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Dec 232013


images MLS News and Notes: Holiday Edition



Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry MLS Offseason! After a year of a few presents (Portland winning the west, a no Houston-Los Angeles MLS Cup, and the GFT writers clubs winning two titles,) and a couple lumps of coal (Montreal and F.C. Dallas bottoming out, and D.C. United only winning three measly games in league play,) we have entered that wonderful time of the year where MLS teams shop for their newest players.

An MLS offseason is perhaps one of the most interesting off-seasons in all of sports because there are so many unknowns involved with it. First, you have something called a Re-entry draft where teams dump players into a pool and other teams go through a draft to pick their best players. It is as confusing as it sounds.

And of course there is always the Transfer Rumors which can go from the plausible (Nicholas Anelka to New York Red Bulls) to slightly plausible (Mixx Diskerud back to MLS,) to the unlikely (Andrei Arshavin to Los Angeles Galaxy) to Toronto F.C. (they are not going to sign Samuel Eto’o and would be insane to pay $10 million dollars or 33.8 million Tim Horton’s donuts for Jermaine Defoe).

When you add these two things, sprinkle in a few coaching moves, expansion, and the MLS College Superdraft, you get a great mix of intrigue, drama, and fun (Lampard to Los Angeles? Why Not!)


MLS Coaching Carousel

MLS may not follow their European brethren on all of the informal norms and decorum of football management, but coaches come and go certainly as fast they do across the pond. Here is a list of teams who will have new coaches come 2014.


Old Coach

New Coach

Chicago Frank Klopas Frank Yallop
Chivas USA Jose Luis Real Casillas TBD
Columbus Brian Bliss Gregg Berhalter
F.C. Dallas Schellas Hyndman TBD
Montreal Marco Schalilbaum Frank Klopas
New York City F.C. n/a Jason Kreis
Real Salt Lake Jason Kreis Jeff Cassar
Vancouver Martin Renne Craig Robinson



While the circumstances may vary from finding a new job (Kreis,) to quitting (Marco Schalilibaum,) to “quitting” (Hyndman) to straight being fired (Renne) to somehow getting a promotion (Casillas) without question many of the teams in the league will look very different next year. But is that a good thing? While new ideas can inspire teams to make advancements, if you look at what teams have had success over the past ten years, each team features a coach that has been coaching the squad for at least three years. Look at this year’s MLS Cup. Both Real Salt Lake Manager Jason Kreis and Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes had coached their squads for relatively lengthy periods (Kreis 6, Vermes 4) and had the opportunity to develop a program, an identity, and chemistry amongst its players.

If there is one coach out of the bunch that might make the leap to a great coach is Craig Robinson in Vancouver. Robinson, a former assistant and player for the Whitecaps, will have a solid understanding of how his team works, and will be getting a squad that is seasoned, that came within a game of making the playoffs last season, and a team that will be healthy. With Forward Camilio Sanvezzo back to full strength and Darren Mattocks looking to make an impression going into free agency, Robinson seems to have found himself in a very good situation.


Hello, Orlando City F.C.

Back in November, stacked between the MLS Cup Final, Champions League action, and this little thing called the World Cup draw, another story came out that is huge to the future of the MLS: soccer is back to Florida and to the state of Orlando. The team, Orlando City F.C., will be taking a route similar to that of Seattle, Portland, Montreal, and Vancouver and bring their logo, likeness, and some of their players from the USL Pro Division to Major League Soccer in 2014.

From an MLS and fan’s perspective, this is a no-brainer. Orlando City already has a pre-established fan base and identity, a soccer-specific stadium in the works, solid management and coaching, and a pedigree. As the 2013 USL Pro champions, Orlando City will come into this league much in the same way the teams in the Northeast and Montreal in Canada brought some excitement to a region that MLS Soccer could not touch. Developing sound franchises in the Southeast part of the United States is both critical to MLS and soccer, as a whole, in this country.

Now, what comes next? Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber has promised 22 teams by 2016, and with Orlando and New York City F.C. taking two of those spots, the question goes to who’s next? It seems very apparent that the league is going back to Miami with David Beckham. While it is true the demographics have changed since the days of the Fusion, this is still a market where fans leave halfway through football, basketball, and baseball games. And of course there is the stadium question where Miami residents are still feeling the pain of having to pay for a $639 million dollar stadium with a Miami Marlins team that pulled a 62-100 record last season. Outside of college football, Miami has a very large problem sustaining a quality product.

During the lost Global Football Today podcast (RIP to a hearty two-hour discussion on MLS expansion) Kansas City’s own Brian Sanders made a very good case for San Antonio receiving a team. With only one major sports franchise, a sport’s mad Texas culture, and a city of 1.3 million people it would be the perfect spot for an MLS franchise. And it is technically in the Southeast, which would satisfy one of the Garbissar’s requirements for the league. Although I am a big fan of Atlanta (especially after watching the Silverbacks supporters during the NASL Championship last month,) I am not a fan of not using the Silverbacks name after the club has been around since the mid-1990. So Texas it is.


