Timbers fans will be ready for their April 14 home opener. Count on it.
A lot went down while we were up North. Here are the top ten items we would have posted about had we not shuttered the BP for the past 12 days:
10. Philadelphia Signs Homegrown Player Zach Pfeffer
The 15-year-old Upper Dublin, Pa., resident became the fourth-youngest signing in league history. Pfeffer is the 23rd player signed as part of MLS’s recent ‘Homegrown Initiative.’
9. Stuart Holden Hurt in Chelsea Match, Misses Liverpool Tilt
The newly minted Best Player in the Premier League picked up a knock in Bolton’s 1-0 loss to the Blues on Dec 29, then missed the next game, versus Liverpool, on New Year’s Day. Not surprisingly, Bolton, which was also without defender Paul Robinson (suspension), lost, 2-1.
8. Brads Friedel and Guzan Enjoy Big Weeks
Friedel stood on his head to preserve a see-saw 3-3 tie for Aston Villa vs Chelsea on Jan 2, while his backup, Guzan, was loaned out to second-tier Hull City on Dec 30. He immediately stepped into the starting lineup and went 1-1 in his first two games with the Tigers.
7. Dwayne De Rosario Goes AWOL to Celtic
Toronto FC’s deadliest attacker hopped a plane to Celtic Park on Boxing Day (Dec 26) for a few kickabouts with the (original) Hoops. When asked about it, TFC first insisted the player had done no such thing, then said he did not have their permission. De Ro swore that he did have his employers’ OK. Upshot: Toronto worked out an arrangement with Celtic after the fact, and this story is developing.
6. Silly Season of (Aging) Foreign-Stars-to-MLS Rumors Kicks In
While rumors of Ronaldinho-to-LA Galaxy cooled (and he was chased by several Brazilian clubs, and Blackburn), they were replaced by reports that Nicolas Anelka, Adrian Mutu, and Guillermo Franco all had designs on eventual Stateside moves, along with Patrick Vieira, Roberto Carlos, and Marco Materazzi. These reports are always fun and to some extent flattering for the league, but, well, let’s just say that they—and the players’ fitness for MLS—should be taken on a case-by-case basis.
5. Portland Timbers Breach 10,000 Mark in Season Tickets Sold
Think they’re fired up for MLS in the Northwest? Hell and yes. The team surpassed 10,000 in 2011 season ticket sales on Jan 3, and says it will cap the sales at 12,000. The club’s newly renovated stadium, PGE Park, seats 20,000. According to this story, the Timbers’ Cascadia Cup rivals the Vancouver Whitecaps have accepted more than 13,000 season-ticket deposits for 2011, but haven’t said how many of those have been turned into season ticket sales.
4. Purported Beckham Loan Deals Verge on Farcical
More than half a dozen Premier League teams, along with several sprinkled across Europe, were linked to loan deals involving MLS’s most famous player in the past couple of weeks. Most of them turned out to be nothing more than rumors, but this past week Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said he and Spurs were serious about acquiring the 35-year-old winger. Why they would want to disrupt the excellent season they’re having by bringing in a player who is a sideshow in and of himself is an open question—as is why the aging and recently injured (Achilles tendon, last March) Beckham would want to do it, and why Los Angeles or MLS would allow it.
3. Generation adidas, MLS Combine Names Announced
Rising futbol factory the University of Akron provided five of the first nine 2011 Generation adidas players (a 10th player, UCSB defender Michael Tetteh, was added today), and five non-college foreign players were included in the MLS Combine list, a first for the league. Those five, led by Wayne Rooney’s brother John, will be available in the Jan 13 SuperDraft alongside the NCAA candidates. Combine rosters here, Generation adidas players here.
2. Toronto FC Hires Former Dutch International Aron Winter as Coach
The 43-year-old former Ajax midfielder, who will be unveiled tomorrow will also act as Technical Director, with a staff that will include former New England assistant Paul Mariner and Winter’s fellow Dutchman Bob de Klerk, though their roles are as yet unclarified. The trio will try to get an overhauled TFC to the playoffs for the first time in its five-year existence.
1. Robin Fraser Lands Chivas USA Coaching Job
When this announcement was made, some MLS fans tweeted that they’d never heard of Fraser—enhancing our belief that the former rock-solid centerback is one of the most underrated players in MLS and USMNT history. A key assistant coach at Real Salt Lake the past few seasons, Fraser was a five-time Best XI selection and two-time defender of the year as a player in MLS, and always performed well in a U.S. shirt (he had 27 caps). Like TFC, Chivas is in a severe rebuilding mode, so Fraser has his work cut out for him. He will reportedly hire former Galaxy and U.S. teammate Greg Vanney as an assistant.
All right, we are more or less caught up. Next: Clint Dempsey continues to tear it up for Fulham, and MLS Combine news.