft. McCarty is only 23 and has been in MLS since 2006. A young league veteran could go a long way to helping Vancouver or Portland settle into the league next season and boss the midfield against more established MLS teams.

Juan Pable Angel (NY Redbulls) striker- The big one. I know JPA is 35 and with NY was a DP. However, with the chance to play one or two more seasons, perhaps his contract can be renegotiated. Angel, though, is worth the DP money. He has scored 58 goals in 102 games. Better than one in two, and will arguably go down as the best MLS striker of all time. This past season saw him play the whole season injury free for once, though he was marginalized with the aquiring of Thierry Henry. Angel is the pick that would provide either team with both a leader and proven goal scorer.

Troy Perkins (DC United) goalkeeper- Another player who has had a massive fall off in the past year. Though, it didn't help he played for DC whom had a terrible defense in front of him. Perkins' past MLS achievements over shadow this for me. He is an experienced goalkeeper both in MLS and Europe; and that experience will be paramount to organizing a defense in a team's first season in MLS. The only problem in selecting Perkins is the size of his contract and his willingness to relocate to the Great Northwest.

Sunil Chhetri (Sporting KC) striker- Most people will wonder who this guy is, but for the SKC fans in the know Chhetri is a promising Indian international who wasn't given a chance in Kansas City in 2010. Chhetri is a striker that SKC signed in the pre-season to 2010 following a trial. He featured only in a friendly versus Manchester United and 45 minutes in a US Open Cup. Though he has only played club level in India Chhetri has been a scorer. Many will complain he played in India or plays for India's National Team and the level of play is low, however, in the limited time he has played for SKC he has shown flashes of what he can do. Given a chance I believe he can show MLS that there is A LOT of untapped talent in central and east Asia. Not only do I think he is an excellent choice for his play, but the marketing that can be put in place for MLS' first Indian born player is limitless and is something yet again SKC's clueless owners couldn't figure out.

Leonardo Gonzalez (Seattle Sounders FC) defender- Gonzalez is an experienced fullback that can also get into the attack as well as defend. In Seattle's first MLS season he was an important player after signing late in the season. He is another player that could help either expansion team settle early.

Alex Nimo (Salt Lake City) midfield- Nimo spent much of last season on loan at Portland, so Timbers' fans should be familar with him. In two seasons Nimo has played 45 games scoring one goal from a winger/wide midfield position. Youth is on Nimo's side at the age of 20 which could make him a player that could be with the team for years to come. Nimo's experience with Portland for the past two seasons will make him ideal as he and the club are familar with each other.

Mike Magee (LA Galaxy) striker/midfield- Though it seems he has been in the league forever, Magee is only 26. Magee brings leadership and experience to the frontline for either expansion team. Though he isn't a prolific scoring I feel with the right situation he can become a vital part of the team. Yes, he may have only scored three goals in 39 matches for LA, but that is a reflection on the emergence of Edson Buddle. Magee can also drop back and play in midfield, and versatility is important for a first year MLS team.

Yes, I know I only picked one defender, but I feel the top 10 players in this years draft are more of the attacking variety. I think this will be the most intriguing offseason in MLS history with five seperate player drafts; and there should be much movement with in teams because of it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

