We lead off this week’s GotSoccer MLS – Big 5 with an off the field item.
1) Manchester City Owner Sheik Mansour to Buy New York City MLS Franchise
No less a source than the New York Times is reporting that Mansour, a member of the oil rich Abu Dhabi royal family, is close to completing an agreement to purchase the MLS expansion franchise for $100 million.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber has long pressed for a a second team in the New York City market to compete with the Harrison, New Jersey based New York Red Bulls. The revived New York Cosmos were for a time thought to be the frontrunners for the team, often referred to as NYC 2. However, the Cosmos have fallen from contention in recent months, as relations between the team and MLS have frayed. The Cosmos will resume league play for the first in decades when they line out in the new North American Soccer League in August. Cosmo officials recently announced plans to build a soccer stadium at Belmont racetrack in suburban Long Island, making their joining MLS unlikely, with Garber set on the Queens site.
Mansour may find that even his money cannot guarantee a way through the New York City and State bureaucracy for the controversial stadium plan, which envisions building the 25,000 seater, capable of expanding to 35,000 capacity, on public parkland in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, New York.
The league has promised to replace the 10 to 13 acres of parkland that the stadium will occupy, a move that would have to be approved by the New York State Legislature, so this deal is far from done.
2) Tim Cahill Nets Twice for NYRB
Tim Cahill scored his first two goals of the season for New York Red Bulls in NY1’s 2-1 win at Toronto on Saturday. Cahill’s coach Mike Petke chastised those who criticized the Aussie for his lack of goals, one in 12 games last season, none in 2013 before Saturday.
Calm down coach, in a league with a $2.95 million salary cap, expectations should be high for your Designated Player, who earns $3.6 million per.
3) Columbus Scoreboard Erupts in Flames – Before Crew Top DC United 3-0
There has been talk that the original MLS soccer specific stadium, Crew Stadium, built in 1999, needs replacing. Advocates of that position got a boost on Saturday when the scoreboard burst into flames shortly before kickoff.
After the Columbus Fire Department gave the go ahead, the game got underway and the Crew lit up the remaining scorekeeping apparatus, with a 3-0 win over last place DC United. Ben Olsen’s last place DC squad have been one of the league’s bigger disappointments this season, with just four points from eight games. Things are much rosier for Columbus who sit in fifth place in the East, with 12 points.
4) Tim Leiweke Brought Beckham to L.A. – Now He Takes Over In Toronto
Since joining the league as Major League Soccer’s 13th team for the 2007 season, Toronto FC has never qualified for the playoffs. Despite excellent fan support, Toronto has failed to reward those fans with even one playoff caliber season. This year Kevin Payne came on board from DC United and he hired new coach Ryan Nelsen. Now TFC owners, the Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Group, have made a real splash in bringing in Tim Leiweke to run the whole show.
Leiweke ran AEG, which like the Maple Leaf Group owns and operates teams, such as the Los Angeles Lakers, as well stadiums, arenas, etc. Leiweke made his biggest noise when he brought Beckham to the Galaxy, and he has let it be known that his new bosses in Toronto have given him license to pursue similarly big game in his new position.
5) Galaxy Youth Movement
The two time defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy are known for their big money DP signings, but Bruce Arena and his talent scouts should also be given credit for signing some of the best young talent in the league, and for giving that talent a chance to play.
On Saturday L.A. traveled to Salt Lake minus star players Landon Donovan and Roy Keane, number one keeper Carlo Cudicini and regular left back Todd Dunivant. Arena turned to third string goalie Brian Rowe, 2012 draft choices Greg Cochrane and Charlie Rugg and 18 year old Jack McBean to fill in.
MLS debutants Rowe and Rugg were right at home, with Rugg scoring L.A’s second goal, while Rowe was outstanding and picked up Man of the Match honors for his heroics. A third debutant, highly touted Homegrown Player Gyasi Zardes, came on when McBean suffered a fractured clavicle. L.A. hasn’t released a timetable for McBean’s return yet. The young striker has been a regular contributor this season, but more than most, the Galaxy have the depth to absorb the blow.
Off with the U.S. U20’s Jose Villarreal wasn’t even available, but Zardes showed why he is so highly rated, with a beautiful bit of skill to set up Hector Jiminez for a shot that came back off of the Salt Lake post.
The big money moves may get the ink, but the Galaxy are proving that scouting and player development are equally important parts of their blueprint for building a winner.