Thursday, March 25, 2010

MLS – 10 In Compared to 10 Out

Devised & Written by Bart Edes of the du Nord Parisian bureau

With the new MLS season upon us, it's a good time to step back and take a look at some of the big changes in the league roster of players. MLS brass, along with various pundits in North America and beyond have opined that the level of play continues to rise. If that is indeed the case, one would expect that departing players would – on the whole – be replaced by players of at least a slightly higher caliber. Sure, players remaining in the MLS could become better from year to year, but major gains in quality won't be achieved unless we see more players with proven skills in competitive environments join MLS squads.

To stimulate thinking and debate, following are lists of ten of the most significant MLS signings for 2010, and of ten influential MLS players who have left the league through retirement or movement to other leagues. Excluded from the incoming list are college signings, who for the most part are rough around the edges and have yet to prove themselves in professional soccer. That said, in nine months time we might find that a small number of them have become regular starters and are making impacts beyond their youthful ages.

What do you think – does the new season herald a rise in net talent after we've witnessed the comings and goings of players? Are there players that warrant mention on either of these lists? Excited about the fresh faces and the quality they can be expected to bring to the field? Let the debate begin!

OUT

Cuauhtémoc Blanco Bravo, M, Chicago. One of the three most famous MLS players in recent years has returned home to his native Mexico to play for Veracruz in the country's second tier of football. The 37 year-old has already notched three goals this season.

Jon Busch, GK, Chicago – The Fire has extinguished Busch's hopes of playing in the Windy City this season, and the 33 year-old is now without a club.

Ricardo Clark, M, Houston – A possible starter for the USA in South Africa, Clark now plays for Eintracht Frankfurt in the German Bundesliga.

Luciano Emilio, F, DC United – Emilio, who scored in double digits during each of his three years in Washington, moved back to his native Brazil after refusing a pay cut. The 31 year-old now plays for Rio Branco, his former club.

Herculez Gomez, F, KC Wizards – The 27 year-old L.A.-born forward is tearing up nets in the Primera División where since relocating to Pueblo has registered six goals in his first 10 matches.

Stuart Holden, M, Houston – Holden, 24, who looks likely to be a part of Bob Bradley's World Cup squad, is recovering from a fractured fibula and hoping to get back out on the pitch for Bolton of the English Premiership.

Jessie Marsch, D, Chivas – The 36 year-old has hung up his cleats, and now serves as an assistant coach with the US Men's National Team.

Yura Movsisyan, F, RSL – The 22 year-old Baku-born Movsisyan left the United States as a champion, and now plies his trade with Randers of the Danish Superliga.

Steve Ralston, M, New England – After more than 200 appearances for the Revolution Ralston has left the league to become player-coach for Saint Louis in USSF Division 2 Saint Louis.

Chris Rolfe, M/F, Chicago – The 27 year-old Rolfe left the Fire to join Aalborg in Denmark's Superliga.

IN

Danny Califf, D, Philadelphia – The former Earthquake is back in the MLS after a stint in Denmark. He served as the captain of the USMNT in its 1-0 loss to Columbia in the 2007 Copa America.

Christian Castillo, D, DC United – The 25 year-old Salvadoran international scored in *both* World Cup qualifiers against the United States, and joins Curt Onalfo's team on loan from León of Mexico's second division.

Collins John, F, Chicago – The last few years have found the 24 year-old John bouncing around from European club to club, but his talent can not be denied. He is one of the small number of MLS players with significant EPL playing time under his belt.

Krzysztof Król, Chicago – The young (23) Polish left fullback has played in the Real Madrid system, though much of his short professional career has been spent in his native land.

Joel Lindpere, M, Red Bulls. The 28 year-old Estonian international has more than a dozen years of European club experience and claims more than 70 caps for his national team. He also has the distinction of being the first player to score in the Red Bull's new stadium (in New York's 3-1 victory over Santos).

Blaise Nkufo, F, Seattle. Set to join the Washington State club after the World Cup, Nkufo has to be one of the most high-profile MLS signings of the off-season. His age (34) does not seem to have affected his ability to put the ball in the net. Indeed, he has scored more than 100 goals for Twente, where he has been since 2003.

Jimmy Nielsen, GK, KC – The 32 year-old former Aalborg goalkeeper, and recovering gambling addict, takes the place of Kevin Hartman between the posts.

Lovel Palmer, M, Houston – The fleet-footed 25 year-old has moved to Texas from Jamaica's Harbour View. He has a dozen caps for the Reggae Boyz, and assisted on his national side's goal against Argentina in a 1-2 friendly loss in South America in February.

Troy Perkins, GK, DC United – Perkins has rejoined his old squad after testing the football waters on the Old Continent at Norway's Valerenga. The 28 year-old was named 2006 MLS Goalkeeper of the year.

Alvario Saborio, F, RSL. The former Saprissa striker has played more than 50 times for the CostaRica. The 27 year-old has most recently been playing on loan with Bristol City of the English Championship.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Ben in KC said...

The fact that eight out of ten top outgoing players are MLS products shows that MLS is developing good talent. I'm not sure your thesis is correct. For one, Jessie Marsch '08 makes your list where Marsch '96 the rookie wouldn't have. Since there is no way to count rookies without a crystal ball, maybe you shouldn't count retiring veterans. Also, I would imagine the Argentina league exports more talent than it imports, but that is precisely because it is a good league with a high level of play. But it doesn't pay enough to keep everyone.

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