MLS Playoffs 2011

Last night at the MLS Cup Final, MLS commisioner Don Garber addressed the public with a few ideas/tweeks the league will make/want to make for the next season onward. The one he spoke about that confuses me is the expansion of the MLS playoffs for 2011. I am utterly confused to why the league would want 10 teams in the playoffs instead of the current eight teams. Next season MLS will have 18 teams in the league with Vancouver and Portland joining, and each team will play a total of 34 regular season games. However, with the news that the playoffs will be expanding it only devalues the MLS playoffs more. There is no point in having more than half the teams in the leauge make the playoffs. This allows undeserving teams to play for what is suppose to be the most prized trophy in the league. I feel this is yet another instance where MLS has made a decision without thinking it through. It seems as of late they make decisions and then try to figure it out later, like the rules of the re-entry draft, for example. It's the shoot first and ask questions later model.
I know last night's Final was a very good game between two attacking teams. However, the champion of the league should not have been Colorado. I do not feel a team that did just enough to get into the playoffs should be reward with a cup trophy. I know MLS loves to spout off that LA Galaxy were the best regular season team and they get the Supporters' Shield; and thus they are champions of the regular season. But that trophy is absolutely meaningless. The casual fan, and lets be honest 90% of people who follow MLS are casual fans, don't understand the Supporters' Shield or respect what it's meaning is. Hell, most people couldn't tell you past Support Shield winners, but could tell you who has won the MLS Cup. Therefore, I don't feel MLS is truely rewarding it's regular season winner. For the past three seasons there has been an undeserving team either win the final or appear in the final. In 2008, Columbus was the best team that season and played a highly undeserving NY Red Bulls; who made the postseason on the last day of the regular season. In 2009, the LA Galaxy was the best team during the regular season, but  lost on penalties to Salt Lake; whom made the playoffs on the last day of the season. Finally, in 2010 Dallas arguably the third or fourth best team all season lost to Colorado arguably the fifth or sixth best team in the regular season. Not since '07 with Houston vs. New England has MLS Cup showcased the best of MLS.
I'm not calling for a single table or the abolishment of playoffs. I just want them to be more fair for the teams who take the regular season seriously. For LA's troubles all they receive is a badge on their shirts and Champions League football next season that they most likely won't take seriously. If Garber and MLS want the league taken seriously around the world you can't have your marquee teams not competing in the cup final. More importantly if MLS wants to be taken seriously in North America they can't have the seventh best team during the regular season win the top prize in the league. It's suppose to be a showcase of the two best teams over the season and I'm sorry, but the past three MLS Cup Finals have not been those teams.
If Garber wants more teams in the MLS Cup why not allow all MLS teams into the tournament, withdraw every MLS team from the US Open Cup, like they want to be. Then have a knockout cup competition ala the English FA Cup. This way the regular season can be taken seriously and the cup can be taken seriously. Then the two winners of each competition can play for the MLS Supercup or something along those lines. But for Christsakes stop devaluing the MLS regular season like Major League Baseball devalues its regular season.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

David Ferreira: Good choice

David Ferreira was officially named MVP of MLS on Friday, a few days after Don Garber accidentally let the cat out of the bag. Ferreira scored eight goals and recorded 13 assists playing in all 30 matches for FC Dallas during the regular season. Ferreira will hope his excellent form will continue tomorrow night in Toronto when his FCD take on Colorado in the MLS Cup final.
Though FCD are thinking about tomorrow's final I am sure they have one eye on Ferreira's contract status. Ferreira has been on loan from Brazilian's Clube Atletico Paranaense since 2009.  Arguably, Ferreira has been FCD's best player in his two seasons there. Dallas, however, will now have an extremely tough decision to make. First, can they convince both CAP and Ferreira to return on loan for 2011. This I highly doubt as his value in money to CAP is extremely high at the moment. If they can't work out a loan deal for a third season will Dallas be able to stump up the transfer cash and meet the wage expectations of Ferreira; who could possibly request DP money for next season. Dallas is set to receive a windfall of money that could be put into paying their best player(s) after a successful season.
Ferreira has been more valuable on the pitch than many DPs in MLS in 2010: Freddie Ljungberg, Nery Castillo, Jonathon De Guzman were all DPs during the past MLS season and have all failed to match the stats, consist play and value to their teams. Yet all three made more than Ferreira in 2010.
One idea is that Ferreira could make a big move to the Mexican Primera for next season as the Mexican league loves a true number 10. Being one of the 10 best leagues in the world (according to FIFA) this could be a big step for a player who has already acheived so much. Ferreira has won trophies in Columbia, the Middle East and the U-20 Copa America. A move to a more prestigous league/club could be appealing as it could be his last chance now that Ferreira is on the wrong side of 30.
I can't see Ferreira moving to Europe as he is now 31, unless it's to a smaller central or eastern European club. But if not Mexico what about another MLS team? Ferreira has been on loan and it seems there aren't any rules against another MLS team contacting Ferreira's parent club and negotiating a deal.
Dallas will do well to keep their star man on board for next season. Remember they once paid Brazilian Denilson, a former World Cup winner, DP salary to score one goal in a handfull of games. Dallas also paid (the highly overrated) Kenny Cooper a DP salary before he was sold to 1860 Munich where he warms the bench. Ferreira will have offers coming in this offseason and if he wins the MLS Cup tomorrow will he feel there's much left to accomplish in MLS.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Money League Soccer

