Guzan Denied Work Permit

So it's not just Iraqi players who get denied work permits from the Home Office after all.
Brad Guzan's $4 million transfer to Aston Villa has been thwarted this afternoon as the goalkeeper's request for a work permit has been turned away by an appeals board in England. He will rejoin the US Men's National Team camp ahead of next Wednesday's game against Mexico and will be a member of Chivas USA when the 2008 MLS season kicks off in late March.

"We're very disappointed with the outcome as we were really looking forward to Brad joining us but unfortunately it wasn't meant to be," Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill said.

A minor setback for the player, this development will allow Chivas some time to plan for a future Guzan exit, as the netminder will certainly be at the top of many teams' lists when the summer transfer window rolls around.

"Although we share in his disappointment at the denial of his British work permit, we know that Brad, like the true professional he is, will continue to work hard to improve every day on and off the field with Chivas USA," Chivas USA coach Preki Radosavljevic said.

Update: Guzan Awaits Appeal

Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan has left the US Men's National Team training camp in Carson, California, presumably to fly to England as the final details of his transfer to Aston Villa get hammered out.

The final step in the process is to go before an appeals committee in hopes of obtaining a work permit, since he doesn't meet the requirement of having played in 75% of his national team's games over the past two years. It's a relatively routine thing to see nowadays, with Eddie Johnson going through a similar hearing before his recent move to Fulham could be finalized. The thing that Johnson had on his side is something working against Guzan: time - the international transfer window closes today, meaning an up or down decision on the keeper's future must be made before the end of business today.

If approved, MLS would stand to inherit more than $4 million for selling the 23-year-old, roughly the same amount that current U.S. #1 Tim Howard was worth to Manchester United in 2003.

And again, Chivas USA has zero other goalkeepers on its current roster.

Christian Gomez Trade Likely

As D.C. United has made officially the acquisitions of a quintet of South American players, it has become apparent that Christian Gomez no longer figures in the club's future plans.

Though a Middle East departure is still possible, several MLS teams have inquired about obtaining rights to the former MLS MVP. The Colorado Rapids are aggressively pursuing D.C.'s former #10, and there are whispers of a trade, according to Insider Steven Goff. In fact, negotiations have progressed well, leading Goff's source to say he "would be surprised if it does not happen."What United would get in return is uncertain, but they likely will settle for some combination of draft picks and allocation money. Gomez made it clear that he would not be sticking around unless D.C. was willing to use their Designated Player slot on him, a spot now being occupied by United's new #10, Marcelo Gallardo. Therefore, anything they can get in return for the 33-year-old would be a positive.

Colorado has been shopping around Pablo Mastroeni for the duration of the offseason. Any chance he could end up in the nation's capital as part of a mega-deal for Gomez?


Chivas USA Coach Joins Klinsmann

Chivas USA assistant coach Martin Vasquez has accepted a position as assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann with German giant Bayern Munich and will be leaving the MLS club immediately, according to a press release put out by the club today.
"Martin Vasquez has been a member of Chivas USA since the very beginning, and I would like to thank him for his service to our club. He will be sorely missed," said head coach Preki. "Our search for an assistant who can capably fill Martin's shoes has begun in earnest, and we look forward to making an announcement in the coming weeks."

Vasquez has been with Chivas USA since their inaugural MLS season in 2005. Prior to joining the rojiblancos, he served as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Galaxy, the San Diego Spirit of the WUSA and Cal Poly-Pomona.

"Working with Chivas USA since its first season in 2005 has been a valuable learning experience and a tremendous source of pride for me. I would like to thank Chivas USA's players, coaching staff, and all my colleagues and friends in the organization for the chance to work with this special club during the past three years," said Vasquez. "Although I look forward to working with Jurgen Klinsmann at an important institution such as Bayern Munich, out of respect for Bayern's current manager Ottmar Hitzfeld, I shall refrain from making further public statements until officially assuming my new post in July."

Update: Expansion Race

The race to be granted the 16th MLS franchise is coming down to the wire, with both Philadelphia and St. Louis feeling Miami's breath on their necks. There are significant developments to pass on tonight, as each city tries to upstage the others in vying for attention from the league.


Philadelphia: The long-dormant plan to build a soccer-specific stadium in suburban Chester is moving forward with new life this evening, as several sources say a big announcement is planned for Thursday. According to at least one report, state leaders are planning to announce the arrangement for $45 million worth of funding to assist in building a facility on the waterfront.

Governor Ed Rendell and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi will be present at the press conference, scheduled for 2 p.m. EST at the Wharf at Rivertown, a renovated office complex close to where the stadium site would be. Getting state funding was seen as the last key hurdle into bringing an MLS franchise to the fourth-largest market in the country.


St. Louis: Not to be outdone, the city of Collinsville, Illinois is stepping up their efforts to land the next new MLS club. On Monday night, the City Council approved a tax increment financing (TIF) plan by a 4-1 margin, which should help draw potential investors to the project.

The major holdup with the Collinsville plan is not funding; it's a lack of investors. Commissioner Don Garber has gone on the record that he would like to see a broader, better-bankrolled ownership group. Currently, the biggest investor lined up is Jeff Cooper, whose vocal support is rooted in the idea of bringing a team to an area that has been integral in the country's soccer history.


At this point, it appears to be Philadelphia that may cross the finish line first, as MLS has been eager to get into the area for a long time now. It's not clear if a Philly team would begin play in 2009, as was originally planned, due to the delays in getting funding lined up.

St. Louis and Miami have all but locked up the other two spots that would bring the league to 18 teams. Beyond that, there will be a final push from all interested cities for the final pair of slots, with a second New York club, Las Vegas, Montreal, Atlanta, Phoenix, Vancouver and Portland all in the running.

Dynamo Sign Backup Keeper

The Houston Dynamo have wasted no time in replacing Zach Wells, inking European veteran goalkeeper Tony Caig to a four-year deal (two guaranteed, with an option for two more).

"I'm delighted to be joining Houston and MLS," said Caig. "The league has gotten so much exposure worldwide and with it getting stronger year by year, this is an opportunity I couldn't turn down."The backup role is one Caig, 34, has gotten quite accustomed to over the latter part of his 18-year career. Making 244 starts for Carlisle United in the '90s, the English netminder spent much of the following decade serving as the #2 netminder for Newcastle, Hibernian, and Charlton Athletic. After three consecutive years without a start for the Magpies, Caig opted to come to North America, signing with the Vancouver Whitecaps, where he would lead the team to a USL championship. Following a brief stint with Gretna of the Scottish Premier League, Caig has landed in Houston and will serve as back-up to 40-year-old Pat Onstad.

"We are excited to obtain a player of Tony's caliber," coach Dominic Kinnear said. "Tony has a wealth of international experience and will fill a need on our roster."

But can he play forward?


Szetela Loaned to Italy

Danny Szetela has been loaned with an option to purchase to Serie B club Brescia Calcio, according to the website of his current side, Racing Santander. The agreement will last through June of this year.
Playing time has been extremely scarce for the former Columbus Crew midfielder, as the 20-year-old midfielder has not appeared in a single La Liga game and has logged just 65 minutes total - all via a start in the club's fourth round Copa del Rey draw against Malaga CF.

Solid play with the US MNT over the summer at the U-20 World Cup increased interest in the Passaic, New Jersey native. Before moving to Spain, Szetela had been pursued by Roma and Newcastle United, among others, but ultimately joined Racing after the conclusion of the 2007 MLS season.

He received his first call-up with the senior squad in last October's victory over Switzerland, setting up Michael Bradley for the game-winning goal.

Reports: Zurawski to Columbus

Several reports are coming out tonight that say Celtic striker Maciej Zurawski has officially agreed to play for the Columbus Crew, a solid signing if it is indeed true. MLS Rumors claims that it is a "done deal" and goes on to offer a few other details:
- Zurawski's salary will be somewhere in the range of $500,000 per year, but allocation money will be involved in a way that will allow the crew to hang on to their Designated Player spot. The Polish forward's contract has been structured with performance incentives.

- Zurawski will be leaving for Ohio as early as tomorrow afternoon. An official introductory press conference will be held by the Crew either at the end of this week or the beginning of next week.

Zurawski, 31, has played for Celtic since 2005, appearing in 55 games and scoring 22 times. He has also appeared 67 times for Poland, including in the 2006 World Cup, scoring 16 goals in international play. Together with Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the Crew attack can boast two major spark plugs with worldwide credibility, a major plus for both the club and the league.

