Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Revs in Market for Designated Player?

The Boston Globe reported today that the Revolution are continuing to speak with clubs overseas about the possibility of adding a foreign player to their roster. Evidently, the Revs have been offered an undetermined player from Spanish side Deportivo Alaves. Revolution coach Steve Nicol didn't speak directly to that situation but did concede that the organization is still in the market for a ringer.

"We're looking, but it's always the same - it's never done until it's done," Nicol told the Globe's Frank Dell'Apa.

The Revs appear to be in good financial shape should they decide to seriously pursue a certain player. New England is in the midst of reaping a four million dollar windfall from the transfer of Clint Dempsey to Fulham in the English Premier League. The Revs also have two designated player spots open, meaning they are still allowed to sign two more players outside the salary cap.

David Beckham (Galaxy) and Claudio Reyna (Red Bulls) are two of the more notable designated player signings in MLS so far. Recently, the Red Bulls added striker Juan Pablo Angel of Columbia to fill another designated player slot. The Columbus Crew also announced the singing of Guillermo Barros Schelotto of Argentina.

While the Revs may feel some pressure to add a foreign talent in order to keep pace with their Eastern Conference foes, it's important to note that Nicol has been reluctant to add expensive overseas players in the past.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

USMNT in Stall Mode

After parting ways with Bruce Arena, Sunil Gulati needed a big name to fill his shoes. He needed someone that would give the program instant credibility and fire up the masses for the next World Cup and every international competition before it. He needed someone who could bring some life back to the bunch and get guys like DaMarcus Beasley to actually try.

Jurgen Klinsmann was that someone. Bob Bradley was not.

Bradley will be a fine interim boss, if that's really all he is asked to be. Right now there is no word on the extent of talks with former Argentina head man Jose Pekerman and Sven-Goran Eriksson. And judging by Klinsmann's choice to turn and run from a job in which he would be worshipped might show you that the U.S. coaching post might not be much of a draw to big-time coaches.

The trouble with replacing Arena with Bradley is that Bradley is, for all intents and purposes, a clone of Arena at the time he took the job - only less successful. Bradley put in a valiant effort with Chivas this past year, turning around a team that was a popular pick to win this year's MLS Cup.

It's hard to believe, though, that Bradley can get more out of these players than Arena did. If they weren't playing for Arena, why would they play for more poorly credentialed Arena?

They wouldn't, and that's why Gulati needs to get to work.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

U.S. Close to Getting Its Man

Reports from many media outlets have Juergen Klinsmann finally coming to terms with the U.S. Soccer the next coach of the men's national team. Since his resignation from a German squad that unexpectedly placed third in the 2006 World Cup, Klinsmann has been hotly pursued by U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gullati.

But even though U.S. international Steve Cherundolo told a German television station that Klinsmann had filled the void left by Bruce Arena, Gulati has said that no conclusion has been reached. Should Gulati lure Klinsmann, who makes his home in California, to the Yanks' side, you can expect an up-tempo, attacking style of play from Sam's Army in the coming years.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Dempsey Deal Hits Snag

A recent article on has Fulham reaching an agreement with MLS and the Revolution for U.S. Player of the Year Clint Dempsey. The deal is likely music to Dempsey's ear as he has made no secret of his desire to play overseas.

The music has taken on a minor key since the deal was struck, though, as Dempsey's transfer is now in doubt because of problems with his work permit. This wouldn't be the first time a work permit issue squashed the movement of a Yank to Europe - Notre Dame coach Bobby Clark told me last summer that work permit troubles were the principle reason behind the lack of a major American presence in European football.

So, after much speculation that the defending Eastern Conference champs were sure to lose their premier player, it looks like Steve Nicol could luck out. And with Brian Carroll and Freddy Adu possibly gone, the Revolution - should they retain Dempsey - would be the favorites for the East crown in 2007.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Arena Blows Up Bulls

This fall, the marginally talented Red Bulls went as far as creative midfielder Amado Geuvara could take them. Unfortunately for New Yorkers, that was only to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and a first-round playoff loss. With little reason to believe next year would be any more prosperous if he held on to this season's nucleus, coach Bruce Arena traded Guevara to Chivas USA Monday amid a number of other roster shakeups in the Meadowlands.

In exchange for its best player, New York received a third-round draft pick as well as a "designated player slot" which can be used to sign a superstar under the league's new exemption that allows each team to sign one pricey player without it counting against the 1.9 million dollar salary cap. Arena is reported as saying that Red Bulls management has talked to numerous clubs in South America and Europe about acquiring a recognized star. The short list of desired players would likely include Claudio Reyna, Ronaldo and David Beckham. Of those, you would think that Reyna would be the easiest - and cheapest - to pry away from his current club (Machester City).

In Arena's other moves, the former U.S. national team coach placed Tony Meola, Chris Henderson, Peter Canero and Steve Jolley on waivers. These transactions came on the heels of last week's trade of floundering forward Edson Buddle to Toronto for Tim Regan after Josmer Altidore's maturation (three goals in three starts) made Buddle expendable. That move also shored up Arena's back line as Regan is as composed and as solid as they come in MLS.