I read an intesting article last night about FC Dallas' sponsorship situation. FCD had 40 corporate sponsors for the 2010 season. Which is a fantastic number for a team that doesn't draw the most supporters in MLS. As a matter of fact FCD are near the lower half of the league despite playing excellent football, having an exciting team and being in Sunday's MLS Cup Final.
With FCD in Sunday's final sources say there are now well over a hundred sponsors beating down FCD's door to invest in the club next season. This includes a massive million dollar plus shirt sponsorship deal for the next few season. MLS is pushing extremely hard to sell the fronts of each teams' shirt as word has come out Sporting Kansas City (Wizards) may announce a shirt deal soon as well.
FCD has had a fantastic season while SKC had an up and down team that ended the season without making the playoffs again. But these teams in my opinion are not that different. Before this season FCD and struggled mightly over the past few seasons. They, however, have scouted in the right places bringing in the likes of 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira (who they'll do well to keep after this season) and drafting quality players like Brek Shea. Meanwhile, they added quality MLS veterans such as Jeff Cunningham and former SKC/Wizard Kevin Hartman who has been fantastic in goal for FCD this season. KC is relying on a name change and a DP in Omar Bravo to turn things around. Yes, I know FCD were once called the Burn. But in truth the name change has never helped them gain new fans and even when NY Metrostars became the NY Red Bulls many fans turned their backs on the club. Gimmicks are everywhere in MLS. DPs, name changes, new stadiums, etc, but at the end of the day people come to see a winning football team. Let me remind you that no team with a DP has won MLS Cup. LA Galaxy and David Beckham came close last season, but ultimately failed. This season neither team has a DP and I think that's great. It's all about attacking football. Colorado and FCD show that the most complete teams from back to front win the MLS Cup. DPs are only marketing.


After winning his first cap with the USA National team this week the Juan Agudelo hype machine has been turned on. The soon to be 18-year old New York Red Bull player's (who played in only two matches for the Red Bulls during the MLS season) image is gracing a number of websites with lovely articles about him and also (and most notably) is gracing the front page of Yahoo USA's main page today. Unfortunately, I have yet to see this kid play, so I cannot speak about his game. However, I'm now expecting the same hype Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore received to greet Mr. Agudelo in the next MLS season. It's truely a shame as Adu (who is most likely older than he is stated to being) never lived up to the ridiculous hype and pressure that was placed on him in both MLS and now in Europe. Altidore who had only a brief spell in MLS with NY has performed notably for the US National team, however, his performances at club level have left many to wonder what has happened. Altidore, on loan to Hull City last season, scored one goal in 28 appearances as Hull City were relegated. He is now back with his parent club Villarreal where he has played sparingly. I hope Agudelo doesn't end up like the two before him and buy into his own hype. Agudelo could be the new face of USA soccer with the likes of Mikkel Diskerud, Andy Najar (if he can gain US citizenship soon) and Tim Ream as the Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey get older. The big question is will MLS and NY Red Bull allow this budding star grow and continue to learn his trade; or will they see the dollar signs and begin to market him for the short-term?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It happens today

I promise I'll stop talking about Kansas City soccer after this week. But today is the big day. The rebranding of the team formerly known as the Wizards. I'm currently living in central Europe (Hungary to be exact), so I am seven hours ahead of KC time. I won't be staying up late tonight to hear the announcement as I have work tomorrow, so I'll get the disappointment of the name when I awake on Thursday morning.
I would love anyone who is reading this today or checking out the blog to post your comments on the change or what is happening with the club formerly know as Wizards.
Like I said, this is the last time I write about it... This week. I will try to return with a little something on the MLS Cup final this weekend to wrap up the MLS action for the season.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I'm sorry but when your home state team changes its name I have to bitch.

Like I said in my blog this week. I feel the name, Sporting KC, sets the team back. I feel many people will believe KC has a new team and the Wizards have gone bust. So many people are just the casual fan. It takes the name they've known for 16 yrs away and adds this to confuse the masses. As for it being regional I totally understand that. But that's a big region KC west to Colorado or KC east to Chicago before you find another MLS team. Nothing is to the north and you must go all the way to Dallas before you hit someone in the south. Not many people in that vast expanse care about KC soccer or soccer in general. Obviously Ongoal hasn't done a lot of homework as Nebraska is Cornhusker football crazy and Iowa is all about Hawkeye football. Arkansas is the same with football, baseball and basketball. Kansas University rules eastern Kansas and a lot of western Missouri. Those are the teams your competing against. Those pickup truck driving Bud Light drinking people don't care to watch men without pads on run around kicking a ball. If they do go to a match it's only to take their kids, because their kids play community league soccer; or they go to watch a friendly against Manchester United, because they've seen them on Sportscenter (I had a couple of friends who actually did this last summer). Ongoal has now set back the team in its own city by a year or two. The only positive I can think may have to do with signing players from other countries. Perhaps they could be more swayed if the team isn't called the Wizards. Though there is a Wizards in the NBA, who changed their name from the Bullets. Which was a much better name.
If you think about the name change and the fact KC possibly won't play a home match for three months to wait for their new stadium, I don't see how next season won't be a disaster. Even if they play neutral site home matches I can't see any of this working. On a sidenote, playing neutral site home games almost seems like the team is being auditioned to other cities to move there. What if Ongoal wanted to do something like the Dynamo/Earthquakes? I'm just putting the thought out there. I know the new stadium is almost finished, but crazier things have happened.
In closing, I just want to say I'm quite disappointed with the fans in KC. I've heard people bitch and moan, but never have I heard of anyone protesting this change; except on the internet. It seems everyone has just rolled over. It seems a lot of Wizards' fans are just casual fans. TFC and Seattle have supporter groups who didn't like something and they spoke against it, no matter how I feel about what they wanted I respect the fact they saw something they didn't like and spoke against it. Not in KC though.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sporting KC, come on