CONCACAF Champions League

The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) has announced today the official launch of the new continental club championship, the CONCACAF Champions League, which will commence in August 2008. The CONCACAF Champions League will replace the Champions' Cup, which will cease to exist after the 2008 edition.

The CONCACAF Champions League will feature four teams from Mexico and USA; three Caribbean sides; two clubs each from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama; and one representative coming from Canada, Belize and Nicaragua.

Eight clubs (two Mexican, two USA, one each from Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador) will be seeded and progress directly to the first round of the Champions League, while the Caribbean slots have been increased to three teams for this event.

The remaining 16 teams will be paired in eight home-and-away preliminary match-ups taking place from August 26-28 and September 2-4.

The preliminary round winners will join the other eight seeded teams in the group stage that consists of four groups of four. All the teams in each group will play each other in a round-robin system during six match dates from September 16 - October 30.

The top two clubs from each group will advance to the knockout phase, playing home-and-away elimination. The quarterfinals commence in February 2009; semifinals begin in March; and the Finals will take place in late April.

The CONCACAF Champions League winner will qualify as the region's representative to the 2009 edition of the FIFA Club World Cup.


Capello Doubts Beckham's Fitness

Fabio Capello is set to start his tenure as new head coach of the England squad by continuing his frigid relationship with David Beckham in much the same way it ended when the two were at Real Madrid together.Beckham, 33, has been training with Arsenal over the past few weeks in an effort to keep up his fitness in the MLS offseason. Currently sitting on 99 caps, he has made no attempt to conceal how important it is to him to reach the 100-appearance milestone for his country. It was thought that England's upcoming friendly against Switzerland on February 6th would be a fine occasion for the footballing legend to reach that plateau, and it was even reported that Beckham would again be named captain of the squad in honor of his achievements.

But word is leaking out that Capello is unsure of Beckham's match fitness, seeing as how the midfielder has not played in a competitive match with the Los Angeles Galaxy since the end of October. So concerned is Capello that he recently had a talk with Arsenal fitness coach Tony Colbert and his own fitness coach, Massimo Neri, about whether Beckham warrants a place in the first lineup produced by the Italian.

Capello is said to be keen on Blackburn's right-sided midfielder David Bentley, who some say is the new David Beckham.

"Hopefully he will get his 100th cap and then I will come on for him as a sub," Bentley said. "I really respect him, and it is nice to hear people sometimes describe me as the next David Beckham, but it is a dog eat dog world. I am there to take his place, which will hopefully make England a better team."

Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has come to Beckham's defense.

"David deserves to play in the team, and not just because it will be his 100th cap," the former England coach said. "Even if he is in America I think he can still fight for his place in the team, certainly his right foot is no worse than it used to be."


Key Transfers

With the international transfer window drawing to a close, here's a rundown of some of the major transfers and signings that have taken place. After looking over the list, cast your vote in the poll at the upper-right corner of the site on whether MLS has made a net-gain or suffered a net-loss in talent so far this offseason.

Chase Hilgenbrinck - Colorado Rapids from Nublense (Chile)
Franco Niell - DC United from Argentinos Juniors (Argentina)
Gonzalo Martinez - DC United from Millonarios (Colombia)
Duilio Davino - FC Dallas from Club America (Mexico)
Ian Joy - Real Salt Lake from St. Pauli (Germany)
Marcelo Gallardo - DC United from Paris Saint-Germain (France)

Rumored Incoming:
** Celestine Babayaro - Los Angeles Galaxy from Newcastle United (England) **
** Gonzalo Peralta - DC United from Club Atletico Brown (Argentina) **
** Fabrice Pancrate - Chicago Fire from Paris Saint-Germain (France) **
** Maciej Zurawski - Columbus Crew from Celtic FC (Scotland) **

Marcos Gonzalez - Columbus Crew to Universidad Catolica (Chile)
Troy Perkins - DC United to Valerenga IF (Norway)
Bryan Arguez - DC United to Hertha Berlin (Germany)
Joseph Ngwenya - Houston Dynamo to SK Austria (Austria)
Nate Jaqua - Houston Dynamo to SC Rheindorf Altach (Austria)
Eddie Johnson - Kansas City Wizards to Fulham (England)
Clint Mathis - Los Angeles Galaxy to Ergotelis (Greece)
Andy Dorman - New England Revolution to St. Mirren (Scotland)
Pat Noonan - New England Revolution to Aalesund SK (Norway)
Clarence Goodson - San Jose Earthquakes to IK Start (Norway)

Rumored Outgoing:
** Taylor Twellman - New England Revolution to Preston North End (England) **
** Brad Guzan - Chivas USA to Celtic (Scotland) **
** Matt Pickens - Chicago Fire to Norwich City/Preston North End (England) **

Others Enter Guzan Sweepstakes

Though Celtic may be readying a formal offer for Brad Guzan, the final destination for the 23-year-old Chivas USA goalkeeper remains up in the air with only days left in the transfer window.
Guzan, who spent last week training with Celtic, was offered a contract shortly before returning to the United States to consider his options. But now, the Guardian is reporting that Aston Villa has launched a bid for the 'keeper, and there is also significant interest being expressed by Liverpool and the French club Auxerre.

Wherever he ends up, it should be a great career move for El Guzano, and Chivas USA will be reeling without him.

Houston Gets A for Affordability

From the housing market to gas prices to the war in Iraq, it seems there is not much good news to discuss when talking about America's economy. But when it comes to sporting event ticket prices, Houston can boast three affordable choices, according to the Houston Chronicle - the Rockets, the Texans, and the back-to-back MLS champion Houston Dynamo.
In a study of average ticket-prices league-wide, the Houston Dynamo ($20.50) rank below the MLS average of $22.47. The most-expensive tickets, no surprise, can be found in Los Angeles at an average of $32.50, while cross-town rivals Chivas USA offer better quality on the pitch at a lower price ($19.40). The cheapest tickets are for sale in Kansas City ($17.50), just ahead of the Colorado Rapids average ($17.90).

"I'd say the Dynamo, then Astros, then the Texans offer the best value," said Keith Rubenstein, a casual sports fan who attends a couple of games per sport per year. "The Dynamo are probably the best value for your money probably because of where they play," said Rubenstein, who has attended one match at Robertson Stadium.

Heading into their third season in the Bayou City, the Dynamo are hoping to covert walk-up fans into season-ticket holders by raising ticket prices around $2 on the day of the game, and are having some success - Dynamo senior vice president of business development Steven Powell cited a 140% increase in season ticket sales, a very promising figure for the club.

Average MLS ticket prices:

1. Los Angeles Galaxy ($32.50)
2. Toronto FC ($30.29)
3. D.C. United ($29.00)
4. Chicago Fire ($24.00)
4. New England Revolution ($24.00)
League Average - $22.47
6. New York Red Bulls ($21.83)
7. Houston Dynamo ($20.50)
8. Chivas USA ($19.40)
9. FC Dallas ($18.50)
9. Columbus Crew ($18.50)
11. Real Salt Lake ($18.25)
12. Colorado Rapids ($17.90)
13. Kansas City Wizards ($17.50)

Source: Houston Chronicle

Iraqi Star Denied Work Permit, U.S. Blamed

Iraqi soccer star Nashat Akram has been denied a move to a top club in the English Premier League after British officials rejected his application for a work permit, and many blame the United States for the situation.

Akram, 24, had been playing with Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates, where he was scouted by officials with Manchester City. So impressed was the club that they immediately bought out the remainder of his contract for $800,000, and the midfielder had begun training in England in anticipation of his transfer. Things looked promising until Britain's Home Office denied the application, not once but twice, citing a technicality that the Iraqi national team is ranked outside the top 70 (two-year average rank - 71), and has not played against any of the worlds top 20 teams recently.

"This is a very, very unfair decision," said the player's agent, Najim Mohammed. "We want to make good relations between Iraq and the U.K. and America. We want to show Iraqi people these people want to help give us a hand. But this is against Iraqi people. They keep the people suffering. They don't give them any joy."

Akram's skills were expected to land him immediately in the first squad at Manchester City.

"We genuinely don't understand the decision. We thought the immigration authorities would take into consideration that Iraq, because of the domestic problems, would have difficulty playing against any of the top 20 countries."

