There are two topics in American soccer that consistently reappear with all the certainty of death and taxes. One of them is promotion and relegation; I'm not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole.
The other is the notion that MLS should shift to a winter schedule similar to the one used by most of Europe. I say "most of" because there are Scandinavian and Russian exceptions to the rule. For a great read on what you get when soccer is played in stadiums where it is cold enough to hang meat in the stands, check out Jack Bell's latest blog post for the New York Times.
Here's the short version though: players wearing closets full of clothes, cement balls and a pitch that resembles a WWI battlefield.
How playing games --and watching them-- under such conditions could be seen as a viable option in the U.S. and Canada, places where the game is strong but still growing, I'll never know. Call me soft or worse but there is little beauty in watching frigid players endeavor to avoid injury while battling the cold on a rock-hard pitch. Using Russia as an example may seem extreme but when you see comparable temperatures in cities like Montreal, Toronto, Boston and Chicago it's not a total stretch to make the comparison.
I'm not saying soccer shouldn't be played in less than ideal weather but there is a difference between cold and crazy. And staking the future of a young league on February matches in Canada, the Midwest and the Northeast, would fall under the later.
So ask yourself...do you really want a winter schedule?
The Michael Ballack-to-MLS drumbeat is getting a little bit louder now, it seems.
Goal.com is reporting today that the former Germany captain is in discussion with the league to bring him to MLS this season, citing unnamed sources from both sides of the negotiation. The article lists five teams that would be interested in Ballack's services: Chicago, Montreal, New York, Philly and Seattle.
Based on comments from the player himself, though, it seems that his most likely destination is the Red Bulls.
Fans in New York shouldn't be leaping for joy just yet, though. For one, even players that have shown a legitimate interest in the league have been known to spurn MLS (see: Anelka, Nicolas). Secondly, even if Ballack does sign, his contract with Bayer Leverkusen doesn't end until June 30, and his agent, Michael Becker, said that he won't be leaving before the Bundesliga season is done.
That Brian Ching selection at No. 1 in the Expansion Draft clearly didn't work out so well for Jesse Marsch and the Montreal Impact.
So, in hindsight, who were the best 10 players that they left on the table from the pool of names available? Here is our list and most of them would have been guaranteed starters:
10. Michael Lahoud (Chivas USA) – Standout speed in MLS at right back and right midfield. Would have been worth risk despite concussion history.
9. Daniel Paladini (Chicago Fire) – Feisty, box-to-box central midfielder with solid shot from outside and good vision. Solid all-rounder.
8. Steve Purdy (Portland Timbers) – Timbers back-up right back who has the pace and size to match up with most attackers. Ready for primetime.
7. Kyle Nakazawa (Philadelphia Union) – The MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy thought highly enough of "Naka" to trade for the dangerous set-piece taker.
6. Wells Thompson (Colorado Rapids) – Shep Messing won’t agree, but Thompson’s industry and tireless work rate guarantee him minutes anywhere in MLS.
5. Mike Fucito (Seattle Sounders) – Despite injury hiccups, Fucito’s speed and hard work would have provided Jesse Marsch with a different look for a thin Impact forward corps.
4. Ned Grabavoy (Real Salt Lake) – Although he says he’s always warded off expansion teams before these drafts, his experience make him a must-have player.
3. Eric Alexander (Portland Timbers) – Another all-around midfielder with solid technique and still room to grow. His age (23) places him above Grabavoy.
2. Soony Saad (Sporting KC) – Promising youngster worth the investment of an expansion draft pick though not yet a starter.
1. Michael Stephens (LA Galaxy) – Olympic hopeful would have been ready to snag a regular spot in the Impact's XI after two years under Bruce Arena.
Last week, I asked Greg Seltzer and Travis Clark to come up with the 18-man rosters they would take to London if the Olympics started today. It seemed like an easy enough task at the time; both guys would cobble together their teams and the rest of us could hem and haw about which players should have made the squad or who didn't deserve the spot they were handed.