How D.C. United Got Its Groove Back

Aside from Chivas U.S.A. and Toronto F.C., there was perhaps no team that needed a bigger facelift than D.C. United. After three wins, 17 goals scored, and 56 goals allowed, it was clear that things were not working out in D.C. So instead of going out to Europe again and buying foreign products, General Manager Dave Kasper and Manager Ben Olsen went domestic, adding Defenders Sean Franklin (Los Angeles Galaxy,) Nana Attakora(San Jose Earthquakes,) Bobby Boswell (Houston Dynamo,) and Forward Fabian Espindola (New York Red Bulls) through the MLS re-entry draft. United also traded for Midfielder Davy Arnaud and Forward Eddie Johnson, and let Midfielder DeWayne De Rosario to Toronto F.C. through the re-entry draft.

There is a lot to like about these moves. Without question, their defense needed to be completely overhauled. Adding Franklin as a left fullback and Boswell on the right should alleviate some of the pressure that United Goalkeeper Bill Hamid saw on the outside last season. Both players are also capable of making runs on counter-attacks and Boswell, in particular, is a specialist on headers in free-kick situations.  Attakora started the season strong for the Earthquakes last season but has had issues with concussions and form throughout his career. Still, a solid addition on the bench. Getting rid of DeRosario was a very smart move because of his injury problems and age. With a little bit better luck with injuries, this team could be one of the most improved teams in MLS. That does not necessarily mean they are going to win the Cup, just that they will win more than 3 games.

But the real question is- how does this benefit the team in the long-term? Is it good to pay to get an Eddie Johnson (30) or a Davy Arnaud (35) when you have two players like Midfielder Jared Jeffrey (20) and Forward Luis Silva (22) who received substantial playing minutes last season and showed some progress towards the end? While Arnaud may add some veteran leadership to the team, he looked like he lost a step last year with Montreal, who relied heavily on aging players last year and barely made the playoffs.

The Johnson deal troubles me. Yes, he did have 14 goals for Seattle in 2012. But he only scored 9 this year and has had very long stretches where he was unable to find the back of the net. He has also had attitude problems going back to his time with Sporting Kansas City that make me wonder what kind of an influence he will have on the rest of the United roster.

Obviously with talks about a new stadium still on the line, they needed to make some serious changes to their roster. But is it worth adding talent whose level has peaked and playing them over players who could still improve? The goal should be to get this team ready for 2015 or 2016 when the new stadium opens. If that means going through the growing pains with Homegrown Products like Midfielder Collin Martin and Forward Michael Seaton, so be it.

The good news for United is that by earning a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League, there will be more opportunities for players to play as starters will need rest. And as United showed last season during Open Cup, the club does take other tournaments very seriously. So it seems like we will have to wait and see how Ben Olsen chooses to blend youth and experience in his starting XI as the club looks to improve from the disaster of last season.


Sounders Regain their Heart

While it was expected that D.C. United would try and put out the dumpster fire of last season and rebuild, perhaps no team has made stronger moves towards winning an MLS Cup more than the Seattle Sounders. After signing Clint Dempsey in the middle of last season, it was expected that the Sounders would make a serious run at the MLS Cup. Though they did make the MLS Playoffs, they were quickly dispatched by the Portland Timbers in the first round.

Coming into this offseason, the Sounders needed to change their perspective a bit. It seemed like the Dempsey signing was Seattle trying to be like the Los Angeles Galaxy, playing with three designated players. But the problem with that line of thinking is that the Galaxy are more than just Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and Omar Gonzalez. What made the Galaxy so good is that they had a core group of players like Sean Franklin, Gyassi Zardes, Juninho, and Mike Magee who were either average or above average players who filled a critical role on the team. The Sounders lacked those type of players last year, but are now making shrewd moves to purchase quality role players. So goodbye, Eddie Johnson and hello Forward Kenny Cooper.

The move that really stands out is trading Midfielder Mauro Rosales to Chivas USA for Forward Tristan Bowen. Rosales came to Seattle to be their creative genius in the midfield. Instead he never really panned out and did not develop a strong chemistry with Dempsey or Midfield Shalrie Joseph. Rosales’ departure should open up a spot for Lamar Neagle, who showed tons of promise in limited action last season in limited minutes. Bowen should also receive some minutes as a super-sub option off of the bench. He possesses tons of speed and showed during his time at Chivas that he has pace.

There are some risks with some of their moves. Defender Chad Marshall, who was picked up through the re-entry draft, is still only 29 and is a two-time MLS Defender of the Year (2008 and 2009). But he has also had issues in the past with concussions which are always a concern for defenders. Still, the Sounders are not looking for a Defender of the Year. If Marshall regains that form, great. But if he can only be a solid defender then that should suffice.

Trading for former Toronto F.C. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei and releasing Michael Gspurning could also backfire. Frei will be coming off of a Torn ACL that ended his season early last year. But before the injury he was considered to be one of the top young goalkeepers in Major League Soccer so this could end up being a steal for the Sounders. They also resigned from U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann to be Frei’s backup.

This team is far from complete. It appears that Forward Obafemi Martins will be taking his journeyman career to some other far off country. And I am sure the Sounders are looking for someone, anyone to take 36 year old Shalrie Joseph off of their hands. But by adding substance over flash this offseason, Sounders Management has given Coach Sigi Schmid the tools necessary to get Seattle farther into the playoffs and hopefully to the MLS Cup.

Sean Maslin

Writer for Global Football Today and Blatter's Blotter. Lifetime D.C. United, Newcastle United, and Washington Warthog fan. Can be reached at @SeanMaslin on twitter or at

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