So, I've just read the "hard evidence" that Kansas City Wizards will become Sporting KC this week. Wow, that's fantastic. Now, as I've stated before I will no longer be supporting my home state team. I find it unbelievable when other fans just except the rebranding that is taking place. It seems to show that the American sports fan will just roll over and except anything or almost anything from the franchise's hierarchy.
TFC supporters, though they may not have made their demands clear, protested the rise in ticket prices for next season and got some result. Seattle Sounders FC supporters protested against the team playing (meaningless) friendlies at the end of the season prior to the playoffs and the club has taken on board what the supporters wanted. Seattle has fallen for the second year in the playoffs and perhaps it was from fatigue of playing too many friendlies (money makers) on the side. On a side note I find it funny that all MLS related podcasts and blogs denounced the Seattle supports for protesting and said it was great for the club to play Chivas Guadalarja or whoever late in the season and the supporters should be happy of the decisions the head brass make. They then stated Sounders FC would blow through the playoffs. In the end they were blown out of the playoffs. Looks like the fans know best especially when many MLS owners could careless about football and only look for another way to make money. Like scheduling midseason friendlies. Which I hate.
Back to the WIZARDS though, I feel so empty about this name change. Yes, Sporting KC is ambigious enough to still nickname the team Wizards. But the real damage I feel that will be done is many people who have atleast heard for the Wizards name will now think there's a new MLS team in town. Let us keep in mind the causual MLS fan and fan who barely stays on the radar of MLS will not realise the change. Especially those in Kansas City area. This is a major step back for the franchise in KC and if the franchise or anyone else thought KC could build off the friendly win over Manchester United then that is out the window. I feel the causual MLS/Wizards' fans' inability to regularly follow the team and league will hurt them with this name change. Those fans (which I'm friends with many) only pay attention to the table, highlights and the playoffs.
I truely feel Ongoal (KC's owners) have no clue what the fans want/need. I would like to see, just like in Seattle, a supports group with a vote and say in the happenings of the Franchise.
Also, keep in mind I say franchise, because MLS is making the league in to something between the NBA/NFL/WWE.

Friday, November 5, 2010

MLS Playoffs- NY v. San Jose

Being that I live in Europe currently the time difference for watching the MLS playoffs is a bit hard. Because of this I was unable to watch last nights'/this early mornings' match between NY Red Bulls v. San Jose Earthquakes. I wasn't at all surprised, however, to find out the Earthquakes had won the tie and now move on to the MLS Cup Semi-final.
First off, MLS has to be cursing the Earthquakes. They badly wanted/needed NY to progress to the final, to get NY the second largest market in the US to care about soccer. Also, they were dreaming of a LA v. NY final. It would have been the biggest final in MLS history and now thanks to San Jose it's not to be.
San Jose is a team in one of the smallest markets in MLS that has now defeated the team with one of the two largest payrolls. NY boasts Juan Pablo Angel (who will most likely move on after this season), Rafa Marquez and Thierry Henry; so why should San Jose have any chance of beating them? NY signed Marquez and Henry in midseason as designated players and both have contributed to the side. However, it seems that signing them midseason may have been a mistake. Henry only appeared in 10 matches scoring two goals. Though Henry hadn't played much for Barcelona at the end of last season or at the World Cup he still wasn't as fresh as other possible players. NY also traded striker Macoumba Kandji to Colorado to give Henry a proper place up front. Being 33 years old and coming to a league that is more physical than credited for probably didn't help either. Marquez, 31, also featured in 10 matches and recorded one goal for NY. But more importantly he was an experienced defeader to help rookie Tim Ream. But why couldn't NY progress past a team who is making the playoffs for the first time since their re-incarnation of the franchise in 2008?
MLS teams with DPs rely to much on DPs. I believe there is much naivety in MLS that a DP can make a difference on the pitch. As we've seen many DPs are here for the money and are a simple marketing tool. MLS executives seem to think building a team isn't as important as having one big name. It tool LA Galaxy two seasons to discover that had to put more than David Beckham on the field. DPs have now failed for DC United and Toronto (which could be argued). One thing I feel this proves about MLS execs is they still don't/can't grasp soccer and that they're just selling a product not building an actually soccer club.
San Jose proves the point that MLS is a workmen's league. San Jose boasted the league's golden boot winner Chris Wondolowski who scored 20 goals in 38 regular season matches. Prior to this season he had only scored four MLS goals in five MLS season. FOUR!!!!
I'm sure San Jose can continue their momentum all the way to the MLS Cup Final. Salt Lake did it last season and NY this season before. Which also shows there is a problem with a playoff format, but I digress. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Today's buzzword: Organization with a Z

