There is a week left before Christmas Day, and yet, Major League Soccer clubs have continued to do their business of making changes ahead of the new season.
Player movement highlighted much of the past week’s happenings in the league, with some of the news catching many by surprise. By the end of the week, it was safe to say that the look of MLS clubs will be markedly different in 2012.
There was also some movement off the pitch, and the customary announcements of annual awards that continue remind all that the current year is nearly at an end.
Let’s take a closer look.
Leaving the nest
Thursday brought some surprising news for LA Galaxy fans on Thursday, as captain Landon Donovan confirmed he would spend another MLS off-season on loan with England Premier League (EPL) club Everton FC. Starting New Year’s Day, the United States international will spend two months on loan at the Merseyside outfit, having had a similar loan spell with The Toffees back in 2010, where he proved to be a productive addition during his 13 appearances in the 2009-10 EPL season.
While Donovan will return to help the Galaxy defend their MLS Cup title next year, two other players saw their time in the league end after one season. Striker Omar Bravo called time on his spell with Sporting Kansas City by returning to his native Mexico and joining Cruz Azul. In the Pacific Northwest, Seattle Sounders FC further underlined there would be a new look to their squad in 2012, as midfielder Erik Friberg moved back to his native Sweden on Monday to join top-flight club Malmö FF. The same cannot be said for Argentine playmaker Mauro Rosales, who confirmed his stay in The Emerald City after signing a multi-year deal with Sounders FC.
A final re-entry
Monday confirmed new homes for several MLS players following the second and final stage of this year’s Re-Entry Draft process. With a busy 2012 campaign lying ahead, LA Galaxy were the busiest side in the draft, acquiring four players (Andrew Boyens, Jon Conway, Chris Leitch, Pat Noonan) and opting to try and re-negotiate with two of their own (Dasan Robinson and Frankie Hejduk). New England Revolution continued their rebuilding process by selecting two players in Seattle striker Nate Jaqua and veteran D.C. United midfielder Clyde Simms, while managerless Colorado Rapids added Chicago Fire midfielder Baggio Husidic and Houston Dynamo defender Hunter Freeman to their ranks. The MLS player movement did not end at Monday’s Re-Entry Draft. On Friday, San Jose Earthquakes gave the league some end-of-week tremors by landing FC Dallas’ talented Honduran attacker Marvin Chávez for allocation money.
Staying on the west coast, Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy unveiled new faces for next season. In Oregon, John Spencer’s side added to their list of Colombian imports by signing teenage striker José Adolfo Valencia on a ‘Young Designated Player’ deal. Known as ‘El Trencito’, the 19-year-old is following in the same MLS footsteps as his father - former Colombian international and New York/New Jersey MetroStars striker Adolfo ‘El Tren’ Valencia. In LA, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena confirmed this week that Brazilian midfielder Marcelo Sarvas would join his squad next season after the South American impressed him when the Galaxy played his former club in Costa Rica’s Liga Deportiva Alajuelense during the group stage of the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League.
There were also two signing announcements by MLS Eastern Conference clubs, and a further sign that the league is starting to see the fruits of their labour with Homegrown talent. Philadelphia Union secured the services of academy graduate Jimmy McLaughlin, while Columbus Crew Academy goalkeeper Matt Lampson was handed an MLS contract by the Ohio outfit.
Awards, stadium news, and executive changes lead this segment. We start with this year’s Player of the Year awards in Canadian soccer, as three MLS players claimed the country’s 2011 honours in the men’s game. Joining Vancouver Whitecaps FC youngster Bryce Alderson (U-17 Player of the Year) in the honour roll were D.C. United talisman Dwayne De Rosario, who added Canada’s Male Player of the Year award to his Golden Boot and Most Valuable Player awards in MLS this past season. Canada’s U-20 Player of the Year was also well earned, as Toronto FC Academy graduate Ashtone Morgan was honoured after a breakout year for club and country.
Two clubs made further strides on the stadium front. In Texas, Houston confirmed that their new soccer-specific home would be called ‘BBVA Compass Stadium’ after the American banking firm secured the naming rights this week. In San Jose, the Earthquakes’ journey to building their new stadium reached another milestone, as city officials approved the club’s Planned Development permit for their proposed 18,000-seat home.
In the office corridors, Colorado appointed chief marketing officer Tim Hinchey as the Rapids’ new president, while FC Dallas parted ways with Barry Gorman as technical director after less than two years in the role at Pizza Hut Park.