Reaction in Iraq was naturally angry, with protests and demonstrations being planned in support of Akram.

"Thanks to the Americans, we can't do this," said Ahmed Abbas, general secretary of the Iraqi Football Association. "We couldn't have games in Iraq. Even abroad, we can't have games."

Iraqi lawmaker Fawzi Akram (no relation) is asking the foreign ministry to investigate the issue.

"Highly decorated Iraqi players from different kinds of sports are prevented from entering different countries regardless of their high level of professionalism," he said. "They are trying to repress Iraqi professionals from attaining their objective and goals.

Some Akram highlights:

Miami Offers Rent-Free Stadium

The movement to re-activate Miami as an MLS franchise has gathered steam in recent weeks, with several proposals to build a soccer-specific stadium being bandied about. Florida International University is attempting to get a leg up on the competition however, by offering use of their brand-new stadium RENT-FREE, an idea that has heads turning to southern Florida, perhaps away from Philadelphia and St. Louis.

Pete Garcia, athletic director at FIU, has suggested that a professional soccer team could use the Panthers' 18,000-seat stadium, which is set to open in September, at no charge. He is hoping that the campus' facility can become a choice venue for domestic and international matches in the future, since the Orange Bowl is shutting down.
"I basically told Major League Soccer that we'd do whatever it takes to get them here, even if we have to give them free rent," said Garcia. "I know the city of Miami is talking about building a $100 million soccer stadium with 25,000 seats, but by September 20, we will have an 18,000-seat stadium with 19 suites, lots of parking, and easy access from the Florida Turnpike. If the Miami deal falls through, we'd love to have MLS.

"We will become the perfect venue to host international tournaments, exhibitions, and pro matches," Garcia continued. "There are a lot of soccer fans in West Dade, and hosting games would be great exposure for FIU, plus we would benefit from the concessions and other game-day activities."

For their part, MLS has sent representative Dan Courtemanche to tour the venue, but the league's official stance remains that they would like to see a new $100 million stadium built instead.

"Our focus right now is working with the mayor of Miami and the city officials on the potential stadium at the Orange Bowl site," said Courtemanche. "We are still very interested in that project, and that is what we are focusing on."

Crew Insist Schelotto Stays

One of the more interesting stories during the MLS offseason thus far has been the plight of Argentina's Guillermo Barros Schelotto. The Columbus Crew midfielder, who will turn 35 in May, quickly became a fan favorite in Ohio's capital. He lead the team's charge back to mediocrity with five goals and 11 assists in 22 games, lifting the club to challenge for a playoff spot until the last week's of the regular season.
Then, things turned ugly. Reports from Argentina linked Schelotto with a return to his native country. He was even quoted as telling a local television station that he would like to return to play for his hometown team of Gimnasia y Esgrima de la Plata (currently in a relegation battle), but the "only problem is this contract with MLS. I don't have anything to talk about with Gimnasia, as we could seal an agremeent fast. I am going to try to break the relationship now, as in June, I would have the same problem."

Apparently, GBS has had a change of mind over the past few weeks, at least in the eyes of Crew head coach Sigi Schmid, as Allen Hopkins reported on his 'Hot Stove' segment for ESPN SoccerNet.

"I talked to Guillermo a couple of days ago and he will get his P-1 visa stamped in Argentina on Jan. 21 or 22 and his itinerary for his return to Columbus is all set," Schmid said. "It was much easier for us to play 'bad cop' for Guillermo because of all the pressure on him to help his hometown club. Everyone is telling him he's the club's savior and he wants to help because that's the type of pro, type of person he is, just a great guy. It's all fine with me because that's part of the game you have to play sometimes."


Christian Going, Going, Gomez

Steven Goff has been giving us insight into the negotiations that have been taking place, off-and-on for the past 18 months, between D.C. United and former MLS MVP Christian Gomez, and it doesn't sound as if he will be returning to the club in 2008.

At some point during this year-long process, United did offer two guaranteed years with incentives for a third guaranteed year, valued at between $300,000 and $350,000 per season, but Gomez had it in his mind that he was a $1 million player. To clarify, not $1 million per season, but $1 million over two, which would have meant $500K per year and DCU's designated player slot. United was not going to go there, and you probably can't blame them.

One source told me that Gomez also became too emotional about things, such as United's pursuit of Juan Sebastian Veron, even though that signing had nothing to do with his standing on the club. Along those lines, Gomez apparently was also miffed that he did not receive any of the team's major postseason awards.

"It's a sad ending," said another source.

Through an intermediary, Gomez wanted to say: "Thank you to D.C. fans. My family and I will miss them."

With all that being said, Gomez may choose to remain in MLS next season; Goff noted that a half-dozen teams have shown interest in signing or trading for rights to the 33-year-old. There is also apparently a $600,000/year offer from an unnamed club in the Middle East.

Where will Christian Gomez end up?

RSL Jumps for Joy

Attempting to solve the defensive woes that plagued the club in 2007, Real Salt Lake has signed San Diego native Ian Joy to a senior roster spot. He will help fill the hole created by Eddie Pope's retirement in a backline that was third-worst in the league last year.At 26 years of age, Joy has spent most of his professional career overseas, playing for St. Pauli of the German 2 Bundesliga for the past three seasons. As a teenager, he spent time in the youth system of Manchester United before moving on to Division One side Tranmere Rovers. Following that, Joy had short stints with Scotland's FC Montrose and England's Kidderminster Harriers and Chester City. Though he returned to the US in 2003 with the Columbus Crew, he never officially saw action with the club and soon departed for Germany.

Joy has represented the United States at the U-17, U-20 and U-23 levels.

"Ian brings a wealth of knowledge of playing at a high level and at the international level," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "Obviously, he has some ability, but we also brought him in because we feel he can be a real leader."

For his part, Joy says he relished the opportunity to return to his home country, and thought that Real Salt Lake would make the perfect fit for him.

"Major League Soccer has always been a dream of mine, and I didn't want to be 30 years old and finishing my career when I joined," said Joy. "I have come to Real Salt Lake to do the best I can, to become a better soccer player, and learn from the coaches, but most importantly I have come to win. It's in my blood and I will do anything it takes to walk off the field after every game a winner."

Supplemental Draft Complete

The 2008 MLS Supplemental Draft was held via teleconference on Thursday afternoon, with a total of 51 players selected over the draft's four rounds. All players who met draft eligibility requirements that were not selected in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft and additional players nominated by teams were eligible for selection.

The San Jose Earthquakes selected UC - Santa Cruz forward Adam Smarte with the first overall selection. He was informed of the club's decision to select him when SJ head coach Frank Yallop left a congratulatory phone message for the 20-year-old who was born in Monrovia, Liberia."I'm excited," Smarte told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. "I was hoping to get picked up. Then when I went No. 1, I can't ask for anything better than that."

1. San Jose - Adam Smarte, F
2. Toronto FC - Xavier Balc, F
3. Colorado - Kevin Forrest, F
4. Los Angeles - Michael Gavin, D
5. COL - Cesar Zambrano, M
6. Columbus - Billy Chiles, GK
7. New York - Danleigh Borman, M
8. New England, Mkokheli Dube, F
9. Chivas USA - Kraig Chiles, F
10. D.C. United - Brandon Owens, D
11. Kansas City - Pat Healey, M
12. Chicago - Kai Kasiguran, M
13. New England - Chris Tierney, D
14. Houston - Johnny Alcaraz, M

15. SJ - Tim Bohnenkamp, F
16. TFC - pass
17. Real Salt Lake - Tino Nunez, F
18. LA - Charles Alamo, GK
19. COL - Mike Graczyk, GK
20. CBS - Cory Elenio, M
21. NYRB - Michael Palacio, M
22. FC Dallas - Yannick Reyering, F
23. CHV - Javier Ayala-Hil, F
24. DCU - Dan Stratford, M
25. KC - Vicente Arze, M
26. CHI - Adrian Bumbut, F
27. NE - Kyle Altman, M
28. HOU - Craig Thompson, F

29. SJ - Greg Curry, D
30. TFC - pass
31. RSL - Kevin Reiman, M
32. LA - Greg Folk, D
33. COL - Daniel Antunez, M
34. CBS - Lukasz Tumicz, F
35. NYRB - John Gilkerson, D
36. FCD - Ben Shuleva, D
37. CHV - El-Hadj Cisse, M
38. CBS - Zola Short, F
39. KC - Tom Gray, M
40. CHI - Zach Pope, M
41. NE - Saidi Isaac, F
42. HOU - Kieran Hall, M

43. SJ - Tim Jepson, D
44. TFC - pass
45. RSL - Kenny Anaba, F
46. LA - Daniel De Geer, M
47. CHI - Steve Bode, D
48. CHI - Tim Conway, M
49. NYRB - Manuel Laurent, D
50. FCD - pass
51. CHV - Andre Sherard, D
52. DCU - James Thorpe, GK
53. KC - Andrew Kartunen, GK
54. CHI - Melford James, Jr., GK
55. NE - pass
56. HOU - James Georgeff, F

Twellman To PNE Back On?

