CARSON -- The expansion Montreal Impact got a lot of work done in a nearly two-week stay at Home Depot Center, a good deal of it away from the field.
They finished this swing of their preseason camp Friday with 90-minute games against UCLA (a 0-0 draw) and Ventura County Fusion (a 3-1 victory), but what's been going on off the field has been far more interesting.
The Impact on Thursday traded veteran striker Brian Ching back to the Houston Impact for a conditional first-round selection in next year's SuperDraft. They topped that Friday, shortly after their games on one of Home Depot Center's training fields, by taking former U.S. national team forward Eddie Johnson through the league's allocation dispersal process, then trading him to Seattle for top young attackers Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle.
It wrapped a wild week that started with Montreal's announcement that Ching, who played last week at HDC against his former Houston teammates, had departed camp for “personal reasons.” Turned out he was in Houston negotiating a new deal, one that would significantly trim his salary -- he'll make $250,000 rather than $450,000, The Houston Chronicle reported -- but allow him an expected final season with the club he's identified with as they open a long-awaited stadium.
“This is where I want to be, where I want to retire ...,” Ching told The Chronicle. “I know how old I am, and I've been around the league long enough to know my value. I have no problem. I just want this team to be successful, and I'll do what it takes. If that means less money, that means less money. Me taking less money allows me to be here where I want to be, allows me to open up a stadium that I've always dreamed of doing. That's rewarding enough for me.”
Ching, 33, considered retirement after Montreal surprisingly took him in November's expansion draft. Trade talks between the Dynamo and Montreal began almost immediately, and the Hawaii-born forward reported to the Impact's camp last month and last week said the idea of playing for Canada's third Major League Soccer franchise was “definitely growing on me. Obviously, it was a very emotional time when it all happened. But I've been with the team for about a month now and enjoy playing with the guys, enjoy the project of trying to build a competitive team here.”
Impact coach Jesse Marsch was asked if the Impact had received enough in the trade with Houston.
“I don't think it went the way we all thought it was going to go, whether he was going to stay or go. But in the end, it was just so difficult,” the former Chivas USA captain told ESPN Los Angeles. “He committed himself wholly, professionally to being here, but you also could see that his mind was still in Houston.
“In the end, I don't know if we got enough for him, but he served a purpose with our group, because he helped establish what real professionalism and what competitiveness is and the battling and coming to training every day. So that side, I think he still was very valuable for us.
“In the end, I think it makes sense from everybody's perspective for him to go back to Houston.”
Johnson, 27, a former FC Dallas and Kansas City forward who played two games for the U.S. at the 2006 World Cup, signed Thursday with MLS after four years bouncing around Europe (Fulham, Cardiff City, Aris in Greece, Preston North End) and Mexico (Puebla) without much success. He was made available through allocation, and Montreal, atop the table, selected him and began listening to trade offers. Neagle, 24, and Fucito, 25, made huge steps forward last year for the Sounders.
The day began with a good test from UCLA, which had the skill to play with the Impact and the organization to deny them many opportunities. In the second game, against the Fusion, Miguel Montaño scored one goal, assisted another by Sinisa Ubiparipovic and should have scored yet another -- his first-half penalty kick was slapped away by Cal State Dominguez Hills goalkeeper Markus Dickerson. Steven Miller also scored for Montreal.
The day's best goal was by former UC Santa Barbara star Danny Barrera, back with the Fusion after spending the past week and half in Chicago's camp -- and due to return to his Serbian club, FK Spartak Zlatibor Voda, in the next week. Barrera hit a brilliant free kick from about 28 yards into the upper-left corner of the net, as perfectly placed as can be.
WORTH NOTING: The Fusion's starting lineup included three MLS Supplemental Draft picks who have been released from camp: former UC Santa Barbara defenders James Kiffe (San Jose) and Tim Pontius (Seattle) and San Diego State defender/midfielder Daniel Steres (Chivas USA). ... Galaxy coach Bruce Arena watched most of the first game, and U.S. under-23 national team coach Caleb Porter caught the second game. ... The Fusion play one group of Chicago Fire players on Saturday at Oxnard College, on a side field, while another Fire XI takes on the San Jose Earthquakes in the main stadium. Both games begin at 9 a.m.
ELSEWHERE: In other MLS news ...
Vancouver signed a Designated Player pre-contract with Scottish midfielder Barry Robson, 33, who will arrive in July after his contract with English second-tier side Middlesbrough expires.
Colorado signed Argentine attacking midfielder Martin Rivero, 22, from Rosario Central.
San Jose reached an agreement with English Premier League club Tottenham for midfielder Simon Dawkins, 24, to return on loan for a second season.
New York waived defender Sacir Hot, 20, and midfielder Matt Kassel, 22, Home Grown Players developed in the club's academy. The Red Bulls' attempt to sign one-time U.S. national team goalkeeper Luis Robles, who plays in Germany for Karlsruhe, was scuttled when he league ruled he'd have to go through an allocation process, The Washington Post reported.
Home Depot Center Field 4 (Carson)
Montreal Impact 0, UCLA 0
Montreal Impact: Greg Sutton; Calum Mallace, Nevio Pizzolitto, Tyson Wahl, Simon Gatti; Evan James, Collen Warner, Patrice Bernier, Juan Jose Peña (Gerson Mayen, 46); Davy Arnaud (Eduardo Sebrango, 46), Aaron Schoenfeld.
UCLA: Earl Edwards; Patrick Matchett, Joe Sofia, Matt Wiet, Chris Cummings (Ryan Lee, 46); Fernando Monge (Zack Foxhoven, 64); Evan Raynr (Chris Cummings, 64), Andrew Tusaazemajja, Victor Muñoz (Reed McKenna, 46); Ryan Hollingshead (Victor Muñoz, 64), Victor Chavez (Reed Williams, 46).
Yellow cards: None.
Referee: Steve Elliott. Att.: c. 50.
Home Depot Center Field 4 (Carson)
Montreal Impact 3, Ventura County Fusion (PDL) 1
M -- Miguel Montaño 18
M -- Sinisa Ubiparipovic (Miguel Montaño) 44
M -- Steven Miller (Felipe Martins) 64
VCF -- Danny Barrera 83
Montreal Impact: Evan Bush; Jeb Brovsky, Shavar Thomas (Zarek Valentin, 46), Matteo Ferrari (Calum Mallace, 69), Gienir Garcia; Sanna Nyassi, Felipe Martins, Bryan Arguez, Gerson Mayen (Steven Miller, 46); Sinisa Ubiparipovic; Miguel Montaño.
Ventura County Fusion: Markus Dickerson; Jeffrey Quijano (David Walker, 76), Mickey Daly, Tim Pontius, James Kiffe (John Lopez, 76); Hagop Chirishian (Gabe Gonzalez, 46; Gor Kirakosyan, 90), Manny Guzman (Miguel Sanchez, 68), Daniel Steres (Sergio Castillo, 46), Jack Avesyan (Diego Barrera, 46); Rosario Bras (Danny Barrera, 46), Milton Blanco (Jaime Chavez, 46).
Yellow cards: Kiffe 71.
Referee: Ramon Hernandez. Att.: c. 50.