MLS Newsstand -- December 13, 2010
(This sampling of coverage is a service provided to members of the media by MLS Communications)
Select MLS Video Clips – December 13, 2010
· One-on-one with Philadelphia Union’s Danny Mwanga (KPDX—MNT, Portland)
· Portland Timbers uniform fashion show lands on a real runway (KPDX—MNT, Portland)
· Merrit Paulson on the Timbers kit unveiling and the competitiveness of his club (KGW—NBC, Portland)
MLS Newsstand – December 13, 2010
1. D.C. United interested in Houston goalkeeper Pat Onstad for an assistant coaching position (Washington Post)
2. It's a Dun deal: Midfielder back with hometown heroes (The Province)
3. Goalie Mondragon set to join Union (Philadelphia Daily News)
4. Kick Cancer Soccer Camp draws from wealth of support (Houston Chronicle)
5. Harrington contract talks ongoing, Bunbury trains with Stoke City (Kansas City Star)
6. Juan Pablo Angel's fate up in the air (Bergen Record)
7. Carter rises to president of Soccer United Marketing (SportsBusiness Journal)
8. Whitecaps sign Dunfield, Janicki (The Sports Network)
9. Academy Programs Increasingly Influence SuperDraft Pool (Goal.com)
10. Akron claims first-ever NCAA championship (MLSsoccer.com)
11. Monday Postgame: Re-Entry Draft, fresh Timbers, Bunbury's best (MLSsoccer.com)
12. Vermes, Sporting hard at work in busy offseason (MLSsoccer.com)
13. Format of Canadian Championship may change (MLSsoccer.com)
(Additional articles for consideration can be submitted directly to Lauren Brophy of MLS Communications at Lauren.Brophy@MLSsoccer.com.)
1. D.C. United interested in Houston goalkeeper Pat Onstad for an assistant coaching position
By Steve Goff
Washington Post – December 12, 2010
Pat Onstad, a two-time MLS goalkeeper of the year, is unlikely to return to the Houston Dynamo and, according to sources, has been approached by D.C. United about joining its coaching staff to oversee the keeper corps.
Tim Mulqueen, the goalies coach for U.S. youth national teams and the early front-runner for the United opening, apparently withdrew from consideration because of relocation issues.
Ben Olsen, United's new coach, is in the process of hiring two assistants. Chad Ashton, the former technical director who helped Olsen during his interim stint late this season, is set to return, but Mark Simpson, the club's longtime keepers coach, is pursuing other opportunities and Kris Kelderman seems likely to be reassigned.
One source, unaffiliated with the club, said he believed Onstad's hiring was imminent. Should it occur, the move would end one of the most decorated goalkeeping careers in MLS history.
Onstad didn't immediately reply to messages via Houston's communications office. Olsen is believed to be scouting abroad. Said a United spokesman: "The team does not comment on players or personnel not under contract."
Onstad -- who at 42 is the oldest player in league history -- has been weighing retirement after the Dynamo declined to exercise the option on his contract and exposed him to both the expansion and re-entry drafts. He was not selected by newcomers Portland or Vancouver, his hometown team, and was passed over in the first stage of the inaugural re-entry draft (only two players were claimed). The second part is Wednesday. His salary ($172,000 in 2010) was sixth highest among goalies in the league.
"Pat is unlikely to return to the Dynamo roster in 2011," a Houston spokesman said, "but we are not in a position to comment or speculate on his future plans."
Onstad has spent all eight years in MLS with the same organization: From 2003 to '05, he was with the San Jose Earthquakes, who then moved to Houston.
On a statistical basis, Onstad is one of the league's best. He is third in career goals-against average at 1.12 and eighth in regular season appearances (220) and shutouts (64). He was named MLS goalkeeper of the year in 2003 and '05, and won MLS Cup titles in 2003, '06 and '07. A native of Canada who made 56 national team appearances over 20 years, he is also a U.S. citizen and holds an "A" coaching license from the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Last month, he told The (Vancouver) Province: "I think I have a couple of years left in me, I'd still like to play. But, all things considered, if I had an opportunity to coach, I'd be comfortable retiring."