In the UK, the Lancashire Evening Post is reporting that Preston North End has not given up in their chase for New England Revolution star Taylor Twellman.
PNE's previous offer of $2.5 million was firmly turned away by Major League Soccer, prompting the Football League Championship side to look elsewhere. Back in America, Twellman vented his frustration over the situation to several media outlets, giving MLS a black eye of sorts for keeping him in the dark over his international options.

Now it appears that Preston is readying another run at the Kick Medic spokesman.

"We have got until midnight on Thursday," said Preston boss Alan Irvine, "and, the way things have been going, I'm fully expecting to be sitting here at Deepdale at 11:55 p.m."

From the article:

Preston, who said last week the deal was 'dead and buried', have now set Tuesday as the cut-off point for agreement to give Twellman enough time to fly over from Boston and complete the formalities, including a medical.


Jaqua Follows Ngwenya out of Houston

The reigning back-to-back MLS Champions may be facing a goal-scoring drought next season if this trend continues. Just days after forward Joseph Ngwenya opted to sign with Austrian club SK Austria Karnten, fellow striker Nate Jaqua has followed suit and signed a deal with SC Rheindorf Altach, also of the Austrian Bundesliga.
And just like that, a sizeable chink has been put in the armor of the defending champs. Past statements from team officials fervently denied that the club would be making use of their Designated Player slot in 2008, because 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it,' but an offensive spark may be necessary at this rate.

Jaqua, who bounced around from Chicago to Toronto to Los Angeles before being traded for Kelly Gray, finished 2007 with seven total goals (six with Houston) and two assists. He has notched 30 goals and 14 assists in 129 career MLS games.

Together, Ngwenya and Jaqua tallied 13 goals for the Orange in 2007, which accounted for 30% of the team's offensive production. The remaining major sparkplugs for Houston are now an aging Dwayne De Rosario, who sleep-walked through most of last season before waking up late, and an increasingly injury-plagued Brian Ching.

Houston fans, is now the time for the club to find a DP, or at least make a trade for a big MLS name? And if so, who would be on the top of the 'wanted' list?


French Striker Fire-Bound?

The Chicago Fire are in negotiations to bring French striker Fabrice Pancrate to the club from Paris Saint-Germain of Ligue 1, the Chicago Tribune's Luis Arroyave writes on his blog - The Red Card.
Pancrate, 27, is currently on loan to FC Sochaux-Montbeliard from PSG, having also been loaned out to Real Betis of Spain last season, where he scored a single goal in seven appearances for the La Liga side. The 6'1" attacker could be paired up top with Chris Rolfe, but can also be used as a right-sided midfielder under new head coach Denis Hamlett.

"Obviously, we're looking at finding another forward, and finding someone who can help us out a little more on that right side," said team president John Guppy. "I don't think we're done making moves yet."


Another MLS Player Lost to Norway

As reported here last week, the New England Revolution declined their 2008 option on forward Pat Noonan, freeing him up to sign with any club outside MLS, and today it appears he has done just that, reportedly inking a deal with Norwegian side Aalesund. There, he will be joining former Revs goalkeeper Adin Brown, who made the move to the Tangoshirts after losing his starting job to Matt Reis in 2004.

He becomes the third high-profile MLS player to bolt the league in favor of a Norwegian club, following similar moves from D.C. United keeper Troy Perkins and FC Dallas/San Jose Earthquakes defender Clarence Goodson.

Here are some statistics from Noonan's MLS career:

* Third-highest scoring player in Revolution history, behind Taylor Twellman and Joe-Max Moore.
* Regular season (119 games): 37 goals, 29 assists.
* Post-season (17 games): 5 goals, 1 assist.
* Set career highs in 2004 with 11 goals and 8 assists in the regular season.
* Was selected for the All-Star Game in 2004, playing 45 minutes.
* Appeared in three MLS Cups with New England.
* Has earned 12 caps for the senior U.S. MNT, and most recently recorded an assist in their 2-0 victory over Sweden on January 19, 2008.

Update: Benny Rules Out MLS

Those hoping to see Gold Cup hero Benny Feilhaber suiting up for an MLS club will have to wait for that day, as the Derby County midfielder's agent has told the media his client is not interested in making a move to the U.S. league at this point in his career.

Rumors heated up last week when Derby turned down an offer believed to be in the £275,000 range from Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv for the former UCLA Bruin, citing increased interest from MLS, but that interest apparently doesn't match the player's goals.

"Benny really isn't interested in a move back to MLS right now," said Feilhaber's agent, Henner Janzen. "He would prefer to stay in Europe.

"The deal with Maccabi isn't completely out of the picture yet."


Ngwenya Headed to Austria

Continuing the trend of established MLS players going to Europe (seems like there's one a day now), forward Joseph Ngwenya has reportedly left the Houston Dynamo to sign a contract with SK Austria Kärnten. Ngwenya has chosen to leave behind the defending back-to-back MLS champions in favor of a team that is fighting to stay afloat in the Austrian Football Bundesliga. The development was not completely unexpected; Ngwenya has in the past used the MLS offseason as a chance to train with clubs overseas.
"We've been aware of (Ngwenya's) desire to explore his options in Europe," Dynamo president Oliver Luck said. "Some players really believe Europe is the place to be."

Ngwenya, 26, started his career with the LA Galaxy before moving on to Columbus and then eventually Houston. The native of Plumtree, Zimbabwe was a big factor in helping the Dynamo score a second consecutive MLS Cup, providing an offensive spark with seven goals (tied for the team lead with Brian Ching) and 3 assists in 25 games played after being acquired from the Columbus Crew early last season. He has 17 career goals and 10 assists in 95 career games. He scored the tying goal in the 61st minute of MLS Cup 2007 against the New England Revolution, before teammate Dwayne De Rosario put the Men in Orange ahead for good.


Crew Looking to Make International Splash

The Columbus Crew are searching the globe for a player who will help elevate the club into the upper tier of Major League Soccer. Head coach Sigi Schmid has dropped a few hints as to which players are on his list of possible Designated Player signings.

Polish striker Maciej Zurawski is the most frequently mentioned name in conjunction with a move to the Crew these days. Linked with the Los Angeles Galaxy for the past several weeks, it appears that Columbus has taken the lead in negotiations to land the Celtic forward."Certainly he has the background we are looking for," said Schmid recently.

Negotiations are ongoing but are apparently going well enough that a transfer fee is being negotiated, believed by Soccer365.com to be in the range of a half-million dollars.

"Our offer is concrete," said Crew assistant Robert Warzycha. "His agent Mark Donaghy is now negotiating with Celtic over the transfer fee."

At last Friday's MLS SuperDraft, Schmid also said Columbus is zeroing in on a Romanian midfielder who does not play professionally in Romania and would fill their DP slot. The only caveat, according to Schmid, is that the player would not be available until the summer.

Jaime Moreno Re-Signs with D.C.

Steven Goff of the Washington Post is reporting that Jaime Moreno has signed a new contract with D.C. United with guarantees for the 2008 and 2009 seasons, but will involve a pay cut for the all-time leading scorer in MLS history.
Moreno, now 34, has scored 112 regular season goals in his 12-year MLS career, three better than Chivas USA's Ante Razov. The six-time All-Star had an injury-riddle season in 2007, starting just 15 games. In 21 total appearances, he scored 7 goals and 6 assists, but critics say the Bolivian international has visibly lost a step and is no longer the offensive threat he once was - four of his seven goals last season came from the penalty spot.

Moreno had been linked with a move to Qatar for one last paycheck before retiring, but apparently he believes he has at least two years left in his legs, opting to stay in D.C. even though he will earn a reduced salary from the $275,000 he made in 2007.

