Henry Set for Winter Loan to Arsenal

Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham may be undecided about his immediate future, but his fellow designated player Thierry Henry of the New York Red Bulls has confirmed his plans for the next seven weeks: He’ll be going on loan to his former team, Arsenal, until the MLS preseason begins.

Henry will be eligible to play in the Gunners’ Jan 2 game against Fulham and former MLSer Clint Dempsey, and he’ll return to the U.S. on Feb 20 to join the Red Bulls for the opening of their preseason camp in Phoenix.

If it’s good for Landon Donovan, it should also benefit Henry, right? Well, New York fans certainly hope so, but when you consider that Henry is 34 to Donovan’s 29, and the fact that the Frenchman battled a series of niggling injuries in 2011, you could have misgivings.

In any case, it will be something to see the reception the club legend receives on his homecoming, and of course, if he does well on loan, it will reflect positively on MLS and boost the Red Bulls heading into 2012, as they’ll get a fit, in-form (and hopefully not too physically taxed) player upon his return.

For more on this story, click here, and while you’re over there, please check out our piece on the Best three “Fantastic Finishes” of the 2011 MLS season.

Is Beckham Staying After All?

Either David Beckham has been playing the Clash’s Combat Rock, track No. 3, for the past several weeks, or he’s trying his hardest to add some zip to an early 2012 announcement about his much rumored move to Paris St. Germain.

Because according to today’s Daily Mail, the transfer—once thought to be in the bag—is not a done deal, and may never be one.

During the press conference introducing former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti as the new PSG coach (replacing Antoine Kombouare, who was dismissed despite leading the team to the top of the table heading into the winter break), the Paris side’s sporting director, Leonardo, said of the potential Beckham acquisition, “it’s not done yet and it might not happen.”

It is curious, though, that first-place Kombouare would get the sack and Ancelotti, the man who coached Beckham during his successful loan spell at AC Milan, would be brought in.

Of course, time will tell, but if we had to guess, we’d say the deal is still on. Hard to imagine Beckham engaging the process this far without following through and signing. Additionally, he’s probably enticed by the possibility of winning another league championship (again, PSG is top of the Ligue 1 table right now) and staying on the European radar for the 2012 Olympics in his hometown of London.

Chances are, he’s just (somewhat lamely) trying to build up the announcement for some time next week.

BPFL: The Commish Plays World’s Tiniest Violin, Preps for Crucial Father-Son Derby

As we noted earlier, we cleared the decks at the day job and the freelance post last week and went Yukon Cornelius for a few days, missing out on most of the EPL and BPFL action during the busiest part of the season.

There will have been four Gameweeks (16, 17, 18, and 19), along with the opening of Fantasy Cup* play, compressed into the second half of December up to New Year’s Day. Gameweek 18 and Fantasy Cup first-round matches finished play last night, and totals should be in today. Week No. 19 kicks off on Friday, Dec 30.

Here’s Co-commissioner MGlo with the Gameweek 17 wrap-up:

To borrow a line from Howard Beale: I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!

Once again I can’t catch a break, losing another match I should have won. I am seriously considering changing the name of the Unlucky Loser Award to The Old27m Prize. I know this is given out each week to the team with the highest point total in a loss (I took it this week with a total higher than all but seven of you) but how about to the team that should have won but didn’t, like mine?

Each week, it’s something different: Someone is expected to play and doesn’t, or vice versa; an offside goal is given against me, or my player is whistled for offside after he scores, etc., etc.

This past week I was screwed once again by Clint Dempsey. It was his elbow to the head of Phil Jones that knocked my Manchester United defender out early in their clean sheet victory over Fulham and cost me 5 points and victory. And readers of this column will remember that Dempsey also head-butted Liverpool’s Craig Bellamy back in Gameweek 13, when I faced coloradokeeper. The American midfielder received only a yellow card when a red was in order in that instance, and he went on to score a late winner which sealed my fate.

I have now lost two in a row as I head into the big MGlo Family derby match vs I Am Liverpool, my son, who has lost three of his last four. Liverpool–Everton, Arsenal–Tottenham, Barca–Real, Inter–AC, and Fla–Flu have nothing on this match—one I cannot afford to lose since my son will be insufferable for … well, forever, if I do.

