Saturday night’s international friendly between the US and Chile—which featured nine MLS players in the Yanks’ starting XI—was the centerpiece of yet another buzzing week of the 2010-11 offseason.
The past seven days saw the long-awaited signing of an out-of-contract MLS superstar, a splashy front-office acquisition by the club aspiring to be the second New York-area franchise and the usual complement of hot-stove developments.
All that, and Chivas USA’s newest striker went all Joe Namath in a FutbolMLS.com podcast (that’s vintage Namath, not Suzy Kolber–era Namath, thank goodness).
Let’s hop to it.
The primary takeaway from the 1-1 draw between the US and Chile at The Home Depot Center on Saturday was the instant offense provided by Sporting Kansas City striker Teal Bunbury and Red Bull New York forward Juan Agudelo when they entered the match in the 59th minute.
The US had struggled to find a rhythm in the frenetic, up-tempo game, and they trailed 1-0 when the two young strikers came in. Fifteen minutes later, Bunbury tied it on a penalty that Agudelo drew.
In celebration of his goal, Bunbury sprinted to the endline and unveiled what looked like his version of The Dougie. As Agudelo joined in, TeleFutura announcer Pablo Ramírez upped the ante, refitting a Black Eyed Peas song for the occasion: “I like the Boon-boo-ree! I like the Boon-boo-ree!”
(Actually, that moment may have been the primary takeaway from the game.)
Bunbury and Agudelo later combined on an excellent exchange that sprung the Red Bulls youngster in the box, but his shot from 12 yards was smothered by Chilean keeper Paulo Garcés.
After the game ended 1-1, Bunbury said of Agudelo, “I feel really comfortable playing up top with him. I feel like our chemistry is really growing.”
No one watching Saturday’s game could disagree.
City of Ángel
Agudelo’s former teammate in New York, 35-year-old striker Juan Pablo Angel, had faced an unsettled future ever since the LA Galaxy selected his rights in Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft on Dec 15.
After making their choice, the Galaxy had seven days to tender Ángel a “genuine” offer, per the terms of the Re-Entry Draft, a player dispersal mechanism hammered out as part of the new collective bargaining agreement last March.
LA did that, but Galaxy fans spent the next five weeks waiting for the other shoe to drop. It finally did last Wednesday, when the all-time leading scorer in New York history agreed to terms with the Red Bulls’ West Coast rivals.
This move, of course, gives the Galaxy a blockbuster trio of Designated Players: the player with the most goals in the league since 2007 (Ángel), the best dead-ball striker and most famous figure in MLS history (David Beckham) and the best American player ever (Landon Donovan).
There’s a lot to look forward to—and a lot at stake—at The Home Depot Center this spring. If this group can’t capture an MLS Cup for the 2010 Supporters’ Shield winners, look for an overhaul in 2012.
“If you will it, it is no dream.”
Every time the nascent (re-nascent?) New York Cosmos make news, we think of John Goodman’s line (quoting Theodor Herzl) from The Big Lebowski.
Here is a club with no players (outside of their two academies, one on each US coast), no stadium and, so far, no league, that is conducting business as if all of the above were a mere formality. It’s not what could be with this group—it’s what will be. You have to admire the attitude.
This past week they made their biggest splash yet, hiring former Manchester United great Éric Cantona as director of soccer—then blasting the news 30 stories high on a Times Square skyscraper.
Cantona joins former LA Galaxy and US national team midfielder Cobi Jones (hired on Jan 10) in the Cosmos front office—which is even more of a figurative term in this context than it usually is.
The Cosmos are hoping to become the 20th MLS team, and second in New York, in 2013. You can bet they’ll be in the news again many times before then.
Offseason Week 9 Hot Stove
Philadelphia and Chicago topped this department this week, as the Union welcomed two internationals and the Fire said goodbye (at least for now) to one.
In an effort to shore up a defense which conceded 49 goals last season (tied for second-most in the league), the Union completed the long-rumored acquisition of veteran goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón and also signed his fellow Colombian international Carlos Valdés, a defender.
Mondragón, 39, joins the Union from Bundesliga side FC Cologne, while Valdés, 25, last played for Colombian first-division club Independiente Santa Fe.
The Fire, meanwhile, confirmed last Thursday that Designated Player Nery Castillo will go on a five-month loan to Greek club Aris, onetime home of MLS alums Eddie Johnson and Freddy Adu.
“This is a great opportunity for Nery to get consistent playing time, and we look forward to monitoring his progress in the coming months,” Fire technical director Frank Klopas said, implying that Castillo could return to the league.
That remains to be seen, but another Mexican international, Club América captain Pável Pardo, is eyeing a move to MLS. Pardo told FutbolMLS.com, “I believe that it will happen,” possibly as soon as this spring, when his contract expires. He also suggested that he would take his talents to “the West Coast, up north.”
Given Pardo’s geographical hint, and assuming the 34-year-old with 148 caps for Mexico warrants Designated-Player status, the options would be San Jose, Portland and Vancouver. Seattle already have three Designated Players (Freddy Montero, Blaise Nkufo and Álvaro Fernández).
Lost In Translation?
Chivas USA’s second pick in the 2011 SuperDraft, 22-year-old Ecuadorian striker Victor Estupiñán, made some waves this past week by announcing on FutbolMLS.com's Tiro Libre podcast that he was “really anxious to score 25 to 30 goals” in his debut season.
Never mind that Landon Donovan has never scored more than 20 in an MLS season, or that the all-time league record is 27 (Roy Lassiter, 1996)—we like the attitude.
Hey, if you will it, dude, it is no dream.