Author: Steve Davis

FC Barcelona v Levante U.D - Copa del Rey Quarter Final

Pondering those Carles Puyol-New York City FC whispers


I’ve known Jason Kreis since he was a rookie midfielder who practically refused to speak to the press; he humbly preferred that reporters talked to the established veterans, never mind that he was already one of his club’s top talents.

Still, I cannot pretend to know what’s in the guy’s mind.

I can, however, speculate with some education. And I would speculate that this Carles Puyol-to-New York City FC thing is a bunch of hooey. As we know, 80-90 percent of these aging-Euro-to-MLS media plants are hooey, so I’m not exactly betting the longshots here.

No, Kreis probably doesn’t have the final word on this stuff. Honestly, between the suits abroad (at Manchester City) and technical director Claudio Reyna, who knows where the balance of power lies with this fledgling of a club?

But here’s the deal. Puyol, who presided so regally on some absolutely wonderful FC Barcelona teams, is about to turn 36 (on April 13).  So, that will a “36” with a recent history of injury – and that is not a good 36.

New York City FC will not begin passing and trapping until 2015 (when the club officially begins as MLS club No. 20). So, a month into his first MLS season, Puyol would turn 37.

And as I like to remind everyone at every turn, the extensive travel and the summer heat of MLS is tough, tough adjustment. It’s tough on a 27-year-old, much less a 37-year-old with a history of injury.

Chances of Puyol leading Kreis’ back line a year from now? Just a little bit better than the chances that I’ll be leading his back line at this time next year.

Obafemi Martins in form for Seattle; what does that mean for other matters around CenturyLink?

Obafemi Martins, DeAndre Yedlin

An interesting thing is happening in Seattle. While everyone awaits Clint Dempsey’s arrival and wonders if he can slip out of the mean ol’ fog that has descended around him, and while so many wonder whether these Didier Drogba whispers may come to fruition around the Pacific Northwest side … the team is scoring goals.

Imagine that! Eat your heart out, Drogba!

And the goals are largely thanks to Obafemi Martins.

Seattle is 5-0-2 in the preseason; Martins has three goals, including the team’s only tally Wednesday in a 1-1 draw with Houston in the ongoing Carolina Challenge Cup.

While the team’s preseason record is no big deal – preseason success, often inflated by wins against lower-tier pro clubs or even college teams, is no indicator of what’s ahead when things get real – Martins’ good form is certainly a point worth discussion.

Will it, for instance, change the equation as Seattle ponders Drogba (who may be going elsewhere one way or the other)?

Will Martins’ good form remove some pressure from Dempsey, who won’t feel the immediate weight of needing to carry his team’s scoring burden?

Will an in-form striker allow Dempsey to fulfill a slightly different role, just a little further from goal?

A roster spot in New England for Shalrie Joseph? Far from a done deal

Kalif Alhassan, Shalrie Joseph

There aren’t many figures around MLS who are reservists, at best, and probably heading toward a bunch of late-appearances and U.S. Open Cup starts, who can still command our attention.

Shalrie Joseph is one of them.

Joseph, as we all learned last week, is in the New England Revolution’s preseason camp.

This wonderfully thorough piece from The Bent Musket, a New England Revolution blog, does a great job of detailing all those pot holes and low-hanging branches along this road.

There are contract complications and perhaps some politics that brush up against the possibility of hard feelings.

Here’s just a slightly different take, or perhaps the very same take, just seen a little different way: It’s all about Joseph and what he’s willing to accept.

He has always been a fiercely proud man. But at this point, as a 35-year-old midfielder who spent a significant portion of his career playing on artificial turf, he has to realistically assess his ability to contribute.

And he has to be willing to accept a completely different role. Scott Caldwell is this team’s holding midfielder.  That’s not to say Joseph cannot come in and fight for a spot; that’s fine.

But he’s probably not going to unseat Caldwell, who performed so well last year as a rookie. And he has to show right now that he’s going to be a loyal soldier, a total professional and 100 percent supporter of all coaching decisions, no “ifs,” “ands” or “buts.”

Joseph is in that small group MLS men who served brilliantly over a bunch of years but never won an MLS Cup. Taylor Twellman and Jason Kreis are other fine examples.