Chicago Making Moves

The Chicago Fire remain active on the trade circuit, this afternoon sending central defender Jim Curtin to Chivas USA in exchange for conditional draft picks.Curtin, 28, was hampered by injuries in 2007, making just 10 starts and coming on once as a substitute. He has appeared in 162 games for the Fire since 2001 (145 starts), and was named to the All-Star team's starting lineup in 2004, playing all 90 minutes in the Eastern Conference's 3-2 win. He has four goals in his career to go with six assists. At 6'4", 205 lbs, Curtin's size should help him pair nicely in the Goats backline with Claudio Suarez.

Luis Arroyave of the Chicago Tribune is also reporting that the Fire have traded a fourth-round pick in the 2010 SuperDraft to the Columbus Crew for the rights to Andy Herron. The Costa Rican forward appeared in 18 games for Columbus last season, scoring four times and adding two assists. He also played for Chicago from 2004-2006, adding 15 goals and three assists over three seasons.There are rumors floating around that Herron wants to return to Costa Rica to sign with Saprissa, but should he decide to stay in MLS, he will be property of the Chicago Fire.

Pickens Turns Down Fire Offer

The Chicago Fire have come to the realization that Matt Pickens may not be their starting goalkeeper in 2008 after all. After a breakout year in '07, Pickens, currently exploring options overseas, has turned down the club's contract offer according to Luis Arroyave of the Chicago Tribune, leaving the Fire to search for Plan B.

"We made what we felt was a good offer last night and his agent turned it down," said Fire coach Denis Hamlett.
Pickens, 25, made 102 saves last season and posted a 1.15 GAA over 27 games for Chicago. His performance earned him a ticket to USMNT camp earlier this month, but Pickens chose to leave camp early to go on trial for Norwich City of the English League Championship.

Faced with the potential loss of Pickens, Chicago used their second pick of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft (12th overall) to select Tulsa goalkeeper Dominic Cervi. The problem is, Cervi is ALSO looking into his chances overseas and may choose to spurn MLS altogether.

"We couldn't just sit around and wait," said Hamlett on the decision to select Cervi. "We needed to protect ourselves. We were excited he was available at that number."

Los Angeles Signs Celestine Babayaro

The Los Angeles Galaxy and new head coach Ruud Gullit are continuing their roster overhaul, reportedly signing former Chelsea and Newcastle left back Celestine Babayaro to a three-year deal.
Babayaro, 29, came to prominence on the world stage at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where his performance helped Nigeria capture the gold medal in men's football. Following a stint with Belgian club Anderlecht (1994-1997), Babayaro was purchased by Chelsea for £2.25 million and went on to appear in over 200 games for the Blues. In January of 2005, Babayaro moved on to Newcastle United. After 47 appearances, a series of injuries led to his release by the club, allowing Gullit and the Galaxy to swoop in and sign the Nigerian international.

The signing of Babayaro makes last week's trade of U.S. international fullback Chris Albright slightly more understandable. Albright was shipped to the New England Revolution in exchange for allocation money during Friday's MLS SuperDraft. Given LA's defensive woes in 2007, it didn't seem like a great idea to jettison one of their most proven backs.

...Of Note: Babayaro's unique approach to defending will instantly improve the Galaxy backline. He received a three-game ban in 2006 after admitting guilt to a charge of violent conduct in a match against Liverpool. Following a corner, Babayaro's arm or elbow apparently made contact with Dirk Kuyt, striking the forward in the face. Though the incident wasn't noticed by the official, it was caught on videotape, leading to the player's suspension.


Celtic Courting Guzan

Fresh off of a sparkling performance in the 2-0 U.S. victory over Sweden on Saturday night, Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan is reportedly on his way to Scotland for a date with SPL powerhouse Celtic, who have offered him a trial. Hoops manager Gordon Strachan is prepared to launch a £1 million bid for Guzan, if the netminder impresses while training with the club.

"It's always exciting when a club such as Celtic are in for you," said Guzan. "I know all about them, they are a world-renowned team with a great history."

A number of other high-profile teams have shown interest in Guzan, including Arsenal of the Premier League, but Celtic has taken the lead over all others in speculation over recent days. If an offer is made for the goalkeeper's services, he would have to receive approval for a work permit, as he doesn't meet the Home Office requirements.

Guzan, 23, was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2007, a year in which he posted a 14-6-7 record and 0.93 GAA. The second overall pick in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft, El Guzano has also rapidly climbed the GK depth chart for Bob Bradley, nestling into the #2 position behind incumbent Tim Howard.

The loss of Guzan would have a huge impact on reigning Western Conference champions Chivas USA. They recently traded their back-up and one-time starting keeper Preston Burpo to San Jose and currently do not have another netminder on their roster. Complicating matters further, the club used their only pick in last week's SuperDraft (43rd overall) on midfielder Keith Savage, instead of picking a young 'keeping prospect.

Enjoy some highlights of Guzan at his finest:

MLS SuperDraft '08

The 2008 MLS SuperDraft was held on Friday at the Baltimore Convention Center, yielding surprising results to even the most knowledgeable of experts. Patrick Nyarko and Eric Avila, widely considered to be the top two prospects in the draft, fell to 7th and 19th, respectively.

UCLA defender Chance Myers (below) was taken first by the Kansas City Wizards after the club traded defender Nick Garcia to San Jose for the rights to the pick.

"I'm just looking to come in and play soccer," said Myers, who molds his game after U.S. defenders Chris Albright and Frankie Hejduk. "My expectations are high of myself and the team. I always want to succeed. They have a good foundation, they made a good run last year and hopefully we can build on that and get better."

Below is the complete list of players taken in the 2008 draft.

1. Kansas City - Chance Myers - D
2. Dallas - Brek Shea - M/D
3. Real Salt Lake - Anthony Beltran - M/D
4. Los Angeles - Sean Franklin - M/D
5. Colorado - Ciaran O'Brien - M
6. Columbus - Andy Iro - D
7. Chicago - Patrick Nyarko - F
8. FCD - Josh Lambo - GK
9. Toronto - Julius James - D
10. TOR - Pat Phelan - M
11. KC - Roger Espinoza - M/D
12. CHI - Dominic Cervi - GK
13. New England - Rob Valentino - D
14. RSL - David Horst - D
15. San Jose - Shea Salinas - M
16. New York - Eric Brunner - D
17. RSL - Alex Nimo - M
18. NE - Michael Videira - M
19. FCD - Eric Avila - M
20. CLB - George Josten - F/M
21. LA - Ely Allen - F
22. CLB - Ricardo Pierre-Louis - F
23. KC - Yomby William - D
24. DC - Andrew Jacobson - M
25. KC - Jonathan Leathers - D
26. CHI - Peter Lowry - M
27. NE - Joe Germanese - M
28. TOR - Brian Edwards - GK
29. LA - Julian Valentin - D
30. TOR - Mike Zaher - D
31. CLB - Ryan Miller - D
32. NY - Luke Sassano - M/D
33. DC - Ryan Cordeiro - F
34. LA - Matt Allen - GK
35. TOR - Joseph Lapira - F
36. COL - Adrian Chevannes - D
37. RSL - Brennan Tennelle - M
38. CHI - Dwight Barnett - F
39. KC - Matt Marquess - D
40. CHI - Stephen King - M
41. NE - Matthew Britner - D
42. Houston - Geoff Cameron - M
43. Chivas USA - Keith Savage - M
44. NY - David Roth - M
45. FCD - Jamil Roberts - D
46. LA - Brandon McDonald - F
47. COL - Brian Grazier - M
48. CLB - Steven Lenhart - F
49. COL - Scott Campbell - M
50. FCD - Ben Nason - M
51. LA - Matt Hatzke - M/D
52. DC - Tony Schmitz - D/M
53. KC - Rauwshan McKenzie - D
54. CHI - Austin Washington - D
55. NE - Spencer Wadsworth - M
56. HOU - Jeremy Barlow - M

Donovan Sets Record in U.S. Win

For the second consecutive year, the U.S. Men's National Team started the year off with a win over a Scandinavian counterpart, dismantling a star-less Sweden side 2-0 at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night.Eddie Robinson scored the game-winning goal in his first-ever international appearance, chipping a loose ball in the box into the top corner of the net less than 15 minutes into the match. Shortly into the second half, Josmer Altidore earned a penalty kick after being tripped up in the box, setting the stage for Landon Donovan's historic goal in the 48th minute.

