MLS Off-Season Progress Report…Well, Most of One…

Thought I’d take some time today to update the latest off-season player movement around Major League Soccer (MLS). I’ll cover every MLS team down below, talking about which players the club has signed – as recorded on their respective rosters – but will only cover changes that have happened since my first off-season progress report. That said, 1) I’m away from my usual post and the notes I keep there, which means 2) I’m missing some details on some rumors, players trials, that sort of thing.

Getting back to that first off-season report, when I typed up each team’s list of incoming players, I divided them into players coming in by transfer and those “acquired” via the Super- and Supplemental Drafts. The approach for this update will look a little different. Judging from what I’m seeing on the rosters and a player movement round-up run on Soccer America on February 5, teams have signed some, though nothing like all, of their draftees. To account for that, drafted players whose names appear in their team’s official site roster PLUS any player a given team brought in via transfer will be listed as Signed. I’m assuming players in this category to be part of the team at this point.

The other two categories I’ll use are Trialist/Wish-List and Out. The first category includes players named in various sources as being associated with a given team, whether through an invite to camp or by rumor; in the cases where the names are either obscure or low-profile (no offense), I might just provide a link to the source. And the “Out” category is what it is: players who have left the team since the first off-season progress report.

As implied above, there will be holes in this. I’m operating from memory on a few calls. Further, some teams simply enjoy better coverage – among them, teams like the Kansas City Wizards (thanks to Hillcrest Road) and FC Dallas (thanks to FC Dallas Updates); those blogs cover everything down to their players’ stool samples. Other teams (think Colorado) are just hard to find because the front office in question just seems to hate their teams’ fans. But I’m mentioning my blindspots mainly by way of welcoming corrections in the comments. If I missed something, let me know and I’ll get the new information in the main post as soon as I can. If you don’t want to use the comments, don’t be shy about emailing information to me (jeffbull71[at]yahoo.com).

Good god, that’s a lot of preamble. A final thing or two and I’ll get to the goods. One, each team’s current roster is embedded in their name. Two, of course I’ll comment on where I think each team is…that’s just a given. No grades, though. Not this time.

Here goes (fixed it!): Continue reading

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African Nations Cup: The Final is Set! Egypt vs. Cameroon.

And believe it or not, it’s a surprise to many. That’s odd considering it is the defending champions – Egypt – vs. Cameroon, a common participant in the African Cup of Nations final.

Think about the strength and consistency of both Ivory Coast and Ghana this tournament. Ghana had the host nation effect working for it, while Ivory Coast seemed to pick apart each defense it went up against with a blend of established attacking defenders in Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue, a big target man in Didier Drogba, defensive strength in the midfield – Yaya Toure and Dider Zokora, and a creative force in the middle – Salomon Kalou. A 4-1 loss to Egypt is not what people expected…

EGYPT 4, IVORY COAST 1 – ANC Semifinal

The Pharaohs took advantage of a 12th minute strike from Ahmed Fathi to effectively cancel out any momentum the Ivory Coast might have had coming into this game. It looked to anger Drogba and his teammates as they started pouring on the pressure, but Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El Hadari kept the game 1-0 by stopping Drogba on three separate occasions. Egypt then took control after half-time – playing a frustrating perimeter game – which would allow the wing midfielders to crack shots from the outside testing sub goalkeeper Stephan Loboue who came on for injured starting keeper Boubacar Barry before halftime. El Hadari continued to hold Drogba and company at bay, until Egypt – led by Amr Zaki – finally broke through. Zaki put one in off the crossbar after yet another poorly defender corner kick. Lyon’s Kader Keita pulled one back less than a minute later to briefly surprise the Egyptian defense. But Zaki stood tall and this time finished an individual effort off yet another post to give Egypt that 2 goal lead again and in the process frustrate Ivory Coast’s attempts to get back in the game. The game was clinched when Mohamed Zidan – otherwise quiet all game – broke free and found Mohamed Aboutriaka wide open enough to put the ball in the back of the net and put Egypt back in the finals.