I was listening to a football inspired podcast today, like I typically do to and from work. The pundits were discussing how to prevent a team from scoring early; and as a manager how to get your team to come out to defend against this. They didn't really have an answer, so I thought I'd throw my two cents into the discussion.
As a coach (I coach youth football and work with players 10-14) it can be incredibly frustrating to give up a goal within the first five minutes. But how do you keep a team from going 1-nil up early on?
Unless you're completely over matched talent-wise the basic way to keep teams from scoring early is to have your team organized. In football, organization can be the biggest factor between getting a result and going home empty handed. Teams such as Chelsea and Barcelona have great players, however, they win because of the organization and detail that is put into their teams.
Liverpool is a team that has (arguably) more talent than Blackpool. However, Blackpool came in better organized and with a better game plan. Thus, overwhelming the Reds and winning 1-2, and heaping the pressure on Liverpool who is now a relegation contender.
Italian football has always put a great emphasis on setting up a team on the pitch, who does what and when they do it. This attention to detail has been the catalyst to 16 Italian teams playing in the European Cup/Champions League final between 1982 and 2010. That is 28 years!
I know many will say, "Okay, organization, but what does that entail?" Simply put organization, to me, has to do with a team's formation, where their movement takes them offensively and defensively and tactically how do they line-up (will they defend in numbers or will they all-out attack).
The USA's lose to Ghana in the 2010 World Cup is an example of a team's organization being quite poor. The team was set up in a 4-4-2. An extremely rigid 4-4-2. With this formation the midfield would move forwards and backwards together leaving either large gaps between the midfield and backline (thus giving no cover to the central midfielder who advances) or gaps between the midfield and strikers. This was evident when Ricardo Clark lost the ball in the midfield resulting in Ghana's first goal. Their was no one within 20 yards to close down the Ghana player once he picked up the ball.
Some better organization from the coaching staff and this may not have happened. There may have been cover for Clark who would have immediately closed down the Ghana player with the ball.
Organization will not always win out, however, it puts you in a better situation to get a result. In closing, remember last season's Champions League Semi-final 2nd leg. Barcelona and Inter Milan at the Nou Camp. Barca absolutely hammered Inter from the kickoff. But Inter prevailed, why? Because of the team's defensive organization preached to them by the master of organization Jose Mourinho. Thus proving the most talented team doesn't always win. But it sure helps.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Kansas City Wizards: What's next?