Coloradokeeper remain unbeaten at the top of the table and they keep their 4-point lead over second-place Dynasty of FC Hammer. Third-place Herk City is 3 points further back, while El nino moves into the fourth spot, leapfrogging Bryan 04 Leverkusen, who dropped three spots to seventh. Giorgio Chinaglia took over fifth place.

Performance of the Week: EPLQuakes finally moved from the nearly team to THE team as they took the gong this week. The Quakes took in an 84-point haul thanks to their three strikers, who amassed almost half of the points earned. Captain Robin van Persie led the way with 22, followed by Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero with 13 and Yakubu’s 6. Manchester United’s Nani kicked in 16 while Sunderland’s Stephane Sessegnon scored a goal and 3 Bonus points for a 9-point tally. And let’s not forget Vincent Kompany’s 9 points as well. Well done Quakes!

*See the right hand side of your TEAM page for your Fantasy Cup opponent and result. If you do not see an entry then you did not qualify for the cup.

Here’s wishing you all the best of luck and Happy Holidays!

Thanks, MGlo. Again, Gameweek 19 kicks off on Friday.

Gonzalez, Cameron, Sapong Called to Klinsmann’s January Camp

U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann invited 20 players to his first training camp of 2012, which will take place in Glendale, Ariz., and Carson, Calif., from Jan 3 to Jan 26.

The group will compete in friendlies against Venezuela on Jan 21 in Glendale and against Panama on Jan 25 in Panama City.

The roster is heavy with MLS players, including such first-time call-ups as Graham Zusi and CJ Sapong of Sporting Kansas City, Omar Gonzalez of Los Angeles and George John of FC Dallas.

Here’s the full group:

GOALKEEPERS: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS: Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), A.J. DeLaGarza (LA Galaxy), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), George John (FC Dallas), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas), Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjaelland), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA)

MIDFIELDERS: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt), Benny Feilhaber (New England Revolution), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), C.J. Sapong (Sporting Kansas City), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

In comments published on the US Soccer website, Klinsmann essentially said this was a roster of backups and second-stringers, but the selection includes players such as Beckerman and Shea, both of whom have been regular starters in the early Klinsmann era. “Ultimately, it will create more depth for us, which you need at this level,” said the U.S. coach. “I’m very curious and excited to see this group.”

We’d wager that at least two from this roster—Cameron and Sapong—will edge into the starting-XI picture before too long. Klinsmann has shown a desire to have at least one centerback (in addition to the physically imposing Oguchi Onyewu, presumably) who can pass the ball out of the back skillfully.

He’s tried Tim Ream there for that purpose, with mixed to negative results. Cameron, a converted central midfielder, looks to be a much better option: He is equal to or better than Ream in the foot-skills department and he’s superior both physically (6-3) and athletically. If he shows well in this camp, we’d love to see Klinsmann try an Onyewu–Cameron pairing in the middle of defense sometime soon.

Sapong is a player we’ve been bullish on since we got our first long glimpse of him last spring, and we can’t wait to see him in a U.S. shirt. He’s incredibly athletic, highly skilled and poised on the ball, and he can play with his back to goal, holding possession until his teammates get involved. He’s also got a nose for goal. Check out this clip here for an idea of his potential.

There hasn’t been a striker with his skill set in the U.S. pool since Brian McBride, and Sapong is slightly more athletic than the Fulham legend.

Another player who could challenge for the centerback spot—and who, at 6-5, could offer a Twin Towers pairing alongside Onyewu—is the Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez, the 2011 Defender of the Year in Major League Soccer.

Whatever shakes out, it’ll be interesting to watch. The Jan 21 Venezuela match kicks off at 9:00 pm ET; kickoff time for the Jan 25 Panama game is TBD.

While We Were Away

The busiest week in the Premier League (and BPFL) schedule happened to coincide with the vacation-est week on the Backpost calendar.

We closed a big project at the day job, turned in this, this, this, and a couple of other pieces set to run on the MLS site in the next two weeks, then lit out for the territories for a few days of R n R. Good times.

