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.
La camada de colombianos que han llegado a la MLS este año es de muy alta calidad. O si no que lo digan los hinchas del Millonarios, que vieron partir a su capitán y estrella Rafael Robayo al Chicago Fire.
A pesar de sentirse contento con su nuevo equipo, el volante mostró mediante su página de Facebook su preocupación de perderse del radar de la selección Colombia, como suele pasarles a jugadores que llegan a la MLS.
¡Pilas! Este jugador está enterito y Colombia conoce su talento. Es injusto que se le cierre la puerta de la selección solamente porque juega en una liga a la que su tierra no sigue como a las demás.
Duélale al que le duela, la MLS tiene un nivel de competencia que la Liga Postobón ya no tiene…
Forget the official word from the club. Luke Rodgers told fans this morning from his personal Facebook page that he's sorted out his issues in England and will join the club this week.
Further invesitgation indicates that Rodgers, who scored nine goals and added three assists in his first MLS season last year, isn't Facebook friends with Red Bulls newcomer Kenny Cooper. Not yet, anyway.
Buried deep in the latest Hot Stove piece from Jack Bell of the New York Times is word of yet another alleged midfield target for the Red Bulls. This time it's not a Scandinavian or Nordic name but one a little more mainstream but equally European: former Manchester City and Republic of Ireland attacker Stephen Ireland.
Could he be Hans Backe's third DP or is he just another name on the always-expanding list of rumored Red Bulls?
According to Steven Goff of the Washington Post, there are rumblings that the Red Bulls will be meeting with the reps for Michael Ballack in Germany this week.
Just due diligence on RBNY's part, or the prelude to a move for the 35-year-old German midfielder who's on the outs at current club Bayer Leverkusen? And if they bring Ballack in, is he the "final piece" for the New York attack, or an injury-prone albatross whose best days are far, far behind him?
In the history of US youth soccer, there are three absolute stand-outs, guys who were so can't miss that they made coaches, teammates, scouts and – especially – agents giddy at what the future would hold.
First was Claudio Reyna, who turned down Barcelona to play at the University of Virginia in the early 1990s.
Next was Landon Donovan, who won the Golden Ball at the 1999 U-17 Youth World Cup.
And then there was Charles Renken.
(No, Freddy Adu was not in this group. While considered a very good prospect, most serious scouts and managers didn't consider him to be "can't miss.")
Renken was as polished a prospect as they come. In the 2007 Nike Friendlies against Brazil, the midfielder – then just 14 – didn't dribble circles around the Samba Boys. He didn't explode out of the pack at a gallop, displaying a sprinter's turn of pace.
Instead he just feinted, the ball glued to his foot, and slipped a pass to a teammate. Time and again three yellow kits would close around him; time and again he'd slip Joe Gyau or Stefan Jerome through. Renken was possessed of an otherworldly ability to handle pressure, a sort of soccer aikido that you're either born with or not.
This was the American Xavi. Every team in the world wanted him, and wanted him badly.
Then he blew out his right knee in a training session. A year later, he did it again.
It's been three years since that second ACL injury, and now Renken has slipped quietly through the waiver wire to land with the Portland Timbers. 1899 Hoffenheim let him go for nothing, and 18 MLS teams passed on the chance to sign him on a free.
Does that mean he's broken beyond repair? That the Timbers ponied up for damaged goods, similar to how Chivas USA brought John O'Brien in for a cup of coffee in the 2006 season?
I don't know – no one really does, and no one really will until the kid has some time under his belt in the Rose City.
But we can hope. This isn't just for Timbers fans, or US fans; it's for soccer fans. Renken has the kind of talent that everyone can enjoy, the ability and preternatural gifts that make you think "This is why I love this game."
That's what we saw on the field four years ago against Brazil. If the soccer gods are kind, I'd love to see it again.
Kris Boyd doesn't know it yet but he has more than just MLS defenders he'll be contending with every weekend in the USA.
