Major League Soccer fans have less than two weeks to wait before the curtain is raised on the 2012 season, and anticipation is already building.
While MLS fans await the main course of the regular season, their appetite for top-flight North American soccer is being currently satisfied by preseason action, with several league clubs involved in tournament action in Arizona, Florida, and South Carolina. On the pitch, it is all about fine tuning for the new campaign, while off the pitch, it is about getting things in order ahead of Thursday’s MLS roster compliance deadline.
As a result, clubs made important personnel decisions during the past week, with some interesting comings and goings taking place.
Here’s a closer look…
Where are they now?
A large portion of the player transaction news during the last seven days involved several former members of Whitecaps FC. In Montreal, the remarkable career of experienced striker Eduardo Sebrango will now have an MLS chapter added to it after the Cuban-born goalscorer signed with the Impact for their inaugural MLS season. Turning 39 in April, Sebrango is now the oldest player in the league. He finally gets his chance to test himself in MLS following a long and distinguished career at the second division level in this part of the world.
On the west coast, former ‘Caps midfielder Peter Vagenas completed a return to his native Southern California by signing with Chivas USA. The former LA Galaxy man will add more experience to Robin Fraser’s squad, as The Goats prepare for battle in a very competitive Western Conference.
Similar news should be expected up in Utah, as ex-Vancouver midfielder Jonny Steele is set to become the newest member of Real Salt Lake after spending preseason with Jason Kreis’ side. The former Northern Ireland youth international spent the first half of the 2010 USSF D-2 Pro League season with the Blue and White before moving to Tampa Bay Rowdies. Last season, Steele played for ‘Caps head coach Martin Rennie at North American Soccer League side Carolina RailHawks.
While a trio of former Vancouver players secured their soccer futures, the same cannot be said for ex-Whitecaps FC winger Nizar Khalfan. After claiming the Tanzanian international’s rights in last November’s MLS Waiver Draft, Philadelphia Union opted to free up an international roster spot by cutting ties with the speedy East African.
New deal, new visa?
D.C. United surprised few when they agreed new contract terms with Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario early last week. The 2011 MLS Most Valuable Player had been seeking a contract in the league that matched his value to a club. His talismanic efforts in the American capital last year were reason enough for United to hand the playmaker a deal that reportedly makes him the club's highest-paid player, but not a Designated Player. It is thought that D.C. have used allocation money to pay down De Rosario’s new contract.
Meanwhile, New York Red Bulls supporters continue to wait and see if striker Luke Rodgers will receive a new US work visa that will allow him to re-join Hans Backe’s squad. The Englishman has not been able to take part in preseason with the Red Bulls, with the forward reportedly set to have a visa hearing at the American Embassy in London, England, early next month. Should Rodgers be unsuccessful in his bid for a new visa, the Red Bulls will be without one of their key performers from 2011.
New stadium, new club?
Last week proved to be a defining moment in the history of San Jose Earthquakes and professional soccer in Northern California. The club’s plans to build a $60 million, 18,000-seat stadium cleared the last bureaucratic hurdle last Wednesday night after the San Jose Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny an appeal brought forth by a local resident that aimed to have the team’s planned development permit rescinded due to noise and light concerns. With the green light now on for construction to take place, it remains to be seen if the Earthquakes will have their new home built by 2013, as originally planned.
From new stadiums to potential new MLS clubs. While much talk has surrounded a second team in New York City as the league’s 20th franchise, it was confirmed last week that MLS Commissioner Don Garber will travel to Orlando this Thursday for exploratory meetings about potential future expansion into Florida. Garber will meet with the owners of third-tier United Soccer Leagues Professional Division side Orlando City SC, Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer, community leaders, local fans, and media during his visit.