January 27, 2016
By Brian Trusdell
Laying out a red carpet for the competition?
Soccer News Net contributor
Chivas USA Jr.?
With the NFL’s Chargers move to Los Angeles and the LA Galaxy’s StubHub Center, the resulting vacancy at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium is apparently opening an opportunity for MLS, or prospective MLS club owners.
La Jolla, Calif.-based FS Investors has unveiled a $1 billion redevelopment plan for the Qualcomm property that includes a 20,000-30,000-capacity soccer stadium (which could also be used for San Diego State football) for a potential MLS club. But their vision also includes links to Mexico.
“We intend to acquire a large stake in a Liga MX team and start to play games with Liga MX teams here in San Diego in what will be a proposal for a new stadium,” said FS partner Nick Stone earlier this week.
FS intends to submit a bid for the 25-26 round of MLS expansion by next week’s Jan. 31 deadline. That would come less than two and a half years after the 10-year experiment that was Chivas USA – which in effect tried to bring Mexican club soccer to MLS via its namesake south of the border – died.
The NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB all famously have played regular season games overseas, and even England’s Premiership rugby has ventured into the United States. But playing domestic league matches outside the home country in soccer includes a few bureaucratic hurdles.
And even though MLS allowed, and even helped stage, InterLiga matches – Mexico’s early year tournament to pick its Copa Libertadores qualifiers – on U.S. soil, it abandoned that seven years ago. With MLS having grown significantly since, would it welcome Liga MX games as part of an expansion club strategy – border wall notwithstanding?
Old faces, new places
With the start of training camps across MLS this week, new faces were seen everywhere. Few were more surprising than the appearance of Freddy Adu in Portland or Oguchi Onyewu in Philadelphia.
Adu hasn’t actually reported yet to the Timbers, who are expected to arrive in Tucson, Ariz., later this week along with five other clubs, but the team has confirmed he is expected for a trial.
The now 27-year-old midfielder was signed by MLS as a 14-year-old in the fall of 2003 and played three seasons in D.C. before reuniting with his former U.S. U-17 coach John Ellinger in Salt Lake. He then went on a five-club, four-year odyssey in Europe, returned to MLS for three years – again under another of his U.S. U-17 coaches, John Hackworth, in Philadelphia -- before heading overseas again.
This time he played with four clubs over three countries on two continents before landing with the Tampa Bay Rowdies last year in the NASL. Now Adu is back trying to revive some magic under another youth coach, 2012 U.S. U-23 manager Caleb Porter.
Maybe a little more surprising was Onyewu’s emergence in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge in Chester, Pa., sporting the Union’s white training gear – including the requisite knit cap.
Coach Jim Curtain says Oneywu, who played at center back for the United States 69 times between 2004 and 2014 and last played in competition for Charlton in England’s second division in 2015, is just “keeping his fitness up.”
Union Sporting Director Earnie Stewart wouldn’t commit to any more but admits the club needs a center back and that Onyewu, who unlike Adu attended college at Clemson but similarly played with 11 clubs in 14 years – all in Europe, “fits that mold.”
It took two shots, but St. Louis’ MLS expansion effort moved forward with a committee’s vote Thursday to send a proposal that would have the municipality pay $60 million toward a new stadium to the full city council.
The bill, which has to be passed by the council to get the proposal before the voters on April 4, came nearly a week after it received an out-of-sport, celebrity boost from FOX sportscaster Joe Buck, the network’s lead MLB and NFL play-by-play announcer.
“We have one chance to bring @MLS to downtown. And this is it. No second chances. So, let the people decide. #MLS2STL #LetSTLVote”, Buck tweeted late last week.
The LA Galaxy are trumpeting that it has four players (new arrival Jermaine Jones, Sebastian Lletget, Brian Rowe and Gyasi Zardes) -- the most of any club – on the 28-man U.S. national team roster for its pair of upcoming friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica.
While interesting, it should be noted that the 1998 World Cup roster, which had only 23 players, featured four from the Columbus Crew: Tom Dooley, Juergen Sommer, Brian Maisonneuve and Brian McBride. That was also when 16 of the 21 players came from MLS.
Avoiding a namesake’s controversy
Although Real Salt Lake can trace its name to its distant Spanish cousin (RSL founder Dave Checketts chose to brand his team along the likes of Real Madrid because he identified it with soccer), it at least is avoiding one of the controversies currently associated with the team.
United Arab Emirates retail group Marka has been granted rights to sell Real Madrid apparel in several Muslim-dominated countries but has chosen to use a club logo that removes the tiny cross in the crown of the emblem. “Real” means “royal” in Spanish and most clubs with “Real” have had it bestowed upon them by the Spanish monarchy, which historically derived its power from the concept of “divine right," i.e. God.
That apparently would offend the “cultural sensitivities” of the several countries where the clothes would be sold, a Marka official said.
RSL really doesn’t have to worry. Its logo contains a less elaborate crown, and one without a cross.