The 'Other' Football....

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Latest Trades, Claims, Speculation and Movement

Here's a quick round-up of the latest happenings in MLS:

The Waiver Draft passed with only one claim, Jon Busch to Toronto FC.
TOF: Great pick up for an expansion team, even if he will count as a foreigner on the TFC Roster. It will provide excellent competition to start and give the Canadians a proven starter during the Gold Cup period.

In other TFC news, they team finally announced the signing of Connor Casey.
TOF: The #1 allocation is a hefty price to pay. 5 forwards is also overkill, especially with 4 of the foreigner spots used for the front line. Could lead to a possible money is on Esky to NYRB.

Possibly linked to the delay is the Goff announcement that Robbie Rogers has signed a deal with MLS and will be distributed via a Draft Lottery this Thursday.
TOF: With the rumour that he wanted to join fellow Terp Mo Edu in Toronto, perhaps TFC were trying to swing a deal to bring Rogers into the fray alongside/instead of Casey. They'll have to take their chances, along with DCU, to try and get him now.

Back to the Waiver Draft, and it appears that Spanaird Aitor Karanka was one of the players waived by Colorado, along with once the hyped (and quite troubled) Fabrice Noel. As usual, information was sketchy on those waived.
TOF: Surprising moves on both counts in my opinion. I thought Karanka settled relatively well and was clearly still a class act. Perhpas Claivjo prefers a donkey like Petke, or the snail-paced Greg Vanney. Perhaps Karanka was long gone, but he's definitely not on the roster for 2007. I hope Noel finds another gig, he gave up so much to have his shot at pro soccer in the USA.

I read on the excellent Du Nord (which referenced the Chicago Tribune) that Tony Sanneh is in talks with 2 MLS clubs and expects to have a team before the start of the season.
OTF: He played well last year, but he's going to have to take one helluva pay cut to make a roster in 2007. He made a mind-numbing $365k in 2006.

In more from Goff, he says the latest player to get a look for DC United is Brazillian "Fred" from Aussie A-League side, Melbourne.
TOF: Having watched him during the A-League Highlights show, he looks okay, but then again, so did Diego Walsh (who goes by the cooler "Diego" on his shirt in Australia). He was a decent player on the League Champs (Regular Season and Playoffs). He might be an option on the right, because he's certainly not replacing Christian Gomez in the AMC position.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Latest Player Transactions....

Well, it's the roster compliance day today, with the waiver draft tomorrow. We should see plenty of activity in the next 24 hours. Columbus started the ball rolling by releasing Becerra, Leitch, Busch and Reitiz.

FC Dallas also announced today the loan signing of young Colombian winger Juan Carlos Toja. The deal has been in the works for a while so no great surprises. You can read about the deal in on the FCD website :

In other news, it appears Chicago Fire original Zack Thornton may have been traded to Colorado Rapids. After the departure of MLS' top keeper - Joe Cannon - to LA, an upgrade was anticipated. Rather than selecting Busch from Columbus, who when fit is an excellent keeper, they opted to bring in Thornton. The Rapids currently have Matt Jordan and Bouna Coundoul on their roster. I don't have an official link for this and will confirm once we know this is a done deal.

With trialist's all over MLS at the moment, this isn't exactly life changing news, but Toronto have brought in Sunderland Winger Andy Welsh on trial. He's a lefty, something in short supply in both Toronto, and MLS as a whole. I think MoJo needs to find some defensive depth plus a back-up GK.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

NYRB To Add 2nd DP?

Ives Galarcep is reporting that NYRB could have a new DP within a week at his trusty blog, (Soccer by Ives).

I have to think it's Augustin Delgado, the Tin Man (or more Paper Man with his well documented ijury woes), but I'm sure I wouldn't be alone in being hugely disappointed if NY burned their second DP slot on the eratic Ecuadoran international. Still, they need to add some firepower up top.

At worst, I would hope this would be a 1 year deal to see the club through to 2008, and the Harrison Stadium opening. Surely Red Bull will roll out a marquee name to boost the club and fans ahead of the move to the new digs?

I will of course post when more details are revealed.

Season Kicks Off Today....

By Alan Clark, Wednesday February 21st, 2007.

Not the MLS season, of course, but the first competitive games of the 2007 season will take place today in the CONCACAF Champion's Cup. Here's the games, along with my predictions. Of course, the biggest drawback for MLS teams has always been their pre-season fitness, relative to the mid-season fitness and form of the other teams in the competition.

