The top 11 questions heading into the weekend...
11) What's on your soccer holiday list?
Those of us who celebrate around the tree on Wednesday may have some footy-related items en route like new jerseys and gear from our favorite teams. But more than a few MLS fans across the continent are wishing for more elusive gifts, like improvement on the field in 2014...and maybe a shiny new Designated Player or two. (Though FC Dallas and Chivas USA partisans would settle for a new coach first and foremost.) And Clint Dempsey may have visions of London dancing in his head.
The aforementioned clock looms large across the league at this point in the calendar. Over the next month technical staffs will make final needs assessments and player evaluations up to and during the Combine, then make their moves during the SuperDraft in Philadelphia on Jan. 16. And the international transfer window opens at the turn of the new year.
9) And have you made those preseason plans yet?
MLS supporters in the large swathes of North America where the long, cold winter is taking hold may be tempted by a trip south this February, to catch sight of their teams as they're put through preseason paces in milder temperatures in Florida or Arizona. The uniquely intimate atmosphere at these training events is certainly worth experiencing.
8) What is FC Dallas technical director Fernando Clavijo up to?
Weeks after Schellas Hyndman's departure, FC Dallas' head coaching post remains empty and reports this week suggested the Texas club is re-approaching Colorado Rapids boss Oscar Pareja (right) despite having been previously rebuffed by the Mile High Club. Whether he's tugging on the ex-FCD man's heartstrings or further loosening the club's pursestrings, Clavijo's approach looks risky as the clock ticks down to next month's Combine and SuperDraft.
7) Can Frank Klopas make himself at home in Montreal?
Speaking of cold, the ex-Fire coach just managed to land a new job in a spot with even more brutal winters than his native Chicago. He won't have much time to hibernate, however, as he comes to grips with what looks like a particularly delicate series of offseason tweaks needed at the Impact, who must upgrade their talent in several spots without unsettling a solid veteran core.
6) Will Jimmy Nielsen prove a quick study in the technical area?
Sporting Kansas City's MLS Cup hero elected to ride off into the sunset after his trophy-winning exploits. But it turns out that he's moved just a few hours south down Interstate 35 to take up the head coach's position at new USL PRO club OKC Energy FC in Oklahoma City. Mastering a new job in a new place at a brand-new club won't be easy, but Nielsen's old boss Peter Vermes is just a phone call away.
5) Just how deep will Sigi Schmid's offseason changes run in Seattle?
The Sounders have announced one roster move after another since the 2013 season ended and the moves are sweeping enough to make observers wonder if the Rave Green are interested in more than just a few new faces. After struggling – until the campaign's final stages, at least – to find the best formation in which to field his substantial attacking talent, could Schmid be mulling an alternative to the diamond 4-4-2 that seemed to work best last fall?
4) What does DeRo's second homecoming mean?
Toronto FC's selection of ex-Red Dwayne De Rosario was one of several eyebrow-raising moves in Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft on Wednesday. DeRo left his hometown club on bad terms in 2010, a watershed moment in TFC's history which split opinions among the fanbase and, as it turned out, contributed to another period of woe at BMO Field. Will he find new life under new management?
3) Can Jeff Cassar carry Kreis' torch in Utah?
Stability and succession were the watchwords at Real Salt Lake this week as Jason Kreis' longtime assistant (right) was promoted to replace him after his departure to become NYCFC's new manager. Promoting from within isn't always “sexy” when it comes to drawing fan and media buzz, but it does send a strong message to those who've helped make RSL a consistent contender: We are (still) family.
2) What is Major League Soccer's top moment ever?
This month the U.S. Soccer Federation closed out their yearlong centennial celebrations with a few classic conversation starters: All-time USMNT and USWNT Best XIs and a public vote for the top moment in program history, where Abby Wambach's stunning header against Brazil in the 2011 Women's World Cup edged out Landon Donovan's delirious winner against Algeria in World Cup 2010. So here's one to debate at your holiday table: After 18 years, what is this league's most iconic moment?
1) Can EJ and D.C. make it work?
D.C. United fans have had nearly as much to cheer about over the past two weeks as they did all season, as 2013's laggards took serious steps to improve. The most dramatic of the Black-and-Red's many acquisitions is Eddie Johnson, the fiery US national team star who looks like a high risk/high reward proposition for the league's most goal-starved attack. United believe they've got the right combination of locker-room personalities to inspire EJ's best.