Starting XI: Top 11 questions heading into the weekend
The countdown of the 11 most intriguing questions facing MLS clubs, players and coaches heading into the weekend.
11. David Beckham has re-upped for two more years. Does this ensure that LA remains the team to beat?
He spent the better part of six weeks flirting with nouveau riche French giants Paris-Saint Germain, but in the end, Becks could not turn away from the comfortable, successful life he and his family have built in SoCal, both on and off the field. The move is a coup for the Galaxy, who some thought had lost their prized asset to Europe only to swoop in with a late and successful counter-offer: quality of life.
10. With his 37th birthday fast approaching, how much does Beckham have left?
At his press conference on Thursday, Beckham said that he felt much younger when lifting the MLS Cup trophy back in November. Now it’s coach Bruce Arena’s job to make sure the increasingly injury-prone midfielder’s minutes are managed more carefully than ever before. The Galaxy hit the ground running when their busy season starts on March 7 with CONCACAF Champions League action in Toronto.
9. Once his playing days are done, where will Beckham begin his ownership career?
This week AEG boss Tim Leiweke made it sound like it’s a foregone conclusion that his midfielder will someday take up the option to become an MLS owner/investor at a discounted entry fee. The next question is where. Is there truth to the rumors that he must do so in a market other than New York or LA? Could he buy an existing franchise?
8. What should MLS observers make of Eric Wynalda’s brash manifesto?
The Fox Soccer pundit and former US national team striker has been stoking big-time buzz with his outspoken critiques of MLS and the nation’s player development system as a whole. It seems what he wants most of all is a chance to implement his ideas on team of his own, as a coach or technical staffer. Would you like to see him take the reins at your club?
7. How, if at all, is Quebec’s Francophone identity influencing the Impact’s approach to roster construction?
This week’s hottest hot-stove rumor is that Montreal holds a strong interest in acquiring German midfield general Michael Ballack, something of a departure from the expansion side’s previous interest in the likes of Nicholas Anelka and Didier Drogba. The club’s home province is deeply proud of its French heritage, but finding players to match seems a complicated task.
6. Did Thomas Rongen just stoke the embryonic rivalry between Toronto FC and Montreal?
TFC’s new academy director was just talking player development in this week’s interview with the Toronto Sun, but using Impact starlet and top SuperDraft pick Andrew Wenger as an example of the NCAA system’s flaws is probably going to make for bulletin-board motivation material in Montreal.
“No disrespect,” Rongen said, “but Wenger was as good or even a little better when he went into college. He has matured maybe mentally ... but technically and tactically, I don’t think he has gotten a lot better.”
5. The Chicago Fire have a new jersey sponsor. Who’s next?
The Fire made a splash with their canny launch of their new, Quaker Oats-branded unis on Tuesday, partnering with a locally-rooted company whose products are a perfect match for MLS and its fans. That leaves only four clubs (Columbus, Colorado, FC Dallas and Sporting KC) without jersey sponsors – who’s next?
4. What should USMNT fans expect from the Yanks’ meeting with Venezuela in Glendale, Ariz.?
With most of Jurgen Klinsmann’s first-choice players absent for Saturday’s friendly, it will be instructive to see whether older faces like Heath Pearce and Ricardo Clark can work their way in from the periphery of the national-team picture as newcomers like Graham Zusi try to make a splash.
3. Can the Union afford to let Sébastien Le Toux go?
Philly’s favorite Frenchman stunned many when he hopped “On a jet plane to England,” in his own words via Twitter, to join EPL side Bolton Wanderers, who say he’s there on a weeklong trial. Suddenly the Union’s recent stockpiling of forward options makes more sense – and Le Toux’s transfer would open up a big chunk of money and cap room for coach Peter Nowak. Still, it’d be a big loss in terms of experience and leadership, not to mention pure production.
2.Will Edson Buddle catch on at Everton?
Another enigmatic American talent is trying to climb to a higher station as Buddle, still on the books at German second-division side Ingolstadt, trials at the newly Yank-heavy English club. He’s always seemed to perform closer to his best with a strong supporting cast around him, something Everton can provide in spades even with its undersized squad.
1. Will the Red Bulls’ enforced defensive overhaul lead to improvement?
RBNY are set to lose Tim Ream to Bolton any day now, and goalkeeper Frank Rost isn’t coming back to Red Bull Arena either. Ironically, Hans Backe has responded by reaching for Wilman Conde, the Colombian who set off a bitter feud between clubs when he tried to follow former coach Juan Carlos Osorio from Chicago to New York in 2008. At least the Red Bulls have secured their most dependable defender from last season, Stephen Keel, to a new contract.