Greg Sutton New York Red Bulls
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Around Major League Soccer: A very newsworthy week

Any thoughts that off-season business in Major League Soccer might take a slower pace towards the Holiday season were brushed aside this past week, as the league and its clubs kept the media outlets busy with a wide variety of news.

New signings, contract extensions, and player retirements are usually the more predictable news items that you see at this time of year, and there was plenty to talk about in those categories.

Yet, it was the announcement of executive departures, ownership changes, and matters pertaining to the 2012 season that likely drew more of the talking points from many fans and observers in MLS.

Let’s dig in!

Change at the top

While the talk with soccer fans on Canada’s west coast was Friday’s announcement that Paul Barber would step down as Vancouver Whitecaps FC chief executive officer at the end of February 2012, Colorado Rapids supporters were left to ponder what direction their club is heading following Jeff Plush’s decision to step down as the club’s managing director.

It was only a year ago that Colorado were the toast of the league as MLS Cup champions, but Plush’s decision to move on from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park leaves another void at the Rapids, with Colorado still searching for a new head coach after parting ways with Gary Smith nearly six weeks ago. With the MLS SuperDraft and preseason just around the corner, the Rapids have some key appointments to make ahead of the new campaign.

Meanwhile, in Southern Ontario, the big news surrounded the takeover of Toronto FC’s parent company – Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) – by two of Canada’s telecommunications giants in Bell Canada and Rogers Communications. Their 75 per cent stake in MLSE should give The Reds more exposure through the media properties of both companies.

Moving and staying

There was plenty more news on where MLS players would be playing in 2012. Several extended their stays at their current clubs this past week. Chicago Fire penned Orr Barouch and Logan Pause to new deals, while MLS veteran Brian Mullan extended his stay in Colorado. A solid 2011 season for Dan Kennedy saw the goalkeeper ink a new contract with Chivas USA. The same could not be said for Real Salt Lake’s Andy Williams and D.C. United’s Santino Quaranta, as both players announced they were hanging up their boots and moving into retirement.

As for moves and acquisitions, last Monday saw Stage One of the MLS Re-Entry Draft take place, with three players finding new homes. Arturo Alvarez left Real Salt Lake for Chivas USA, defender Carlos Mendes departed New York Red Bulls for Columbus Crew, and Danleigh Borman swapped Toronto FC for New England Revolution.

The league’s latest signings included all three Canadians clubs. While Young-Pyo Lee caused a stir with local Korean soccer fans in Vancouver, TFC added pace in the form of youngster Reggie Lambe, while MLS expansion side Montreal Impact signed three players from their 2011 North American Soccer League squad. Englishman Ian Westlake, Colombian striker Miguel Montaño, and Canadian goalkeeper Greg Sutton (pictured) were all added to Jesse Marsch’s squad. Other notable signings of the week included Houston Dynamo’s permanent deal for former loan signing Luiz Camargo, Philadelphia Union’s transfer deal for Costa Rican international Josué Martínez, and Seattle Sounders FC moving into the post-Kasey Keller era with the signing of Austrian goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.

Bits and pieces

MLS unveiled a new match ball for 2012, with the adidas PRIME ball having been designed exclusively for the league. MLS also unveiled their initial list of invitees for the 2012 adidas MLS Player Combine, as 52 seniors from American colleges are set to participate in the event in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, early next month. Down the road in The City of Roses, Portland Timbers added to their kit selections with an all-white third strip that pays homage to the club’s founding back in 1975.