West Ham is looking to sign one of the top defenders in MLS to bolster its squad. Unfortunately for the Premier League club, work permit issues may scupper the transfer.
Sky Sports in England reported that West Ham’s inability to acquire a work permit for Aaron Long may slam the breaks on a potential transfer from the New York Red Bulls. Long reportedly has a $5 million release clause and Sky Sports claims Long also has interest from Marseille, Fiorentina, Rennes and Lyon.
Long’s career has been a long story of never giving up, and his career growth over the past few seasons has been very impressive. After barely playing for the Seattle Sounders in 2014 and then playing as a holding midfielder for the USL club, Sounders 2 in 2015, Long was moved back to centerback and excelled in 2016 with New York Red Bulls II. He led the side to the USL Cup title and was named defender of the year.
A year later, with the New York Red Bulls first team, he solidified and stepped right into the backline and is now the defending MLS Defender of the Year. His play in 2017 led to getting a couple of caps in 2018 for the U.S. Men’s National Team under coach Dave Sarachan, and he’s moved into a starting role under Gregg Berhalter, starting five of the six USMNT games at the 2019 Gold Cup this summer.
Unfortunately, UK work permit laws mean that Long – with the U.S. now in the top 30 – would have had to play at least 60 percent of all USMNT games over the past two years, and that just hasn’t happened. It’s a common issue over the past decade for USMNT players looking to move to England. Juan Agudelo never qualified for a work permit while at Stoke City in 2014, while Zack Steffen still hasn’t earned a work permit to stay with Manchester City.
It’s also not the first time West Ham has looked to MLS. Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi was once a target of the club, and it signed Doneil Henry for a two-year period, though the then-young Canadian made no appearances.
It’s a huge moment in Aaron Long’s career. At 26-years old, he’s at the prime of his career, though with less wear and tear on the body compared to many others. It would be the perfect time for him, personally, to make the move abroad and see if he can take his career to the next level.
And yet, MLS and the Red Bulls organization has been stingy so far accepting a transfer request, according to reports, and it may not matter anyway if Long isn’t able to get a work permit.
Marseille would be an interesting choice, since the club is owned by former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. But it’s looking more likely that Long will remain with the Red Bulls in the short term. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing for the USMNT, it does hurt his potential growth as a player, provided he could break into the Premier League starting lineup.
In a league where only two of 24 teams are above .500 on the road (DC United and LAFC), it’s still saying something about a hot weekend in these United States of America (and Canada).
Columbus Crew 2-1 Montreal Impact
The Crew’s early advantage looked like business as usual by halftime, as Caleb Porter’s struggling men conceded in stoppage time, but David Accam netted right after the break to give Columbus a much-needed three points.
Toronto FC 1-3 Houston Dynamo
TFC opened the door for New England or Orlando City to climb into the top seven by going into an early hole and failing to rally. Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore came off the bench, the latter scoring, but the Reds did little on Alejandro Pozuelo’s day off and the Dynamo get a big road win to move without touching distance of a playoff position.
Marco Fabian scored a beauty and Anthony Fontana also netted as the Union assured themselves another week atop the Eastern Conference. Chicago remains winless away from home.
Sporting KC 0-2 FC Dallas
What in the world is going on? SKC could not find the net with more than one of their 17 shot attempts, and fell five points back of a playoff spot. Worse, the hosts allowed sixth-place Dallas to move five points clear of them.
Woof. Really bad result for #SportingKC, who looked very good for the opening half-hour but very quickly imploded after the first goal. Playoffs now getting farther away, not closer. #SKCvDAL
It didn’t take long for youngster Sebastian Anderson to go from hero to goat, as the soon-to-be 17-year-old gave the Rapids a sixth minute lead before taking a red card 27 minutes later. Heber and Alexandru Mitrita scored late in each half to drive NYCFC’s dreams of the top spot in the East. The visitors are now seven points back of first, but have four matches-in-hand on Philadelphia.
