Former San Jose Earthquakes, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake forward Arturo Álvarez appears to be on his way to Portugal, thanks to a two-year deal with Rio Ave.
Álvarez, 26, appeared in 16 games for Real Salt Lake in 2011 but struggled to find the form he showed with both the Quakes and FCD from 2005-10, and RSL parted ways with him after the season. (Arturo Álvarez firmaría con club portugués Rio Ave, Elsalvador.com)
Maybe it's a tribute to soccer players-turned-NFL kickers like New Orleans Saints great Morton Andersen and placekicking innovator Pete Gogolak. Or perhaps it's due to some fever brought on by the impending arrival of the Super Bowl. Either way Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning and trialist Andrew Weber have taken to kicking a pointyball in the Sounders practice facility this pre-season. They're not too bad but I'd be hesitant to say they're ready for a Lawrence Tynes moment just yet.
There's no mistake. A 54-year-old English manager at the helm of the oldest club in England's Premier League is advocating a mini-revolution for the sport: the introduction of the NFL challenge system.
Before you throw cold water on the idea, consider for a moment the proposal put forth by Stoke City's Tony Pulis: a challenge flag per half for each team with 30 seconds for the match official to check upstairs. It tacks on a mere minute per half if both coaches use their flag.
His plan allows for video replay to make its entry at the highest levels of professional soccer without proving to be a scandalous shock to the system. Most reasonable fans can stomach this.
Beware, however: MLS should not be the guinea pig, otherwise the experiment gets labeled as a gimmick. If the EPL takes the first stab, the soccer world will surely embrace it. It should happen in England before it shows up anywhere else.
"It would help the referees, it would help us, the football nation and the supporters. And it would get the decision right, which is more important than anything else," Pulis says.
He actually never makes mention of a flag in his pitch. So can soccer be original and come up with its own object to hurl at the ref?
Pulis sells it well. Watch him in this video clip.
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.
Introducing the Depth Chart, a shallow look at the hot topics currently dominating the American soccer conversation.
Consensus is that the US was robbed of the 2022 World Cup. Well, here comes the next best thing. And it even comes six years earlier!
The president of the Ecuadorean soccer federation, whose brother is on the CONMEBOL executive committee, told Mexican media that the USA is a potential candidate to host the 2016 Copa América in celebration of the South American confederation's 100-year anniversary.
"We are going to have the opening so that it's not held in one of the 10 countries of South America. It could be Mexico and it could be the United States as well," said Luis Chiriboga.
Chiriboga noted that the special edition of the 2016 Copa América would feature 16 teams: 10 from South America and six from CONCACAF. Apparently there would be a qualification process to determine the six CONCACAF nations.
Four groups of four teams with Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and the USA in separate groups? Fans will flock.
If US fans thought that was big news, the Ecuadorean chief also mentioned that the US would likely get an inivitation to participate in the 2015 Copa América in Brazil.
"I have no doubt that the obstacles [in CONCACAF] are being overcome," said Chiriboga. "Mexico's invitation has never been in question. Of the two teams we invite, one is Mexico and the other could be the United States or Japan."
Imagine this schedule for the USMNT: 2014 World Cup in Brazil, 2015 Copa América in Brazil and the 2016 Copa América on US soil. Something tells me Jurgen Klinsmann is not the type to decline these kind of invites.
Trying to predict how an expansion team will fare based on preseason is like trying to predict how a rock show will go based on the soundcheck. Everything changes when people show up and the lights are on.
But the early indications are that the Montreal Impact have the look of something special. Our man in Guadalajara, Tom Marshall, who saw the Impact a couple of times this past week, was duly impressed.
Very impressed with @ImpactMontreal after watching 3 preseason games in GDL. Will be a hard team to beat next year in MLS.Big, tall side too
— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) January 27, 2012
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.”
If we're going to insist on taking just one of either Dempsey or Donovan, then I think it's pretty clear which one deserves the nod. It's Landon.
Lebron James once famously said that if he really wanted to, he could win the NBA scoring title every year. (He also said he'd win a million championships with the Heat, but I'll give the King the benefit of the doubt.) The implication was that doing so wouldn't give his team the best chance to win. The King has put his money where his mouth his by providing an average of 7+ assists per game in every season since 2007, and despite his well-publicized struggles in the playoffs, you can't argue with his regular season success.
On the other side, I've been at Madison Square Garden when Carmelo Anthony takes over the fourth quarter of a game, and when he gets going, he doesn't miss. Like, ever. But 'Melo isn't exactly known for his ability to spread the ball around. He's also not in the conversation for "best player in basketball."
Here's my knock on Dempsey: Like 'Melo, the dude doesn't pass. He breaks ankles and scores goals. He scores scrappy goals; see US vs. Panama, 6/22/11. He scores wonder goals; see Fulham vs. Juventus, 3/18/10. But for the US - a team that has been loudly and repeatedly criticized for lacking creativity - that's not enough.
Donovan is a game changer. Period. He does what Dempsey cannot in making everybody around him a better player. And that's the point: the Greats make others around them great.
Like Lebron, Landon has his detractors. Unlike Lebron, he's done enough to shut up his critics. He was the best US player at the 2010 World Cup. He's won in MLS. He's done well in his last two stints abroad. And his ability to pick out a pass separates him from Dempsey in his ability to break down defenses. That makes him the more dangerous and, to me, more valuable player in terms of what a team needs.
The crabs vs. wolf debate on ExtraTime Radio has reached a new level, and Simon and I haven't even gone on our man-date to see The Grey yet.
If you haven't been listening, the debate for the last few weeks has been whether or not you'd choose to fight 300 crabs or one wolf.
We've weighed in, the listeners have offered their thoughts, and now there's some actual proof that four guys with microphones are indeed mightier than 300 of Alaska's finest fighting crustaceans (crabs are crustaceans, right? Just checking)
A listener sent this image in to us after some heavy duty (and top notch) photoshop work. You can check out his Off The Laces blog here. Nice work.