Both slaved over their choices for a couple days, emailing throughout to moan about how difficult it was to pare a stacked player pool down to 22 players, groups which included four alternates. And although they didn't always agree on who Caleb Porter should take to the Olympics, both came up with solid sides capable of competing for a medal.
You can find Seltzer and Clark's squads here: Olympic Roster Mock: Who should Porter bring to London?
On Thursday, Porter announced the 23-man squad that will train for 10 days at the end of February before taking on Mexico – a group that is likely to include many of the players who take part in Olympic qualifying. Because of that, I thought it would be interesting to see how Seltzer and Clark's squads matched up with group Porter called in, a comparison you can see below.
Clearly, this is not an exact science. Greg and Travis put together squads that assumed availability from all U-23 players. That was not the case for this camp and Porter's choices, which changes things. So take it with a grain of salt. It's all for fun either way.
Names that match up with Porter's 23-man group were left as is. Players who either guy included but didn't get the call are struck through. Anyone left out by both but called up by Porter is bold in the official roster. Obviously, overage players don't count in this exercise, so they weren't included in the rosters below.
Feel free to give your take in the comments section below.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
DEFENDERS (7): Greg Garza (Club Tijuana) , Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo), Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact), Jorge Villafaña (Chivas USA)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mikkel Diskerud (Gent), Dilly Duka (Columbus Crew), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union), Michael Stephens (LA Galaxy)
FORWARDS (8): Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union), Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Tony Taylor (Estoril Praia)
GOALKEEPERS: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
DEFENDERS: Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin),
Danny Potts (West Ham), Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact)
MIDFIELDERS: Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union), Mikkel Diskerud (Gent), Dilly Duka (Columbus Crew), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union),
Daniel Williams (Hoffenheim)
ATTACKERS: Joe Corona (Club Tijuana),
Josh Gatt (Molde), Joseph Gyau (Hoffenheim), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Andrew Wooten (FC Kaiserslautern)
ALTERNATES: Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund),
Sebastian Lletget (West Ham), Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes)
GOALKEEPERS: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
DEFENDERS: Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact),
Timothy Chandler (FC Nürnberg), Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia Union), Gale Agbossoumonde (Carolina RailHawks), Ethan White (D.C. United)
MIDFIELDERS: Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Mikkel Diskerud (Gent), Dilly Duka (Columbus Crew), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union)
Josh Gatt (Molde), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund)
ALTERNATES: Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union), Teal Bunbury (Sporting KC),
Andrew Wenger (Montreal Impact), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana)
Well, well, well. Look who's coming back to where it all started.
Eddie Johnson, the former Wizard and 2006 World Cup veteran (not to be confused with the oft-injured Timbers forward of the same name), has signed a new deal to return to MLS.
Now let's be honest: we've heard this before. But something tells me that there will be no backing out this time. Johnson's career has been in a bit of a rut since he scored 5 goals in 16 appearances for Greek side Aris F.C. Since then he's weathered a goal-less loan to Preston North End and suffered the ignominy of being let go by Puebla just days after signing with the club. If he's ever going to come back, if he's ever needed to prove himself, the time is now.
Currently, the Impact sit at the top of the allocation order and with the recent departure of Brian Ching they may actually be interested in Johnson. The question is which Johnson they --or another club-- will get: the confident speedster of his MLS glory days or the less sure, less motivated player he was in Europe & Mexico?
UPDATE: Montreal, not Colorado as originally stated in this post, sit atop the allocation order. Colorado is rumored to be one of the clubs interested in acquiring Johnson.
¡Cuidado Galaxy! No eres el único club de Los Ángeles que sueña con tocar el cielo con las manos.
Al mejor estilo Hollywood, Chivas USA se vistió de pionero y presentó su nueva playera de manera muy particular: durante un vuelo de Volaris de Guadalajara a Los Ángeles el miércoles utilizando a Juan Pablo Ángel, Jorge “Sueño” Villafaña y Dan Kennedy como modelos, seguidos – por supuesto – de las siempre sonrientes ChivaGirls.