"For us it's a good way to start the year," said head coach Bob Bradley. "This camp is always a challenge because guys have been off for a while, but we felt throughout the camp that things we worked on throughout last year were coming back, especially working as a team. Our fitness levels came along quickly, and tonight we played against a team who is always a good match for us. The game had tempo. It was physically challenging. I think to come out of it with a good result was important."

For Donovan, it was his 35th career goal for his country in 97 appearances, moving him past Eric Wynalda to the head of the all-time list.

"I wouldn't classify it as important, but it's something I'm very proud of," said Donovan of the record. "More so than scoring goals, being a part of this team for a long time and contributing is something I'm proud of. That being said, I can still be better."

Robinson's 15th minute tally marked the 44th time in U.S history that a player scored a goal in his first career cap.

"I told my wife yesterday when I found out I was going to start that if this is the only game that I play I'm going to make sure I give it my all and come away happy that I got the chance to do this, because not many people do," said Robinson. "It was a wonderful experience. It was awesome."

Up next for the U.S. is a clash against regional rivals Mexico, slated for February 6th at Reliant Stadium in Houston.


Chris Albright to New England

The Los Angeles Galaxy continued to clear salary space, trading U.S. international defender Chris Albright to the New England Revolution in exchange for allocation money.

"We're thrilled to be able to add a proven defender like Chris to our roster," Revolution director of soccer Michael Burns said. "He's had success on the field at both the league and international levels, and he has experience winning championships with his past clubs."
The move, in line with the Galaxy's other recent transactions, should help Los Angeles clear room under the salary cap, a key step in bringing in other big-name players. It's unclear as to whether this deal went down to help the team offset some of the salary of recent acquisition Carlos Ruiz or if there is yet another deal brewing in the works (Zidane, anyone?).

Albright, 29, started his career as a forward with D.C. United before being moved to right-back with the Galaxy. He was and later blossomed into one of the league's best defenders, even gaining acclaim in the backline of the U.S. National Team (21 caps, 1 goal). His 2007 season was cut very short after his hamstring was ripped away from the bone during a derby match against rivals Chivas USA in May. For his career, Albright has notched a dozen goals to go with 23 assists in 186 games.

Update: Real Stadium

The much-maligned $110 million future home for the Real Salt Lake franchise is more than halfway to its completion in Sandy, Utah.A few notes on the facilties:

- Project expected to be completed in early fall.
- First home game will air on ESPN2 on October 9th.
- Capacity will be roughly 21,000.
- Player entrance tunnel located at mid-field.
- Most of the seats are red, but some will be black, white or blue.
- Removable stage to be constructed on south end of stadium.
- Only 6 of 32 suites are still available for purchase at prices between $25,000-65,000.
- Stadium naming rights offered to several companies, expected to fetch between $1.5-2 million per year.

Revs Decline Noonan Option

I'm not calling it a sinking ship yet, but...

The New England Revolution may be facing a rebuilding year following their fourth MLS Cup loss since 2002. With Taylor Twellman and Shalrie Joseph wanting out, and Andy Dorman having already left, the club has declined to pick up Pat Noonan's option for the 2008 season, effectively making him free to negotiate with teams outside MLS."This is a great opportunity to try to go overseas," Noonan told the Boston Globe.

Noonan, 27, was a key part of the Revs offense in '07, contributing with seven goals and four assists in 27 games (21 starts). In his five-year career, Noonan has amassed 42 goals and 30 assists, and was selected to the 2004 All-Star Game.

"His option was not picked up, but we are in discussions to try to bring him back," Revolution director of soccer Mike Burns told the Globe. "He is obviously someone we want to bring back. He is free to sign outside the league and that is a risk we are well aware of. But we hope he makes the decision to come back to play for the Revolution."

Noonan's hard work has been noticed by USMNT head coach Bob Bradley, resulting in the midfielder's call to the first national team camp of 2008, ahead of Saturday's friendly against Sweden.

Several high-profile MLS players have bolted for Norway in the offseason... could Noonan join them?


Mexican Club Targets Emilio

Mexican club Monarcas Morelia has cast an eye toward D.C. United's goal-scoring machine Luciano Emilio, according to the Washington Post's Steven Goff.
Emilio, 29, had a sensational first year in Major League Soccer, scoring 20 goals and adding an assist on his way to the Golden Boot, MLS MVP and Newcomer of the Year awards. After the season ended, word leaked out that the Brazilian wanted to be more fairly compensated for his contribution to the team (he earned $293,125 in 2007).

Since Emilio is under contract with D.C., Morelia would have to pony up a transfer fee for the forward. But United probably isn't willing to let him go for cheap, especially since the futures of Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez with the club remain in doubt.


US Interest in Benny Grows

Derby County Football Club has rejected the latest offer from Israeli club Maccabi Tel-Aviv for Benny Feilhaber, citing increased interest from the United States.
"Maccabi Tel-Aviv showed an interested in Benny and we allowed him the chance to speak to them," said Derby Chairman Adam Pearson. "However, we have now rejected their latest bid and have called Benny back to Derby. There is a lot of interest in the player in the MLS in the States and this is something we are likely to pursue."

The Tel-Aviv offer was reported to be in the area of £275,000 ($538,000), which is about 1/4 the amount that Derby paid for the U.S. midfielder. Feilhaber, 22, has notched two goals in 12 appearances for the United States, most memorably volleying home the game-winner against Mexico in the 2007 Gold Cup final.

EJ-to-Fulham Update

Update: MLS Rumors is reporting that Eddie Johnson's transfer to Fulham will cost the Cottagers £3.2 million, or somewhere in the range of $6.25 million. Such an astronomical fee would smash the previous highest amount paid for an MLS player, a record already held by Fulham when they paid $4 million for Clint Dempsey over a year ago.

Israeli Move in Bornstein's Future?

Following news that an Israeli club has shown interest in U.S. international Benny Feilhaber, reports from that country suggest that Chivas USA defender Jonathan Bornstein may also be mulling over a possible Middle East move to Maccabi Tel Aviv.Bornstein, 23, was recently photographed in Israel, taking in a game between Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifi, fueling speculation that he might be on his way out of Major League Soccer. He was voted the MLS Rookie of the Year in 2006 after posting six goals and four assists, helping the club reach the playoffs for the first time in their short history. He slipped back to a more defensive role in 2007, adding just one goal and one assist.

The forward-turned-left-back has also featured in Bob Bradley's national team since the former Chivas USA head coach took the reigns of the program. Bornstein has received 10 caps and scored a goal in his first-ever appearance with the senior squad, a 3-1 win over Denmark on January 20, 2007.

Wizards Nab Top Pick Through Trade

The Kansas City Wizards have made a big move ahead of Friday's MLS SuperDraft, trading away veteran defender Nick Garcia to the San Jose Earthquakes in exchange for the top pick in the draft.
Garcia, 28, has played 247 games (all starts) for the Wizards since joining the league in 2000 - the year Kansas City won MLS Cup. He was a solid anchor for the KC defense that made it to the Western Conference Finals last season, playing 2,420 minutes during the regular season and all 270 minutes in the postseason.

"I am very excited to play in San Jose and I am grateful for the opportunity that (head coach) Frank Yallop and (General Manager) John Doyle are giving me," Garcia said. "I will work very hard to make the Earthquakes a great franchise and win many more championships."

San Jose will use his presence to fill the hole left by the departure of Clarence Goodson, who opted to sign with Norwegian team IK Start after being selected by the Earthquakes in last fall's expansion draft.

"Nick will be the centerpiece of our defense for a long time," Doyle said. "Nick is not only a great soccer player but will be a leader in our young franchise."


Did Somebody Order Fish?

It was only a matter of time before Carlos Ruiz ended up in a Los Angeles Galaxy uniform again. One of the worst-kept secrets in Major League Soccer, the deal was made official today, with the G's ponying up a 2nd-round draft pick in 2009 and allocation money for the Guatemalan forward known as El Pescadito. The Galaxy had tried several times over the past 18 months to re-acquire Ruiz, but for one reason or another, the deal fell apart each time.He is one of three players who made more than the league maximum salary in 2007 but does not count as a DP - as is also the case with new teammate Landon Donovan. His production was well down last season at just 7 goals and 2 assists, but Ruiz still averages 13.5 goals per season.

