Wednesday, February 16, 2011
AROUND MLS: The strong get stronger
By Scott French
There are numerous procedures to acquire talent in rule-crazy (lawyer-rich) Major League Soccer, and we saw one of them enrich the league's best club and mete out a little justice this past week.
Weighted lotteries dispersed three top young players into the league. Two of them have the potential to be big stars. The third is a highly regarded outside back pegged for a long, productive career.
Real Salt Lake, arguably the finest side in the league, came up the big winner, claiming former Wake Forest forward Cody Arnoux against all odds.
Former University of Virginia forward Chris Agorsor, who also has star potential, went to Philadelphia, and teen right back Korey Veeder was picked up by Columbus.
Neither the Galaxy nor Chivas USA entered the lotteries, for which a team's chances are based on its record in its past 30 games in relation to the other teams involved.
Arnoux, who scored 32 goals in his sophomore and junior seasons at Wake Forest, returned last summer from a year with English club Everton's reserves and seemed to settle in nicely with the Vancouver Whitecaps in their final season as a D2 club.
That's what the Whitecaps figured: They tried to sign Arnoux for their MLS side, but the league wouldn't have it. MLS uses lotteries for players coming out of college who sign after the draft or for players who previously turned down a league offer. Arnoux had been aggressively pursued before he left Wake Forest following his junior season, so to Friday's lottery he went.
RSL won despite just a 5.4 percent chance of success.
“Miracles never cease,” quipped GM Garth Lagerwey to MLS's website.
Arnoux is renowned for his work rate and his nose for the net, and he said he hoped he could step in for Robbie Findley, the World Cup forward who moved to England's Nottingham Forest.
“I never stop working -- that’s what I build my game around,” Arnoux told the league's website. “I’m not the guy who’s going to make the right pass every time or make the right decision. But I’m good in front of goal and have confidence in front of goal and that has to be built back up because I’ve been off for a while.
“I’m a hard worker, and that’s something English fans like. Even though I wasn’t playing with [Everton's] first team, they appreciated that a lot, and I know American fans appreciate that a lot. That’s the kind of player I am. I’ve not always been the best, but I’ve always had to try to work harder to beat everyone else.”
Agorsor went Monday to the Philadelphia Union, the club he has trained with since trials at Manchester United and Portugal's CD Nacional led nowhere. Veeder, a U.S. U-20 national-teamer who signed with second-division Crystal Palace Baltimore out of high school, was assigned Tuesday to Columbus.
Philadelphia was virtually the only team in the running for Agorsor -- expansion Portland and Vancouver also signed up, but their lack of MLS history (none of those 30 games to call on) gave the Union a 96.3 probability.
Agorsor, 20, was the Gatorade Player of the Year and NSCAA High School Player of the Year in 2008, then led the Baltimore Bays to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy U17/U18 title game. He scored four goals in his first seven games at Virginia, then suffered a major knee injury that with a subsequent ankle ailment ended his college career.
Those injuries might have made teams wary about him, but Union assistant coach John Hackworth thinks Agorsor could be something big.
“He’s an explosive attacking player who is very dynamic and has a great combination of speed and agility,” Hackworth told MLS's Web site. “He’s probably one of the most agile athletes I’ve ever seen on a soccer field.”
Veeder's decision to turn down a scholarship offer from the University of South Carolina to sign with CPB makes a little sense -- he was hoping to get to the parent club in England -- but ultimately not enough. The opportunity to play in MLS provides a quick, deserved second shot.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“I think [FC Dallas' Jair Benitez is] an unprofessional player. It’s just one of those things that he came up to me, and it took me every ounce of my energy not to punch him in the face, hit him or retaliate. But I’m a better professional than he is. I just kind of turned my shoulder a little bit and shrugged it off.”
-- Houston Dynamo defender/midfielder Geoff Cameron to the Houston Chronicle, after Benitez spat in his face during an exhibition in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“No, he also spit [at] me. That’s why I spit [at] him, but it’s because he spit. He’s a player that was telling me about everything. That’s why he spit [at] me and I also spit [at] him.”
-- Benitez's response.
“No chance, no chance. If he says I spit in his face, he’s an idiot.”
-- Cameron's response to Benitez's response.
ON THE WEB
Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon recalls 1994, Escobar
Catching up with former Galaxy playmaker Mauricio Cienfuegos
Portland Timbers: Expansion club sets new standards
Timbers' owner's goals: Make playoffs, beat Seattle
Amputation scare has newcomer Agorsor motivated for Union
U.S. Soccer's tax return? Click on “FY 2010 Form 990” to download
- D.C. United completed the loan deal to bring in U.S. national team forward Charlie Davies from France's Sochaux.
- New York plans to use Rafa Marquez on the backline this season, partnering Rookie of the Year finalist Tim Ream in the middle.
- New England signed former French international Ousmane Dabo, 34, a central midfielder who has played for Lazio and Manchester City.
- San Jose completed a transfer deal with Norway's Aalesunds FK for midfielder Khari Stephenson, who was pivotal for the Quakes while on loan last season. The Jamaican international signed a three-year contract.
- Houston has signed Jamaican defender Jermaine Taylor, 26, a starting center back for the Reggae Boyz.
- MLS Best XI defender Nat Borchers signed an extension through 2014 with Real Salt Lake. The Utahns earlier re-signed MLS Defender of the Year Jamison Olave, forward Alvaro Saborio and goalkeeper Nick Rimando to new pacts.
- Sporting Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury, a burgeoning U.S. national-teamer, sustained a dislocated elbow in a scrimmage against Houston. He'll be out about four weeks.
- No. 1 overall draft pick Omar Salgado, who can't officially play for Vancouver until he turns 18 (Sept. 10; FIFA ruling), scored in the Whitecaps' preseason opener, a 3-1 win over Columbus.
- Former Galaxy goalkeeper Steve Cronin, with D.C. United, suffered a broken wrist in training last week and will be out 8-10 weeks.
- MLS Commissioner Don Garber says MLS won't change to a fall-to-spring schedule any time soon, admitting pledges in November to study the idea was mostly about the 2022 World Cup vote, which went to Qatar. "We thought it would be smart to show the international football community that we were open to do some things that would more align with the international confines of the sport," Garber said during an appearance in Vancouver last week. "That is probably less important for us now."
- Garber also says expansion Vancouver has surpassed every other league club for sponsorship revenue.
- Forward Kenny Cooper arrived amid great fanfare in Portland, said: “Being part of the national team has been certainly one of the highlights of my career. Having had some opportunities, it leaves you hungry for more of them. I want to be a professional every day with the Timbers and hope that good performances with the club hopefully translate into more national team opportunities.”
- Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho, to Sky Italia: “My idea is to stay at the top of European soccer for the next 10 to 15 years. After that I would like to have a completely different experience in the United States -- the New York Red Bulls or Los Angeles Galaxy, a home in Manhattan or a home in Malibu. That’s the idea I have.”
- Sporting Kansas City will open the season with 10 road games. The club's new stadium is slated to open June 9.
- U.S. Soccer gave provisional approval as a second-division league to the North American Soccer League -- MLS is the first-division league, and USL Pro is third division -- but said NASL clubs could not compete in this year's U.S. Open Cup.