Much of the country spent this Monday morning either diggingout of a blizzard or pounding hi-test coffee to shake off a long weekend ofholiday cheer.
There was no such break in the action in Major LeagueSoccer, where there was a flurry of activity. Young players signed new deals,veterans locked down uncertain futures, a trio of foreign stars expressedan interest in joining the league and a handful of MLSers tested the market across the pond.
So hoist that quadruple latte and kick up your feet (this isthe slowest work week of the year, after all). Let’s take a look back.
On Thursday, the Philadelphia Union made history (andboosted the league’s Homegrown Initiative) by signing 15-year-old midfielderZach Pfeffer from their academy program.
A local product from Upper Dublin,Pa., Pfeffer becomes the fourth-youngestsignee in MLS history, following Freddy Adu(14 when he signed with D.C. United in 2004), Fuad Ibrahim (15, FC Dallas,2007), and Diego Fagundez (15, New England, last month).
Another young star making headlines was 17-year-oldD.C. United winger Andy Najar, who signed a multiyear extension with the Black-and-Red.
DC made it a priority to keep their academy product in thefold, after a season in which he scored five goals and won the Rookie of theYear award, providing a lone bright spot in a dismal year for United.
Several MLS veteransentered the week facing uncertainty about the next phase of their careers, and all ofthem succeeded in tying up the loose ends.
Los Angeles Galaxy superstars Landon Donovan and DavidBeckham both flirted with the notion of going abroad for winter loan spells,and both ended up staying put.
After winter stints with Bayern Munich in 2009 and Everton in2010, Donovan opted not to take up Everton on another loan offer this January.He cited—no surprise here—a need for rest. In addition to those winter visitsabroad, Donovan also played in two MLSseasons, most of the USA’s international friendlies and World Cup qualifiers,and of course, the 2010 World Cup in the past two years.
His Galaxy teammate, Beckham, had hoped to latch on witheither Arsenal or Manchester United, the club where he cut his teeth, for awinter loan deal. Alas, both clubs informed him last week that he would not bein their plans. It has not stopped names of new clubs to sprout up in recent days with Real Madrid and Chelsea joining the list.
Former Sporting Kansas City defender Jimmy Conrad, the 2005 MLSDefender of the Year and a 2006 World Cup veteran, faced a slightly uncertainfuture after being selected by Chivas USAin Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft.
Out of contract following the 2010 season, Conrad now had ateam interested in his services—the Goats took him with the second pick—but hestill had to hammer out a deal with the LA franchise. That mission wasaccomplished on Thursday as Chivas agreed to terms with the 33-year-oldcenterback, who grew up in Southern California.
New England also secured theimmediate futures of two veterans, re-signing bedrock keeper Matt Reis, andcoming to terms with defender Ryan Cochrane, whose rights they selected withthe third pick in the Re-Entry Draft.
Having wrapped up veteran defender Conrad and rising starNajar, respectively, Chivas USAand DC United turned their attention to their coaching staffs as both clubslooked to rebuild for 2011.
The Goats reportedly offered their top job to former ChicagoFire and New York Red Bulls man Juan Carlos Osorio, while D.C. hired formerHouston Dynamo keeper Pat Onstad to join head coach Ben Olsen’s staff.
Osorio is fresh from leading Once Caldas to the Colombianfirst division crown—very fresh: they lifted the trophy last weekend. He alsoled Chicago to the 2006 EasternConference finals and guided the Red Bulls to the 2008 MLSCup before a disastrous 2009 season in New Yorkled to his departure.
After having his option declined in Houston,and then being passed over in the Re-Entry Draft, the 42-year-old Onstaddecided to call it a career last Tuesday. He’ll join D.C. as an assistantoverseeing goalkeepers and the backline.
Coming to America?
Former AC St. Louis coach Claude Anelka confirmed last week that his brother, Chelsea star Nicolas Anelka, has an eye on a moveto MLS after his contract at StamfordBridge expires in 2012.
“He told me so,” Claude told French site MLS-News. “More and more players want togo playing over there. United State represents something. It makes you dream.”
Perhaps closer to reality is a move to MLSby former West Ham striker Guillermo Franco, who played for Mexicoin the 2010 World Cup.
The 34-year-old confirmed that his agent is looking into adeal with MLS and says he’ll have moreinformation in early 2011.
Franco also spoke highly of the league, and the U.S.mentality: “When the Americans set a goal, they go after it with everythingthey have, and that’s why their soccer has grown and the gap with Mexicois shrinking.”
Wait, did he say the gap with Mexicowas “shrinking”? Hmmm. Considering the Yanks are 10-4-2against El Tri since 2000, we’d say the gap has finished shrinking.
Lastly in the foreign-stars-to-MLSrumors department comes a report out of Italythat Romanian international and Fiorentina attacker Adrian Mutu has designs ona Stateside transfer.
We shall see.
Into the Woods
A pair of MLS stars arepoised to experience life at English Championship side NottinghamForest.
Former RealSalt Lakespeedster Robbie Findley has signed a contract with the team and will join thempending approval of his British work permit, while Houstonstar Geoff Cameron (who recently signed a new deal with the Dynamo) justembarked on a two-week training stint at the club.
Those two weren’t the only MLSers reaching across the pondthis week.
Teal Bunbury worked out with StokeCity for a week, extending awhirlwind winter for the Sporting Kansas City striker that also included his U.S.national team debut and a triumphant tour of Spainwith the Generation adidas team.
Finally, Los Angeles Galaxy striker Edson Buddle completed atrial with English Premier League side BirminghamCity, whose manager Alex McLeishsaid about the World Cup vet, “He did okay. We will keep the door [to signinghim] open.”