"It means a lot to play for the Galaxy again because I feel like I am going back home and I am very excited about that," Ruiz said. "I have a big responsibility now because the Galaxy's goal is to win every game, so I want to play hard and score as many goals as possible and win the MLS Cup again."

Ruiz was with the Galaxy for their MLS Cup run in 2002, the same year that he was named MVP of the league. He played for Los Angeles from 2002-2004, contributing 61 goals and 10 assists in 83 games before being shipped to FC Dallas before the start of the 2005 season. For his career, he boasts 97 goals and 19 assists in 157 games played.

"We are very pleased to be bringing a proven goal scorer and veteran leader in Carlos Ruiz back to Los Angeles," L.A. Director of Soccer Paul Bravo said. "Carlos is an experienced forward who has averaged better than a goal every two games during his MLS career and we believe that he will be a tremendous asset to our attack."


Feilhaber to Israel?

Gold Cup hero Benny Feilhaber may soon be leaving English soccer in favor of a move to the Middle East. English media is reporting that Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv has offered the Derby County midfielder £275,000 (roughly $538,000) to join up with their side.

The U.S. international, who turns 23 on Saturday, has been stuck on the bench for much of his tenure with Premier League relegation-favorites Derby County, making 1 start and 7 appearances as a substitute since his £1 million move to club last summer.

Why is it that no MLS teams are trying to lure the talented youngster? Too expensive?


EJ Transfer Rumor of the Day

Eddie Johnson may finally, finally be on the move. Yes, that's right - the self-proclaimed Grown-Ass Man, linked with just about every non-MLS team under the sun over the last few years, has reportedly left the USMNT camp in Carson, CA for the friendly confines of Craven Cottage. The relationship between Fulham and the Kansas City Wizards forward has apparently become serious.
Negotiations between the two sides are ongoing, but it appears to be a good bet that EJ and his bling will become the fifth American on the books with Fulham, joining fellow Yanks McBride, Bocanegra, Keller and Dempsey. Derby County had also be mentioned as a serious contender for the 23-year-old's services in recent days, but have dropped out of the running.

Will Fulham be willing to break their own record for highest transfer fee paid for an MLS player? (Dempsey was acquired for $4 million over a year ago.)

Where does this leave the Wizards for 2008?

Update: Goodson Signs with IK Start

In a follow-up to a story we brought you last week, former FC Dallas defender and San Jose expansion draftee Clarence Goodson has indeed decided to continue his playing career overseas, first revealed in a single line crammed into an unrelated Earthquakes press release.The MNT Blog caught up to the 25-year-old, as he is currently in camp with the Men's National Team ahead of this Saturday's friendly against Sweden, allowing Goodson to shed some light on his impending move to IK Start.

"It was a great opportunity that came up," said Goodson. "I felt it was the right situation and the right time in my career to move overseas. It's everyone's dream to play in Europe, and certainly it has been mine.

"I'm looking forward to Norway. I think it is going to be a good transition. I know there are a lot of people that speak English, so that will help. I'm looking forward to it."

For those of you who are not familiar with IK Start, let me fill you in...

IK Start, or Idrettsklubben Start, is located in Kristiansand, a town of 77,000 located near the southernmost tip of Norway. Founded in 1905, the club plays their home games at Sor Arena (capacity: 14,300). Following a disappointing 13th-place finish in the 2007 season, they were relegated out of the Tippeligaen and into the second-tier Adeccoligaen.

Goodson's new club has experienced some success in their history, however, being crowned Norwegian champions in 1978 and 1980. Because of a runner-up finish in 2005, Start participated in UEFA CUP, advancing through two qualifying rounds before being eliminated by Ajax in the opening round of the tournament proper.

Angry Twellman Lashes Out at MLS, Revs

The Washington Post's Steven Goff has published comments on his blog - Soccer Insider - made by New England Revolution forward Taylor Twellman in regards to the Preston North End transfer situation. PNE originally made an offer the league for Twellman in the $1.5 million range, which was quickly turned down by the league. Since then, the English League Championship side, badly in need of a goal-scorer, has upped their offer to around $2.5 million - but that figure was still too low for Twellman in the eyes of Major League Soccer.

Apparently, Mr. Twellman is none-too-happy with team or league officials, and feels that neither one is being truthful to him over the situation:

"I want to go. It's perfect timing. It's the right club and, being 27, it's the right time to go to Europe.

"When I ask MLS, they say the Revs rejected it. When I ask the Revs, they said it was MLS. Look, you're not going to get more than that for a guy like me, who is not always with the national team. It's a good offer. Anytime a team wants you that bad, of course you go.

"I'm everywhere from confused to mad because I don't know where we are on this. I have always been told that there is no international interest out there for me, but if there were, they would consider it. So it's at the point where I feel like they've gotta sell me or compensate me, whether it's with money or more guaranteed years. I don't have to make big Designated Player money. I just want something to happen."

The situation doesn't bode well for New England, having come off their third-straight MLS Cup loss - and fourth in the past six years - as the nucleus of the club is being severely tested once again this offseason.

The team faced a similar situation in 2006 when budding star Clint Dempsey became irritated after MLS rejected his move to Charlton Athletic for a $1.5 million transfer fee. Feeling a move overseas was vital to his growth, Dempsey angrily declared that he would not re-sign with Major League Soccer when his contract ran out. Faced with losing the player on a free transfer in 2007, the league ultimately accepted a $4 million transfer to Fulham in December '06.

Maybe now is the time for Robert Kraft to accept the highest transfer offer he can get for Twellman and take the money he gets in return to make use of his team's Designated Player spot?


Preki Gets New Contract

Chivas USA has announced that head coach Preki has signed a new multi-year contract with the team. Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.A two-time MLS MVP in his playing days, Preki guided Chivas to a 15-7-8 record in his first season as skipper, which was good enough for the Western Conference title. In the playoffs, the Kansas City Wizards upset the club, but the improvement seen under coach Preki was more than evident, reason enough to reward him with a new contract.

Shortly after the end of the 2007 season, Preki interviewed for the vacant New York Red Bulls coaching position, and was considered one of the top candidates for the job. In the end, New York chose Juan Carlos Osorio, something Chivas USA couldn't be happier about.

“We are pleased to secure Preki’s leadership ahead of this important era for Chivas USA,” said club President and CEO Shawn Hunter. “Throughout his career, Preki has proven himself to be a winner and we know he will continue to show his intense focus as head coach. This is an exciting time for Chivas USA as we debut in international tournaments like SuperLiga.”

Two Chivas Players Have Surgery

A pair of Chivas USA's starting XI have successfully gone under the knife to repair nagging injuries suffered in 2007.

Maykel Galindo, who scored 12 goals and added five assists for the club on his way to becoming a breakout star in MLS last year, had sports hernia surgery on Wednesday. The successful operation will keep the Cuban forward out of action for six weeks, meaning he could miss out on part of the team's pre-season camp, which begins later this month.

Chivas defender and U.S. international left-back Jonathan Bornstein has also undergone an operation. The 2006 MLS Rookie of the Year had arthroscopic ankle surgery in late December to remove scar tissue from his left ankle.

Zidane Mulling Return

For the first time since the 2006 World Cup Final, French superstar Zinedine Zidane has publicly admitted that he would like to make a comeback in professional football.In an interview for L'Equipe Magazine set to be published tomorrow, the 35-year-old Zidane confesses that he misses the sport and would like to make a return in some capacity, a statement that is sure to kick up the Zizou-to-MLS rumors once more. ZZ also expresses remorse about his final moment in the world spotlight, which saw him sent off for famously headbutting Italy's Marco Materazzi shortly before France's defeat on penalty kicks.

"I wanted to leave football in another way," said Zidane. "But it's over now. It's good to talk about it, to close the debate once and for all. But I'll carry it with me for the rest of my life."

Persistent rumors have linked Zidane with a move to Major League Soccer since his retirement, especially following the LA Galaxy's signing of David Beckham, who was a teammate of Zidane for several years at Real Madrid.

"Quitting football for a break is very pleasing at first," he said. "But eventually it begins to feel like something is missing. As such, I'm attracted to a return to football. But I can't tell you right now in what way."