Now we’re digging out and catching up. One BPFL Gameweek has come and gone (better-late-than-never writeup to follow), and we’re in the midst of another one; the January-camp call-ups for the USMNT are in; Clint Dempsey‘s hot streak continued; and David Beckham’s future … remained uncertain (though French politicians assumed it was a fait accompli and were starkly divided over the rumored million-dollars-a-month salary, with some saying it was obscene in these economic times and others welcoming the 50-percent tax rate Golden Balls would contribute to the French government coffers).

All right–let’s get back to it.

BPFL: Colorado Keeper Beats Back Another Challenge

We are late with this week’s BPFL post—check MLSSoccer.com in the coming days to see why.

But the new BPFL Gameweek began with yesterday’s games  (Wolves 2, Norwich 2; Blackburn 1, Bolton 2) and includes today’s full slate (Fulham 0, Man U 5 [!]) and tomorrow’s Tottenham–Chelsea’s clash.

Did you set your lineup? Yeah … we didn’t. But here is Our Man at the Valley with a belated (entirely due to us) recap of last week’s action:

In the BPFL this week it was a question of bench strength, as roster favorites Ryan Taylor and Gareth Bale both missed games through injury. If you were hiding a Swansea defender on the bench due to his heretofore poor away form you probably got lucky.

The big match at the top of the table pitted our unbeaten leader Coloradokeeper against 4th placed Bryan 04 Leverkusen. Including Week 1 results, the two teams were separated by only a single point heading into the week (887-886 for Bryan).

As of Saturday evening it was a blowout, with the ‘keeper up 38-18 if one factored in the automatic Michel Vorm for Asimir Begovic substitution. Four backline clean sheets and a big day on Sunday from Clint Dempsey were enough for the ‘keeper to remain unbeaten, 68-54.

Elsewhere, my erstwhile work colleague and multisport teammate thissiteblows@PMike (it was about this time of year that he dived after another of my errant American football passes and shattered his collarbone on some frozen tundra in the Bronx) faced his fellow Cahill Towne alum, Old27M. 

Prison Mike took a 15-11 lead in that one after the first day’s play. On Sunday, a David Silva goal and his 3 subsequent Bonus Points put an end to any hopes of a comeback for my co-commissioner. Prison Mike prevailed, 61-52.

Performer of the Week:  This week’s honor goes to The Xerez’s Team, one of the few of us that didn’t need any automatic substitutions.  He rode solid performances from seven different players to a 72-point week.

Unlucky Loser: Team Fortress 4 is this week’s hard-luck case. His 58 points would have been enough to beat 32 others, but they weren’t enough in the face of Tango’s 70 point onslaught.

In the Premier League itself, Chelsea’s run of good form ended at Wigan, as they were held to a 1-1 draw when the increasingly poor Petr Cech gifted Jordi Gomez his fourth goal in five games two minutes from time.  Once again, Chelsea let a clean sheet disappear in the last few minutes of a match and some statistician somewhere is doing a study showing a correlation between the amount of protective gear on Cech’s head and the number of weak goals he gives up.

ClintDempsey had a goal and an assist as Fulham beat Bolton 2-0.  Tony Pulis looked like a genius as he yanked Jonathan Woodgate off after 19 minutes of waving Matt Jarvis through the Stoke defense.  The Potters held steady after that and came back for a 2-1 win at Wolves.

And it was nearly a case of the early birds catching the Vorm in Newcastle, as the Magpies were held at home in a scoreless draw with Swansea, despite peppering 12 first-half shots at Swansea’s Dutch keeper in a scoreless draw.

On Sunday, the two Manchester teams remained top of the table after 1-0 victories over two London clubs.

Thanks, OMATV. Next up, the weekend matches, followed by our personal favorite stage of the season, Boxing Day.

Joe Gyau Shining In US U-23 Camp

He’s been touted as an exceptional talent since at least 2008, when he sparkled at the U-17 national residency program in Bradenton, and this month, 19-year-old Joe Gyau is being called “arguably the most impressive player” in new U.S. U-23 coach Caleb Porter’s training camp in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.

