Are English midfielders interchangeable? Not exactly. But the LA Galaxy might put that to the test.
A report in the Daily Mail suggests that should David Beckham, 36, ultimately decide to leave the Galaxy at the end of the year, the Galaxy could turn to his former England teammate Frank Lampard, 33, as a replacement. Lampard scored the only goal in England's a 1-0 win over Spain over the weekend.
The Galaxy, of course, maintain that they would like to extend Becks' stay Stateside for another year, and the player says he won't make a decision until after the MLS Cup final (Sunday, Nov. 20, 9 pm ET, ESPN/Galavision/TSN2).
Either way, Queens Park Rangers won't be his destination. Manager Neil Warnock admitted the club has other players in mind for January: "At the moment we have very good players in those areas [where Beckham plays], and we're looking to strengthen other areas.”
Instead, the MLS star possibly heading to England is Brek Shea, if the Mirror is correct in reporting that Everton is interested. Given that the article refers to the 21-year-old as a centerback (where he saw time before reverting to a left-wing role for club and country), fans would be advised to hold off buying any Everton jerseys with Shea's name on the back.
Shea will spend a month in England training with Arsenal, but before that he's headed to Ljubljana, Slovenia, with the US national team for an international friendly. On Friday, Shea impressed France coach Laurent Blanc during a 1-0 friendly win for Les Bleus.
The US national team shouldn't have to be all that impressive to get out of their third-round World Cup qualifying group next year. The Yanks will take on Jamaica, Guatemala and surprise addition Antigua and Barbuda.
Canada, meanwhile, did enough to advance to the next round of World Cup qualifying, where they will play Honduras, Panama and Cuba in Round 3. But most of the focus north of the 49th was on the dour scoreless draw with St. Kitts and Nevis.
Mexico will face Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guyana. El Tri prepared for the qualifiers with José Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre's first home win, beating Serbia 2-0 in Querétaro. Javier "Chicharito" Hernández scored a penalty to ice the game, bringing his international goal tally to 23 in 25 starts (33 total appearances). He has scored once every 96.8 minutes of field time.
Former US national team coach Bob Bradley would certainly like to have a scorer with that kind of strike rate in his roster as his prepares to make his debut as manager of Egypt on Monday. The Pharoahs will take on Brazil in a friendly in Doha, Qatar, and Bradley is less interested in the result than in preparing the players "for what is coming."
Back in MLS, LA and Houston are busy preparing for Sunday's MLS Cup final. One Galaxy player who seems ready for primetime is goalkeeper Josh Saunders. This year, he has played nearly twice as many games as usual starter Donovan Ricketts and has posted a 0.93 goals-against average in MLS. “Over the last two years, he's as good as [Ricketts] is in every way,” his teammate Landon Donovan said. “It was just a matter of him getting his chance.”
Another role player heating up is LA's Mike Magee, who has three goals in three games. One commentator calls Magee Mr. October, “Reggie Jackson and Derek Jeter all wrapped into one.”
LA will especially need Magee's clinical finishing with Chad Barrett ruled out of the match through injury. Barrett dislocated his right ankle on a seemingly innocuous turn in training. “It really took the air out of everyone,” Todd Dunivant said.
Barrett's injury will force Bruce Arena to tinker with his forward lineup, which isn't a great test for a manager pursuing a league-record third MLS Cup. His Houston counterpart, Dominic Kinnear, is also going after number three. "I think they're the two best coaches in MLS," Tim Leiweke said. "Dom and this team, talk about chemistry. A blue-collar, hardworking group of guys that have overcome every obstacle."
Dynamo defender Eddie Robinson could win his fifth MLS Cup, which would tie Brian Mullan and Jeff Agoos for the most as a player. "If I win another ring, I'm going to get it for my thumb," Robinson said. "I'm going to have my thumb measured."
Whichever way the trophy goes, Dynamo part-owner Oscar De La Hoya will be there in the Home Depot Center, among the Houston fans, with his face painted orange.
With Houston and LA contesting the final MLS match of the season, the rest of the teams are well into the offseason. For most, the focus is on garnishing rosters while remaining under the cap. At Real Salt Lake, an important part of the strikeforce could be a casualty of budget concerns, despite the club's still wanting his services.
In Kansas City, Sporting striker Omar Bravo has another year on his deal but will hold talks with coach Peter Vermes about his lack of playing time in the playoffs. “We want him to stay here; we want him to be a part of our team,” Vermes said. “I don't hold grudges against guys that are upset because they are not playing. I get where he’s coming from.”
Another DP is in the news this offseason. Bundesliga side Werder Bremen has recruited Toronto's Torsten Frings to coach their youth team ahead of the start of the 2012 MLS season. “It is 99 percent set,” Bremen head coach Klaus Allofs said.
New York Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry isn't contemplating a coaching career just yet, but the Frenchman has begun to consider his post-career option: "After my career, it is obvious I will remain around football."
While Henry relaxes during the offseason, the Red Bulls' lawyers are busy at work, addressing a claim from the city of Harrison, home of Red Bull Arena.
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