For the first time in league history, "Embarrassment of attacking riches" really is an appropriate phrase. There's never been a team as stacked as the 2012 LA Galaxy.
In Robbie Keane, they have a Designated Player striker who would be the odds-on favorite for the Golden Boot if he weren't going to miss at least a month for Euro 2012. In Landon Donovan, they have a former Golden Boot winner, MLS MVP and the all-time leading US goal scorer.
That David Beckham fella you've probably heard of, and lest you think he's merely a set-piece specialist, I suggest you re-watch the MLS Cup Playoffs and see how he constantly played the ball early and into stride, making it easier for the likes of Donovan and Keane to carry the ball at pace or pick passes themselves. And Mike Magee proved his worth several-fold over the second half of last season, showing a knack for one-touch passing in the final third and bagging timely goals when it mattered most.
Bringing back Edson Buddle – one of the league's all-time leading scorers – and adding him to that mix, then, is almost unfair.
So does it mean a repeat of this...
A solid chunk of those chances that Chad Barrett and Adam Cristman sent into the Angel City Brigade will land cozily in the net now that Buddle's back, which does eliminate one of the few weaknesses the Galaxy had. The big man never did get starter's minutes in Germany with Ingolstadt, but he did producing starter's goals, leading his team from the bench this year before the bizarre cancellation of his contract.
And, of course, we've seen what he can do in MLS.
For LA, though, the real issue is figuring out who's going to replace Juninho and Omar Gonzalez. Once Gonzalez got healthy last year, the Galaxy ran off a string of 24 league games with just one loss. During that stretch, they lost their starting 'keeper to injury, lost Donovan to the Gold Cup (and got him back injured), saw Beckham battle through a series of knocks including a fractured back, and had Leonardo and Gregg Berhalter go down for the year and for two months, respectively.
One loss in 24 despite that. Gonzalez got my MLS MVP vote – he was that important – and the Galaxy, for all their stars, were a team that was defined by their defense.
With Juninho, the appreciation was a little more subtle, and the (justifiable) worry among Galaxy fans is that his absence will become very, very tangible this season. The Brazilian was one of those "little things" midfielders, a guy who always managed to play the smart pass, always kept the central defensive pair shielded, always make sure his team kept its shape. And he came through with several big goals when the Galaxy needed it.
The difference between having him on the pitch and not was best illustrated in the playoffs. One game LA struggled to subdue a pretty mediocre New York Red Bulls side as Juninho served his suspension for the Rafa Márquez affair; the next, they tore through a very, very good Real Salt Lake team with relative ease, dominating the tempo for nearly the full 90 minutes.
Those were the two pressing issues for Bruce Arena and Co. heading into 2012, and landing Buddle doesn't answer either. Defense wins championships, and the Galaxy still have questions about theirs.
But ... man are they going to be fun to watch in attack. It could be 1998 all over again.
Portland's inking of Scottish international Kris Boyd, a one-time finishing factory for Rangers, adds yet another name to the small, but growing, list of all-time scoring leaders now under the employ of a Major League Soccer club.
The Scotsman sticks out from the crowd though as his crown is for scoring within a domestic league; the other four names on the list hold their titles for scoring for their respective countries.
- Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy): the all-time scoring leader for the USMNT
- Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls): France's all-time scoring leader
- Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy): the all-time scoring leader for the Republic of Ireland national team
- Dwayne DeRosario (D.C. United): Canada's all-time scoring leader
- Kris Boyd (Portland Timbers): the Scottish Premier League's all-time scoring leader
Not bad company to be in, is it?
Boyd may not have the name recognition that the others have south of Hadrian's Wall but if he can bring his penchant for finishing to Portland you can guarantee that the Timbers faithful will not only know his name but also work it into a song or two...providing they can find something that rhymes with "Boyd" other than "void", "tabloids" and "Altoids".
When was the last time you saw an MLS player --or recently departed MLS player-- get the bedroom rock tribute song treatment? Personally, I haven't seen an acoustic anthem like this since Evan Brown was with Seattle back on 2009.
It's indeed a rare a treat and high praise that my ego is quite jealous of. How come no one writes anthems for bloggers?
Tim Ream sealed his long-awaited move to Bolton this week, but it doesn't appear Sébastien Le Toux will be joining him.
A report from Sportinglife.com on Friday included a quote from Bolton boss Owen Coyle that made a transfer that was once considered likely to go through appear dead in the water.
"Sébastien came in for a couple of days, and to be fair to him he hadn't trained for four or five weeks," Coyle told Sporting Life. "He did fine and that's where it is. We'd have probably needed a longer look."
By the sounds of it, Le Toux won't get that look, which is probably a blessing in disguise for Union fans loathe to lose their talisman.
Le Toux has been one of, if not the most, productive strikers in MLS during the past two seasons, but it was always going to be a huge challenge for him to walk onto an EPL training field and show much of anything when he hadn't played for weeks, especially against players in the meat-and-potatoes portion of their season.
If you've spent any time at MLSsoccer.com this week, you've got a pretty well-rounded understanding of Tim Ream's transfer to Bolton Wanderers, a sale that was long rumored but only recently completed.
There's still more to talk about today, specifically Ream and his new wife's sacrifice to get the deal done and his thoughts about where the move fits into his career trajectory. But there is even more that didn't have a logical destination, though that doesn't mean it isn't fascinating as well.