Ives Galarcep wrote a position-by-position breakdown of the current U23 camp over at Fox Sports, and he shares some interesting observations. In addition to Gyau, German-American Terrance Boyd has been a bright spot on the offensive end, with Galarcep calling him “the class of the forward pool.”

On defense, Gale Agbossoumonde  of Eintracht Frankfurt has been solid at centerback, and Galarcep says new Montreal Impact signing Bryan Arguez, who signed in Europe as a teenager, has been “one of the truly pleasant surprises” of Porter’s camp, showing good passing skills, an ability to read the game and versatility. He’s played in midfield as well as at centerback. It will be interesting to see him in MLS next season.

Freddy Adu and West Ham’s Sebastian Lletget also receive high marks, but defender and Name Hall of Famer RoyalDominique Fennell of Stuttgarter Kickers, unfortunately, has sputtered so far in camp.

Go give it a read.

The U.S. U-23s open the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament on March 22, 2012, taking on Cuba in Nashville.

Fulham 2, Bolton 0: Dempsey Hits Third Goal in Four Games

Somebody get Brad Friedel on the line for a comment: U.S. attacker Clint Dempsey powered in a 33rd-minute header to give Fulham a 1-0 lead over Bolton at Craven Cottage on Sunday, netting his third goal in four games, his eighth of the season in all competitions and the 38th of his Premier League career, which is the record for U.S. players in the EPL.

Less than two minutes after his goal, Dempsey sprung teammate Bryan Ruiz behind the Bolton defense, and the Costa Rican scored with a strikingly clever chip over Wanderers’ keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen to make it 2-0, and give Dempsey his fourth assist of the season.

It’s shaping up as a career year for the Texan, and yesterday’s win was an international blow struck for CONCACAF, as Dempsey (U.S.) and Ruiz (Costa Rica) provided all of the Cottagers’ offense. Ruiz assisted on Dempsey’s opener.

The three points moved Fulham (4-6-6), which was eliminated from the Europa League in midweek, up to 11th in the Premier League table as the halfway mark of the season approaches. Dempsey has scored in all four of the Cottagers’ wins this season.

Click here to watch the highlights.

Bolton remained in last-place with the defeat, but did get some good news today: American midfielder Stuart Holden returned to the club’s training facilities to continue his rehab from knee surgery.

Donovan Signals Merseyside Return with Thursday-Morning Tweet: “Once a Toffee, always a Toffee”

Those six words came over Landon Donovan’s Twitter feed early yesterday, causing his 588,475 followers to go, “Hmmm.”

Sure enough, about six hours later, his agent, Richard Motzkin, confirmed that LD would be returning to Everton for a winter loan deal, saying, “Exciting times ahead in the New Year at Goodison Park.”

Hopefully for U.S. and Everton fans those times will be as exciting as Donovan’s 2010 spell with the club, when he had two goals and three assists in 13 appearances and was named Everton Player of the Month:

(What’s up with that “Dono” at the end, btw? Someone needs to tell them it’s “Lando”)

Donovan could make up to 11 appearances with Everton during this loan, including in a Jan. 11 matchup with Tottenham and U.S. keeper Brad Friedel, who recently said, among other unflattering things, that Donovan had taken the “easy road” by forging the bulk of his career in Major League Soccer. That game ought to be interesting.

Also of note are a Feb. 1 meeting with Manchester City, a Feb. 11 matchup against Chelsea, and the Feb. 25 Merseyside Derby versus Liverpool.

See Simon Borg’s helpful rundown of the entire LD 2012 Everton schedule here.

Generation adidas Team Outshoots Almere City 27–6, Loses 2–0

The squad of MLS youngsters known as Generation adidas wrapped up their tour of the Netherlands yesterday with a match against Dutch second-division side Almere City.

Playing their second match in as many days, the Americans gave up two goals inside the first half hour, but still dominated most of the game, particularly in the second half, when they kept the play almost entirely in Almere’s end and outshot their opponents 16–1.

But a combination of faulty finishing and some great saves by Almere keeper Kostas Paristeridis kept the GA side scoreless.

Highlights here:

The GA players fly home to the U.S. today, having gone 1-2-0 in their 10-day tour of the Netherlands.