Player relocation is in the air this week, and we haven’t even had today’s Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft, which could send a number of MLS veterans to new addresses.
There was the usual complement of rumored moves, some actual transfers and a national championship-winning goal from a college player who pulled up stakes and moved from Ohio to North Carolina this past summer.
Even El Clásico in Madrid echoed the theme: Barcelona got goals from transplanted attackers Alexis Sánchez and Cesc Fábregas to pull off a critical 3-1 victory against their archrivals.
Let’s grab our passports and track it all down.
Re-Entry, Phase 2
While the Stage 1 Draft of the Re-Entry Process was predictably quiet, with only Arturo Alvarez, Danleigh Borman and Carlos Mendes selected, Stage 2 should provide a little more intrigue.
Unlike the first phase, which requires teams to either pick up a player’s option or match his 2011 salary, Stage 2 affords clubs the opportunity to negotiate a more palatable salary for the draftee. That financial leverage should produce more activity.
There may not be any Juan Pablo Ángels or Jimmy Conrads in this year’s Re-Entry crop, but for teams looking to plug a few holes or add depth without breaking the bank, there are plenty of players who could fit the bill.
Athletic former D.C. United midfielder Clyde Simms is available, along with skillful striker Maicon Santos, who finished up last season in Dallas. Teams looking for experienced outside backs can choose from former US internationals Chris Albright and Frankie Hejduk – if the 37-year-old is willing to relocate – as well as Hunter Freeman, Dasan Robinson, Chris Leitch and 23-year-old Blake Wagner.
The draft also includes Major League Soccer’s all-time leading scorer, Jeff Cunningham, former US international Pat Noonan and 38-year-old goalkeeper Zach Thornton, who could be a valuable backup for a team in need.
Any players not selected today will be free to shop their services to any of the league’s 19 clubs.
Once the Re-Entry Draft is in the books, league execs will turn their attention to the 2012 SuperDraft, looming on Jan. 12 in Kansas City.
A number of players who could be involved in that event were on display during this past weekend’s College Cup in Hoover, Ala., where North Carolina, UCLA, Creighton and UNC Charlotte squared off for the NCAA title.
On Friday night, North Carolina twice rallied from a goal down to tie UCLA, going on to win a shootout thriller, while UNC Charlotte slipped past Creighton, also on penalties, to set up an all-Carolina final on Sunday afternoon.
The two schools are not historical rivals, but you can bet that fans of the unseeded 49ers wanted nothing more than to knock off the top-seeded, high-profile Tar Heels.
They almost got their wish as Charlotte took it to the favorites from the opening whistle, created several chances and had a legitimate penalty claim waved off early in the second half.
Soon after that, though, UNC striker Ben Speas—who won a national title with Akron last year before transferring to Chapel Hill—carved out some space for himself and launched a dipping drive that beat 49ers ’keeper Klay Davis from 20 yards.
Charlotte staged a furious late rally, peppering the Carolina box in the closing stages, but despite a 14-3 second-half advantage in shots, the 49ers couldn’t find the net. Speas’ goal stood up for a 1-0 victory that delivered the Tar Heels their second NCAA title and first in four consecutive trips to the College Cup.
Our Men in Amsterdam
A different set of young American players made an impression this week as the 2011 Generation adidas side landed in Amsterdam for training and a series of games against Dutch competition.
After two days of workouts and a visit to the Amsterdam Arena for last week’s Ajax–Real Madrid Champions League match, the GA squad took on the Ajax reserves in the first game of the tour.
Setting the tone for what turned out to be a wide-open friendly, the MLSers took the lead just three minutes in on a Dilly Duka free kick to the far post.
The visitors controlled much of the first half, but the second session began with a two-goal blitz by the hosts, giving them a 2-1 lead just five minutes after the break.
Only two minutes, later, though, the GA side pulled even through a bit of magic from Vancouver Whitecaps striker Omar Salgado. After stripping an Ajax player at midfield, the rangy 18-year-old launched a weaving, 50-yard run past seven defenders before the ball was poked off his foot—only to fall into the path of Red Bulls striker Corey Hertzog, who laced a first-time shot inside the near post to make it 2-2.
Ajax would add two late goals to walk off with a 4-2 win, but it wasn’t a bad opener for the GA squad, which will square off against Dutch side FC Volendam on Tuesday.
Rumor Has It
While the GA side ventured abroad, the rumor mill continued to churn out names of players who could be headed in the other direction—from foreign locales to Major League Soccer.
Leading the way was Chelsea and England midfielder Frank Lampard, who has fallen out of the Blues’ starting lineup of late. The British tabloids have him moving to the LA Galaxy in the wake of the possible departures of LA midfielders David Beckham, Juninho and Chris Birchall.
Other reports had 19-year-old Honduran defender Éver Alvarado on his way to Seattle Sounders FC after he wraps up the current season with Real España.
Lastly, a pair of confirmed transfers in this week of changing addresses: Veteran Austrian goalkeeper Michael Gspurning signed with Seattle, and MLS alum and US World Cup veteran Herculez Gomez is headed from Estudiantes Tecos to Mexican powerhouse Santos Laguna.