Less than three weeks remain before the 17th season of Major League Soccer begins, and clubs continue to fine tune their rosters.
While players and coaches concentrate on the business of getting ready on the pitch this preseason, the league’s news headlines unsurprisingly occurred off the pitch, and there was certainly more than enough items to whet the appetite of MLS fans over the past seven days.
Here’s a closer look.
Let’s make a deal
It will not be long before the Impact visit BC Place to start their life in MLS, and yet, it is hard to know what kind of starting XI will take to the pitch for Montreal versus Whitecaps FC on Saturday, March 10. Jesse Marsch’s side made more changes to their squad last week, with many pundits scratching their heads over some of the Quebec outfit’s roster moves.
The saga over the future of MLS veteran striker Brian Ching came to an end when he made his long-awaited return to Houston Dynamo on Thursday. What the Impact received in return for the Hawaiian goalscorer was a conditional first-round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft – seemingly not what Montreal wanted when they selected Ching in the Expansion Draft last November. “I don’t think this was the outcome we expected at first,” Marsch revealed to MLSsoccer.com. “But the present situation benefits everyone. Considering how Brian felt, maybe this is a logical outcome.”
By Friday, the Impact made more news by using their top spot in the MLS allocation process to grab United States international striker Eddie Johnson, who was making his return to the league after a four-year spell away in Europe and Mexico. Montreal quickly took their acquisition of Johnson and turned it into a trade with Seattle Sounders FC, as striker Mike Fucito and winger Lamar Neagle moved east to Quebec in exchange for Johnson.
While the Impact boosted their strike force and wide midfield positions, a potential new addition at centre back arrived in the form of Italian international defender Matteo Ferrari last Tuesday. With Colombian import Nelson Rivas sidelined with injury and Expansion Draft pick Bobby Burling still unsigned, securing the services of free agent Ferrari is likely to become a priority for Montreal in the coming weeks.
The Spurs effect
Tottenham Hotspur FC players also made MLS headlines this past week. According to his agent, winger David Bentley is interested in a loan move across the Atlantic after reportedly opening discussions with an unnamed MLS club. It remains to be seen if the England international will make his way to the league, with the 27-year-old seemingly keen to kick start his career after recent injury setbacks.
One Spurs player that MLS fans will see in 2012 is midfielder Simon Dawkins. The 24-year-old will return for a second MLS campaign with San Jose Earthquakes after making 26 appearances for the Northern California outfit in 2011.
There was some good news for FC Dallas fans on Wednesday, as club doctors gave former MLS Most Valuable Player David Ferreira the ‘all clear’ to resume training and make his long-awaited return from an ankle fracture suffered early last season.
In Colorado, the Rapids claimed their second South American acquisition by landing attacking midfielder Martín Rivero on loan from Argentine club Rosario Central.
In the Pacific Northwest, Portland Timbers are very excited to have landed Cameroonian midfielder Franck Songo’o. The former Barcelona youth trainee moves to MLS after impressing Timbers head coach John Spencer during a preseason trial.