Puntarenas 1 - 1 Houston (2:30pm on Fox Soccer Channel)

A goal for Houston's high power offense, will be tempered by a late goal that could prove costly. Fatigue will be a factor in both these games. I think this one will be comfortable over the two legs, with Houston sealing the deal on their own turf.

Olimpia 2 - 1 DC United (9pm on Fox Soccer Channel)

I want to think that DC could get a result of some kind in Honduras, but I just don't see it - fatigue/pre-season just seems to be the deciding factor. Plus Olimpia will be motivated to prove Emilio wrong for moving to DC from Olimpia just a few weeks ago. An interesting sub-plot, for sure. The tie will be wide open if DC can nick that goal on the road.

The CCC is not even close to the prestige of it's European Counterpart, however, don't forget, the winner gets to go to the World Club Championships, or whatever it's called now....and that's VERY worthwhile. I can't wait to get to see an MLS team on such a stage.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Maykel Galindo to Chivas USA

By Alan Clark, Tuesday February 20th, 2007.

LA Soccer News is reporting the signing of former Seattle Sounder and ex-Cuban international Maykel Galindo by Chivas USA.

My take: Hardly a prolific striker in his time in the USL, what he does have is an abundace of pace, which should complement Ante Razov well as he tried to reprise his goalscoring exploits of 2006.

One thing he isn't is the name-draw of Paco Palencia, the Mexican legend he's supposed to be replacing on the roster. Still, I think John Cunliffe might challenge to start, so CUSA is piecing back together a viable front line again aroudn the prolific-again Razov. If it doesn't work, well, then CUSA will be labelled as cheap - Palencia, after all, earned a league high $1.3m last season. Galindo will probably earn about $45-50k in my estimation.

He's an SI for now, but as a Cuban asylum seeker, his 'Green Card' (which isn't green at all, it's white) should be obtainable in the medium-short term.

Talent Rating : 6.5/10
Wow Factor : 4/10

Conclusion, not the big name replacement for Paco Palencia even neutrals like I was looking for. Still, he could be the perfect foil for Ante, but he's hardly a goal machine.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

MLS Off-Season Recap...My Thoughts So Far!

An Off-Season Of Change…

By Alan Clark, Tuesday February 20th, 2007.

Well, where do I start? Well, in having turned to my blog it's clear I'm trying to band-aid my withdrawal symptoms; I've never missed a season - a sport even - as much as what I'm going through now. I've so totally immersed myself in all things MLS for 3 years now (to aid my research for Football Manager/WSM) that frankly I'm just about on par with a cold turkey crack addict.

Anyways.....I've used my other tool - Football Manager - to splice in Toronto FC, thus giving the game a fresh lease of life [sorry Kansas City fans, you were, erm, contracted]. I found the code responded better than expected when I added in TFC as a Canadian side. A few tweaks of the DB later and I had a workable facsimile of TFC's inaugural campaign, aside from the whole loss of the Wizards!

So, to the real business....

I didn't take the time to do an analysis of the Super/Supplemental Drafts, NCAA soccer isn't really my forte, but I did read up extensively on many of the players as I had a data update due to SI and I wanted to have something in for the new guys. I've been pretty down on the number of players leaving colleges and bypassing MLS to try their hand in Europe. I get it - $11,700 a year isn't really all that tempting - but it's still disappointing all the same. To lose players to the German 3rd division and Finland does not sit well with me. With all the money the MLS owners have (as evidenced by the Beckham signing if nothing else) I'd like to see a concerted effort to hold more of these players, at least in the short term. Sure, any with any real ambitions will likely venture abroad in due course, such as your Clint Dempsey, Bobby Convey, Carlos Bocanegra and DaMarcus Beasley types, but MLS could aid in their development in the short term, whilst helping the league develop at the same time. It's also proven to be pretty good for youngsters UNMNT aspirations to stay home under the watchful eye of the national coach; even more so now an ex-MLS manager is at the helm.

So, that brings me to Beckham. I can't say I didn't see this's been the combined destiny of Beckham and MLS to collide forever. The money ($10m a year) seems excessive, but you can tell already the amount of exposure he's bringing to the sport in the US. It's almost like he's single handedly accelerated the MLS timeline a decade or more. It doesn't necessarily improve the on-field product, single-handedly, but if it's the start of an influx of talent then I'd be lying if I said MLS couldn't use with a shot of technical ability. Kudos to AEG and the Galaxy (I don't have it in me to thank Lalas) for taking this considerable step, thank you, from me - an average fan.

So, what else is happening in MLS' transfer world?

