Frank Lampard Headed to Los Angeles?

Lamps

If a Goal.com report published late last night is to be believed, Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard will join the Los Angeles Galaxy on a free transfer at the end of the Premier League season, becoming the second marquee midfielder from England to join the club in the past half-decade, after uh, … whatsisname, blonde guy, good-looking—you know the one.

Lampard is one of the highest-scoring midfielders in Premier League history, with 194 goals in 584 appearances for Chelsea, and even though he’s 34, he still has something left in the tank, having scored seven goals in 14 games this season.

A source quoted in the report, says the transfer is “all but done,” and Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, speaking to reporters at the MLS SuperDraft in Indianapolis, said the club would make an announcement about its third Designated Player next week:

“I wouldn’t be surprised if over the next week or so we’re going to have some kind of decision we’re going to make with a Designated Player. We wouldn’t rule that out. It’s always a possibility.”

Arena and LA would also like to make an announcement soon about the future of the best player in club history, the currently in-limbo Landon Donovan—and preferably one that involves him returning to the Galaxy in 2013.

Because while a Lampard–Robbie Keane combination in their attack would be nice, a Donovan-Lampard-Keane troika would make LA the prohibitive MLS favorites (again).

WAG of the Week: Alexis Montero

MsMonteroSeattle Sounders striker Fredy Montero is about to become ex-Seattle Sounders striker Fredy Montero, and while his impending loan to Colombian side Millonarios is probably regrettable for most SSFC fans (his playoff failures notwithstanding), the deeper loss for MLS fans may be that of Fredy’s missus, Alexis, left.

Born Alexis Immig, she became Mrs. Montero last April. Married life apparently agreed with Fredy, as he bagged MLS career highs in goals (13) and assists (4) in 2012, and helped Seattle to a 15-8-11 record and their fourth straight berth in the MLS playoffs.

But there, again, Montero came up short, failing to score a goal or produce an assist in the postseason for the fourth consecutive season. But enough about Montero’s shortcomings, and back to his better half. Here she is again:

fred:alexis2

And again, on her way to cheer on her man CenturyLink Field:

amontero

It looks like she won’t be doing that in 2013, and the Emerald City will be a little less lustrous for it.

Rafa Marquez May Not Be the Worst Signing In MLS History, But He’s In the Running

Rmarquez

The New York Red Bulls officially cut ties with Mexican superstar Rafa Marquez today, ending the player’s stormy two-and-a-quarter seasons with the MLS club.

We wondered about Marquez’s apparent character issues when New York signed him back in August 2010, and sure enough, the ones we, and millions of U.S. fans, had witnessed were not an aberration. The guy has a raging chemical fire where his sense of judgment and perspective should be. We’ve seen it time and time again.

A brief review:

• 2002 World Cup: He head-butts and kicks Cobi Jones, leaving the U.S. midfielder flat on the ground and drawing a straight red.

• In a Feb 2009 World Cup qualifier in Columbus, Marquez went studs-up into U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, drawing another red.

• Following New York’s 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake in Sept 2011, Marquez—an eight-year veteran of Barcelona and the captain of Mexico’s national team—threw his less experienced teammates under the bus, saying he played as well as he could but, “I don’t have, unfortunately, [other] defenders on my level that can help me out.”

• He didn’t stop there, either. Asked about fellow center back Tim Ream, Marquez said, “Tim is still a young player with a lot to learn. He still has quite a lot to learn, and well, he has committed errors that are very infantile and cost us goals.” Coach Hans Backe suspended Marquez for one game for the outburst.

• Later that season, following a tense, 1-0 loss to Los Angeles in the first round of the MLS playoffs, Marquez chucked the game ball at Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan, sparking a bench-clearing fracas and getting himself suspended for the crucial second leg. Which New York lost.

Here’s the clip:

• In an April 2012 game against San Jose, Marquez bear-hugged Earthquakes winger Shea Salinas on a corner kick and slammed him to the ground, breaking the midfielder’s clavicle and drawing a three-game suspension.