2. It's a Dun deal: Midfielder back with hometown heroes
By Marc Weber
The Province – December 12, 2010
Terry Dunfield never dreamed of this day when he was a kid, but he hopes his signing signals a change for the next generation.
"I never thought when I left on my journey 13 years ago I'd be back signing for Vancouver in one of the best leagues in the world," Dunfield said Friday as the Whitecaps announced the Vancouver-raised midfielder, along with American defender Greg Janicki, as their latest Major League Soccer signings.
"I had to do it overseas, but I hope my signing shows that if you want to be a professional soccer player, you can do it growing up in the Lower Mainland -- and now with the Whitecaps in MLS there really is something to aim for here."
Dunfield joined the youth setup at Manchester City as a 15-yearold then bounced around the lower leagues in England after a much-hyped Premier League debut at 19.
The 28-year-old returned home in August when the Whitecaps signed him for the final two months of the USSF D-2 season-- a zero-hour negotiation that plucked him away from Scottish side Motherwell, where he was on trial.
Dunfield was one of the Whitecaps' best players down the stretch; certainly their most inspiring -- his boundless energy encapsulated by a reckless celebration dive into the VIP section at Swangard Stadium.
"He has shown us since he came here in the summer that he really has something to do here," said head coach Teitur Thordarson. "I like his whole way of playing. He has a good aggression to his game, he reads the game very well, his passing is very good and he comes from the midfield and finishes, which I've been looking for.
"That [energy]," Thordarson added, "helps the others to keep on working hard."
The Whitecaps have now signed 11 players to MLS deals -- five of them carry-overs from the club's final season in division two.
There are still 13 players from the Whitecaps' offseason training-camp roster who are officially in limbo, though the signing of some, like Swiss midfielder Davide Chiumiento, appears to be a formality.
The club did release three players Friday: local midfielder-defender Luca Bellisomo, Liberian-American left back Willis Forko and third-string goalkeeper Simon Thomas of Victoria.
MLS clubs can carry 30 players in 2011 and the Whitecaps will be active in January's international transfer window. A proven goal scorer is at the top of the priority list.
There's also the MLS SuperDraft in January for U.S. college graduates and top young talent signed by the league to Generation Adidas deals. Vancouver has the first overall pick.
The Whitecaps return to training in late January and kick off their inaugural MLS season in March.
3. Goalie Mondragon set to join Union
By Kerith Gabriel
Philadelphia Daily News – December 13, 2010
It appears the rumor regarding Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon joining the Union is true.
The Daily News has learned from a source close to the situation that Mondragon has agreed to a contract with the Union that awaits approval from Major League Soccer. It was first reported in German magazine Kicker that the Union had struck a deal with the 39-year-old. Mondragon currently plays for FC Koln (Cologne) in the German Bundesliga and would arrive via a free transfer.
Union officials would not comment. Manager Peter Nowak, who handles all player personnel issues, said in a text message that he was unable to comment on "players or personnel currently under contract." The Kicker report claims that Mondragon's contract has an agreement with former Koln general manager Michael Meier that would allow him to leave the club with no strings attached upon the Bundesliga's winter break, which begins on Dec. 20.
Originally, reports were that Mondragon was being pursued by the Union's Eastern Conference rival Red Bull New York. The friendship between Mondragon and former Red Bulls forward Juan Pablo Angel - Angel is godfather to Mondragon's son - was said to have enticed Mondragon, miffed with his current club, to greener pastures.
Mondragon was relegated to second string this season after rifts with Koln boss Zvonimir Soldo over his desire to compete in more international competitions. Mondragon was in goal for Colombia's scoreless draw against the United States in the Oct. 12 friendly at PPL Park.
The oldest player in the German first division, Mondragon has appeared in 11 matches this season and made 32 saves. Cologne is currently in the relegation zone (4-9-3) with 15 points.
If (and apparently when) finalized, the deal will assuredly mean the exodus of either Chris Seitz, 23, or Brad Knighton, 26, both of whom failed to impress as Union goalkeepers in the team's inaugural season. Seitz, along with Brazilian midfielder Fred are still up for grabs through the MLS' new two-part re-entry draft. The second phase of the draft, which allows teams to offer contracts or retain rights to a player out of contract, reconvenes Wednesday.
