Category Archives: MLS

Kickers offseason roundup, part 1

Welcome to our first installment of the Kickers offseason roundup, where we tell you what has been happening since the season has ended and get you ready for 2013!

The first bit of news from the Kickers offseason is that Shane Johnson, standout centerback, has been resigned to a multi-year deal. On the surface, this seems a little strange to me; Johnson played  very well throughout his first season, besides when he was injured, and he could be in line  for a move up the ladder in the coming years. Although it is rare, players have made transfers directly from the lower leagues of American soccer to MLS; the more typical route is that an out of contract player gets offered a trial and then signs with an MLS team. For an example, Osvaldo Alonso, currently a fixture of the MLS Best XI team, had his rights purchased by the Seattle Sounders from the Charleston Battery. But playing time is key and Johnson will definitely get playing time in Richmond. In a few years, he may be moving up.

A second bit of news is that the Richmond Kickers will be holding open tryouts in February and March. Unlike MLS, which holds a draft in January, USL Pro (and NASL, for that matter), allow teams to sign whichever players they can get. For the Kickers, these tryouts have produced such notable names as Ronnie Pascale and Clyde Simms. These sessions will take place after the USL Combine, which takes place in Bradenton, Florida, January 24-27.

Finally, a number of key players have retired. As was well expected, Ronnie Pascale has officially retired, having been a mainstay with the Kickers for the past 12 years. In addition, midfielder Nozomi Hiroyama has also announced his retirement. And while it has not been announced, I would expect Mike Burke to return to retirement after having been called back during a shortage of midfielders. That is a lot of experience leaving the team, and we wish them all the best in their furture endeavors.

Keep your eyes open for more offseason USL news, coming next week, which includes expansion and a rumored MLS-USL partnership.

Richmond Kickers find their way back home

This Saturday, the Richmond Kickers find themselves back home at City Stadium for a game against the Rochester Rhinos. After a disappointing trip to North Carolina, the Kickers need a good result to keep themselves on track for the playoffs. The Rochester (Ragin’) Rhinos are 5 points up on the Kickers and are one of the two teams who are tied on games played. However, the Kickers beat them 1-0 in Rochester just a few weeks ago, and now the game is on friendly ground.

This game turns on the same thing as the past games: the ability of the defense to hold steady. If Shane Johnson is healthy, I would assume that he would slot back in at center back; whether it is alongside Yomby William or Jason Yeisley is up for debate. Henry Kalungi does not come back from Ugandan national team duty until next week, and that is when the real debates will begin. So far this season, I see an ideal pairing of Kalungi and Johnson, but William still has time to prove that he can get back to his previous standard.

But, as I have literally just learned as I have been typing this, Ethan White has been loaned back to the Kickers; this time for both this weekend and next weekend. He didn’t look great in the last two games, but he is a better center back than he showed. Hopefully with a little more time under his belt he’ll be able to integrate better into the squad. A whole week of training with the Kickers should allow him to show what he is really made of.

So who is going to start? Well, as you all know I’m terrible at this so far, but that doesn’t keep me from trying!

Pascale
Goerres White Yeisley Vercollone
Callahan
Heins Dos Santos Nyazamba Fogelsong
Agorsor

I’m a sap, so I’ll predict another 1-0 win, with Agorsor scoring the goal. I’ll be in the press box, so I’ll try and get you some updates from during the game!

Richmond Kickers vs. Charlotte Eagles Game Thread

Sorry, getting this up far too late. Lineup is Pascale, Goerres, Yomby, Yeisley, Vercollone, Callahan, Dos Santos, Nyazamba, Hiroyama, MacKenzie, Agorsor. Feel free to use this to talk about the game, but it is not on USL Nation (damn you Charlotte!). For DCU fans, Ethan White is not starting, but is in the 18. I’ll get a report together tomorrow morning. Enjoy!

Ethan White loaned to the Richmond Kickers for the weekend

As I briefly mentioned on Black and Red United, central defender Ethan White has been loaned to the Richmond Kickers for this weekend’s two games against Wilmington and Charlotte. White has been recovering from knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and has not featured for United in league play so far this season. Kickers fans may recognize him as he started for D.C. United in this year’s US Open Cup match in City Stadium. White is both fast and physical as a center back and he 21 matches in MLS last season due to injuries. He decided to have surgery in March rather than putting off to the end of the season, and is now ready to feature again; however, with three healthy center backs in front of him, he needs playing time elsewhere.

He should start both games this weekend and give the Kickers’ central defenders some much needed rest while give White some much needed playing time. Henry Kalungi has been gone with the Ugandan National Team, which tied both of their World Cup qualifiers to sit in second place in their group; he may be back with the team this weekend, but likely will not start. Yomby William is working back into fitness after being injured for the past month or so, entering the last game in the 71st minute. Shane Johnson and Jason Yeisley have filled in admirably, but getting Yeisley back up to the front line will allow Leigh Cowlishaw more options in the attack.

