Kick Off: Ching selection headlines Expansion Draft chatter
Ka-Ching. That's the sound Jesse Marsch heard when he saw Brian Ching's name among the unprotected ahead of the Expansion Draft.
After picking the US striker first, Marsch explained that even Ching's comments about not wanting to play in Montreal didn't deter the Impact's decision. “He’s made it clear he doesn't want to be here, but we value him,” said Marsch. “I think there are teams in the league that value him.”
Down in Houston, one TV reporter called leaving Ching unprotected “one of the most dumbfounding, boneheaded, stupefying moves I have ever seen.” The Dynamo had wanted Ching, the face of the franchise, to help open a new stadium next season.
Dominic Kinnear knew leaving Ching available was a risk, but thought it was one worth taking. “I’m very surprised he was selected and very sad,” Kinnear said. “This was a chance we took in leaving him unprotected and, obviously, our gamble didn’t pay off.”
Now Houston, a la Real Salt Lake with Jason Kreis, face the prospect of a trade to regain a player who never wanted to leave. The Impact have already shown themselves amenable to a good deal. Shortly after the draft, Montreal picked up Seattle defender Tyson Wahl for allocation money. “This trade enables him to be a full-time starter, and the allocation money will help us maintain the high quality of our team,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said.
Montreal also swapped James Riley for Gerson Mayen and Justin Braun. Chivas USA coach Robin Fraser agreed to the deal knowing he'd need to boost his right back options, with the Impact set to nab Zarek Valentin.
Aside from Riley and Ching, the oldest player Marsch selected was Philadelphia Union winger Justin Mapp. “There [were] a couple factors in play,” Peter Nowak said of his decision to leave Mapp exposed. “His salary was significant and the fact that he was in the last year of his contract.”
Most of the other selections lean toward the younger side. Collen Warner has two years of professional experience with RSL. "It stinks to lose Collen Warner," said general manager Garth Lagerwey. "Having been through five of these, it always stinks at the end of the expansion process. You're losing a first-round draft pick, and it's not a good thing."
The only upside to losing a good player? Knowing that no new teams will join MLS in 2013. "We’re very grateful next year we won’t be going through this," Lagerwey added.
Montreal also picked San Jose Earthquakes central defender Bobby Burling. “He'll be a good foundation for our back line to build off of,” Marsch said.
Earthquakes general manager John Doyle said the team will attempt to replace Bobby Burling, as well as re-sign out-of-contract Nana Attakora: “We are looking to sign Nana Attakora and another center back.”
One of the perks should Attakora stick around? A new venue. Check out sketches of the proposed stadium as plans continue to take shape. (PICTURES)
Another young defender snagged by Montreal was Jeb Brovsky. The 23-year-old is spending his offseason in India running soccer camps for his non-profit foundation, Peace Pandemic. "I'm not surprised Montreal sees him as someone that will help them in their first year," Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said.
The Whitecaps also lost Nizar Khalfan. The midfielder was snapped up by Philly in the waiver draft. "Generally, we're looking for more production," Martin Rennie said of the decision to release Khalfan. "We like pace and movement, but we like assists and goals more."
Khalfan was one of 31 players waived, but was the only one selected. Toronto FC led the way with seven players let go, followed closely by the New York Red Bulls, with six.
Perhaps the highest-profile player to be released was Sporting Kansas City Designated Player Jéferson. The club had an option for 2012, but tried to negotiate a lower wage. No deal could be struck. “I like him, and I definitely would like to have him on our team,” Peter Vermes said. “But (that scenario) is gone now, so there’s not even a reason to talk about it.”
Another attacker is leaving Kansas City, Teal Bunbury's training stint with Bolton is only temporary. With Wanderers, Bunbury will link up with fellow US internationals Jeff Larentowicz and Stuart Holden.
The future of another American striker is less clear. Any decision about Charlie Davies' next step won't come before mid- to late December. “Everything is up in the air,” his agent, Lyle Yorks, said.
Similarly convoluted is the next destination of David Beckham. The LA Galaxy star spent two loan stints with AC Milan, and he admits Italy is a possibility again. "I've had offers from different places, including Serie A."
His old boss at Milan, Leonardo, wants Beckham to join him at Paris Saint-Germain. The Brazilian says he's been in contact with the 36-year-old midfielder. "Yes, we've spoken," Leonardo said.
Argentine playmaker Javier Pastore also publicly admitted he'd like to line up with Beckham in Paris: “Beckham has a presence that is impressive.”
Wherever Becks ends up, or indeed even if he returns, MLS Commissioner Don Garber knows the league will tick on steadily with or without the original Designated Player: "Beckham has been a part of the story, but he's not the only driver. You look at the success of the three teams in the Pacific Northwest. None of those players have Beckham on their roster."
Beckham forged a strong midfield partnership with Juninho during the Galaxy's run to the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup. Now LA face entering the 2012 season with neither, with issues to work out involving the Brazilian's loan from São Paulo. “The club in Brazil definitely wants something in return,” Juninho said. “And they have other offers and options.”
As Bruce Arena finesses both of those situations, he at least knows he can count on captain Landon Donovan for next season. The all-time leading US scorer says he will likely forgo any loan deals during the offseason: “I would entertain anything, but the main elements for me are being physically and mentally ready to go next year. For this team. And if anything is going to impede that, I'm not going to do it.”
For Donovan, the main priority is a repeat of 2011's trophy haul. "I get a little greedy," Donovan admitted ahead of the Galaxy's departure on a tour of Asia and Australia.
Of all the Galaxy's stars heading to Australia, the one Perth Glory winger Liam Miller is most excited to see is Robbie Keane. The two play on the Republic of Ireland together, and Miller sees several more years of goal-scoring production from his international captain.
When it comes to sporting meet-ups, few have the star wattage as the one in the Emirates Stadium Wednesday for Arsenal's 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund. New York striker Thierry Henry chatted with tennis legend Roger Federer throughout the match.
By the time Henry returns from training with his former club, NBC should have announced its commentary team for the 2012 season. Several reports indicate the play-by-play announcer will be Arlo White, who has a year left on his three-year deal with the Sounders.
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