MLS: Team-by-Team Off-Season Progress Report

After chasing the day-to-day trade clocking for a couple weeks, and with the Super- and supplemental drafts all wrapped up, today seems as good a day as any to pull it all together. Plenty of changes have already happened and plenty more look likely to happen before Major League Soccer’s (MLS) 2008 season kicks off. The point here is seeing which teams appear most ready and complete with training camps starting in fairly short order.

Below is the most current and, hopefully, thorough record of the player traffic surrounding each of MLS’s 14 clubs. By way of mixing the old with the new, links to each team’s roster will be embedded in their name, while you can find the players each MLS team took in the respective “drafts” here: SuperDraft and supplemental. Completing the picture is SoccerAmerica.com’s list of off-season player moves.

Clocking the incoming traffic is, of course, a little complicated: a number of the players taken via draft won’t make the full roster and, regarding transfer-market horse-swapping, a number of deals remain in progress. So, here’s what will happen in this space: on trades, only “done-deals” – or those that seem “done enough” – will appear. Going the other way, I’m going to treat the players picked up through either draft as part of the team. That said, distinction between players coming in by transfer (e.g. the one’s the club actively sought out, so we’re pretty sure they’ll play) versus the draftees (e.g. who may be waived by the end of February) will be made.  And, of course, corrections of oversights and omissions are entirely welcome.

Finally, a “grade” of sorts, followed by an assessment of how each team looks (as judged by me…obviously), comes after the naming of names. After toying with a, frankly, unworkable grading system (shh…that’s my secret) I’m going to roll with something pretty simple: letter grades. Just like in real life, a grade of a C equal passing – or, in this case, post-season competitive…if only just in some cases. One big thing to clarify on these: this isn’t simply awarded for the quality of the team; consideration for the improvement they have made since the end of 2007 also plays a role, a big one even. As for the assessments, I’ll try to keep them brief and based solely on current, as opposed to possible, circumstances; I can always catch up in future posts.

So, them’s the rules. Time to dig in: Continue reading

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EPL Daily 1.25: Shearer says ‘no-go’; Liverpool refinancing; Chelsea signing, etc.

ALAN SHEARER: The former Newcastle and Blackburn striker was widely seen as Kevin Keegan’s best candidate for top assistant coach at Tyneside. A meeting between the two end up with Shearer stating he would not like to be considered for the assistant coach positon. Apparently, a future meeting will determine if Alan Shearer could have a role within the new Newcastle regime.

LIVERPOOL: American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks have firmly solidified their intentions at Liverpool amidst heavy scrutiny as well as a recent failed takeover bid from Dubai. A $700 million re-financing should ensure for all Liverpool supporters that a new stadium at Stanley Park will get done on time and in perfect order. In the same breath, both Hicks and Gillett have expressed that they are behind Rafa Benitez, even despite media reports otherwise.

MARLON KING: The Jamaican striker was angry to see a transfer to Fulham fail due to fee negotiations, but Wigan has come in to rescue King and offer him Premiership football. The fee was undisclosed but expected to be in the range of $ 6-8 million. Watford was quick to try and bring a replacement, securing 22-year old Dutch misfit Collins John from Fulham on a season’s-end loan.

FRANCO DI SANTO: One of the stars of the U-2o World Cup in Canada for champions Argentina, Di Santo has been snapped up by Chelsea, who continue to nurture their young stars rather effectively. Look at Jon Obi Mikel, Solomon Kalou, and Scott Sinclair – all have continued to progress and provide decent appearances for the Blues. Di Santo should be no different. Chelsea came out on top of the battle for Di Santo’s signature which has been wrestled for over the past 6 months. At 19 years old, nothing crazy is expected of the 6’4″ Audax Italiano (CHI) forward, but with comparisons to Diego Maradona abundant (but which Argentinan youth star isn’t compared with Diego), many Blues fans aren’t looking for him to wait in the reserves for long.

THEO WALCOTT: Signed at 16 and now only 18, some Arsenal supporters are already calling Walcott a dud. I’d give him until at least 22 before you decide that, especially considering you paid around $15 million for the kid. Regardless, there was speculation that Wenger might loan him out to see if he gain some much-needed experience (how’s a cap for England for experience?). Wenger has declared those claims untrue. The rumors put him going to Stoke City (the Championship squad whose owner recently secured a USL-Division 1 expansion squad in Austin, Texas – the Aztex).

African Cup of Nations: THE Junior Agogo wins one for Ghana

Today’s Games: Nigeria vs. Mali, Ivory Coast vs. Benin

Ghana 1, Namibia 0

It was a hard fought game for the Ghanaians, but they were rescued from disappointment by former Colorado and San Jose striker Junior Agogo. Agogo is now plying his trade with League One side Nottingham Forest after capitalizing on a decent couple seasons with League Two side (and recent Fulham destroyer) Bristol Rovers. More importantly, Agogo saved fellow teammate Asamoah Gyan from a very disappointing night after Gyan missed a wide open chance to put the Ghanaians in front. Agogo did it with class, backheeling a Sulley Muntari free kick into the side netting and demoralizing the tough Namibian defense.

Guinea 3, Morocco 2

The Guineans continue to surprise the hell out of every pundit, coach, and player at the tournament. What many don’t understand is that their underdog status is a bit questionable with the likes of Ismael Bangoura (Dynamo Kiev), Pascal Feinduono (Saint Etienne), Souleymane Youla (Lille), and Bobo Balde (Celtic – soon to be somewhere else) on their squad. Feinduono started the show with a left footed blast in the 11th minute putting Morocco on the back pedal. That result stuck until 10 minutes after the break when Guinea’s other star Bangoura knocked one home, leaving the Moroccans at a crossroads. Morocco fought back, however, less than 60 seconds later – making it 2-1, but Feinduono countered the goal with one of his own, 3-1 Guinea. Then, the Saint Etienne star made the biggest mistake of the young tournament – lashing out at Elamin Erbate with a kick and getting a straight red. It will be interesting to see what Guinea can do against Ghana without him, but my guess is that it’ll be an uphill climb.

Standings