The Clint Dempsey delirium was just the icing on a big newsy cake last week – although what deliciously sweet icing it was.
Fact is, last week was the newsiest 7-day stretch in Major League Soccer history. That covers 18 years now, so the size of the sample is hardly insignificant. Yes, more newsy even than the Beckham announcement tsunami, which swept noisily and yet somewhat majestically over MLS in January of 2007.
Although we’ve probably got sore-neck from all the head-spinning, let’s take a quick glance back at the head-spinning week that was. Here’s the accounting, in order:
- The United States captured the Gold Cup on the strength of MLS men. Half of the 14 performers who got on the field for Jurgen Klinsmann at Soldier Field are under MLS employment. Of the other seven, six launched their careers in MLS. Oh, and the undisputed player of the tournament: the Galaxy’s clearly reenergized Landon Donovan.
- Stuart Holden’s latest crushing blow cannot exactly be tagged “MLS news” at this point, but as he remains so closely linked to the league, still having done the majority of his professional midfield work for the Houston Dynamo, and considering the grim impact of it all, there was a heavy league attachment.
- The Columbus Crew was sold, and for the first time in league history, the Hunt family does not own multiple MLS teams. That’s important as the league’s critical effort at ultimate ownership diversity is nearly complete. FYI, reported figures have put the sale price at around $65 million, and that deserves a meaningful conversation of its own – although we never really got to it. You know, because it was such a busy, newsy week!
- Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber kicked up a huge fuss at halftime of the All-Star contest, revealing a significant, shifting philosophy on expansion. MLS would be a 24-team league by 2020, he said. Of course, it kicked up the next round of “Which city roulette,” and isn’t that always a hoot? And it leaves bigger, more weighty questions about dangerous trajectories and strategic approach, etc. Darn shame we didn’t have more time for those.
- Stunningly, Major League Soccer summer showcase, the All-Star game, was reduced to opening act status. For the record, AS Roma ruled the night. (Photo … right)
- We knew those unfamiliar and slightly obscure retention funds, part of the new, tricky math of MLS, had already been put to use. But did we have arms around the frequency, and know the names? Well, now we do after PST hung the names out of the line, out in public view last week.
- The Cosmos are back! This would have been a talker – I mean, 29 years since the Cosmos of old pushed the NASL into flying too close to the sun – on any other week.
- Clarence Goodson rejoined MLS, debuting in a San Jose Earthquakes shirt. Just a blip on the domestic soccer radar with everything else, I realize. Still, it was news.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.
Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.
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The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).
Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.
The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.
“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”
Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.
Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.
In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.
He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.
But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.
Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.
You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.
Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.
Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.
“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”
Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.