Contó Rodrigo Morales, Vice-presidente de Mercadeo del club, que la presentación además de ser muy unica fue también muy simbólica.
“El primer [símbolo] es que es un vuelo desde Guadalajara, donde nuestro club hermano fue fundado, a LA, donde queda nuestra casa. También, mantener a Chivas a esta altitud es importante porque si revelamos nuestra playera de este modo, entonces vamos a necesitar una temporada fantástica en 2012, estoy seguro que pasará”.
Este evento pone a Chivas USA – de temporadas débiles en años recientes – en la obligación de mostrar algo interesante esta campaña. La afición pide nuevas ambiciones por parte de los Rojiblancos y – siendo honestos – al menos uno de los dos equipos de Chivas tiene que hacer un buen trabajo… pero eso solo se hace con los pies sobre la tierra.
Una última cosa, y la pregunta de pronto sobra, pero ¿Si cambió la camiseta?
Today could be the day that the Dynamo land two forwards ahead of the 2012 season.
In addition to reacquiring Brian Ching, Costa Rican reports say the club are also close to signing Cristian Lagos from a club called Santos. An executive from the Costa Rican side confirmed it, according to this tweet by a reporter
— Juan Carlos Agüero(@juankaguerom) February 16, 2012
He made news on Wednesday, getting revenge against his former club Liga Alajuelense, by scoring two goals in a 3-1 win by Santos.
(PHOTO: Al Dia / Costa Rica)
There’s a Jeremy Lin waiting to erupt in every league.
So we dug up the MLS names that have the identical combination of traits that have made Lin’s story transcend nationwide: a rise from relative obscurity, an unconventional path to stardom, far from dominant physical traits and the ability to impact his team in a significant way.
We narrowed down a list of 10 names that have the potential of replicating #LinSanity in 2012:
LA’s Jack McBean, FC Dallas striker Jonathan Top, the Crew’s Aaron Horton and RSL’s Sebastian Velasquez likely won’t get enough of a shot this season;
Columbus’ Ben Speas, Chivas USA’s Casey Townsend and Philly’s Chandler Hoffman come from collegiate soccer powers and don’t make the cut;
Chicago’s Orr Barouch and Portland’s Bright Dike are both doted with the athletic attributes of potential difference makers. It wouldn't be fair to name them.
Which leaves our favorite candidate: Lin’s fellow Harvard grad Mike Fucito.
He was never looked at by the US national team in his younger days, he went to a school that’s not a traditional soccer heavyweight and his 5-9 frame makes him a long shot to be a force at forward in a league where athleticism rules.
The Massachusetts native made just 13 starts and scored two league goals for Seattle in 2011, so he still has a ways to go. Similarly, Lin came off the bench in 29 games for Golden State in the last NBA season, averaging 2.6 points per game.
Fucito may have the slight headstart with the beginnings of a cult following in Seattle. But he's no regular just yet and he has the chance to take ownership of the forward spot permanently if he can stay injury-free this year.
And if the goals can follow, #LinSanity may have to make way for a dusting-off of #LikeMike.
Add the Colorado Rapids to the list of MLS teams Eddie Johnson has been linked with since his career in Europe went cold.
Back in August, it appeared Johnson was signing with MLS, only for that to sputter before gaining any real momentum. Then it looked like he was preparing to join DaMarcus Beasley at Puebla in Mexico, but that never materialized either.
Today, the Washington Post's Steven Goff tweeted that he was hearing the Rapids were in discussions to bring the former Dallas and Kansas City striker back to MLS. Based on all the false alarms, only time will tell whether Johnson find his way back to the United States, but this is certainly one worth watching.
Hearing the Colorado Rapids are in talks concerning well-traveled USA striker Eddie Johnson. Might have more details today. #mls
— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) February 15, 2012