See it here:

• In the first leg of this season’s Eastern Conference semifinal against D.C., Marquez launched a halftime verbal assault on Backe after the coach replaced him with Roy Miller.

• The capper: In the second leg of that series, just minutes after New York gained a man advantage due to D.C. keeper Bill Hamid’s red card, Marquez gave it back, picking up his second yellow, for a reckless challenge on Chris Pontius. D.C. would go on to win the game 1-0 with an 88th-minute goal.

Marquez finished each of his last two MLS seasons with red cards.

Beckham Announces MLS Cup 2012 Will Be His Last Game for Los Angeles

As you’re undoubtedly aware by now, LA Galaxy midfielder and global icon David Beckham has announced that next Saturday’s MLS Cup final at the Home Depot Center will be his last game with Los Angeles and in Major League Soccer.

He has not yet revealed what his next move will be, but he did say that he is not retiring from the game, and that he would like to take on “one last challenge” before hanging up his boots for good. The speculation as to where that challenge will be has begun in earnest.

So his MLS career will end on Dec 1, 2012, in the exact same place that it began on July 13, 2007. Nice symmetry there.

The rest of his time in MLS wasn’t quite so balanced, but on the whole he provided most of what he came to the league to provide. He got off to a rocky start, with injuries, apparent disinterest, more injuries, some hostilities with the public, and some squabbles with Landon Donovan in the midst of a struggling Galaxy side. But once Bruce Arena got the team in order, and results started to improve, the Beckham Era started to take on some shine.

The team made it to the 2009 MLS Cup final, losing on penalties to a rising Real Salt Lake side (Beckham made his penalty; Donovan missed his); they won the Supporters’ Shield the following season as the team with the best regular-season record, and they won the championship in 2011, clipping Houston 1-0 in the final, with Beckham and Donovan hooking up on the winning goal. And of course they’ve made it back to the 2012 MLS Cup final, where they’ll meet Houston again. That’s four conference finals, three championship games, and a shot at two titles in six seasons. Not bad at all.

(Click here for some more stats on the Beckham Era.)

He also did this:

And this, which was fun:

Success arrived off the field, too: Beckham boosted attendance wherever he went, his name sold gazillions of dollars in merchandise (that’s the official league figure), and he boosted the profile and credibility of MLS worldwide, opening the door for players like Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry to follow him here. That’s all to the long-term good of the league.

Over all, the Beckham Era was a pretty resounding success, early friction aside. And the timing of his decision was a perfect piece of PR/showmanship: It gives the league a great hook to market the MLS Cup with, as well as a potential exclamation point on the end of Beckham’s MLS career, if LA win the title again. As Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said, the league owes him a big thank-you.

He may be gone soon, but he won’t be soon forgotten.

And he won’t be gone long: Beckham said he intends to return as an MLS owner in the near future.

Columbus Getting Positive Early Returns from Higuain

He may not be as good as his younger brother, Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain, but 27-year-old Argentine attacker Federico Higuain is off to a fine start as the third Designated Player in Columbus Crew history.

He had an assist in his debut this past Sunday against Houston, and last night, in his first start for the Crew, Higuain set up a goal in the fourth minute and scored one in the 58th, leading Columbus to a 2-1 win over Toronto FC.

Columbus looked dangerous through the first hour, with U.S. midfielder Eddie Gaven, Costa Rican striker Jairo Arrieta and Venezuelan attacker Emilio Renteria all joining Higuain in a fluid attack. Though of course it’s hard to say whether their dominance could be chalked up to the Crew’s skill, or a lack of the same from Toronto, who are now 5-15-5 on the season.

Highlights:

Designated Players can be a crapshoot, as the Crew have found out in the past, breaking even with their previous two—Guillermo Barros Schelotto (thumbs up) and Andres Mendoza (meh, and he had penalty-kick-etiquette issues).