I feel there are two major points in the KC Wizards' season that are the most memorable. One is obvious; that is the friendly victory over Manchester United and Kei Kamara's epic miss from 1 yard. I would like to discuss the United match and what the KCW have done and are doing now.
In the US this was seen as a huge win for a MLS team and for MLS. However, across the Atlantic where I lived in England this was seen as an anomaly, a blip. It was only pre-season for United and it is not uncommon for big teams to lose pre-season matches. Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool all
lost matches in the pre-season. This KCW win (blown out of proportion greatly) was used to market the club and seems to have made the club money on tickets, shirts and anything else the "Johnny-come-latelys"
could get their hands on in the short-term. I believe this win and the marketing towards it to be a false economy.
Yes, fans will come through the turnstiles and part with their hard earned cash when hearing of beating the almighty Manchester United, but this will only last for a short time. How many of these people will return time and again. KCW WILL miss the playoffs yet again this season, despite beating Manchester United in a truly meaningless match. It's October now and how many people talk about this game? I assume few and those are the true Wizards' nerds.
If KCW and OnGoal want people to care about this club then they have to preform well in their domestic league. They have to win a trophy in the USA (again), or atleast make the playoffs on a regular basis. For example, look at New York Redbulls. Sure, they have three DPs, but people care because for once the club is winning and has a chance at the MLS Cup. That is what brings fans and supporters back to games. You can win one off matches and bring in DPs like Omar Bravo (KCW have signed him for next season), but people will not consistanly come back in most parts of America or Canada without winning. Everyone loves a winner.
In Toronto despite what we hear from MLSE about the sell-out attendance, Toronto is losing steam due to not winning. They have extremely passionate fans, but those fans will stop coming because TFC isn't winning and the club doesn't seem to be making moves to become a winner.
This brings me to OnGoal, KCW owners. This group of business men don't seem to totally
grasp what they're doing. They are in a city with three professional sports teams: The NFL's Kansas City
Chiefs (who have massive support), baseball's Kansas City Royals (who haven't had a winning season
since 1994) and the KCW who are a former MLS Cup and US Open Cup winner. They can't/won't surpass
the Chiefs, however, KCW have the chance to pass or be on par with a terrible baseball club. But OnGoal's inability to put money into key areas of the team is costing them in matches. Along with aquiring fresh talent the club needs to dispose of over the hill, average players that make far too much money. I'm referring to Jimmy Conrad and Josh Wolff. The club also needs to use other means of finding players than eastern Europe and South American. The USL has quality players in it. Look at the lower divisions in England, Sweden, France and Germany which also has talent and would move abroad if given the chance. I know the club is bringing in Omar Bravo next season. However, this shows yet another MLS franchise grasping at
straws. Mexican players and some South Americans seem to be brought in to get Mexican and South Americans to care about MLS. Well, they don't. They don't have to care. These moves are complete marketing moves. Bravo is over the hill and will not help KCW in marketing long term (a full season) nor will he help the club on the pitch.
At the beginning of the 2010 season KCW had a golden egg dropped into their lap; Luis Gil. The so called next Landon Donovan. He is currently 16 years old and playing for Real Salt Lak (though was loaned to Miami FC). This is a player KCW could have taken and molded into the next great US player. He could have been the face of the franchise. But what does KCW do? They trade him. KCW replaced this moldable talent with a future second round draft pick. So, you trade a 16 year old who can be worked with by professional coaches for the chance to draft someone atleast two years older who may not be as good and has been in a college program that most likely wasn't concerned about his future playing career post-college. Not to mention, what if he is released without being given a contract? I think this typifies OnGoal's lack of soccer knowledge and their inability to put knowledgable people in charge of running the club.
OnGoal is now in the process of rebranding the team (or beginning that process). This will most likely mean a new name and colours. Colour-wise not a big deal as this has precendent in MLS. The LA Galaxy and Colorado Rapids have all done this. I don't see a problem with changing the shade of blue or adding other accent colours. It happens in soccer throughout the world.
I do have a problem with a name change. OnGoal seems to be going down one of two roads with the name. The first possibility, is a name that may try to appeal to Mexican or South American fans and immigrants. Names such as Deportivo Kansas City or Sporting Club KC have been mentioned. These names, like signing Mexican players is a mis-step. The other idea is to use the fact Kansas City has a large area (western Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and all of the northern midwest) it can draw from. There is a possibility the club could rebrand itself and reflect this vast expanse. But my question is, if the club does rebrand itself
Midwest FC will people in Iowa City, Iowa care? Well, no they won't.
Unlike FC Dallas and Red Bull New York, KCW have both a MLS Cup and US Open Cup trophy to their name. This alone is something that OnGoal should realize. This club has root in the league and in US soccer by essentially having won two cups. Much like the San Jose Earthquakes when an expansion team was placed there following the orginal clubs move to Houston. I feel that if KCW are to do anything to their name it should be the adding of '96 to their name: Kansas City Wizards '96, to indicate the year of formation. Much like many German clubs (example Shalke '04).
OnGoal typifies Americans thinking they know soccer and actually only worried about making a buck. It's not like American football or baseball and I think unless they change their thinking KCW and it's TRUE supporters are in for a long road. Being a Missourian and a KCW supporter since '96, if these unsavory
changes happen I feel that I will most likely walk away from this club. I don't want to support a team who I feel doesn't have me in mind. The supporters are the most important part of a club. KCW need to recognize this.