If official, Mondragon will be the Union's fifth international, joining countrymen Juan Diego Gonzalez and Roger Torres as well as Eduardo Coudet (Argentina) and Toni Stahl (Finland).
4. Kick Cancer Soccer Camp draws from wealth of support
By Jose de Jesus Ortiz
Houston Chronicle – December 11, 2010
Dynamo All-Star Brian Ching and teammates Geoff Cameron, Mike Chabala, and Corey Ashe headline the training staff for the Kick Cancer Soccer Camp next weekend.
The camps will be held throughout the area with sites at HBU, Dyess Park, Centennial Park, and Bear Branch Soccer Complex.
"This is a great example of all levels of an amazing soccer community coming together," said Glenn Davis, who organized the camps.
Former Dynamo player Craig Waibel and Monica Gonzalez of the Mexican women's national team are among those scheduled to attend. Former MLS player Eric Quill, an assistant at UH, will join Rice women's coach Nicky Adams, HBU men's assistant Dustin Norman and several top area youth coaches in helping out.
The camp will run from Dec. 17-19 in the evenings for players 7 to 19. Registration is $55.
5. Harrington contract talks ongoing, Bunbury trains with Stoke City
Kansas City Star – December 11, 2010
While there is no news (yet) to report about the status of Jimmy Conrad/Josh Wolff and the second-stage of the re-entry draft, there are some things for Sporting Kansas City fans to read about.
Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes says about contract negotiations with fullback Michael Harrington and his agent, "the ball is in their court." The 24-year-old defender is out of contract but, because of the team's offer, was not available for the re-entry draft process. Harrington was one of the better players on the team in 2010.
Budding young striker Teal Bunbury tweeted this morning that he is training with Stoke City in England for 10 days. Meaning, he'll actually have a chance to train with Eidur Gudjohnsen. Fret not, Sportingers, this is not an indication that Bunbury is leaving for England anytime soon. It's more a chance for a young player to get some experience with a EPL team. (It's also a chance for an EPL team to get a look at a young American player.)
I would also like to officially "second" Mike at Down the Byline: The young defender KC has been linked with, Aurelien Collin, and the young designated player the team is pursuing are not the same person. While Robb Heineman has never ruled out the possibility of using "DP" money on a defender, Collin -- unless they are seeing something that I'm not -- isn't on that level.
And with that, I'm out for a week on furlough. Pete Grathoff will be filling in around here in my stead.
6. Juan Pablo Angel's fate up in the air
Bergen Record – December 11, 2010
Major League Soccer held the first phase of its Re-Entry Draft on Wednesday. Two players were selected.
As far as events go, it was pretty uneventful. But expect a bit more action this Wednesday. That's when the second part of the draft takes place.
A player selected in the first phase had to be paid according to his option, which was why only two players were taken.
On Wednesday, teams will be able to negotiate new deals with the 33 available players. That should lead to more players finding new homes.
One player who is uncertain of where he will play next season is forward Juan Pablo Angel. The Red Bulls' all-time leading scorer was let go after the season, and it's unknown if he will return to the league or go overseas.
One thing is certain, Angel will almost certainly have to take a pay cut – perhaps a significant one – in order to remain in MLS. That likely will impact his decision on whether to return next season.
RODGERS TO ARRIVE SOON? Following up on an item here last week, the agent for forward Luke Rodgers told MLSSoccer.com that he is waiting for a contract from the league and expects Rodgers to join the Red Bulls in January.
Rodgers, who turns 29 on New Year's Day, has had some past issues that led MLS to insist on a behavioral clause in his contract. His agent, Mark Cartwright, referred to the incidents as "a young person doing silly things."
Rodgers currently plays for Notts County in the English Third Division. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe coached Rodgers there during his brief stint at the club.
NEXT GAME FOR NATS? Although U.S. Soccer says negotiations have yet to be completed, it's expected the Americans will travel to face Egypt on Feb. 9.
The United States will open its 2011 campaign with a friendly against Chile on Jan. 22 at the Home Depot Center. A possible match against Argentina could come in March before the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June.