If I had to predict right now, I would say that it would be Johnson and White starting in central defense, with Kalungi coming back for next weekend’s game in City Stadium. It is a good move for the Kickers, allowing them to plug a hole in the back line and rest some players who have played basically every minute the past month.

Andy Najar and Olympic qualifying

In news that is no surprise to anyone, there are reports out of Honduras that their national team coach wants to call Andy Najar in for Olympic qualifying. However, Luis Fernado Suarez notes that if the club will not let Najar come, then there is nothing he can do. Olympic qualifying is March 22 through April 2 and Honduras is in the same group as Mexico, Panama, and Trinidad & Tobago. If United were to let Najar go, he would miss two games: at Vancouver and versus FC Dallas.

However, I feel like there are reasons that United should let Andy Najar go for Olympic qualifying, even though they don’t have to. First, they are likely to let Bill Hamid and Perry Kitchen go and play for the United States; to not let the player of another country go doesn’t sit right. Also, this is a real international tournament, not just some friendlies. If Andy wants to go, he should be allowed to go. Besides, United wants to keep a good relationship with one of its best young players. My gut feeling is that, in the end, United will let all the players called by their U-23 teams to go and participate, and I think that that is the right thing to do. What do you all think?

Drafts and a trialist?

The SuperDraft and the Supplemental Draft are now over, which has added four additional players to DC United’s roster. United’s draft haul includes two attacking midfielders and two defenders, which leads me to hope that United is in deep discussions with international forwards that will be signing this week.

The two attacking midfielders were the first and last draft picks that United had in the two day draft: Nick DeLeon from Louisville and Matt Kuhn out of Drake. Both can play on the wing or more centrally, although it seems as though DeLeon is more comfortable on the wing and Kuhn is more comfortable in the center of the field. For coverage on Nick DeLeon, I recommend the always excellent Black and Red United, who picked up a nice interview with him. Joe Mauceri likes the pick of Kuhn, and says that while he played central attacking midfielder at Drake, he can also fill in at left midfielder and left back.

DC United also picked up two defenders in the draft: defensive midfielder Lance Rozeboom out of New Mexico and center back Charles Rodriguez out of UNC-Charlotte. Rozeboom is a slightly curious pick, as he would be competing with Perry Kitchen, Conor Shanosky, and Kurt Morsink. Kitchen will likely be gone during Olympic qualifying, but I wonder if this is an indication of Shanosky’s standing with the United coaching staff. Or, they might have just rated him the highest out of who was left and drafted value instead of need. Charles Rodriguez captained UNC-Charlotte’s national runner up squad this fall, and I enjoyed his exuberance at being drafted by United. Center back is obviously a position where DC United needs more players and Rodriguez, while not the most physical, apparently has great soccer IQ. I like the draft picks overall, as long as an international forward (or trade for an established MLS starter at the very least) is coming.

Also, a newspaper out of Hattiesburg, Mississippi is reporting that William Carey University goalkeeper Carl Goody is on trial with DC United. Goody was scouted by Pat Onstadt during Carey’s run in the NAIA Tournament and was selected a first team All-American at the National Soccer Coaches Association convention this past week. There are quotes from Goody’s coach, who said that “He [Onstadt] liked what he saw of Carl and was interested in getting my opinion and also learning about Carl’s plans after graduation.” And, for those who are snooty about NAIA, there was at least one NAIA player taken during the actual Supplemental Draft today.

SuperDraft preview

DC United only has one pick in today’s MLS SuperDraft, so they better make it count. Last year, United got solid contributors with all of its picks in both the SuperDraft and the Supplemental draft: a key starter in Perry Kitchen, and quality role players in Joe Willis, Chris Korb, and Blake Brettschneider. This year, however, United has only one pick in the two round SuperDraft and three picks in the four round Supplemental Draft. Both of the picks that are missing this year were traded for players who are not currently on the team’s roster. United traded their second round pick this year in the trade for Jed Zayner, currently out of contract but invited to camp, and traded their first round supplemental pick this year in the 2009 trade for Julius James, currently a starter for the Columbus Crew.

All of that said, it will be their pick at the top of the draft that defines whether it is a success or a failure. United will certainly be looking to get a Generation adidas player, and hopefully they can pull off a coup similar to the one that netted them Perry Kitchen. There are four players that I have seen most often projected to be taken by DC United: UNC midfielder Enzo Martinez, Creighton fullback Tyler Polak, UCSB midfielder Luis Silva, and Maryland forward Casey Townsend. Black and Red United have done some nice profiles of these players (and more!), so I recommend you check them out if you haven’t already.

Martinez and Silva are both attacking midfielders, which is not a position of dire need for United. Dwayne DeRosario and Branko Boskovic will begin the season as the top two on the depth chart at the position, with both of them likely to start, if healthy. However, Boskovic’s contract only runs through the middle of the summer, and the options in center midfield drop off after those two players. Martinez is the Generation adidas player, meaning he would cost less, but Travis Clark considers Silva the more MLS ready of two and the one who is ready to fight for a starting spot now. United obviously needs the more MLS ready player now, and so I would prefer Silva over Martinez.

