Starting XI: Frings, Rogers, U-20s lead weekend storylines
Opening day is just over two weeks away, but in the meantime, here are the top 11 questions for MLS fans heading into the coming weekend...
11) Will hero of the day Robbie Rogers ever reconsider his decision to leave the sport?
Kudos to former Crew winger Robbie Rogers, who made the brave decision Friday to publically announce he is gay in a heartfelt blog post that also revealed his decision to step away from the game, seemingly for good. As living legend Eddie Pope expressed to Rogers on Twitter, hopefully society’s growing tolerance will someday make such announcements unnecessary. But if and when it does, it will be because of strong characters like Rogers, who will continue to be missed in MLS.
10) Are MLS locker rooms an accepting environment for gay players?
WATCH: Don't Cross the Line
The league has turned a few heads with progressive-minded public-interest campaigns against bullying, racism and homophobia, areas many other pro sports avoid (and yes, some critics have taken issue with other areas, like the all-female cheerleading squads fielded by some clubs). But the fact remains that of the hundreds of players in MLS, none have yet taken the path followed by Rogers – not to mention female stars like US women’s national teamer Megan Rapinoe – and made their identity clear to the world while their careers are still active. Now that will be a truly earth-shaking day.
9) Can Uri Rosell make Sporting KC fans forget about Roger Espinoza this season?
If you haven’t already, check out Andrew Wiebe’s in-depth profile on Sporting’s ex-Barcelona man, who currently tops the depth chart at the holding midfield spot vacated by Espinoza’s move to Wigan Athletic. Though the Spaniard has his work cut out for him, everything is in place for him to become one of the league’s most influential players in the months ahead.
8) Will Real Salt Lake find a place for Josh Saunders?
It’s not often that an MLS Cup-winning goalkeeper shows up on your doorstep just looking for a roster spot. RSL, who already have three goalkeepers on their roster, have had that luxury presented to them by the Galaxy’s decision to replace their incumbent netminder with Carlo Cudicini, and while negotiations between the clubs are ongoing, it looks like Real veteran Nick Rimando will have an experienced new teammate to keep him focused and sharp this year.
7) Meanwhile, is Chris Seitz ready to make this his breakout year between the sticks?
Former RSL ‘keeper Chris Seitz has been stuck in an understudy role for most of his MLS career, despite undoubted physical gifts and a strong youth pedigree. Reports out of Frisco suggest that the FC Dallas man is poised to change all that in ’13 as he battles Peruvian international Raúl Fernández for the starting spot place vacated by Kevin Hartman’s surprise departure.
WATCH: Tempers flare at Desert Diamond Cup
The Sounders-Revolution Desert Diamond Cup clash got a bit more intense than your average preseason affair thanks to some nasty challenges and angry responses from the above quintet. It’s not like either team needs any more grudge matches given their existing neighborhood rivals; still, New England’s regular-season visit to CenturyLink Field on April 13 might have an extra edge thanks to this week.
5) Is new Houston Homegrown signing Bryan Salazar the real deal?
The skillful Salazar has risen steadily through the Dynamo academy over the past few years, and he made perhaps his most lasting impression on the senior team’s coaching staff with a confident display against the first team in a scrimmage earlier this preseason. “He made a couple of guys look bad on our team,” said Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell. He’ll go hunting for playing time with the big boys after he graduates from high school in May.
4) Will Chivas USA regret selling off quality players for pennies on the dollar?
Opinions are subjective and coaches are paid to make the decisions that they feel are best for their teams. That said, Goats boss José Luis Sánchez Solá and his staff are providing the competition with rare bargains as they remake the squad. D.C. United have benefitted the most so far, securing Casey Townsend and James Riley without giving up much in return. “El Chelís” doesn’t seem like the type to dwell on the rearview mirror, but these moves still look like big gambles.
3) How will the US and Canada U-20 national teams – both packed with MLSers – get started at the CONCACAF Championship in Mexico?
It’s a big week ahead for the two nations’ young internationals as they kick off U-20 World Cup qualifying in Puebla. Both programs could really use a good performance in this tournament right about now, and intriguingly, the draw is set up in such a way that they could well meet in the knockout rounds – with a World Cup berth on the line.
2) Is a long-awaited D.C. United stadium breakthrough finally at hand?
After months of silence, United managing partner Jason Levien shared some encouraging insights on the league’s longest-running venue quest with The Washington Post’s Steven Goff on Thursday. None of the central parties are saying very much just yet, and knowing District of Columbia politics, it could still take many months more for the final touches to be completed. For now, however, Black-and-Red fans will be overjoyed just to hear official confirmation that a move to Baltimore is off the table.
1) What’s up with Torsten Frings?
A pivotal member of Toronto FC’s lineup (when healthy) since his arrival in 2011, the German’s sudden return to Toronto in the midst of preseason camp in Florida has raised some red flags among Reds observers. A shift in his role would stand as the biggest change among the many already installed by new president Kevin Payne and coach Ryan Nelsen.