BARCELONA HAS PLAYERS: Sure, you already knew Barcelona was one of the top teams in the world. But just how good the club is was shown when the nominations for the FIFA Player of the Year – or Ballon D'Or – were announced on Monday. Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi were the three players nominated for the award. All three play for Barcelona.
Iniesta and Xavi led Spain to the World Cup. Messi has won the Ballon D'Or in each of the past two seasons and is regarded as the best player in the world. The winner will be announced Jan. 10.
THE DRAFT IS COMING: Major League Soccer announced the list of 54 players who will be invited to its Scouting Combine in Fort Lauderdale from Jan. 7 to Jan. 11.
Three New Jersey players are on the list: goalkeeper Bryan Meredith of Monmouth, midfielder Lebogang Pila of St. Peter's and forward Brayan Martinez of Seton Hall.
7. Carter rises to president of Soccer United Marketing
By Fred Dreier
SportsBusiness Journal - December 13, 2010
Seventeen years after taking a marketing position with the 1994 World Cup organizing committee, Kathy Carter has become the top marketer in American soccer. On Dec. 8, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber promoted Carter to president of Soccer United Marketing, where she previously was executive vice president.
“Kathy is one of the most experienced and respected sales and marketing executives in the sports industry,” Garber said. “And she is also a very committed soccer person. It’s a well-deserved promotion.”
The promotion comes six months after Garber told the MLS board of governors at the All-Star Game that Carter would take on additional responsibilities at SUM with the departure of then President Doug Quinn, who left to be CEO and president of FC Dallas. Garber said MLS’s hectic late-season schedule and SUM’s buildup for December’s unsuccessful 2022 World Cup bid delayed Carter’s official promotion until last week.
Carter, a two-time SportsBusiness Journal Forty Under 40 winner, said the news was worth the wait.
“I never felt like I was in a holding pattern — we simply had business that needed to be done,” Carter said. “While it’s taken some time for the public announcement, it has not changed the job I’ve done.”
Quinn said Carter’s work ethic and business skills complement the MLS executive staff of Garber and MLS President Mark Abbott.
“Taking care of all the business is enormous, overseeing the development of the league’s commercial interest has become a huge task, and Kathy has the work ethic to get that done,” Quinn said, adding that he thought the league could use another executive in marketing and sales.
Garber echoed Quinn’s sentiments, saying the league would hire a CMO. Garber also said Carter’s promotion would not change the fundamental business structure of SUM or MLS, or the branding for each entity.
Carter served as the league’s vice president of corporate marketing from its inception in 1996 until 1999, during which time she helped sign the league’s early partners, such as Honda, Budweiser and Pepsi, to multiyear deals. After jobs with ISL and Envision, Carter worked as vice president of sponsorship sales and marketing for AEG, where she helped sign the 12 founding partners for the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, and oversaw the sponsorship sales division of all of AEG’s soccer teams at the time — the Los Angeles Galaxy, Chicago Fire, San Jose Earthquakes, Colorado Rapids and then New York MetroStars. In 2003, Carter returned to MLS as the executive vice president of SUM, where she worked under Quinn.
Jennifer Storms, senior vice president of sports marketing for Gatorade, said Carter targets the sport’s untapped potential when explaining American soccer to prospective partners.
“She truly believes there is an amazing future ahead for the United States and soccer,” Storms said. “She has always said that this is just the beginning.”
Carter said her initial tasks include helping SUM rebound from the 2022 World Cup bid disappointment and pushing to grow SUM’s business in the Canadian market. After that, she hopes to maintain SUM’s and MLS’s steady growth curve.
“We are an impatient group and therefore we would like to get MLS to a certain level faster than perhaps it will get there,” she said. “In this position you have to balance your desire with the patience required to build a business, but still maintain that impatience to want to get your business there.”
8. Whitecaps sign Dunfield, Janicki
The Sports Network – December 11, 2010
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced on Friday that the club has signed midfielder Terry Dunfield and defender Greg Janicki to the club's Major League Soccer roster.
Both Dunfield and Janicki were members of Whitecaps FC during the club's final season at the North American second division level in 2010 and they join Jay Nolly, Wes Knight, and Philippe Davies in making the transition from Vancouver's United States Soccer Federation Division-2 Professional League (USSF D-2) team to their MLS squad for the 2011 season.
