Major League Soccer teams opened preseason training camps all across the country this week providing plenty of fodder for this week’s MLS Big – 5.
1) Dempsey on the Mend!
And that is good news, whatever MLS club you root for. It came as something of a shock for American soccer fans late last season when it was revealed that “Deuce” was suffering from heart trouble and Dempsey’s health understandably took priority over soccer concerns.
Dempsey would miss Seattle’s surprise MLS Cup winning run but the second all-time U.S. MNT goal scorer seemed to be in good form at the MLS Cup and during the Sounders victory parade.
This week Seattle GM and President Garth Lagerway told reporters after a Sounders training session that Clint Dempsey has been given the go-ahead to participate in practice.
Dempsey “is healthy enough to train,” Lagerwey said. “That has been determined. But we’ve still got some mileposts we’ve got to hit along the way as we continue to progress him. I don’t want to set any expectations because we’ll either hit them or we won’t. There is no timetable. We’re not prepared to put any more structure on it than that.”
2) Ian Harkes Follows in his Dad’s Footsteps – Signs with DC
Ian Harkes, the MAC Hermann Trophy winning son of former U.S. MNT captain and current coach at USL club FC Cincinnati John Harkes signed a Homegrown contract with his father’s former club DC United this week.
Speculation that Europe was in the cards for the younger Harkes makes this signing a potential coup for United and it has to be a popular move with the DC fanbase.
Although Ian is a defensive midfielder, in his time at Wake Forest the son showed that he shares his father’s knack for scoring spectacular goals, although he may never match Dad’s 1990 Goal of the Year, a 40 plus yard blast that beat England number one Peter Shilton when John was playing for Sheffield Wednesday.
3) Captain Dax Shipped to ChiTown.
It has been an odd couple of weeks for the New York Red Bulls beginning with rumors regarding coach Jesse Marsch and then Sporting Director Ali Curtis, and now this.
The Red Bulls traded team captain Dax McCarty to Chicago for $400,000 in GAM (General Allocation Money). 29-year-old McCarty is playing the best soccer of his career, recently earning a call to the U.S. MNT January camp. Still, the move makes some sense for the Red Bulls, who have a younger, cheaper replacement in Sean Davis ready to step in and can use this money to fortify other weaknesses, did someone say center back?
But replacing McCarty’s influence in the locker room may be a bigger challenge, which brings us back to Marsch and Curtis. Since Curtis abruptly hightailed it out of Los Angeles just before the MLS SuperDraft, the club’s Sporting Director has been incommunicado, doing nothing to disabuse rumors that Curtis has been ousted, despite Red Bulls statements that all is well.
As for Chicago, they couldn’t be happier. McCarty will slot into a revamped Fire midfield alongside former Galaxy MLS Cup winner Juninho while new DP signing, Serbian forward Nemanja Nikolic will be be looked on to provide goals for what figures to be a much improved Chicago Fire squad.
4) Freddy Who? Freddy Adu!
The long and winding road that has been the career of one-time American Pele, Freddy Adu has turned off at Portland Timbers preseason camp in Tucson, Arizona. Courtesy of their time together with the U.S. U23 team that failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, Timbers coach Caleb Porter has offered Adu a trial.
Given that Adu was unable to make an impact in a one and half year stint with NASL side Tampa Bay Rowdies it is fair to say Adu’s chances of sticking with Portland are slim.
Another blast from the past, although it was a much more fruitful past, is Oguchi Onyewu who is training with the Philadelphia Union. Injuries slowed the former U.S. MNT standout, who last played in the English Championship for Charlton during the 2014-15 season. Philly coach Jim Curtin and Sporting Director Earnie Stewart both downplay the possibility of Gooch suiting up for the Union, although Stewart told reporters, “never say never. That’s the way soccer is. Obviously, we are looking for an experienced center back and I guess it’s pretty easy to see he fits the mold.”
The union has also handed a trial to Fafa Picault, who less than a year ago emerged from nowhere to land a U.S. cap in a friendly versus Puerto Rico. The New York City-born speedster was playing for St Pauli of the Bundesliga 2 when a four-goal outburst fired up the hype train.
That train has since derailed and so Picault finds himself in Philadelphia camp looking for a job. He is still just 25 and if Curtis and Stewart can get Picault back on track they might have a made a steal.
5) Jones to L.A. – Spector Comes Home for the First Time
It was a move that had been expected for months but Jermaine Jones and the L.A. Galaxy finally made it official last Wednesday; the U.S international is a member of the Galaxy. L.A. acquired Jones’ rights from the Colorado Rapids on December 13 but it took over a month for the sides to work out the details.
Jones is the rare veteran to come to L.A. in an off-season that has seen Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, Steven Gerrard and even coach Bruce Area depart.
Sometimes U.S. international Jonathan Spector has landed in Orlando after spending his entire in career in England. The versatile defender and occasional midfielder originally signed with Manchester United before moving on to West Ham and eventually Birmingham City, where Spector has played since 2011 and should provide the Lions with solid play and veteran presence.