Well, Toronto is building a team, from scratch. Having selected 10 players in the expansion draft, just two remain - Jose Cancela and Paulo Nagamura. Mo Johnston has assembled what looks like a decent roster - 5 Canadian internationals in Greg Sutton (GK), Jim Brennan, Marco Reda, Chris Pozniak and Adam Braz. Sometime US national players Alecko Eskandarian, Edson Buddle and newest recruit Conor Casey have provided some firepower upfront. Abbe Ibrahim's rights were acquired from NYRB. TFC are currently in Florida for camp. A couple of Canadian U20 players, most notably Andrea Lombardo, are in camp. I have a good feeling about Toronto FC, certainly it’s been a case of so far so good.

The rest of the league has been surprisingly quiet on the acquisition front; DC has added their long-time coveted Brazilian striker in Luciano Emilio; RSL has picked up Freddy Adu and a couple of decent Central American prospects, especially Luis Tejada. Claudio Reyna has made the inevitable trip home to NJ to reunite with Bruce Arena – that was probably even more predictable than Beckham! For $1m a year, Captain America seems like a good pick-up, if not exactly the most glamorous pick-up in MLS history.

And sadly, that’s about it. There’s been a lot of internal moves, infact, for a period in the aftermath of the Expansion Draft, MLS teams played musical rosters, but overall, I can’t help feeling more talent was lost this year than acquired. At least until Beckham arrives. Chivas USA lost Palencia and Juan Pablo Garcia (and Johnnie Garcia for that matter) alone, with fellow Mexican Abundis leaving after just 2 games for NE. Clint Dempsey headed for the EPL, Youri Djorkaeff retired, and several SI’s left for home, or other opportunities, including Jafet Soto, Douglas Sequiera, Alain Nkong, Sebastian Rozental and Avery John. In what was largely considered to be a weak draft, that’s not good for the on-field potential in ’07.

In good news, I was pleased to see MLS reject bids for the Rev’s pair Shalrie Joseph and Taylor Twellman. Infact, I was delighted to see the latter, and Brian Ching, be rewarded with new deals near the MLS wage ceiling for non-designated players. For me, they are the two best US strikers in MLS.

Coaching changes, well there’s been a few; DC’s Piotr Nowak joined up with Chivas USA’s Bob Bradley in the USMNT set-up. They were replaced by Assistant Coaches Tom Soehn and Preki respectively. Curt Onalfo came in at KC and duly cut Bo Oshonyi. So far so good at Arrowhead!

I’m going to do a roster evaluation for each team over the next couple of weeks as I fire my blog up into a daily dish of MLS fare. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Search For The Perfect [#] 10......

By Alan Clark, Tuesday October 24th, 2006.

MLS has often been tagged as a physical, fast-paced league when energy and fitness rule and skill and technique come secondary. To be fair, the USMNT is hardly replete with playmakers and the majority in MLS are from foreign climes.

Only Landon Donovan and Canada's own Dwayne de Rosario could claim legitimate playmaker status in MLS with the balance coming from more skill-driven leagues, namely in South America.

Looking round the league, here are a run down of the primary playmaker(s) on each side:

Chivas USA : Juan Pablo Garcia (Mex), Sascha Kjlestan (USA)
Chicago : Thiago (Brazil)
Colorado : Terry Cooke (Eng), Clint Mathis (USA)
Columbus : Sebastien Rozental (Chile)
Dallas : Ronnie O'Brien (Eire), Ramon Nunez (Hon)
DC : Christian Gomez (Arg), Jaime Moreno (Bol)
Houston : Dwayne de Rosario (Can)
Kansas City : No prototypical #10.
Los Angeles : Landon Donovan (LA)
New England : Andy Dorman (Wales)? Not really a #10 either. Could be Dempsey, but that's not how he is deployed.
New York : Amado Guevara (Hon), Youri Djorkaeff (France)
Salt Lake : Mehdi Ballouchi (Morocco)

There's a few other players poking round the league that could be considered playmakers - Ramon Ramirez (Mex) and John O'Brien (USA) at Chivas would be two. Jose Cancela (Uruguay) at New England another.

Of those on this list I would suspect only the afore-mentioned LD, DeRo, Thaigo, Guevarra and Djorkaeff have earned the right to be a #10. Others could yet grow to fill those boots admirably, such as Ballouchi and Kjlestan, but the majority of the rest are either wingers, or in the role by default. The league lacks some of the big name, creative talent that's been here in the past - the like of Carlos Valderrama, Piotr Nowak and Marco Etcheverry.

