It’s a January MLS – Big 5, and that can only mean one thing, player movement. So let’s get to it.
1) Jozy Altidore Comes Home – Well Sort of
Settle down, I know that Toronto is in Canada. I meant Major League Soccer, the league where Altidore got his professional start as a 16 year old with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars.
The U.S. number one striker will join fellow U.S. national teamer Michael Bradley in Canada, and no I can’t imagine coach Jurgen Klinsmann is feeling too good about it.
Klinsmann previously made it clear that he was unhappy that Bradley and Clint Dempsey (Seattle) had brought their talents to MLS from Europe, and there is little reason to believe he feels differently about Altidore’s return.
Still, even Klinsmann would concede that the striker desperately needed out of Sunderland. Now it is up to Altidore to score goals, restore his reputation, and prove that his game will not be diminished by this career move.
2) Defoe Goes to Sunderland
One unusual aspect of the Altidore move is that it comes as part of a North American style trade, rather than as a traditional soccer transfer.
In essence Toronto and Sunderland traded strikers, with no money changing hands. It was this time last year that Defoe and Bradley were announced as the answers to TFC’s long running problems. A somewhat obnoxious PR campaign called the whole thing “A Bloody Big Deal.”
Well Defoe struggled with injury, Bradley struggled for form after the World Cup, and Toronto did what they have done in every other year of its existence to date. TFC missed the playoffs.
Have Toronto gotten it right this time?
3) TFC Add Giovinco From Juventus
It turns out that swapping Altidore for Defoe was not Toronto’s only big move of the off season. No, the aggressive Canadian franchise made another splash by signing Juventus and Italian national team attacker Sebastian Giovinco to a Designated Player contract.
With four DP’s on the books TFC will have to jettison one before opening day. The Brazilian Gilberto is the obvious favorite to be moved or un-DPed.
Known as La Formica Atomica, or the Atomic Ant, the 5’5” Giovinco immediately ups the league’s nickname game. If reports are to be believed, Giovinco also goes to the top of the league’s salary list, with a yearly salary of $7 million being quoted.
That figure has raised some hackles in Italy, but if TFC wants to pony up the big bucks for a 27 year old Italian international, well why not. Yes, Giovinco was spending time on the Juve bench, but he is a talented young veteran with offers across Europe.
Emphasizing his new signings age and resume, Toronto GM Tim Bezbatchenko called the move “a turning point for the league.”
The GM could be right, but only if players of similar age and pedigree follow Giovinco to our shores. If other MLS teams are willing to hand out $7 million a year salaries, I suspect that they might.
4) NYC FC in the Mix
In a move that preceded Toronto’s flurry of big money moves, New York City FC added U.S. international Mix Diskerud to its growing season one roster.
Eager to make up for the Frank Lampard fiasco, the Big Apple expansion side brought in the stylish Norwegian-American on a non-DP contract. It looks like a good bit of business for the moneybags Manchester City owned club. As a player the creative midfielder should do well in MLS. And with his quirky personality Mix should be a hit in NYC.
5) SuperDraft – Part 2
Is it still a “Super” Draft if it is held via conference call days after the first two rounds were held live in Philadelphia? Who knows, but the league’s 20 clubs selected a total of 42 additional players in today’s sequel to Thursday’s main event.
Many of these players will never play a minute in the league, although more than a few will be counted on to fill out rosters on MLS owned or affiliated teams in the USL Pro league.