It’s still a bit early to grade out Major League Soccer’s offseason. Unlike many leagues around the world, January doesn’t bring the end of Major League Soccer’s primary transfer window; MLS clubs may sign foreign players into May.
Still, as preseason camps are well under way, most of the “players in” and the “players out” movement is done for MLS teams. And the ranking of how they did in offseason roster enhancement are starting to fall.
MLSSoccer.com did the chores here, and it’s difficult to quarrel with their top pick for offseason achievement. Toronto’s splashy signings ruled the day as Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley arrived in the big Tim Leiweke swoop.
There might be a little squabbling after that, however, as the list has Philadelphia second and D.C. United third (followed by Portland and the LA Galaxy). John Hackworth’s Philadelphia Union certainly helped itself, mostly on that hard-fought Maurice Edu deal. But did D.C. United deserve just a little more credit?
In my mind, United’s moves put the RFK bunch at No. 2 based on two elements. The players Ben Olsen and Co. signed are known quantities around MLS. Sean Franklin and Jeff Parke will help stabilize the back line. Eddie Johnson (assuming D.C. United gets him signed, which doesn’t seem certain just now) and Fabian Espindola will help fill the desperate need for goal scoring.
No, Espindola didn’t exactly tear it up at Red Bull Arena last year. But playing alongside talented-but-demanding Thierry Henry can’t be easy.
United also did well in ridding itself of (relatively) big money going out to Dwayne DeRosario and Dejan Jakovic. Plus, Olsen’s club did well in the draft.
Again, it’s a little quibble (United ahead of Philly), but one worth quibbling about.
Neymar is playing as well as any player in the world, so it makes sense that anyone would be interested in signing the player were it a possibility, but would the Barcelona star considering swapping shirts with his current club’s biggest rival? Florentino Perez wants to woo the Brazilian to the Bernabeu, according to AS, though it’s an absolute head-scratcher as to why — aside from Perez’s wild ego — this move could go down.
Jamie Vardy could leave Leicester City, says the Independent. The thought here is that the Foxes couldn’t refuse a $45 million offer from a giant like Chelsea or Manchester City. Straight swap for Diego Costa (We kid, we kid; How would the mercurial striker possibly live with Tony Pulis?).
Burnley defender Michael Keane continues to impress as the Clarets aim for a Premier League return, and The Sun says Aston Villa is joining Manchester United and Everton with interest in the 22-year-old back.
The same publication says Everton back John Stones is taking Spanish lessons in preparation for a move to Barcelona (although many people speak Spanish in soccer, of course). The Sunday Mirror says Arsenal could also move for Stones.
Sky Italia says Leicester’s Andrej Kramaric is looking toward, essentially, all the big names in Serie A. AC Milan and Juventus are among the clubs mentioned by the report.
Jack Butland is having a strong season for Stoke, and the young English keeper is wanted by both of the Merseyside’s Premier League clubs, according to The Sun. The price? $30 million.
Harry Kane forced Asmir Begovic into two good saves in the first half and Song Hueng-min should’ve scored in the second half with a header but even after after a grueling 5,000-mile round trip to Azerbaijan on Thursday night for Europa League action which saw them arrive back in England at 6 a.m. local time Friday, manager Mauricio Pochettino wasn’t pleased his team didn’t win to move into the top four.
“No, not really happy. We deserved more than we got, so I was disappointed, but it’s true that I’m proud of the players. For me they’re big heroes,” Pochettino told ProSoccerTalk. “The effort was massive. Chelsea played one of their best games of the season, and when you make the effort we showed and the maturity, you have to be happy with your players but disappointed with one point.”
With Spurs now stretching their unbeaten run to 13 games this season — their one and only defeat in 2015-16 came on the opening day of the season, 1-0 at Manchester United — Pochettino was asked if his side, who sit five points off the top, should be pleased that a draw against Chelsea felt like two points dropped.
The Argentine coach then released his inner Jose Mourinho — the pair have a close relationship and before Poch came to coach in England he spoke at length to Mourinho — dishing out a backhanded compliment to the master of the backhanded compliment.
“This is a good thing. We play the champions. It’s good. You got the feeling that Chelsea were a small team and Tottenham can win every game we play,” Pochettino said. “It’s very difficult, though. Not easy. We’re the youngest team in the PL and the maturity we showed today we have shown in different games. We have to feel happy. It’s a good thing that, maybe, we are a bigger club than Chelsea or that we deserve more. We showed good performances in the last few games, and I’m happy, but we have to keep working hard. We’ve only had 14 games in the PL and it’s too early to think about the end of the season.”
Whether or not those comments were lost in translation from a man who is still getting used to English as his second language, Pochettino clearly felt Spurs deserved more than the point they got and it’s apparent from the differing predicaments both teams find themselves in that Spurs have more chance of winning the title and finishing in the top four than Chelsea this season.