Monday Postgame: New faces, places as season draws near
Wherever the limit lies on how much excitement a league can generate without staging any official games, this week definitely stretched it.
The player carousel spun wildly, delivering the all-time leading scorer from the Scottish Premier League to MLS, returning a 2010 World Cup veteran to his former team and bitterly parting one of the league’s top offensive threats from his.
There was also some major injury news, a couple of key re-signings and more contributions from MLS loan products abroad.
Let’s take another look as we zero in on First Kick 2012, now just five weeks away.
This was easily the busiest week of the offseason in terms of marquee player movement, and the bulk of the talent in transit was of the attacking variety.
On Monday, the Portland Timbers announced the signing of 28-year-old striker Kris Boyd as their third Designated Player. Boyd hails from the Ayrshire village of Tarbolton, which is not in Middle Earth but in southwest Scotland (hard by the Firth of Clyde).
He has 18 caps and seven goals for his country, and is the leading scorer in SPL history with 164 goals in 296 appearances for Kilmarnock and Rangers between 2000 and 2010.
He joins Portland after a brief stint with Turkish side Eskisehirspor.
The day after Boyd’s signing, the Vancouver Whitecaps landed a prolific scorer of their own, trading for former Philadelphia attacker Sébastien Le Toux, who produced 25 goals and 20 assists in two seasons with the Union.
It was a bombshell announcement and it came with some dramatic fallout: Clearly unhappy with the trade, Le Toux told the Delaware County Daily Times: “I would be happy to just retire [rather] than play for Peter [Nowak] again.”
Le Toux will play against Nowak on March 31, when Vancouver visit Philadelphia.
US international striker Edson Buddle made happier news with his old club, rejoining the LA Galaxy last Wednesday after spending a year with 2.Bundesliga side FC Ingolstadt.
Buddle led LA in scoring in 2010, burying 17 goals in 25 appearances. He joins a Galaxy attack that already includes Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, David Beckham and 2011 playoff hero Mike Magee.
D.C. United swooped for more attacking flair this past Thursday, signing Albanian striker Hamdi Salihi (right), formerly of Austrian side Rapid Vienna, as their second Designated Player.
Salihi, a 28-year-old international, scored 53 goals in 90 appearances for Rapid Vienna, including 11 in 15 matches this season. Added to reigning MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario, promising youngsters Chris Pontius and Andy Najar, and fellow DP Branko Boskovic, Salihi gives the Black-and-Red a potentially lethal quintet of attackers.
New England and San Jose also added offense: Rhe Revolution signed 30-year-old Colombian striker José Moreno (most recently of Once Caldas), and the Quakes inked his countryman Tressor Moreno, a 33-year-old playmaker last seen lining up for Santiago Wanderers in Chile’s first division.
In New York and Vancouver, two key attacking cogs re-upped with their sides as midfielder Joel Lindpere and attacker Camilo reached new deals with their respective clubs.
Finally, Portland didn’t stop after springing the Boyd deal: The Timbers followed that up with the surprise signing of former US U-17 wunderkind Charles Renken. Renken, who has battled knee problems, joins MLS from Bundesliga side Hoffenheim’s U-19 team.
The Little Engine that Couldn’t
Unfortunately, Portland’s injury concerns extended beyond Renken’s repaired knee: On Friday, the Timbers revealed the medical issues they’d hinted at regarding 20-year-old Designated Player José Adolfo “El Trencito” Valencia.
The Colombian striker, son of former New York star Adolfo Valencia, needs surgery to repair cartilage damage in his left knee. He will spend the next six to 12 months on the disabled list—where he will not count as a DP for Portland.
While attacking players dominated the week’s transactions, there were some important defensive players on the move too.
The day before shipping out Le Toux, their offensive leader, the Philadelphia Union said goodbye to their defensive anchor in goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón (right), 40, who left to join Deportivo Cali so he could finish his “career where it started.”
The Union’s Eastern Conference rivals New York hoped to strengthen their back line with the signing of Mondragon’s countryman Wilman Conde, a 2009 MLS Best XI selection at center back with the Chicago Fire. Conde joins the Red Bulls from Atlas in the Mexican Primera División.
Toronto FC also added defensive depth by signing 29-year-old Chilean back liner Miguel Aceval.
As the domestic front buzzed, a couple of loan products continued to fly the MLS flag in Europe.
The Galaxy’s Landon Donovan set up Everton’s goal in a big 1-0 win over top-of-the-table Manchester City on Tuesday, then went the distance in a wintry 1-1 draw with Wigan on Saturday.
On Sunday, Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry scored the final goal in Arsenal’s 7-1 pasting of Blackburn, giving the Gunners legend two goals in his winter loan stint with his former club.