Check out even more insight from Ream below from his conference call with reporters on Friday.
On Stuart Holden's role in his transfer to Wanderers:
“He showed my wife and I around Manchester and took us out to dinner. We caught the Man U game with him. I think having him around will make the transition easier. I see how much he loves it there and how much he talked about the club and the people invlolved there. It definitely wasn’t the deciding factor, but he’s definitely eased my mind and helped in the transition.”
On the work permit process:
“We were pretty confident. I think there was only one point where we were 50-50. After seeing Robbie Rogers get his and having some of the people back us with some pretty good resumes, we were confident going in on Monday that we were going to get it.”
On the prospect, however unlikely, of facing former Red Bulls teammate Thierry Henry on February 1 when Bolton host Arsenal:
“That would be one heck of a storyline. I’ll be very honest: when this all started wrapping up and I saw that game on the schedule, it was something that I was aiming for just because of the headlines and being a teammate of Thierry’s just a few weeks ago.”
On where he stands within Jurgen Klinsmann's national team setup:
“I believe I’m in the mix, but at the same time I know that there are things that I have to work on and do better to solidify a spot as one of those center backs. I didn’t have a very good year with some of the games (I played) and the mistakes that I made. People make mistakes, and I learn more from mistakes than I do from playing really well. I’m going to take that and run with it and learn from it. Hopefully in the next year solidify my spot and make it on that World Cup roster.”
Who says you can't go home again?
Former Vancouver Whitecaps DP Mustapha Jarju is returning to the scene of his greatest successes as a footballer: RAEC Mons. The Gambian international scored 34 goals in 99 league matches for the Belgian club between 2008-11. He scored none in 10 appearances for the 'Caps, a record which didn't quite inspire new manager Martin Rennie to keep him around for a second year.
Now that Tim Ream has moved on it's a perfect time to look back at the day the unheralded St. Louis University defender came into the league. Check out this clip from the 2010 edition of Inside the SuperDraft and you'll see exactly what went on at New York's table on the draft floor: former RBNY assistant Richie Williams showing some hesitance to take Ream in the face of Sporting Director Erik Soler's confidence in his choice. Read into that what you will.
Also of note is Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes trying to pull one over Soler, a SuperDraft virgin in 2010, by offering to trade his 3rd pick straight up for Soler's 2nd round pick. Nice try at Pete. This is almost exactly like the time my older brother tried to trade me a nickel for a dime because it was "bigger."
It looks like Jason Kreis & Co. aren't finished making additions to their back line.
Real Salt Lake have brought in a number of trialists for preseason, including one who had an ocean to cross to get to Utah. His name is Terukazu Tanaka, and he's a fullback from Sagan Tosu of the J-League. (KIRSoccer - January 25, 2012)
Earlier today the Red Bulls announced their latest signing, little-known American keeper Jeremy Vuolo. Where did they find him? The Finnish Ykkönen or first division.
So let's recount the membership of Scandinavian-connected contingent currently calling Harrison, NJ home:
- Sporting Director Erik Soler (native of Norway)
- Head Coach Hans Backe (native of Sweden)
- Assistant Coach Jan Halvor Halversen (native of Norway)
Players: under contract
- Markus Holgersson (native of Sweden)
- Jan Gunnar Solli (native of Norway)
- Teemu Tainio (native of Finland)
- Brian Nielsen (native of Denmark)
- Jonathan Barrajo (spent 2010-11 with Hamarkameratene of Norway)
- Joel Lindpere (spent three seasons with Tromso of Norway)
- Roy Miller (spent 2005-09 with clubs in both Norway and Sweden)
- Jeremy Vuolo (spent 2011 with Finnish side AC Oulu)
Players: unsigned, currently in camp
- Willis Forko (spent 2008-10 with FK Bodø/Glimt of Norway)
Players: unsigned, linked to the club
- Victor Pálsson (native of Iceland who claims to be negotiating with the club)
It's a shame this is all happening with the Red Bulls. Not because these are bad players or anything like that. It's just that if there was ever a club screaming out to have "IKEA" slapped on the front of its jersey this is it; I hate to see good kit sponsorship potential go to waste.
It's been well documented that the LA Galaxy won last year's MLS Cup with three designated players in their midst. They were the first DPs to ever lift the trophy.
Sporting KC owner Robb Heineman doesn't care. At least not right now.
He tweeted out on Wednesday that Sporting weren't going to ink any DPs during this transfer window.
Unless something dramatic happens in the next two days, we will not be announcing a DP in this window.#SportingKC
— Robb Heineman (@RobbHeineman) January 25, 2012
Say what you will about the value of DPs -- and I, for one, think they are very valuable -- but I'm with Heineman here. Fans often clamor for a DP, as if a high-profile, high-priced player is the magician who can conjure up a trophy like Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin "growing" fruit on his Marvelous Orange Tree. But it must be the right fit.
I enjoyed watching Omar Bravo last year, but only because he fit into Peter Vermes's ego-less setup. For several reasons, Bravo is gone now. But the roster still has no ego, plenty of depth, experience, size, and speed, and three of the most exciting young attackers in the US national team fold in Zusi, Bunbury, and Sapong. And it only got stronger with the addition of Bobby Convey.
No need to unbalance any of that with a big name unless you're sure he fits. Obviously, Heineman and Vermes weren't sure about anyone at this time.