If Higuain keeps this up, he’ll make the franchise 2-for-3 on DPs and could push Columbus into the crowded field of contenders in the East, where the top five teams are just six points apart.

The Crew are seven points out of a playoff spot, but have games in hand on every team ahead of them in the standings.

Rafa Marquez: Still a D***

The latest confirmation comes from this past Saturday’s 2-2 draw with San Jose at Red Bull Arena.

The former Barcelona defender broke the collarbone of Earthquakes winger Shea Salinas with this maneuver—though it’s unclear if the NFL tackle or the parting kick did the damage. You be the judge:

U.S. fans first discovered Marquez’s d***ishness in 2002, when he head-butted and kicked Cobi Jones in the famous dos a cero game that eliminated El Tri from the World Cup in Germany.

They saw another example in 2009, when he got a straight red card for going studs-up into Tim Howard’s knee during a World Cup qualifier (another 2-0 win for the U.S.).

Last season in New York, Red Bulls fans witnessed multiple examples, none more stark than his public criticism of his teammates after a September loss to Real Salt Lake, and his incitement of a postgame melée with Los Angeles after a playoff loss to the Galaxy in September.

After that last misstep, it looked like the Mexico captain was on his way out of New York. He’d thrown his teammates under the boss, behaved like a surly five-year-old, and worst of all, underperformed on the field.

But no: he said he’d be back, and promised to be on his best behavior, in all phases.

Now, just six games into the new season, that plan is off the rails. Major League Soccer’s new Disciplinary Committee is going to have a look at that play, and will almost certainly hand down a suspension, probably for multiple games.

How will Marquez react, and how will this impact the Red Bulls’ season, recently on the uptick?

The answers suggested by recent history are not promising.

“Still Passionate About Playing in America,” Beckham Re-signs with LA for Two More Years

The Beckham family’s tour of global hotspots, which had passed through Milan and appeared on the brink of heading to Paris, has been held over in Los Angeles, as the Galaxy announced yesterday that the iconic English midfielder had re-signed with the team for two more years.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Beckham’s annual salary with LA last season was roughly $6.5 million—or about half of what Paris St. Germain had reportedly offered him in December 2011. After turning that deal down in early January, and bypassing entreaties from Tottenham Hotspur, Beckham focused on hammering out a deal with the Galaxy.

“I’ve seen first hand how popular soccer is now in the States and I’m as committed as ever to growing the game here,” he said in a statement issued by the Galaxy. “My family and I are incredibly happy and settled in America and we look forward to spending many more years here.”

Beckham produced a career-high 15 assists and two goals in 26 appearances last season, getting named to the MLS Best XI for the first time in his stateside tenure, and helping the Galaxy win the Supporters’ Shield, the MLS Cup, and a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, which begin on March 7.

Here’s a highlight reel from his MLS career so far:

The 2011 season effectively rescued Beckham’s five-year U.S. sojourn, which had been spotted by injuries and an apparent lack of commitment. He had engineered two loan deals to AC Milan—one of which caused him to miss the first half of the 2009 MLS season—and his attention seemed to be splintered between MLS and Europe (and another potential call-up to the English national team).

But he put it all together this past season, as did the Galaxy. Beckham was involved in the MLS Cup–winning play, flicking on a header to Robbie Keane, who found Landon Donovan in the box to bury the game’s only goal.

“I am thrilled that David has chosen to re-join the Galaxy,” said Galaxy general manager and head coach Bruce Arena. “I felt that he was one of the best players in all of MLS last season and we could not have achieved the success that we did without him. We look forward to trying to replicate that success this season with David once again in a Galaxy uniform.”

Beckham has now won championships in the Premier League, La Liga, the Champions League, and MLS. So what’s next for the man who’s accomplished just about everything? How about helping the Galaxy become the first MLS team ever to win the CONCACAF Champions League?

As Simon Borg says here, that’s the next frontier. Los Angeles meets Toronto FC in a first-leg quarterfinal on March 7.