Ask many fans who stay away from MLS and the usual line will come back about poor play. What causes the perceived low standard (which in reality is much higher than most realise) is simply a lack of flair players. So, it would seem many fans simply want to see the craft in it's purest form. The individual skill of say your average South American, or African, can be a joy to behold, but not all will work well in any kind of tactical system. Many - even entire national teams - will fail to gel, and collectively they can lack the guile, strategy and workrate that is common place in the average North American player.

A marriage of the two seems to make perfect sense, and has proven effective in the past. I don't think it's any co-incidence that the teams with proven playmakers have been more successful - either with a #10 in the middle or a proven threat on the wings and from set pieces, such as Cooke and O' Brien.

So, that brings me to the point of this thread and the debate I desire; with the impending Beckham ruling, and even without it, MLS seems to desire and need some craft in the middle and to that end I'd like to see your suggestions for players MLS clubs could bring in.....especially TFC!

I'm not on about players like Ronaldinho, a player who could command a considerable transfer sum and wages in excess of an entire team's cap. I'm looking for a crafty older player (although in reality some may be younger, 'unknowns' like Gomez at DC) that could be incorporated into the league. The only real example of this in recent years would be Youri Djorkaeff (especially in 2005).

So, who do you think would work - even out of position, would he come here and why do you think they would be a success.

I'll start the ball rolling with the most obvious one Mr Posh Spice;

David Beckham, Fee : $0 if he doesn't sign a new contract. Age : 32

He's a known quantity, but the only thing I'd say on top of all the obvious things is that his preferred position is in the centre of midfield. A move inside would offset his diminishing pace, and extend his career considerably. His passing is precision personified and his set pieces are second to none, both on the cross and as shots on goal. His commercial boon would simply sweeten the deal, as many have alluded, MLS (and the USA in general) and Bex seems like a match made in heaven.

Claus Jensen, Fee: $0 if he doesn't sign a new contract. Age: 29 now (30 in 07 when his Fulham contracts expires)

Jensen is a very under-rated playmaker currently plying his trade for Fulham. It's about time MLS took a player from the Cottagers as they've pilfered a few freebies from MLS in recent years. Boca, Elliott and McBride are all MLS ex-pats on their team.

Jensen is a good dead-ball player, can cross and scores a few. His current contract expires in 2007 (signed a 3 year deal in 2004).

He's got a bag load of caps and has played in the EPL since 1998 for Bolton, Charlton and now Fulham.

At 30 - and free - he'd be an ideal choice.

Alan Thompson, Fee: Unknown (Low, if not free is my guess). Age: 32 (33 in Dec)

Plays in Scotland so might be an angle their for MoJo, he's creative, left-fotted (always a bonus) got a great free kick to boot.

He's been a little injury prone, but he has excellent experience and the rough-and-tumble of the SPL should have more than prepared him for the physical side of MLS.

He's been in Scotland for 6 years and has yet to feature this year I think so he's probably getting a little restless. I doubt he would command wages that would price him out of MLS.

Decent age and has a few years left. He's probably not quite a #10, but he's got enough technical ability that he could pull it off in MLS. He's certainly worth a shot.

Like Jensen, not a big name, but someone who could work out to be a very savvy pick up, Beckham rule or not.


Of course, the approval of the Designated Player Rule should see a spike in the talent in MLS, and likely at the playmaker (and striker) positions.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

MLS Cup 2006 : Playoff Predictions

By Alan Clark, Tuesday October 17th, 2006.

I'm back! I've been away, taking time to watch the 'Beautiful Game', working on my MLS data for Football Manager 2007 (a.k.a Worldwide Soccer Manager 2007) and generally getting the disappointment of WC06 out of my system.

So, after my blogging sebaticle, it's time to review my preseason predictions:

First up, the Eastern Conference:

Eastern Conference:
Chicago Fire (1st) - Actual - 3rd
New England Revolution (2nd) - Actual 2nd
New York Red Bulls (3rd) - Actual 4th
DC United (4th) - Actual 1st
Columbus Crew (5th) - Actual 6th
Kansas City Wizards (6th) - Actual 5th

I'll take solace in the fact that I went 4/4 on the qualifiers for the playoffs, even if my order was a little out. I believe I'll invoke this get out of jail card "To be honest, the top 4 could go any way". As it turns out, DC were the team in 2006 and rightly won the Supporter's Shield, though the somewhat backed into the playoffs after a poor run of result to round out the year.

KC were in with a shout all the way to game 32 of the regular season, but given EJ's no-show season, they didn't really deserve it. The one good piece of news out of KC this year was new ownership and a lifeline. I'm glad, it doesn't help anyone to play musical chairs with the teams in MLS.