Real Salt Lake 1-1 Minnesota United
Darwin Quintero and Marcelo Silva traded goals in a fair result.
Vancouver Whitecaps 1-3 San Jose Earthquakes
Make it three-straight wins for the Quakes, who rode Cali Clasico momentum and overcame an early Doneil Henry goal through Vako, Chris Wondolowski, and the in-form Magnus Eriksson.
The Chicago Fire were on the verge of suffering an embarrassing defeat, but a video assistant referee decision and an expertly-taken penalty helped the Fire earn a point at home.
The Fire drew the Vancouver Whitecaps, 1-1, at SeatGeek Stadium on Friday evening. Yordy Reyna put the Whitecaps up from a very tight angle but Nemanja Nikolic tied the score, firing a strike into the roof of the net.
In the 53rd minute, Fire goalkeeper David Ousted chased down a cross, but quickly realized he was about to handle the ball outside of the 18-yard box. Instead of kicking the ball out of play, Ousted tried to punch it to a teammate. Instead, it fell right to Reyna, who side-footed it just inside the post.
In the 81st minute, former Toronto FC defender and Canadian National Team player Doneil Henry was judged to have handled the ball in the penalty box. A review with VAR led to the decision. Nikolic stepped up to the spot with his team needing a goal and he smashed a strike in for a goal.
Benito Floro is the latest Canadian national team coach to leave the job without a trip to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
The ex-Real Madrid, Villarreal, and Monterrey coach came close. Very close. Ultimately, though, the 64-year-old Spaniard found his fate the same as Stephen Hart, Dale Mitchell, and Frank Yallop beforehand.
The thing about Floro’s failure, though, is that it feels entirely salvageable. Canada missed the Hex by one point in the toughest group to escape, with Mexico and Honduras. You could argue that if their Pot B groupmate was Panama or Trinidad and Tobago, they’re in the Hex now.
Mostly, what killed Canada is Floro’s insistence on a lone target striker when he really didn’t have that horse in his stable.
Cyle Larin is a fantastic young talent, but didn’t have the facilitators with his national team to be left alone. There’s neither Kaka nor Matias Perez Garcia, as he has in Orlando. There’s Tesho Akindele, another striker, and Tosaint Ricketts.
Larin and Akindele aren’t the only ones who will be sticking around when Canada is, hopefully, staring at the Hex in four years time. Rangers defender Fraser Aird will be 25, and promising fellow Vancouver youngsters Kianz Froese and Marco Bustos will be 24. Doneil Henry, Manjrekar James, Samuel Piette… all could be in frame. Richie Laryea was the No. 7 MLS Draft pick in 2016. Not all will hit, but surely some.
The Vancouver Whitecaps have one of the better Academy set-ups in North America, and both Toronto FC and Montreal aren’t too far behind.
Additionally, the caliber of players who are shining in NCAA Soccer but not finding the right professional home is a shame. Not that college should be be Goal 1A of talented Canadians, but those who wind up there need to take the next step in the right way.
Better post-college advisement of promising players like Kwame Awuah (UConn), Brian Wright (Vermont), Alex Comsia (UNC), Kamal Miller and Sergio Camargo (both Syracuse) should be a priority, too (They also need to sort out their plans for competing in America’s fourth-tier, but youth clubs have power in money).
“The reality of our situation is we do have domestic candidates but we also have to look elsewhere as well — as we have in the past, as we have in the present and as we will in the future. I don’t think we’re excluding anybody and specifically our own.”
The goal “is to build on the good things that have happened.”
What’s the best thing Canada could do? Don’t blow it up, and hire a man who’s done this job before, at this level. I’m not saying you have to land a CONCACAF hero like Miguel Herrera or Bruce Arena, but find a man who can put the right players in the right positions to win, is versatile enough to outfox a peer time-and-again, and go forward.
Either that, or hire a legend from a major European country who can convince anyone with any Canadian blood in him to come home. I’m saying, it’s been done.