Dunfield is a Canadian international who has appeared for his country at the U-20, U-23 Olympic, and senior international levels, with his first senior cap coming in May in a friendly against Venezuela.
The 26-year-old Janicki played in MLS with D.C. United during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, making 10 appearances, before joining Vancouver prior to the 2010 campaign.
9. Academy Programs Increasingly Influence SuperDraft Pool
By Kyle McCarthy
Goal.com – December 13, 2010
The defining moment in Sunday's College Cup final revealed why one of the underrated weekends in the MLS calendar may eventually diminish in significance for coaches and technical directors.
Akron midfielder Scott Caldwell supplied the difference in the last quarter of an hour of a tightly contested final with Louisville. The sophomore midfielder settled the remnants of a Zips corner kick and fired his first effort off a Cardinals defender. His quick reaction to the deflection ensured he carved out the opportunity to launch his second attempt into the roof of the net from close range to give Akron its first national title with a 1-0 victory in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Caldwell's goal – and his significant contribution to the Zips' efforts during their NCAA run – usually would have inspired the assembled cognoscenti to take at least a momentary interest in his professional prospects.
Caldwell, a Braintree, Mass. native, is a member of the New England Revolution's academy system. Under the still-developing terms of the Homegrown Player system, the Revs would likely receive the first crack at Caldwell's signature at any remaining point during his college career because he has participated in their Academy system for the mandated period. Other teams would receive a shot to draft Caldwell – a sophomore expected to continue his college career next fall – after his senior season only if the Revs chose not to sign him at that juncture.
The natural evolution of the burgeoning Academy system will present similar situations in increasing numbers over the next few years. All 18 MLS clubs manage some form of academy structure at this point, though the levels of development and funding vary widely throughout the league. Some clubs – Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Real Salt Lake, for example – established programs years ago, while other clubs such as Philadelphia, San Jose and Seattle recently started their own academies.
Academy programs serve as a link between young prospects and the first team. Those bonds have yielded a series of younger prospects for clubs around the league – players like Juan Agudelo in New York and Andy Najar in D.C. – and have sowed the foundation for an older group of players that could emerge as contributors over the next few years.
A modest number of seniors – 14 players from four different clubs, according to a wide-ranging survey of academy players done by houstondynamo.com in November – will present their clubs with a choice prior to this year's MLS Player Combine. Unlike in past years, it is a choice that will likely center solely on a player's professional prospects.
MLS has liberalized its restrictions over the past year to encourage academy programs to develop potential first-team players. While homegrown players have never counted against the salary budget, they were capped – in the 2010 season, each team could classify only two homegrown players – on the roster and were previously limited in other ways. The league plans to lift those roster restrictions in time for the 2011 season, MLS commissioner Don Garber said during a conference call last month.
The current crop of seniors may or may not reap the benefits of these ideological shifts, but underclassmen at universities across the country will no doubt feel the impact.
MLS has identified 13 possible underclass acquisitions for the Generation adidas program and hopes to sign between eight and ten of them prior to the SuperDraft, according to a report by the Washington Post in November.
Three of the selected players – Maryland midfielder Matt Kassel (New York), Maryland sophomore defender Ethan White (D.C. United) and Penn State junior forward Corey Hertzog (Philadelphia) – are affiliated with MLS academy programs. If all three teams – assuming Philadelphia is allowed to exercise its rights to Hertzog despite the nascent status of its program – decide sign their cultivated player to a deal, the available number of Generation adidas options in the upcoming MLS SuperDraft could dwindle significantly.
As MLS academy programs develop and grow to encompass larger numbers of elite players and teams direct more resources toward identifying and selecting the top players in their area, a more significant number of the standout college players will fall under the auspices of individual clubs. While this may weaken the SuperDraft pool over time, it will also allow MLS clubs to streamline their ability to integrate promising young players into first-team action when their performances dictate inclusion.
