Steve Zakuani

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Dempsey still happy to accept USMNT role (which is good)

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Clint Dempsey is tied with Landon Donovan for the most goals in USMNT history, and seems set to continue with the side in some capacity as he threatens to stand alone in American history.

[ MLS: Steve Bruce to Miami? ]

The 34-year-old striker spoke with Steve Zakuani on the Sounders’ web site (video below) and said he’s happy to accept continued call-ups should they arrive from USSF headquarters.

From SoundersFC.com:

“We’ll see what happens,” Dempsey said.” I mean, in terms of what I’ve been able to accomplish with the national team, I’m at peace with it. It’s not really about me. It’s about a group of guys that want to be moving forward.

“If there’s an opportunity that comes where you get to play a role and try to help and I’m feeling good and I’m playing well, then yeah, you’ll never say no. But you know, if the call never comes I’m still happy, still at peace, and focused on being here and trying to make the most of the time I have left.”

There are a number of players whose national team futures should be in question, but Dempsey is in a different class. No one has debated his motor or fuel, and his engine is still there (to complete the Springsteen-esque car comparisons, he remains one of the only things that qualifiers as chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected, and steppin’ out over the line).

If anything, he plays too close to the edge. That’s not something I see as one of the Yanks’ problems right now, so perhaps Dempsey needs to be viewed like Cuauhtemoc Blanco or Carlos Ruiz as a CONCACAF guy who’s around as long as he wants to be a part of it.

I mean, shoot, if Dempsey wants to keep passing the fire to Christian Pulisic and now Weston McKennie, there are far worse ambassadors for the program. He’s the most accomplished field player in recent history, and will be able to share so much when it comes to balancing club and country.

Heck, maybe he needs to be the late era Ryan Giggs of the 2018-2022 USMNT.

MLS Re-Entry Draft: As predicted, Portland find a way to get Steve Zakuani

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You didn’t have to be Miss Cleo to see this coming. Seattle had made the tough decision to leave Steve Zakuani exposed in the Major League Soccer Re-Entry Draft, a decision that was sure to peak  Portland’s interest.

With Zakuani’s former college coach now in charge with the Sounders’ rival, the question wasn’t whether Caleb Porter would want the former first overall pick. It was how they would get him.

Today we got our answers. Swapping first round picks in the Re-Entry Draft, Portland sent defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste to Chivas USA  for Jorge Villafaña, with the Timbers also giving Chivas the No. 17 pick to move up to No. 2. There, after D.C. United selected Sean Franklin from Los Angeles, Portland brought another Akron alum into Porter’s fold.

[MORE: MLS Re-Entry Draft: D.C. United add Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell at the back]

Zakuani joins Darlington Nagbe, Ben Zemanski, and Michael Nanchoff as former Zips on Porter’s roster, though coming from Seattle, Zakuani’s acquisition transcends the Akron narrative. A popular player whose tenure with the Sounders dates back to the team’s first MLS season (when he was the club’s first ever draft pick), the site of Zakuani in a Timbers uniform is sure to bring discomfort to the Rave Green faithful.

The degree to which they’ll rue the move may depend on Zakuani’s health. The 25-year-old suffered a devastating leg injury in April 2011 but appeared fully recovered for the start of this season. However, suffering through a sports hernia injury, Zakuani played only eight league games in 2013, scoring once.

In 2010, the year before his leg injury, Zakuani put in an all-star caliber season, registering 10 goals and six assists in 29 games, becoming one of the best left wingers in the league. But with Seattle clearing out cap space in an effort to reshape their team, a player who has appeared in only 22 league games over the last three years had to be let go, Portland now assuming the commitment to a man who made $233,000 in 2013 ($135,000 against the cap).

We’ll circle back with more on the Re-Entry Draft. For now, here are the players who were selected in stage one:

Round One
1. D.C. United – Sean Franklin, RB, LA Galaxy
2. Portland Timbers (from Chivas USA) – Steve Zakuani, LW, Seattle
6. Philadelphia Union – Corben Bone, M, Chicago
13. Colorado Rapids – Marc Burch, D/M, Seattle
Round Two
20. D.C. United – Bobby Boswell, D, Houston Dynamo

Some very interesting names now available through Major League Soccer’s re-entry process

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Major League Soccer announced its list of players eligible for the 2013 Re-Entry Draft, and there are some very, very intriguing names.

The process from here is all about “value.” These are mostly guys who still have some value (even to the club that just took a big step toward cutting ties with them). But the clubs have generally assessed that these players aren’t achieving “value.” That is, they aren’t worth the money about to applied to the 2014 salary cap.

Clubs may still sign these guys through 5 p.m. ET on Dec. 11, but it’s probably too late for most of them at their current addresses. Here is the entire list, along with explanations of the process.

