December 16, 2016
By Brian Trusdell
Soccer News Net contributor
Tale of Two Teams
|Is sometime-US National Teamer Joe Corona headed to MLS with the LA Galaxy?
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
It was the most foreign of teams. It was the most American of teams.
The patterns Atlanta and Minnesota have been going about stocking their rosters read like a Charles Dickens novel (OK, that’s a stretch for an analogy).
But there are distinct differences in the two clubs. While Atlanta already has 18 players listed on its roster, nine of them are foreign-born (it’s unclear if any qualify as American under MLS roster rules, e.g. non-resident alien, etc.).
Minnesota, which got a much later start, has eight players on its roster, five of which are native born.
Teams start out with eight with international roster slots. Atlanta picked up another on Sunday by trading its second-round selection in the 2017 draft to Colorado, but then there was the report that the club is close to signing Paraguayan international Oscar Romero as a designated player.
Atlanta had only three U.S. players on its roster as of last week, all under 18. Following the expansion draft, trades, and a free-agent signing, the club has tripled that – interestingly, all on the defensive side of the ball: Mike Ambrose from Orlando, Mark Bloom from Toronto, Alec Kann from KC, Zach Loyd from Dallas, Michael Parkhurst from Columbus and Jeff Larentowicz from Los Angeles.
Minnesota’s Americans, too, are largely defensive: goalkeeper Jeff Attinella from Real Salt Lake, defenders Justin Davis and Kevin Venegas (both of whom played with Minnesota’s NASL club) and Joseph Greenspan from Colorado, and midfielder Collen Warner from Houston. But MUFC has only one forward listed, Femi Hollinger-Janzen from Benin, who had two goals in 19 appearances in his inaugural MLS season this past year with New England.
While both Atlanta owner Arthur Blank, 74 – co-founder of Home Depot -- and his Minnesota counterpart Bill McGuire, 68 – a pulmonologist and later health insurance executive – are reportedly both billionaires, the architects of their respective teams are complete opposites.
Minnesota has MLS warhorse veterans Manny Lagos and Amos Magee, along with British-born coach Adrian Heath, who has been coaching in the United States since 2008. Atlanta has Argentine manager Gerardo Martino and his all Argentine coaching staff (save for an English goalkeeping coach), English-born president Darren Eales and former U.S. international Carlos Bocanegra, who spent two-thirds of his 15-year career in England, France, Scotland and Spain.
Guz-ing the way?
At the same time as reports have Brad Guzan exploring a return to MLS, three other expatriate, sometime national team, players are supposedly considering it, too.
ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman revived a rumor about Tim Ream in a Twitter message earlier this week, saying only that he was “hearing” that the 29-year-old defender was “seriously looking to come back to MLS."
Ream, who left the New York Red Bulls and MLS following the 2011 season, has played in only 10 games – including six starts -- for second-division Fulham this season. He’s made only one appearance with the U.S. national team in 13 months – scoring the first goal in a 3-1 friendly victory over Puerto Rico in May.
Goal.com quoted Greg Garza saying he has the blessing of his Mexican club Tijuana to seek a transfer after missing nine months due to a hip injury. He’s played in only five Mexican league matches combined over the past season and a half with Atlas and now Tijuana.
And a TV Azteca reporter posted on his Twitter account that Joe Corona has been made an offer by the Galaxy. After getting in only 16 first-division last season with Veracruz and Dorados (on loan), Corona has played 22 games with Dorados since it was relegated over the summer.
The Ream report isn’t new. MSG mentioned it back in September. As for Garza, it wouldn’t be a return since he never played in MLS to begin with. It is curious, if not surprising, that national team players playing abroad usually only get linked with MLS when their careers are stalling. And now that Bruce Arena has replaced Jurgen Klinsmann, the reports seemingly are becoming more frequent.
Timing is everything
After two woeful seasons, including the second-worst in team history, Pablo Mastroeni led the Colorado Rapids to its best finish ever in 2016 – and has been rewarded with a three-year contract extension.
Mastroeni took over as the “here, you do it” interim guy in January 2014 when Oscar Pareja left to take over as manager of Dallas. He officially was given the reins a week before the season.
The Rapids went on to an 8-18-8 record (second-fewest wins after a 5-13-8 year in 2001) with the league’s worst defense and the third-worst record overall in the league. It wasn’t much better in 2015 with a 9-15-10 mark, which was tied for the second-worst in the league.
However, this year Colorado set club records for points (58), finishing two behind Supporters’ Shield winner Dallas and former coach Pareja.
It even had the top spot as late as Oct. 15, but a draw and a loss dropped it down a notch.