Goodson's SJ Future in Doubt

Squeezed in at the bottom of the press release that heralded the acquisition of Joe Cannon was a single line that surely can't be good news for the San Jose Earthquakes: "Expansion Draft player Clarence Goodson has decided to pursue an overseas opportunity." No other information was available, but it sounds like the Earthquakes may have a huge hole in their backline to fill, with less than three months until the start of the 2008 season.Goodson, 25, anchored the FC Dallas defense in 2007, playing 2,297 minutes during the regular season. He pitched in offensively with a goal and an assist in the regular season, and added another tally in the playoffs. The 7th overall pick in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft, Dallas left the 6'4" player unprotected in the expansion draft, allowing San Jose to select Goodson on November 21. However, Goodson has gone on the record as saying he would not resign with MLS, opting instead to move overseas. It now appears as if he has, indeed, followed through on the statement.

Extreme Team Makeover: Home Depot Center Edition

The Los Angeles Galaxy will have a new starting goalkeeper when the 2008 season begins, as the team sent former MLS 'Keeper of the Year Joe Cannon back to the San Jose Earthquakes in exchange for a partial allocation.It was just over a year ago when Cannon was acquired by the Galaxy in a trade that saw two budding stars - Herculez Gomez and Ugo Ihemelu - get dealt to the Colorado Rapids for the veteran netminder. With a makeshift defense in front of him for much of the 2007 season, Cannon never really stood a chance to shine, but still made his fair share of spectacular saves. He started all but one game for Los Angeles, posting a 9-13-7 record to go with a 1.59 GAA.

Cannon's return to the Bay Area comes four years after his first go-round with the Earthquakes ended; he started 101 games for the franchise between 1998-2002. He recently turned 33, but should still have a few good years left in him, if head coach Frank Yallop can do a better job constructed San Jose's defense than he did with Los Angeles.

"We are very excited to have Joe Cannon back in San Jose," Yallop said. "He has proven himself to be one of the top goalkeepers in the league."

Back in Los Angeles, the trade signals the beginning of a new era between the posts, as 24-year-old Steve Cronin appears set to become the Galaxy's everyday keeper. Having just six career regular starts through his first four seasons in the league, Cronin has still impressed when given the opportunity. His incredible 14-save performance, including a save on Jozy Altidore's 12th minute PK, helped LA defeat the New York Red Bulls in a U.S. Open Cup play-in game this past May. To boot, Cronin's salary of $42,228 last year was about 1/4 of what Cannon made in 2007 ($192,000).

Cronin is currently taking part in the U.S. National Team training camp being held in Carson, CA ahead of a January 19th friendly against Sweden.


The team facelift wasn't done there, as it was announced that forward Clint Mathis has agreed to sign with Greek club Ergotelis, according to the club's website. Mathis, 31, was acquired in November from the Red Bulls for a third-round pick in the upcoming MLS SuperDraft, but the Galaxy were apparently unable to convince the former national team star to resign at terms more reasonable than the $410,000 he was guaranteed in 2007.

Chicago Jersey Sponsor Announced

They may not have a coach, but at least they've got a jersey sponsor. The Chicago Fire has reached an agreement with Best Buy that will see the consumer electronics retailer's logo emblazoned on the front of the club's jerseys starting in 2008.The Chicago Tribune's Luis Arroyave broke the news on his blog - Red Card - and speculates that Fire star Cuauhtemoc Blanco was key to the arrangement, as Best Buy is planning on expanding in Mexico.

Terms of the deal were not announced. Chicago becomes the eighth team in the league to sell advertising space on the front of its jerseys; here are the other seven:

LA Galaxy - Herbalife
Columbus - ISI Paints
NY Red Bulls - Red Bull
Chivas USA - Comex
Houston Dynamo - Amigo Energy
Real Salt Lake - Xango
Toronto - BMO

Davino Signs with FCD

After several days of intense negotiations, FC Dallas has signed Mexican defender Duilio Davino to a two-year contract, with the option of additional years. Terms of the contract were not released, but officials said the player will not be counted as a Designated Player, meaning that he will make under the league maximum of $400,000.Davino, 31, is an established defender who has spent the last 10 years on the backline of Club America, appearing in 323 games over that span. He has also had success on the international level, having earned 80 caps for El Tri, starting in 1995. He was on his country's roster for the 1998 World Cup.

"This team needs a leader in the back," said FCD head coach Steve Morrow. "He would provide that. He does give our back line a great deal of flexibility," continued Morrow. "He's been brought in to help with some of the young players and teach them to be leaders."

The acquisition of Davino helps Dallas fill the hole created by the loss of Clarence Goodson, who was taken by the San Jose Earthquakes late last year in the expansion draft.

"I wouldn't say [Davino] is a lightning-fast player, but he is very, very smart and intelligent," Morrow said. "He's got experience playing at the top level for many, many years."


Chivas Lands Eskandarian

Real Salt Lake has agreed to trade forward Alecko Eskandarian to Chivas USA in exchange for a major allocation ($125,000 in salary cap space), according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Esky joined RSL just seven months ago as part of the trade that sent Jeff Cunningham to Toronto FC. His time in Utah was largely unproductive, posting only a single goal and three assists in 17 games for Salt Lake in 2007. Last month, Eskandarian had been trialling with Belgian club Standard Liege - for whom fellow American Oguchi Onyewu currently plays - but the 25-year-old player of Armenian descent opted to sign a new contract with MLS instead.

Selected first overall in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft, Eskandarian scored 24 times over four seasons with D.C. United before being traded to Toronto FC before the start of the 2007 season. He only played six games under Mo Johnston before getting moved to RSL, scoring once. Chivas USA will become his fourth team in just over a year.

A two-time All-Star ('04, '06), Eskandarian has scored 26 goals and added 11 assists in 111 career games.

Twellman Staying Put, For Now

Major League Soccer has rejected an offer from Preston North End for New England Revolution star Taylor Twellman, according to reports. The club, which plays in the English League Championship, had offered up £800,000 (roughly $1.58 million) for the 27-year-old U.S. international, but was turned down by league officials. It is unclear at this time if a secondary offer has been made. An unnamed Norwegian club had apparently already outbid Preston for Twellman, but were also rebuffed."The league has refused an offer for Taylor. To my knowledge they have not received a secondary offer, so I can't comment on that," said Revolution Director of Soccer Mike Burns.

"Taylor has just re-signed a long-term contract with the league, so it would have to be a situation where it made sense for everyone," continued Burns. "But we are not looking to lose Taylor. It would be very difficult to replace him."

Preston North End, perhaps most famously known for having David Beckham suit up for them five times in 1995, is struggling mightily in the 2007-08 season, sitting last of the 24 Championship teams. They have scored just 12 goals in 26 games, making the acquisition of a proven goal-scorer a top priority for the club if they are to avoid relegation.

Twellman has certainly proven himself in MLS, scoring 91 times in 156 regular season appearances and adding 10 more goals in 21 career playoff games. He has also been a major player for the U.S. National team, tallying six times in 29 appearances.


Rumor: EJ to Derby County

The transfer of Kansas City forward Eddie Johnson to Derby County of the English Premier League is all-but-signed at this point, according to media reports.
The U.S. international has been widely discussed as a possible target for the club when the transfer window opened, and media reports from both sides of the pond say Derby is willing to pony up what would be an MLS record transfer fee for the 23-year-old. Having tried unsuccessfully to land the striker over the summer, Derby could be willing to pay upwards of $4 million for Johnson, according to Soccer365.

Derby is likely facing relegation (barring a second-half miracle), having only taken seven points out of a possible 63 on the season. The team's -36 goal differential will do them no favors either. The last club safe from the drop-zone, Wigan, lies ten full points ahead of Derby and boast a much better GD of -16.

Johnson is coming off of a career year with the Wizards, scoring 15 times and adding six assists. He became the first player in MLS history to record back-to-back hat tricks, en route to helping the Wizards qualify for a playoff spot.

“I don’t think we are naive enough not to know we would reach this point,” said Wizards Director of Football Peter Vermes.

“A number of clubs from England and Europe have expressed an interest, and bottom line the pound is a lot stronger than the dollar or anything else (currency). That does not mean we will necessarily part with him the deal has to work for both sides.”

For his country, Johnson has found the back of the net 11 times in 31 appearances, and was included on the U.S. roster for the 2006 World Cup, 2007 Gold Cup and 2007 Copa America.