MLS News
Nigel De Jong to LA Galaxy: Latest Transfer Details, Comments and Reaction
MLS News
Wednesday, 03 February 2016 13:39

The L.A. Galaxy announced the signing of AC Milan midfielder Nigel de Jong on Wednesday.  

In a statement on the club's official website, the Galaxy confirmed the capture of the Dutch international, who will join the club as an International player.

Per the statement he will join the squad "pending the receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P-1 Visa."

De Jong believes now is the right time to make the switch to MLS. According to Adam Serrano of the club's official website, he said: "I thought that it would be the perfect time for me to go to the States because of my age. Instead of being a little bit older, I’ll be heading over in the best part of my career. That's when I decided that I wanted to go to the Galaxy."

He added:

If you see the last couple years of my career, on the pitch you can see that I’m 100 percent and dedicated to the game no matter what club that I play for. I take no prisoners, but I always play with respect. I do my best for the team. At the end of the day, it’s about winning. No matter how you play, it’s always about three points. I think that I’m a strong character on the pitch, and I’m heading to Los Angeles to win.

Manager Bruce Arena believes the 31-year-old will prove an excellent signing. Per the statement, he said: "Nigel is an experienced midfielder who will help the players around him get better. He will add qualities on the field that can strengthen our team in all areas. We look forward to Nigel coming to Los Angeles and joining our club."

Midfielder Steven Gerrard, who played against De Jong during the latter's spell with Manchester City, hailed the enforcer as "one of the best at what he does":

Indeed, the Netherlands international's arrival should benefit Gerrard greatly, as his physical presence and work rate will not only ease the workload on the 35-year-old's legs but also give him more time on the ball, akin to the system Juventus deployed last season with Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio covering for Andrea Pirlo.

De Jong, who played in the 2010 World Cup final as one of his 81 caps with the Oranje, will add huge experience to L.A.'s squad having played across Europe, with Ajax and Hamburger SV among his impressive array of former employers.

Per Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl, De Jong will become a Designated Player at the StubHub Center:

Sports writer Kevin Baxter noted the Galaxy have made significant gains in the transfer market at little cost:

ESPN's Maximiliano Bretos and Taylor Twellman gave their take:

The midfielder follows Ashley Cole to the West Coast as another experienced international player, and with the likes of Gerrard, Robbie Keane and Giovani dos Santos already in the squad, Arena's side will have their eyes firmly set on the MLS Cup this season.

Galaxy missed out last year but have made strong strides to correcting that in 2016 and may well be rewarded for their efforts.

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Ashley Cole to LA Galaxy: Latest Transfer Details, Reaction and More
MLS News
Wednesday, 27 January 2016 11:23

Ashley Cole has moved on from AS Roma and joined MLS side LA Galaxy, potentially marking the final chapter in his storied career.

The transfer was confirmed by the American club on Twitter:

Details of terms were not revealed, but Galaxy insider Adam Serrano revealed Cole's squad designation:

Galaxy head coach and general manager Bruce Arena has welcomed Cole to the club and outlined some of the qualities the veteran full-back will add to his squad, per the team's official site.

"Ashley is one of the world’s most successful defenders and has played at the highest level of competition throughout his career," Arena said. "He can provide our defense with valuable experience. We look forward to his contribution to our club this season."

This deal had been widely expected. Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times reported how Cole had been bought out the final five months of his contract amid interest from Galaxy.

It seems the Italian club are only too happy to rid themselves of Cole. Writing for the Guardian, Marcus Christenson and Fabrizio Romano made it clear how Roma were "desperate to sever their ties" with the veteran defender.

Now 35, the former Arsenal and Chelsea left-back can offer the cool head of experience to his new side. However, his time with Roma did not go well.

Back in the summer of 2015, Daniel Taylor of the Guardian detailed how much Cole was struggling in Italy's top flight. Taylor cited reports from the Italian press regularly lamenting the player's dire form.

But his age and struggles in Italy can't hide the savvy he's accrued after years of winning at the top level of European football. Always a dynamic attacking outlet, Cole eventually developed into a highly competent defender.

