The 2011 champs received their phone call from the President, the Expansion Draft is in the books, a small platoon of big names have switched teams and the first Nicolas Anelka rumors have begun to swirl.
Yes, the offseason is in full swing. Let’s get stuck in.
The expansion Montreal Impact, who just stocked their roster via the Nov. 23 Expansion Draft, will select last in the Re-Entry Process on Monday. (The Impact, set to begin play in 2012 as the league’s 19th team, will have the No. 1 pick in the Jan. 12 SuperDraft.)
With head coach Jesse Marsch leading the way, Montreal nabbed a mix of veteran leadership and promising youth in the draft and through a series of trades.
After stunning the Houston Dynamo by selecting veteran striker Brian Ching—who had said he would retire if chosen in the Expansion Draft—Marsch & Co. picked talented 20-year-old defender Zarek Valentin and speedy winger Justin Mapp to round out the top three picks in the Expansion Draft.
They blitzed through seven more selections, traded two of them, swapped allocation money for two additional players and signed a third in former US youth international Bryan Arguez.
When the dust settled, Montreal had former Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, ex-Kansas City midfielder Davy Arnaud, the makings of a solid backline and substantial trade leverage in Ching.
The Impact capped their busy couple of weeks by unveiling the uniforms they’ll wear in their debut season. The home kits are royal blue with white trim, while the road unis are white trimmed with blue.
Their most distinctive feature is a subtle cross composed of fleur-de-lys that run down the front of the shirt—a nod to the cross atop Mount Royal that overlooks downtown Montreal.
Hot-Stove, Big-Name Edition
Speaking of new shirts, time will tell if the most famous player in the league will be wearing one next season.
Recent reports have suggested that Ligue 1 side Paris-St. Germain have a substantial offer offer on the table for LA midfielder and newly minted MLS champ David Beckham.
The player, who won this year’s MLS Comeback Player of the Year award, has said only that he has “a big decision to make.”
While we wait, the annual rumor mill churns out big names that could be headed to MLS — or, you know, not.
There’s an especially strong crop of players kicking off this year’s silly season: Chelsea strikers Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, Bayer Leverkusen midfielder (and former Chelsea man) Michael Ballack and legendary Juventus striker Alessandro Del Piero.
Of course, each report is completely open-ended, leaning heavily on words such as “possibly” and “potentially.” But Montreal’s Marsch admitted to Goal.com that the Impact had spoken with Anelka, saying, “There was great potential for a good fit and I think there still is,” between the expansion side and the former French international.
Moving from the possible to the actual, MLS teams executed a number of transactions in the past two weeks. San Jose traded former US international Bobby Convey to Kansas City for an international roster spot, while Columbus released former Designated Player Andrés Mendoza, who led the team in goals (13) in 2011.
In Utah, Real Salt Lake swapped stalwart defender Robbie Russell for D.C. United’s first round pick in the 2013 Supplemental Draft (third round overall).
Sporting Kansas City and Chivas USA also had some interesting back-and-forth. KC sent midfielder Ryan Smith to the Goats in exchange for Chivas’ first pick in the 2012 Supplemental Draft pick, then traded the very same pick back to Chivas USA the following week to acquire midfielder Paulo Nagamura. The Brazilian will take over in the KC midfield for his countryman Jéferson, who was waived after the season.
While the offseason activity ramped up, a number of young MLSers embarked on training stints with prestigious clubs in Europe.
Heading the list is FC Dallas winger Brek Shea, who shipped out to London to train with Arsenal and manager Arsene Wenger, who coached new US boss Jurgen Klinsmann at AS Monaco years ago.
Red Bull striker Juan Agudelo followed a stint at Bundesliga club VfB Stuttgart (another milepost in Klinsmann’s playing career) with a trip to legendary Premier League side Liverpool.
Here are the other MLSers training in Europe this offseason:
Kyle Beckerman, MF, Real Salt Lake—FC Kaiserslautern
Teal Bunbury, F, Kansas City—Bolton
Bill Hamid, GK, DC United—West Brom
Perry Kitchen, D/M, D.C. United—SC Freiburg
Jeff Larentowicz, M, Colorado—Bolton
Zach Pfeffer, M, Philadelphia—Hoffenheim
Tim Ream, D, New York—Bolton, West Brom
Robbie Rogers, M, Columbus—FC Kaiserslautern
Omar Salgado, F, Vancouver—Fulham
A handful of them are likely to be called into Klinsmann’s January camp in preparation for friendlies against Venezuela (Jan. 21) and Panama (Jan. 25).
In addition to the above list, a group of 18 young MLS players will depart for the Netherlands on Monday as part of the Generation adidas tour.
Led by Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes, the group, which includes up-and-comers like Zarek Valentin, Luis Gil and Danny Mwanga, will train at world famous club Ajax.
They’ll face the Ajax reserves in a Dec. 8 friendly before taking on Dutch second-division clubs FC Volendam and Almere City FC. The tour wraps up on Dec. 15.