Next up the West. Plenty of surprises there....

Western Conference:
FC Dallas (1st) - Actual 1st
Houston Dynamo (2nd) - Actual 2nd
Los Angeles (3rd) - Actual 6th
Colorado Rapids (4th) - Actual 4th
Chivas USA (5th) - Actual 3rd
Real Salt Lake (6th) - Actual 6th

4/6 spot on in the West, but who saw the defending 'Double' champs LA choking - even without WC-bound Landon and the dire guidance of the Grim Reaper (aka Steve Sampson)?

Still, I correctly predicted 7/8 playoff teams and 5/12 placed exactly as I touted.

Not bad, I could probably have made some money off of that, were I not in a country with inexplicable and contradictory online gambling laws.

So, to the bracket.....


Conference Semi Finals:

DC vs NY : Result DC. DC stumbled a little to end the regular season, but NY were far from on fire. It's a great rivalry, but I don't see NY pulling this one out. However, with the Supporter's Shield winner earning little more than the right to play their #1 rival in a two game aggregate series - starting on the road! - then anything could happen. This one is an upset in the making perhaps.

Score : DC to take both games, narrowly. I'll go with 1-0 at NY, 2-1 at home.

NE vs CHICAGO : Two good teams, both in decent form ahead of the post-season. Steve Nicol overcame some adversity (namely rumblings and dissention in his camp) before guiding the Revs' to 2nd place and home field advantage (which really is little advantage in a two leg tie). Chicago also overcame the mother of all road trips to start the season. Seem to plave plenty of fire power, something NE has struggled for despite boasting some blue chip offensive talent.

Score : NE to take it on aggregate goals. Fire to take game one 2-1, with the Revs 2-0 in game 2. This one is so close, an errant red card, or poor PK call could decide the tie.


Conference Semi Finals:

FCD vs COLORADO : I don't envison any trouble here for the 'Super Hoops', but just like DC, they've reversed over the finish line.

Score : If this one goes according to talent, this could be a blow out.

HOUSTON vs CHIVAS : Hmmm, seems - dare I say it - that Chivas have Houston's number. Could that really happen? Can DeRo find one of his patented Goal of the Season contenders to decide this? One thing's for sure, it should be the best game of the semi's with two of the league's most attractive, attack-minded teams locking horns.

Score : Upset is possible, but I'm going to play it safe and say that the Dynamo will squeak through. 4-3 on aggregate.

Open Letter to Randy Lerner

By Alan Clark, Tuesday October 17th, 2006.

Today I wrote an email and tried sending it to every possible variation of an email address that someone at Aston Villa might have! (using emails found on their website as a guide)
All but one came back (and that was a general info email) so I guess no luck, unless someone happens to pass it along. Anyways....I thought I'd post it here as an open letter...

Dear Randy

I appreciated the remarks made recently about your ownership in Villa being 'for the right reasons', I also understand your ties to the UK. The start of your tenure could not have been better, so congrats there and commendations on the appointment of Martin O'Neil, one of the best managers of our generation.

What I am wondering is why you aren't involved in MLS?

As a successful sports owner, with an apparent passion for football/soccer, surely helping the game out at home should be an option you consider?

Your experience and financial muscle would be an asset to the league and especially now you are invested in AVFC, the option to include North American sister team just plain makes sense. The ability share resources and staff, as well as providing a year round calendar for your players where required is also priceless. It's essentially a way to have two teams for the price of one! It would also be a great way to promote the Villa brand in the US where it concedes considerable ground on the 'larger' EPL/European clubs.

It's disappointing that Malcolm Glazer and yourself would choose to invest so heavily in the sport abroad, yet not at home where the costs are much smaller and the influence of your benevolence could be much greater.

MLS is a league on the brink - I say this as both a fan and an observer. The influx of new ownership, soccer-specific-stadia, expansion and a plethora of recent tv/commercial agreements, shows that MLS is on the rise. I think that other owners have noticed this and that now is the time to step in to be involved in the league as it prepares to take the proverbial 'next step'.

I appreciate single-entity is not for all, but it's clear that the league is moving away from this as it diversifies it's ownership and moves to a more conventional franchise model. The league is ripe, and I for one would love your experience and leadership to join the league.

I wish you well in all your ventures Mr Lerner, and I hope that one day [soon] that might include a foray into MLS - there's plenty of markets available and fans, like myself, willing and waiting to pick up a new team in our region. The US is a big place, big enough for the World's Game.

Best Regards

Alan Clark

Probably totally pointless, but it made me feel better.....