His skills can still stand out in North America, provided he responds well to a change of scenery, where he will link up with former England team-mate Steven Gerrard.

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Making Sense of the LA Galaxy's Puzzling Offseason Moves to Date
MLS News
Thursday, 21 January 2016 22:47

The LA Galaxy are no strangers to being in the spotlight during a transfer window, but usually the decisions made by the brass at the StubHub Center are met with praise. 

But that has not been the case this offseason as two of the club's best players were sold to Liga MX, and their rumored replacements only have a few years left in their legs. 

There was no doubt that head coach Bruce Arena's side was in need of a retooling after the five-time MLS Cup champions fell out of the Western Conference playoffs in the knockout round at the hands of rival Seattle Sounders. However, no one expected the change to involve the team's best center back and the rock of the midfield.

During a short span in December, Omar Gonzalez left the Galaxy for Club Pachuca and midfielder Juninho transferred to Club Tijuana. The departure of the two title winners left the Galaxy with only five members of the starting 11 that helped hoist the 2014 MLS Cup. 

In addition to Gonzalez and Juninho, Jaime Penedo, Stefan Ishizaki, Marcelo Sarvas and Landon Donovan have left the club for a multitude of reasons. Penedo left in the summer of 2015 due to a contract dispute, Ishizaki opted to go back home to Sweden earlier in 2015 and Sarvas was traded to the Colorado Rapids to make way for Steven Gerrard in midfield. And as we all know, Donovan retired from soccer following his run to the championship in 2014. 

An argument can be made that the Galaxy haven't upgraded as a whole since winning their fifth MLS Cup on December 7, 2014. Donovan Ricketts was a bust in net after Penedo left, Ishizaki's void on the wing was never truly filled and Gerrard left fans wanting more with his performances in the middle of the park. 

Instead of injecting a much-needed boost of youth into the starting 11 by way of their USL club, LA Galaxy II, the Galaxy are trying to bring in wiser veterans from Europe, which has many questioning the competency of the front office. 

Former Arsenal and Chelsea man Ashley Cole is the biggest name on the Galaxy's shopping list. Cole, who spent little time on the pitch with Roma in Serie A, enters MLS as a 35-year-old left back who hasn't seen consistent playing time since he left Chelsea. The lack of action is a concern, but it also means Cole will be fresh to start the season. Goal.com's Ives Galarcep confirmed on Tuesday that Cole will be joining the Galaxy following a termination of his contract at Roma. 

Cole's entrance into the lineup will bring about a few options for Arena to maneuver his squad into different positions. With Cole at left back and A.J. DeLaGarza at right back, Robbie Rogers could end up in midfield, where he started his career, more to contribute to the attack from the wing. With plenty of players in reserve at the USL level and the need to find a constant provider for Robbie Keane, Giovani dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes, Rogers' move to midfield on occasion and Cole's presence at left back may help LA. 

The other two names linked with the Galaxy are also defensive-minded players. Standard Liege defender Jelle Van Damme and AC Milan midfielder Nigel de Jong have had their names attached to the Galaxy recently, per Galarcep. Both players would bring more experience to the defensive spine in front of goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who was acquired in a trade with FC Dallas at the start of the offseason. 

LA's back four could feature DeLaGarza, Van Damme, new signing Jeff Larentowicz and Cole. De Jong would presumably end up in central midfield with Gerrard, while a mixture of Zardes, Dos Santos, Rogers, Baggio Husidic, Sebastian Lletget and Jose Villarreal occupy the wings with Keane up top. 

Only four of the players mentioned above enter the season 26 years old or younger. That is a concerning fact for the Galaxy, who also have 30-plus forwards Alan Gordon and Mike Magee on the bench. But it could also be setting LA up to achieve something no MLS club has ever done: win the CONCACAF Champions League. 

With a continental title on their mind, the Galaxy could potentially enter the 2016 campaign with players who have won titles in England, Belgium and the Netherlands as well as a pair of UEFA Champions League winners. That experience will be needed beginning in February, when the Galaxy square off against Santos Laguna of Liga MX in the the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. 