As for the other side of the Guevara swap, Chivas' Bob Bradley must be glowing at the prospect of lining up Guevara alongside Juan Pablo Garcia. With Ante Razov and Jonothan Bornstein up top, Chivas could have the most explosive lineup in the West come 2007.

And if Arena can find a dominant star in the twilight of his career, he too could hold the keys to one of next year's contenders. For now, though, all this deal has done is made Chivas considerably stronger while putting pressure on New York's front office to use their new "designated player" spot wisely and find some more young talent to complement their mystery superstar.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Jacqua, Kreis Headline Toronto's First 10

Call me ignorant, but as a child I thought that Canadian children moved to America once they grew up. I saw Canada as a sort of triple-A league to America's major league. The U.S. and Canada seem similar enough - except for the northerners' bagged milk phenomenon and ubiquitous use of the "word" eh - for my belief to be a reality.

Alas, these nations have major differences that are often exposed when American sports leagues expand north of Michigan. The NBA, NHL and MLB have all installed teams in "Oh Canada!" only to see them pack their bags and move south faster than you can say, "pass me some of that milk in a bag, eh."

But with Toronto FC drafting their first ten players intelligently this past week, both by picking talented players as well as tradeable commodities, the MLS has reason to hope that their Canadian expansion team will make it in the land of the Looney and Tooney. Not only did Mo Johnston snag Jason Kreis - aging, I know, but still the league's all-time leading scorer - but he also took the promising Nate Jacqua from the Chicago Fire. Kreis may be over the hill but Jacqua has a bright future ahead of him, as he indicated this year with eight goals and two assists. He's a big, scrappy presence who scores ugly and often which is exactly what Johnston will need without much of a midfield to create quality opportunities.

Then, Johnston flipped draftee Tim Regan to the Red Bulls for Edson Buddle, a speedy yet sturdy 25-year-old striker who, along with Jacqua, could form a formidable front twosome in upcoming years.

Johnston also swung a deal with FC Dallas to get Ronnie O'Brien, the talented right back who started 26 games for the winners of the regular season Western Conference crown. Both Jacqua and O'Brien are in the dawn of their careers and should give the folks in Ontario a nice nucleus to build around. Kreis, if somewhat limited by the mileage on his legs, is a wise addition as a tutor for Jacqua and others.

The Toronto roster is far from finished, with Johnston saying he may move as many as six of his draftees, possibly for hometown hero Dwayne De Rosario. It's more likely, though, that the team will be much greener than it is today (the current roster has veterans like Jose Cancela, who appear sure to be traded elsewhere). But with scorers up top, and an anchor on the back line, Toronto is on the right track to becoming a relevant player in the Eastern Conference.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Major Loss Soccer?

In a year when Major League Soccer officials struck gold with an new television deal, and opened a glistening, soccer-specific stadium outside of Chicago - with more like it in the works - the league may still lose two of its brightest stars. Clint Dempsey and Dwayne De Rosario, both of whom led their teams to the MLS Cup this season, have their eyes set on greener pitches overseas.

In his most recent column, SI's Grant Wahl reports that Dempsey has received offers from Fulham and Charlton Athletic while De Rosario has been approached by one club in the Premier League and another from the Bundesliga.

Judging by his play aginst international competition in the World Cup, Dempsey's movement overseas would likely be smooth regardless of his destination. But with two of Dempsey's national squad teammates already at Fulham - Carlos Bocanegra and Brian McBride - you would think a transfer there would be optimal. Whether it be Chartlton or Fulham, though, the winning suitor would likely have to pony up more than the 1.5 million offered to Dempsey last season in order for MLS to approve the transfer.

Though Dempsey looks all but on the next British Airways flight out of here, the De Rosario situation is a bit less depressing to MLS fans. On top of the interest that the Canadian international has garnered across the lake, Toronto FC - MLS' expansion team for the 2007 season - is eager to bring the midfielder home to Ontario. It would take a hefty contract but would surely be a draw to fans in the new market. Plus, it could establish a contempt for Toronto among Houston fans, and we all know MLS could use more rivalries. That being said, the champion Houston Dynamo will be reluctant to part with their star if it means strengthening a league opponent.

Even if De Rosario stays, the situations of both these guys are bittersweet for the American soccer community. On the one hand, it's nice to see European clubs intrigued by what the MLS has to offer. That shows an improvement in the quality of MLS as well as the level of respect for the fledgling league worldwide. At the same time, the departure of these two stalwarts would be yet another blow to a league that needs to enhance its on-field product. MLS has lots of young talent, but people come to watch the best players, guys like Dempsey and De Rosario. It's hard to sell fans on a league in which the best players constantly leave for fame and fortune abroad. That's why few are diehard Triple-A baseball fans.

But it's equally as hard to sell MLS players on the merits of staying put. Consider that the MLS Cup was watched by fewer people in the Houston area than the Texans-Jaguars regular season football game. People chose to watch a, how shall I put this, mind-numbing football game instead of watching their own Dynamo win a championship. Plus, this was a World Cup year. Attendance and television ratings should have been high after the games in Germany piqued everybody's interest. Instead, one of the weakest football games of the day dominated the tv's of a city that had a team in the biggest MLS game of the year.

We would all like to see Dempsey and De Rosario stay. But knowing what they do about the interest level in MLS among Americans, it's hard to say that I wouldn't move to Europe if I had the chance.