The growth of academy systems should not and likely will not diminish or preclude the important part college soccer plays in the development of talented prospects. Some potential pros do not live in the catchment area of a MLS club or do not possess the inclination to join one, while other players may develop too late to warrant inclusion in academy programs at the U-16 and U-18 levels. In addition to those non-academy-related cases, the right college coaches and programs can play a vital role in continuing to hone the skills of academy players until (and if) the player deems the prospect worthy of a pro deal.
Throw in the four-year education and the opportunity to create and savor moments like one Caldwell and his Akron teammates experienced yesterday and the college game isn't going anywhere any time soon.
But if these development trends continue within MLS over the next five or ten years and players gravitate toward academy systems, technical staffers from around the league may soon decide to take a rare weekend off as the generally exciting College Cup unfolds.
10. Akron claims first-ever NCAA championship
Caldwell comes through as Zips defeat Louisville 1-0 in final
By Adam Serrano
MLSsoccer.com – December 13, 2010
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The third time was the charm for the University of Akron. After two NCAA College Cup final defeats, the Zips and head coach Caleb Porter won the title at long last.
A goal by New England Revolution youth product Scott Caldwell was the difference as No. 3 Akron defeated top-ranked Louisville Cardinals 1-0 on Sunday to earn the college championship trophy.
In the 75th minute of play, Caldwell fired twice to beat Louisville ‘keeper Andre Bourdeax from close range. The midfielder’s first shot deflected off a Cardinals defender, but Caldwell pounced on the rebound and his second effort found the top of the net.
With just moments to play, the Cardinals failed to pull even, missing a pair of golden opportunities to tie the match.
First, Louisville forward Buck Tufty fired a shot that was saved by the Akron goalkeeper David Meves. Just seconds later, Aaron Horton – the last-minute hero for the Cardinals in their two previous matches – had a chance at an empty net, but defender Chad Barson cleared the shot off the line to preserve the Zips’ lead.
In the first half, Akron demonstrated its trademark possession-based play to dominate, but Louisville's organized defense kept the match scoreless.
Despite the Zips dictating the tempo, it was the Cardinals who owned the best chance of the half when Paolo Delpiccolo tested Meves, forcing the Akron 'keeper to come up with a big stop. Some slight controversy followed the save, as the ball appeared to bounce off the hand of an Akron defender in the box. Referee Chico Grajeda, however, ruled it a no-call.
Aside from the goal, the Zips’ best chances of the day came just after the hour mark. Potential MLS SuperDraft pick Darlington Nagbe picked the ball up from fellow forward Darren Mattocks behind the defense, but his shot went inches wide of the net. Minutes later, Mattocks forced Boudreaux into an acrobatic save.
With the victory, Akron (21-1-2) earned its first team title in school history and the first title by a Mid-American Conference Team since 1965. In addition, the Zips also became the first to bring a title to success-impoverished Northeast Ohio, which has been without a championship in team sports for over 40 years.
As for Louisville (20-1-3), the loss crushed its bid to become the first undefeated champion in more than a decade.
11. Monday Postgame: Re-Entry Draft, fresh Timbers, Bunbury's best
Breaking down Week 3 of the MLS offseason
By John Bolster
MLSsoccer.com – December 13, 2010
We are one month out from the 2011 MLS SuperDraft and the offseason is ramping up toward that big day in Baltimore.
This week featured Stage 1 of the inaugural Re-Entry Draft, some player movement (and rumors of player movement), a first look at an expansion side’s kit, and great performances by Akron Zips past and present.
Tuck a napkin in your collar and stand your utensils at attention, we’re digging in.
Despite lots of intrigue, Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft was about as eventful as an average Tuesday at the Laundromat, but that was no surprise. As expected, most teams chose to hold off, possibly waiting for this coming Wednesday’s Stage 2 draft, in which teams can pick up the rights to negotiate with the available players.
Stage 1 featured just two selections and took all of five minutes (really).
D.C. United used the first pick on Houston’s Joseph Ngwenya. This is the first step down the long road back for the league’s most decorated franchise, as the Zimbabwean international should add some punch to United’s anemic, league-worst offense. Ngwenya, 29, won an MLS Cup with the Dynamo in 2007, scoring a goal in Houston’s 2-1 win over New England in the final. He had one goal fo the Dynamo in 2010.
