If all goes as planned, Sporting KC forward Teal Bunbury will train with Bolton this off-season. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
You probably thought, now that the MLS season is finally over, you'd have a hard time getting your Sporting Kansas City fix. Think again. This is a year-round league even if there are no games scheduled until March. Just yesterday, Kansas City traded unwanted and/or recalcitrant winger Ryan Smith to Chivas USA for two supplemental draft picks and released its protected list for the MLS expansion draft. (Notable unprotected players: Omar Bravo, Seth Sinovic, Michael Harrington, Soony Saad, Eric Kronberg, Jeferson, Craig Rocastle and Milos Stojcev. Kansas City will likely lose one of those players -- and my money is on either Sinovic/Harrington.) It's only the beginning. Here is a semi-definitive road map to planning out how to follow this MLS offseason.
Sporting Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury is set for a training visit with English Premier League side Bolton, MLSsoccer.com has learned. The 21-year-old spurned the chance to work out with Hoffenheim to visit Wanderers, becoming the latest in a long line of Major League Soccer players to arrange such trips in Europe this offseason. One source indicated to MLSsoccer.com that Bunbury may also work out with another English club after his Bolton stint.
Major League Soccer announced their year-end awards for excellence in season ticket sales and retention on Sunday, and Sporting Kansas City was well-represented. Sporting Kansas City earned plaudits for both season ticket sales for LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, as well as the League’s highest honor in season ticket holder retention. Several members of the Sporting Kansas City ticket staff were also recognized in the awards ceremony that took place just before kickoff to MLS Cup.
Will any of them be selected? The smart money is on Seth Sinovic being picked. The local lad come good after being released by New England Revolution earlier in the season arrived with most Sporting KC fans wondering who he was, and why we had signed him and quickly answered those questions becoming the starting left back at the expense of the out of form Harrington within a matter of weeks. What made Sinovic possibly the shrewdest bit of business this season in terms of trading makes him a commodity for any team building a squad. He is hard working, talented, has a fantastic work ethic, is still only 24 years old and he will only cost Montreal $42,000 a year while he is subject to his current contract. He is cheap.
Yesterday, every club in the MLS including Sporting Kansas City had to give the league their protected list ahead of the 2012 expansion draft which will be held in KC tomorrow at 2 pm. The Montreal Impact have the luxury/burden of raking in 10 of MLS' "under-par" players. But which players should Nick De Santis bring to Canada's third and possibly final team?
I am surprised with the inclusion of Arnaud on the protected list, mostly because of his lack of playing time in 2011, as well as his age and high salary. The exclusion of Sinovic and Bravo on the protected list was also a bit shocking to me. Who knows, maybe Vermes has something up his sleeve (like a deal with Montreal or another MLS club).
This post contains two options for the meaning of the title. Please pick your favorite and ignore the other. Option #1 is additional info on Teal Bunbury's proposed visit to Bolton - and perhaps also Newcastle. There now appear to be a few potential stumbling blocks that could nix the trip to England. One is the ankle injury I reported and another happens to be (ahem) a possible December Olympic camp. To sum up, that makes at least two things we'll be watching over the next several days to see how it turns out for the Sporting KC ace.
This development isn't completely a novelty, as Americans have been training with bigger clubs overseas during the offseason for years; however, the abundance and frequency with which players are getting opportunities to gain snippets of European experience is a sure sign that not only is the caliber of player being produced by MLS and U.S. Soccer improving, but that settling for months off after a strong season will no longer be the norm for the top tier of talent.
But even in that dark season, the seeds of L.A.'s revival had been planted with the hiring of Arena. Since then, the impact of the former U.S. national team manager has been immense. The Galaxy have won an MLS Cup, reached the final of another and claimed two Supporters' Shield crowns. In the process, he has managed to maintain a harmonious locker room replete with huge egos and the requisite staple of American players at the lower end of the MLS wage scale. That isn't easy by any means, and when you factor in the tactical tweak of moving Donovan up top with 33 minutes to go in the final, a change that set the stage for his game winner, you can only conclude that Arena's coaching ability is the biggest reason why Beckham has an MLS championship medal in his possession.
The Montreal Impact soccer club was founded in 1992 and is making the jump to MLS play in 2012. They have played in many different leagues throughout their existence. The APSL, A-League, USL and NASL are just a few. In August, the club announced that 14-year MLS vet, Jesse Marsch, would be their head coach moving forward. He played in the MLS from 1996-2009 and has three championships in the league on his resume.
This isn't my ego talking. North American soccer is a small, close-knit community filled with perhaps the most intelligent, well-read players of any major North American sport. I've never met Russell Teibert in more than passing but he knows what my nickname for him is. I've gotten nice messages from ex-Whitecaps regarding articles I wrote on the occasion of their departure. I've never been called out by a player I rag on for doing so... but I'm not blind enough to think that players only read the nice things I say and magically skip the nasty things. It's just that Peter Vagenas is too smart a guy to punch me in the face for being such a dick.
John Harkes is being replaced by Taylor Twellman as the lead U.S. analyst on ESPN's coverage of men's soccer. Harkes, a former U.S. national team captain, worked his final game Sunday night, the Los Angeles Galaxy's victory over Houston in the MLS Cup. The network said Monday "we informed John Harkes that ESPN will not renew his contract."