The 2011 Major League Soccer season may be over for all but two teams, but as we know there will be plenty of action over the next several months to keep us busy. From the CONCACAF Champions League draw on Tuesday all the way to the start of the 2012 season some time in March, the MLS offseason barely even qualifies as an actual offseason.
Last night club CEO Robb Heineman wasted no time in getting the off-season started when he announced to his legion of twitter followers that he had submitted a bid for a Spanish DP, Robb went on to say on his twitter account, "...and btw, making an offer on a Spanish DP today...".
Major League Soccer announced the MLS Rookie of the Year on Tuesday, adding Sporting Kansas City forward C.J. Sapong to an impressive list of previous award winners. Sapong scored five goals and dished out five assists for Kansas City in 2011, leading all rookies in points, and appeared in all 34 regular-season matches for manager Peter Vermes, the only Sporting player to do so. He also scored in the club’s Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Colorado Rapids.
Anywho, judging by the remaining candidates, Sapong's selection shouldn't ruffle any feathers. Perry Kitchen finished second. If Kitchen had found a consistent position he might've been more widely voted, but he vacillated between positions at the back line and midfield all year, although very capably. Farfan, Nagbe and then Bruin rounded out voting, although I think Nagbe's now-famous juggler goal constituted most of his interest. As for CJ's individual skill, I wouldn't call it into question. I'll eye his USMNT prospects carefully, especially considering his familiarity level with the 4-3-3.
n the case of Livestrong Sporting Park, the new home of Major League Soccer club Sporting Kansas City, the team will donate about $7.5 million of all stadium revenues, including ticket sales and concessions, to cyclist Lance Armstrong’s foundation that serves those battling cancer. "Access to Livestrong’s partners, contacts and donors will help garner events, concerts, charitable functions and meetings utilizing our spaces," Robb Heineman, Sporting Club’s chief executive officer, said in an email.
As we learn more and more about the saga that was Gary Smith's coaching tenure with the Colorado Rapids, it's becoming increasingly clear that there are really no good guys. The Rapids, by just about all indications, were being cheap in any number of ways, and waiting until six months after their coach won the franchise's first-ever MLS Cup to open negotiations on a new deal was just the most obvious. But Smith hardly casts himself as a very sympathetic figure. Apparently, he's been complaining for quite some time about the way the team is run. Just a month or so ago, he went public with his displeasure with technical director Paul Bravo, saying one of them was going to have to go. Now, it comes out that he went public only after he had agreed to financial terms with the Rapids on an extension. That is not how an effective leader should behave.
The job SKC manager Peter Vermes did in guiding his side to the Eastern Conference regular-season crown is worthy of the league's Coach of the Year award. The pieces the former U.S. international has assembled on the attacking end are quite impressive. Yet if the loss to Houston on Sunday revealed anything, it's that some tweaking, especially to the back line, is needed. Matt Besler made considerable progress this season and remains a player for the future. But while Aurelien Collin popped up for some critical goals down the stretch, his decision-making against the Dynamo -- particularly in terms of when to play the offside trap and when to drop back and give ground -- remains suspect. Look for Vermes to bring in reinforcements next season.
Hans Backe told the New York Post Tuesday that he expects New York's midseason acquisition and Designated Player goalkeeper to return to Germany, leaving the Red Bulls with an unresolved situation in goal yet again. Part of the reason that the club dealt Dwayne De Rosario to D.C. United was to clear cap space to sign a goalkeeper of Rost's caliber, but the move amounted to a high-cost, short-term rental during a season that ended short of lofty expectations. Bouna Coundoul appears to enter the offseason as the club's top option in goal, although it's an area that is likely to be addressed again.
Anyway, I may need to tap the brakes on that hasty pronouncement of Donovan reduced by injury to Donovan-Lite. I’m still not certain the U.S. international isn’t still bothered by his recent injury; he still doesn’t appear 100 percent Landon to me. On the other hand, as I watched Sunday’s contest I decided that he was restrained by design, that perhaps Bruce Arena adjudged a more conservative deployment for Donovan the best way to manage a tricky night against Real Salt Lake’s high quality midfield.
Going forward, MLS clubs will have more influence in the USA, including providing free opportunities to play for talented players. Plus, we may see more American youth clubs partnering with international clubs, which will pay for the training costs of talented young American players. Chelsea, for instance, is experimenting with this right now. Obviously, a big difference between the USA and European countries is that most promising young American soccer players will end up playing college soccer, while promising young European players have the goal of being professional players. There are many, many more college soccer programs in the USA than there are professional clubs in any European country.
The odds are in favor of another MLS team advancing to the finals of the CONCACAF Champions League for the second straight year after the quarterfinal draw was released on Tuesday. The LA Galaxy will face Toronto FC in one home-and-home quarterfinal series, with the winner taking on the team that emerges from the quarterfinal matchup between the Seattle Sounders and Santos Laguna. It gives a 75 percent chance for an MLS side to qualify for the finals.