Portland's new designated player already has a minimum goal target he MUST hit in 2012 to even qualify as a moderately successful signing: nine.
That's the total that would surpass Kenny Cooper's production from last year in a Timbers jersey.
And make no mistake about it: By offloading Cooper on SuperDraft day and committing the big bucks to Boyd, the Timbers absolutely need Boyd to have the better season this year.
It will be the game-within-the-game to watch throughout 2012. Who is the more productive player in MLS? Boyd may not know who New York's Cooper is yet, but you have to figure Cooper, for one, will be checking Boyd's stat line every weekend.
They are very different players -- Boyd is considered a natural scorer while Cooper enjoys playing outside the box -- but in the end both will be judged by the ultimate measure of a striker's success: balls in the back of the net (and assists). And Boyd has the edge going into it purely based on his characteristics.
If the Scotsman does not bang them in for Portland, then it would likely point to wider personnel issues for the Timbers (do the wingers provide enough service? do the central midfielders have enough ideas?).
And in that scenario, the much-maligned Cooper would come out smelling like, well, roses.
If you haven't already, go ahead and spend the next 10 or 15 minutes perusing DeRo's recently released personal website. Simply put, this is the stuff MLS dreams are made of. You know, other than MLS Cups and all that other relatively unimportant nonsense.
So far the page getting the most love here at MLSsoccer.com HQ is the recipe for daily success that is dubbed "The Dero Rise and Shine Breakfast," which sounds pretty delicious even if it boils down to oatmeal and fruit.
Seriously, though, DeRo clearly didn't spare any time or expense on derounited.com. I'm going to go so far as to unofficially rank it No. 1 in the MLS player website sphere. Of course, David Beckham might have something to say about that, but I am just not willing to give out my personal information for the right to see pictures of Becks in H&M skivvies. I am, however, going to steal DeRo's core workout.
Philadelphia fans who are up in arms over the trade that sent Sebastien Le Toux to Vancouver are missing the big picture.
As if it wasn't easy enough to notice, the Union are managing their club very differently from every other side in the league. And it's the right way: building on youth.
It's not merely the obvious transfer fee opportunities that come with grooming quality young professionals. There will be handsome rewards in this department, no doubt.
But youth is the way to go in a league structured around a salary budget. The younger the player, typically the less onerous is the salary hit that accompanies him. Younger players are also more attractive trade bait when a team is ready to offload them.
And going young gives a team maximum flexibility in a league in which roster management skills are severely put to the test. A young squad allows a coach the luxury of time to make a more informed decision on which players are worth the long-term investment.
Union fans will see this happen with the commitment the club is set to make to 20-year-old Roger Torres and 21-year-old Sheanon Williams, who manager Peter Nowak wants to reward with a better contract. Williams and Torres earned it based on performance, not based on their resumé.
Yes, a 28-year-old Le Toux will score goals and run his heart out for the Vancouver Whitecaps. But the cash received in exchange for a player entering the final year of his contract will help further Philly's youth movement.
Sure, Union management could perhaps be a little more forthcoming in specifically addressing how the move impacts current contracts or future acquisitions. But fans can have faith that there is a plan the team is sticking to.
Keeping Le Toux would have been nice. But it would likely have meant Danny Mwanga and Jack McInerney riding the bench for yet another season. Wouldn't Union fans have been just as upset at that scenario?
Obviously this is not what Vancouver's lineup will actually look like in 2012 but with the addition of Sebastien Le Toux Vancouver suddenly become one of the most offensively-blessed sides in MLS. And think about this for a second: there are 3 more forwards on the roster and even rumors of Robert Earnshaw coming in to add to the embarrassment of attacking riches.
And as the image above illustrates, they are lacking a little something in the defensive end of the midfield.
Maybe I should I try to get the CBC on the phone because Survivor: B.C. Place would be a great reality show. If someone's going to get cut --and there will most certainly be cuts before First Kick-- you may as well televise it. My money is on a Francophone alliance between Le Toux, Hassli and Chiumiento.