MLS preseason is underway, the January transfer window is shut and we are back with a brand new MLS Big – 5.
1) Who’s In?
For now, let’s just stick with the new look L.A. Galaxy. Bruce Arena lost a pair of Galaxy stalwarts when Omar Gonzalez and Juninho decamped to Mexico but the acerbic coach wasted little time in restocking.
Replacements start with Dutch hardman Nigel De Jong, infamous for his kung fu kick in the 2010 World Cup Final on a free from AC Milan.
Then there is Ashley Cole, late of Chelsea, Arsenal, England, and Roma, where he hasn’t played in ages while Belgian defender Jelle Van Damme and Emmanuel Boateng complete L.A.’s foreign shopping spree.
Arena also bought domestic, bringing Mike Magee back from Chicago along with Jeff Larentowicz while ex- Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy returns to the StubHub Center from Houston to solve the Galaxy’s netminding issues.
2) Who’s Out?
Of course, Matt Miazga’s move to Chelsea was league’s biggest move in the other direction and we will all wait and see how that one works out.
But Miazga was not the only MLS Homegrown center back to make a bold move in the January window, Sporting Kansas City’s 18-year-old Erik Palmer-Brown recently completed a one-year loan move to Porto.
The Portuguese power is well known for developing talented players, whom they then sell on to big European sides.
Italian giants Juventus previously made multiple offers for the Missouri prospect who has just 10 MLS games to his credit.
3) Is MLS Playing the Tortoise to China’s Hare?
Does MLS have a China problem? Consider this. While MLS continues with its slow and steady policy complete with anti-competitive regulations like the salary cap and the discovery claim rule that is alleged to be keeping Orlando from bidding against DC United for AC Milan midfielder Antonio Nocerino, the Chinese Super League is spending like the proverbial drunken sailor on shore leave.
Guangzhou Evergrande just signed Colombian attacker Jackson Martinez from Atletico Madrid for a record, for now, $45.8 million, Shanghai Greenland Shenhua signed Martinez’ countryman Fredy Guarin from Inter Milan for a reported $14 million and one senses this is just the beginning with Ya Ya Toure said to be next at a possible salary of close to $45 million a year!
None of this is liable to get MLS to upend a fiscal policy 20 years in the making but if the North American domestic league isn’t careful the hare may outpace the diligent tortoise.
4) MLS and the Nats
If Jurgen Klinsmann’s relationship with MLS sometimes brings to mind the childhood game he loves me, he loves me not, then this week the final pedal the coach pulled was all about the love.
With the traditional MLS-heavy January camp winding down the Americans edged Iceland 3-2 to begin 2016 on an up note.
The camp has long served to give MLS based players a look in with the national team but the vibe was much better this year than last.
Last year Klinsmann called out his campers for a lack of fitness, confusing given that the MLS players were in offseason mode. Sporting KC defender Matt Besler spoke out and was quickly sent to Coventry, no not the League One English side- google it.
All seemed well this year and Klinsmann dwelt on the positives after the Iceland match. The haphazard U.S. defense was down to the time of year and MLS veteran Lee Nguyen was the recipient of excellent reviews from the coach, who called the New England Revolution creator “one of the winners,” of the training camp.
Next up is for the U.S. MNT is Canada on Friday night as this game of he loves, he loves me not continues.
5) Stadium News
For the second year running Toronto FC will begin the season with an extended road trip as renovations on BMO Field are completed.
Last season TFC spent the first seven games living out of a suitcase and this season the team will go one better, playing as the visitors for eight straight before finally opening at home on May 7 against FC Dallas.
This second construction phase will see a canopy erected over the seats at the City of Toronto owned Stadium, which TFC will share with the Canadian Football League Argonauts for the first time this year.
Meanwhile a bit further south, signs are pointing toward progress in New York City FC’s search for a permanent home. Mind you, these are just signs.
Antenna were first raised when the New York Yankees, very much a minor partner to Manchester City in this project, increased the amount of money it could borrow, fueling speculation. Then NYCFC sent a stadium wish list survey out to fans and the buzz only got louder.
It is all very much in the rumor stage but after months of no news at all, it will have to do for now.
Big 5 Bonus Item – Stuart Holden Retires
The long and seemingly never ending Stuart Holden comeback has finally came to a close today with an announcement from the former U.S. MNT midfielder that there would be no more comeback attempts.
A star for the Houston Dynamo, the tireless Scottish-born midfielder was making his way at Bolton, where he was voted Player of the Year despite missing the final two months of the 2010-2011 season with a knee injury.
Thus began a torturous merry go round of injury, rehab, injury and rehab again for Holden, who made it all the way back to the U.S. MNT for the 2013 Gold Cup where unbelievably, he tore his ACL.
The always classy Holden was easy to root for across the years as he battled on for one more last chance and he looks well set for life after soccer with a burgeoning television career and a new family to boot.
GotSoccer can only add to the many good wishes that Holden has already received as he heads into that future.