In baseball it is known as the hot stove league, but with soccer being more of a 21st century game, let’s huddle around our computers to keep up with off-season activities.
And there are plenty of activities to comment on in this week’s MLS Big- 5.
1) Jose Villarreal and 2 More to Mexico
Villarreal (L.A. Galaxy), Michael Farfan (Philadelphia Union) and Rafael Baca (San Jose Earthquakes) have all signed with Liga MX outfit Cruz Azul.
Villarreal’s move is a one year loan, while the other two are straight transfers. Is this the first step in a battle for players between the leagues? We have already seen the U.S. and Mexican national teams battling for players, from the youth ranks up. Farfan and Villarreal are American, while Baca is a Mexican player who played in college for Loyola Marymount.
Farfan and Baca are good players, but Villarreal is the big name here. The Galaxy homegrown product burst onto the scene last year with his play for the U.S. U20’s, and saw significant time for L.A. in 2013. But his playing time diminished as the season went on and Landon Donovan returned from his sabbatical. Another young Galaxy forward, Gyasi Zardes overtook Villarreal in the Galaxy’s attacking rotation, so Villarreal became expendable.
The Galaxy say this move is to get experience for Villarreal, but there are no guarantees. Playing time is key for all three, but isn’t that always the way?
We won’t know if this is the start of a new border war between the leagues until we see what impact these players make in Mexico, but it will be worth watching.
2) SKC’s Rosell to Play for Catalonia
In August 2012 Oriol Rosell signed with Sporting KC, after coming up through Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy. The 21 year old defensive midfielder played a big role in SKC’s MLS Cup Championship this season and now he tops his year representing his native Catalonia, on December 30 against the Cape Verde Islands.
Catalonia is a region of Spain that has long sought independence, and it is not recognized by FIFA or UEFA. Catalonia often plays exhibition games and Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba are scheduled to play in Monday’s match at Estadio Olimpico Lluis Company in Barcelona.
Rosell recently told a Spanish newspaper that he feels that Sporting Kansas City could compete in the English Premier League. Oh, and if you don’t recall seeing Rosell play for SKC, he wears the name Uri on his jersey.
3) Dallas and Chivas USA Still Need Coaches
Everyone else is good. Since the 2013 season ended six MLS teams have named new coaches, just Dallas and Chivas USA remain. That is counting San Jose who upgraded Mark Watson from interim when their season ended in October.
Watson replaced Frank Yallop, who landed in Chicago replacing Frank Klopas, who was just hired by Montreal. Montreal finally fired Marco Schallibaum, after weeks of rumors. Klopas is their third coach since the Impact moved up to Major League Soccer, next season will be Montreal’s third in MLS.
And speaking of unstable, Chivas USA are looking for a coach again. Also recently fired was Denis te Kloese as President of the whole Chivas group, in Guadalajara and California. te Klose was on the job less than a year, so nothing changes with the Goats.
As for FC Dallas, they are still without a coach although they let Schellas Hyndman go before the end of the season. Rumors persist that FCD want Colorado coach Oscar Pareja for the post, but he has a good young team in Colorado, so he may be reluctant to leave.
So, while Dallas dither, New York FC, who don’t begin play until 2015, have already signed up one of the league’s best manager’s in Jason Kreis. Real Salt Salt, Kreis’ old club opted for continuity, signing Kreis’ top assistant Jeff Cassar.
4) All Quiet on the Loan Front
Dempsey to Fulham has been confirmed, but we knew that was coming. Clint’s teammate Obafemi Martins is also said to be anxious for a temporary move. The Nigerian forward is hoping to maintain his national team place ahead of the next year’s World Cup, curiously there is little talk of U.S. hopefuls taking the same step.
Jurgen Klinsmann has made it clear that he wants to see his players make that type of commitment, but so far only Dempsey has taken the bait.
5) Jimmy Nielsen to Coach Oklahoma Energy
Nielsen went from an old, and old looking, goalkeeper to a young coach, when when he signed on with the USL PRO expansion club. Nielsen, last seen gutting out a winning pk performance as Sporting KC won the MLS Cup, goes straight into coaching after a 19 year playing career. After moving to Sporting in 2010, the colorful Danish netminder quickly became a favorite in Kansas City, after spending most of his career in his home country.