We’ve picked out a few of the most intriguing names available for selection in Stage One of the Re-Entry Draft on Dec. 12.

Chicago’s Chris Rolfe: A lot of us believed the Chicago Fire livewire would do fantastic things in 2013. (*Sheepishly raises hand*) Well, he was neither live nor a wire … and his season needed rescuing, just like the entire team’s, by league MVP Mike Magee.

D.C. United’s Dwayne De Rosario: A year ago, several teams may have jumped at the chance to sign the former league MVP (2011) and veteran Canadian international. But his decline this year was staggeringly sharp. “De Ro,” once such a swashbuckling figure, could essentially play one good game a month, or so it seemed. He is 35 now. Still, might some team take him during the process and attempt to negotiate a deal knowing he can be influential only here and there?

Houston Dynamo’s Bobby Boswell: The Orange’s longtime fixture at center back is out of contract (rather than having had his option declined, as with most players about to go through the re-entry process). Either way, the guy has been a starter for nine years in MLS, and he will be just 31 next year. Some team will surely take him.

Seattle Sounders’ Mauro Rosales and Steve Zakuani: This means big changes around on Sounders roster. Sadly, Steve Zakuani (pictured above) has never recovered completely from that devastating 2011 injury. Rosales certainly has talent and vision, and can create from the right side. But he’s 32 … and it’s an old 32.

New York Red Bulls’ Fabian Espindola: He came over in a big trade just a year ago from Real Salt Lake. But, again, the Red Bulls find that playing alongside Thierry Henry is all kinds of problematic. Henry is among the most talent forwards ever to kick an MLS ball, but talk about high maintenance. Last year he didn’t like 18-goal-scorer Kenny Cooper, so the mercurial American talent was gone. Espindola is a different case; the chemistry with Henry just wasn’t right, and “Espy” wasn’t starting by mid-season. Still, can’t the guy (Henry) find someone he likes playing alongside?

LA Galaxy’s Sean Franklin: This guy will play in MLS in 2014 if he wants. He was a starter on both of Los Angeles’ recent (2011 and 2012) MLS Cup championship sides. And he started 29 times last year for a good Galaxy bunch. The team decided, however, that $250,000 (plus any scheduled increase for 2014) was too much to pay. Franklin can play right back or in the midfield.

Seattle Sounders FC takes Steve Zakuani off disabled list

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For the first time since early June, Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Steve Zakuani is officially eligible to play in Major League Soccer games. His club removed him from the Disabled List on Thursday, exactly three months after he had successful sports hernia surgery to repair his athletic pubalgia.

After training Thursday, head coach Sigi Schmid listed him among players who would not be available for Friday’s clash with Real Salt Lake, but it seems Zakuani could play a role in the run-in to the playoffs. Zakuani’s bad luck with injuries continued in early 2013, two years after a horrific broken leg and in the first season since making a full recovery.

It’s been a frustrating season for the winger, who failed to generate much momentum at the start due to further small injuries and illness. In 468 minutes over six games in March and April, Zakuani managed just one assist, in a 1-1 tie with the Portland Timbers on March 16.

Steve Zakuani out 6-8 weeks after sports hernia surgery

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Although his latest ailment is completely unrelated to the leg injury that cost Steve Zakuani much of the last two seasons, today’s news represents another roadblock between 25-year-old and his former, elite MLS winger-status.

On Tuesday, Zakuani underwent surgery in Philadelphia for a sports hernia. Read the details from Joshua Mayers and the Seattle Times here. The bottom line: Recovery time will cost the Seattle Sounders attacker the next 6-8 weeks of the season.

It’s not like Zakuani’s season was going swimmingly before this injury. In six games (468 minutes), Zakuani’s failed to score. No shame in that (it’s not like he’s a striker), but with one assist and only two shots on goal, Zakuani’s stats fairly reflect his slow start.

This was supposed to be Zakuani’s big comeback season, and perhaps that can still happen. But after missing almost all of 2011 while spending the last half of 2012 returning to full fitness, Zakuani’s preseason spirits were high.

Finishing the season by tearing up Sean Franklin in the second leg of the conference finals, Zakuani had a proof of concept in place. There were no lingering doubts. There was almost no concern about whether he could return to form. Zakuani was expected to be the Sounders’ regular left winger.

But then he got caught up in the Sounders’ slow start. Then there was illness. Now there’s this minor surgery.

None of it’s major stuff. They’re not even real setbacks. It’s just a collection of annoyances that preventing this Zakuani story from coming full circle.

Now there’s the danger of one annoyance leading to another. With Seattle surging, how difficult will it be for Zakuani to earn his spot back when he returns? Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson are inked up top. Lamar Neagle seems the best bet to play wide, Zakuani’s spot. But tied for the team lead in goals (four), is Neagle going to give way to Zakuani?

We’ll find out in two months.