Tyler Polak is another name that has been linked to United. He is a fullback out of Creighton, who usually plays left back and was one of the catalysts for his team. However, he has not had a very good Combine and that seems to have made his draft stock slip somewhat. He is another member of the Generation adidas class and United do need a left back to challenge or supplant Daniel Woolard; I like Woolard as a spot starter, but United need some more offensive potential out of the left back position. Even though he hasn’t had the best Combine, I would have no problem with United taking Polak.

Finally, mlssoccer.com’s mock draft projects United to take Casey Townsend, a forward out of Maryland. He is not a stereotypical target forward, but more a goal poacher who is also good in the air. He scored 17 goals and notched two assists for Maryland this year, and has 43 goals in his college career. Unlike the rest of the top forwards in the draft pool, Townsend will likely still be on the board at number 7. United badly need a finisher other than DeRo, and it looks like Townsend is the best one in the draft. While I would be happy with any of the other players selected, the one that I want the most is Casey Townsend.

Malmo FF friendly seemingly official

A quick update to a previous post about Malmo FF: A Swedish newspaper is claiming that the friendly between Malmo FF and DC United is now official, scheduled from February 2 in Bradenton, Florida. They also state that Malmo will play the Columbus Crew on February 8 as well, before returning to Sweden. What gives this report more heft is that Malmo have now put the two matches against MLS teams on their official website. I still haven’t heard anything from any MLS or US people, but I’m sure something will come out soon.

United to play Sweden’s Malmo FF during the preseason?

Welp, here is another rumor, hot off the rumor mill. A Swedish newspaper in the city of Malmo, Sydsvenskan, is reporting that Malmo FF will play DC United and the Columbus Crew during the preseason, possibly on February 4 and 8. Malmo finished fourth in the Allsvenskan last season, and would be coming over at the beginning of their training for the upcoming season. They are the current team of former Sounder Erik Friberg and were the first club of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

This past summer, Malmo was knocked out of the UEFA Champions League in the third qualifying round by Rangers, and are most likely one of the few Swedish teams that anyone in the United States have heard of. A lot of American commentators like to portray MLS as equal to the various Scandinavian leagues, and so this will be a fun exercise and a good early season test for United. If they win, it would give them a lot of confidence, and if they lose, its not a big deal. Just a warmup for the Carolina Challenge Cup, right?

As of yet, I have not heard anything else about Emiliano Dudar or any other possible DC United transfers or loans. As always, if I hear more about anything, you all will be the first to know.

The schedule gods were (mostly) kind

All of the MLS schedules for the regular season came out yesterday, and DC United’s broke fairly favorably. Below is the breakdown of how many times United plays each team:

  • 1 game: The entire Western Conference (Galaxy, Whitecaps, Sounders, Timbers, Chivas, Dallas, Rapids, Earthquakes, RSL)
  • 2 games: Chicago Fire, Sporks
  • 3 games: Revolution, Impact, Red Bulls, Dynamo, Toronto, Union, Crew

Out of five playoff teams from last year, United plays one of them home and away (Sporks), plays two home games against the Red Bulls and Crew, and plays two away games against the Dynamo and Union. Also, having three games against each of Toronto, Montreal, and New England is a boon for any playoff team. United have the dubious honor of being the first team to play the Dynamo in their new stadium, which will be rocking. The last five games of the season are not a cakewalk for United, but they are not impossible either, having to play Chivas, Timbers, Toronto, the Crew, and Chicago in their last five games. That is a fairly decent stretch run for the team, provided that they are in a position to make the playoffs. In fact, in the last two months of the season, United only plays three games against teams that went to the playoffs last year.

The first month of United’s season, however, features almost half of their matches against the Western Conference. After opening against the Sporks, they play the Galaxy, Whitecaps, Dallas, and the Sounders four weeks in a row, before coming back to the Eastern Conference to play New England. This early stretch will be a good test of the type of team United will be, especially if they can compete with the class of the West. The other five Western Conference teams are spread out across the season, ending with the Timbers at the end of September.

United also plays one game on an international date, 22 August, versus the Chicago Fire. As was announced along with the schedule, that means that both United and the Fire agreed to let the match be put on that date. Looking at Fifa’s international calendar, I understand why: 22 August is the only match day during that break, and the break is only for friendlies, not for World Cup qualifiers or other official action. United got a solid schedule on a team that hopes to make the playoffs next year; now, they need to get the players they need into the squad and start acting on that hope.

Other than the schedule, United continues to be quiet. All of that speculation about Emiliano Dudar has not manifested itself into anything yet, and I have heard nothing more about other international signings for United. Hopefully the front office can make some signings official before the SuperDraft next week so that they can focus on other areas of need. As always, I will bring you anything I hear about potential transfers, no matter how ridiculous the rumor.

Also, only 50 days until the first games of the Carolina Challenge Cup! Who says MLS has a long offseason?