The other selection came from Columbus, a team that has parted ways with nine players since the season ended in November. Four of those players are defenders, so the Crew began rebuilding their backline by selecting Sporting Kansas City’s Aaron Hohlbein. A 25-year-old central defender, Hohlbein appeared in two games for KC last season before being loaned to Miami FC of the USSF D-2 league.
And that was it. Two and done.
While the Re-Entry Process is something new, other players relocated by more conventional means. Midfielder Erik Friberg, a four-year veteran of BF Hacken in the Swedish top flight, is set to join Seattle after being spotted by Sounders FC technical director Chris Henderson on a scouting trip to Scandinavia. The 24-year-old Friberg—not to be confused with the professional poker player with the same name—reportedly signed a three-year deal and will relocate in January.
Another Swede with connections to Sounders FC, Freddie Ljungberg, may be on the move out of MLS. The 33-year-old Chicago Fire midfielder told Sky Sports News he’d received inquiries from teams “across Europe and in England.” But the Fire say they’re interested in keeping him. We’ll know more when the player’s contract expires next month.
U.S. international Jonathan Bornstein has already begun the new season with his new team, Tigres UANL of the Mexican Primera División. The fleet-footed defender played in a scrimmage with Tigres last Monday as the side prepares for the 2011 Clausura tournament, which begins on January 8.
The Red Bulls moved a step closer to signing English striker Luke Rodgers, as the fiery Birmingham native had his visa approved last week. The 29-year-old had been on the verge of joining the MLS side during the 2010 season, but the U.S. State Department halted his visa due to a few, um, legal issues.
Expansion side Portland Timbers unveiled four new players, some new assistant coaches, and—in a gala ceremony inside a 64,000-sqaure-foot hangar at the Portland International Airport—the brand new uniforms they’ll wear in MLS next spring.
They pulled the wraps off two kits, primary and secondary. The first ones offer a nod to the Timbers’ NASL ancestors, with two tones of forest green on the torso. The sleeves are white, there’s an axe embroidered into the back of the neckline—in honor of the team’s supporters’ club, the Timbers Army—and a rising-sun logo with the words “No Pity” in a tag on the lower left front of the shirt.
The slick secondary jerseys feature two shades of red with a Rose City logo on the right breast and the words “Rose City” stitched into the back of the neck.
Splashed across the front of both shirts is the name of the team’s jersey sponsor, Alaska Airlines—a company based, interestingly enough, in Seattle. One Emerald City scribe couldn’t resist tweaking his southern neighbors about this while describing the new unis, simultaneously stoking the flames of the Portland-Seattle rivalry and proving how far its roots extend.
Sporting KC striker Teal Bunbury recently decided to play internationally for the U.S. (after having represented Canada at the youth level), and it seems to have done his game a world of good.
He made an impressive debut for the Yanks on November 17, logging 45 minutes in a 1-0 win over South Africa, then traveled to Spain with the Generation adidas team and exploded for three goals and one assist as the young MLSers knocked off the reserve teams of Real Madrid (2-1), Rayo Vallecano (1-0) and Atletico Madrid (4-1).
After going the full 90 in the rainswept win over Vallecano, Bunbury played just 45 in the 4-1 rout of Atletico the next day—but he made the most of it, scoring two goals and setting up Red Bull striker Juan Agudelo for another.
Not a bad trip for the rising Kansas City striker, or for the GA squad, which went unbeaten on a European trip for the first time.
Akron Zips It Up
Bunbury’s former team, the Akron Zips, owners of the best nickname and the second-best record in college soccer, downed previously unbeaten Louisville 1-0 on Sunday to claim the school’s first national championship in any sport.
College soccer has long been criticized in U.S. footie circles, mainly for being a pale substitute for a professional environment when it comes to developing players. That knock may be true, but the NCAA has still managed to produce its fair share of quality pros, from Claudio Reyna (three seasons and three national titles at the University of Virginia) to Clint Dempsey (three years at Furman) to Maurice Edu (three years and one NCAA championship at Maryland).
The newly crowned champs, who lost last season’s NCAA title game on penalties, have a number of players poised to jump to the pros, including defenders Zarek Valentin, Chad Barson and Kofi Sarkodie, midfielder Perry Kitchen, and striker Darlington Nagbe.