So it would be great to see Joseph finish a remarkable career where it started – but he’ll have to make some personal concessions to get there.

Is Austin a new player in MLS expansion sweepstakes?


I have this long-running debate with some pals out of Austin, including the unstoppable force behind Austin-based Free Beer Movement, about whether the city would be a fitting Major League Soccer destination.

Plenty of voices believe it is too much of a “football” town, with too much invested in University of Texas athletics.

I say, Austin has the same counter-culture feel and progressive element that has helped drive the fantastic success in places like Portland and Seattle. (I went to school at the University of Texas and kept bad company with some questionable women along Sixth Street back in the day, so I am not talking completely from a place of ignorance here.)

Austin is about to become the world’s epicenter for all things uber hip in music and technology with the latest SxSW festival going-ons, for instance.

As we pointed out recently, there are five or six cities in front of Austin at this point (including one, Atlanta, that is way, way out front).

As with San Antonio’s ongoing push to be a bigger MLS expansion player, there may be some push-back on a third market in Texas while areas further north in the Midwest remain somewhat underserved.

Still, is there movement toward an MLS attachment now in Austin? The piece linked there suggest something is up, although there aren’t many details.

The mayor is on board, which is nice. And there are commissions and economic feasibility studies and such in the works, so that’s a positive step, too – although still a long, long, long way from big-money and solid stadium plans. And that’s when this stuff gets real.

A few U.S. national team men desperately need to make big impressions next week

Sacha Kljestan, Craig Conway

Every invitation to the United States national team is an opportunity, and every player who has been summoned by Jurgen Klinsmann’s over the last two-plus years should know so. They waste chances at their own peril – because, really, who knows when the next one is coming if you aren’t named Donovan or Dempsey or Howard, etc.?

But some opportunities carry extra weight; Clearly we are at that point when it comes to a few of the U.S. figures who will gather in Frankfurt, and then fly into Cyprus on Tuesday’s for the next day’s friendly against displaced Ukraine.

We are talking serious Last Chance Saloon stuff here for a few guys still straddling the bubble.

(MORE: Klinsmann names squad for Frankfurt camp and Ukraine friendly)

A few of the fellows assembling Sunday in Frankfurt are in, period. Then we have a few are just too far away, without enough time to climb all the way back. But about those bubble types; let’s look at their situations:

Sacha Kljestan: Kljestan never looks bad in the U.S. shirt – but he never looks like a game-changer, either.  If he could so something in camp and (especially) Wednesday against Ukraine, he would go a long way to solidifying his position on that charter into Brazil. His competition for a midfield spot is probably down to Mix Diskerud and Benny Feilhaber, with one or maybe two spots open; Kljestan (pictured) is surely still ahead of Feilhaber but a little  behind Diskerud.

Alejandro Bedoya: Klinsmann needs wingers, figures comfortable attacking from wide areas (who can therefore stretch a defense a bit). And there are precious few of these fellows in the U.S. pool. Bedoya doesn’t really seem to have World Cup quality, but he’s alive in this thing because he does man a position where Klinsmann’s corps are so paper thin. Still, he has to show the manager enough, give Klinsmann reason to feel good about putting him on the plane to Brazil. Otherwise, the manager might just decide that he’s better off with someone else, even if that “someone else” isn’t a flank specialist.

Brek Shea: See Bedoya above … same deal.

Juan Agudelo: Now this could be the late, surprise run from a long-shot figure that we sometimes see. Given the (recent and discomforting) flux of the U.S. forward situation, there’s room for someone like Agudelo (or perhaps Terrence Boyd, who is also in the camp) to work his way up the order with a big camp and / or a goal in Cyprus. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt for Agudelo to toss in a few goals in the month or so ahead at his new, temporary Dutch home.

Danny Williams: He always seemed capable of getting back into the running, considering the German-American midfielder was a U.S. starter less than 18 months ago. Injuries and instability in his club situation conked Williams on the head, national team-wise in 2013. But here he is … still a young talent, and still blessed with a chance to make a late run if he can get on the field against Ukraine. It’s worth wondering whether Klinsmann might start Williams ahead of Jermaine Jones; the coach knows all too well, after all, what Jones can and cannot do at the holding midfield position.

(MORE: Do not read TOO MUCH into some of these surprise call-ups)