12. Vermes, Sporting hard at work in busy offseason
KC boss confirms club is scouting international talent for 2011
By Andrew Wiebe
MLSsoccer.com – December 11, 2010
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Rumors continue to swirl around Sporting Kansas City’s offseason maneuvering in the player market, but manager Peter Vermes maintains nothing is set in stone just yet.
Vermes confirmed to MLSsoccer.com in a phone interview on Wednesday that the team used all 12 of its discovery claims on Monday, having conflicts with other teams on three players. The coaching staff has also made scouting trips to Europe and the Caribbean this offseason, identifying a few prime targets and eliminating others from consideration.
“We definitely are interested in a few guys out there that we have scouted this past year and had our eyes on,” Vermes said. “We’re working on those opportunities as we speak, but there is nothing concrete at the moment that I would comment on a specific player.”
What he would say, however, was that Sporting remain an active player in both the international and MLS markets as a busy offseason gets into full swing.
In addition to speaking with international targets, exploring possible trades and finalizing contracts with current players, Kansas City have had staff members scouting the college ranks in preparation for January’s SuperDraft and the preceding combine.
“There are quite a few different avenues that we are working and driving down right now,” Vermes said.
And although Omar Bravo’s status as a Designated Player will add an additional burden to the club’s salary cap situation, Vermes said he isn’t concerned about potential moves being hindered or held back by financial constraints or the implications of a larger roster.
With the cap itself rising with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and Kansas City likely to drop a significant chunk of salary assuming well-compensated veterans Jimmy Conrad and Josh Wolff either won’t return or will earn significantly less, Vermes will have some wiggle room.
“I think our salary cap situation is pretty good,” Vermes said. “It gives us some flexibility. I think we are going to have a chance to do some things in the offseason that will help us and some of that is definitely in regards to cap, for sure.”
One thing Kansas City certainly won’t do is sign players that don’t fill needs or provide long-term potential just for the sake of filling all 30 roster spots.
“We’re not going to fill the roster just to fill the places,” Vermes said. “We are going to do it with players that we think fit in to what we are trying to put together. We’re not under any obligation to put 30 guys on the roster. If it ends up being 26, 27, 28, 29 or 30, we just have to be able to put together solid teams for the reserve league. We don’t want to be hasty. We want to be sure we pick up the right players.”
13. Format of Canadian Championship may change
TFC exec. confirms tourney likely to switch to knockout format
By Duane Rollins
MLSsoccer.com – December 12, 2010
TORONTO – The format for the Nutrilite Canadian Championship is likely to change in 2011, Toronto FC business director Paul Beirne confirmed to MLSsoccer.com.
In the past, TFC, Vancouver and the NASL’s Montreal Impact competed in a home-and-home round-robin tournament. The club with the most points at the end was crowned champion, took home the Voyagers Cup and advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round.
With the addition of NASL expansion club FC Edmonton for the 2011 season, however, the format necessitated a change. With the MLS clubs facing a 34-game regular season next year – two more than in 2010 – there was a general consensus that a four-team round-robin wouldn’t work.
A rumor surfaced last week that suggested that the tournament would move towards a knockout format. Reached for comment Sunday, Beirne confirmed that discussions have taken place to move the NCC in that direction.
“We were leaning toward a one-vs.-four and two-vs.-three [semifinal], and then a one-game final,” said Beirne.
Such a format would see 2010 defending champion Toronto play newcomers Edmonton, while Vancouver and Montreal would face each other in a rematch of the 2009 USL championship game. The semifinal would be a two-leg aggregate affair, and the final would be hosted by the highest seed.
One advantage of this format is that it will create a championship game. In 2009, the tournament ended in controversy when Toronto defeated a reserve-heavy Montreal 6-1. The size of the victory allowed TFC to overtake Vancouver in the table to win the title. The Whitecaps then accused Montreal, who had already been eliminated from the tournament, of failing to respect the spirit of competition.
But with the positive comes the negative. The proposed change opens up the possibility of Toronto and Montreal not meeting in 2011. The Reds and Impact have quickly become each other’s fiercest rival despite never having played in the same league.