If Arena brings in all of the players his club is linked with, and has his returning players in full fitness by the time February comes around, the Galaxy have a legitimate chance of winning the tournament, which ends with a two-legged final at the end of April. 

If the Galaxy opt to go after the CONCACAF Champions League crown, they will not be jeopardizing their league hopes since the competition ends during the second month of the MLS regular season. If Arena plays his veterans in midweek against North America's best, he could give some young players valuable playing time early in the league calendar before they drop back down to the USL side. 

If securing the first MLS capture of the CONCACAF Champions League since it was remodeled in 2008 is the ultimate goal, Arena's moves will be graded as brilliant no matter how old the new acquisitions are. The goal of professional soccer clubs is to win championships, and that is exactly what the Galaxy appear to be attempting on the continental level. 

As for the young players who have grown leaps and bounds with LA Galaxy II, they will get to train each day under an experienced player at each position. If the Galaxy groom their prospects the right way, which they have with Zardes, the future of the club could take over in two years when Keane, Gerrard, De Jong, Cole and Van Damme fade their way out of the first team. 

LA's master plan in the transfer market may not be ideal for a league that is getting younger with each year, but the Galaxy have never really followed trends when it comes to acquiring players. After all, their additions of David Beckham and Giovani Dos Santos helped roll out the designated player and target allocation money programs. 

With the future of the team developing in the USL for the next two years, bringing in wily veterans who know how to win championships makes perfect sense for the Galaxy. We may not like it now, but the Galaxy could easily prove us wrong with a trophy or two over the next few years. 

 

Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90. 

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Cristiano Ronaldo Comments on Potentially Playing in MLS
MLS News
Tuesday, 19 January 2016 20:32

Some Major League Soccer supporters are likely tired of clubs' continued reliance on aging European stars to drive interest, but the possibility of landing Cristiano Ronaldo is bound to intrigue even the harshest critic of the league's designated player rule.

In an interview with Daniel Riley for GQ, the Real Madrid star spoke about his opinion of MLS and whether he'd ever consider playing in the league:

I know that many players move there. I think it's becoming better and better. It's growing. I think it's good. It's good for me and young players that maybe one day we want to move there. So it's good that football—'soccer'—grows there.

[...]

I mean, what's happening there is great, it's fantastic—maybe in the future will be a good chance for me to play there. You never know, but it's something interesting. I consider it, of course, because as I've said, soccer there has become better and better, so why not? I think that this is maybe going to be possible.

Ronaldo has already gone on record saying his "dream is to end [his] career at Real Madrid," per Carlos Carpio and Pablo Polo of Spanish paper Marca. Speaking on the Jonathan Ross Show in November (via ESPN FC), he also played down the likelihood he'd leave Europe before his career ended.   

"In my mind I want to finish in the top level, I want to finish with dignity so in a good club," Ronaldo said. "It doesn't mean that to go USA or Qatar or Dubai is not good but I don't see myself [going there]."

The 30-year-old Portuguese winger may already have the framework in place for a move stateside down the road.

Last March, Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl reported Ronaldo preferred heading to MLS when his current contract with Real Madrid ends in 2018, which would allow the league to avoid what would be a massive transfer fee in order to pry him away from the Santiago Bernabeu. A little over a month later, Wahl reported Ronaldo's destination would be Los Angeles, be it with the LA Galaxy or the expansion Los Angeles Football Club franchise.

In the event Ronaldo would ever become something of a free agent in world football, MLS would have heavy competition from across the globe to secure his signature.

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Jack Harrison, NYCFC Take Roundabout Way to Draft-Day Marriage
MLS News
Thursday, 14 January 2016 23:30

BALTIMORE — Ten minutes before the 2016 MLS SuperDraft began inside the Baltimore Convention Center, New York City FC director of football operations Claudio Reyna didn't think he'd get the player he wanted. 

After a string of trades between the clubs near the top of the draft board, the cards fell in NYCFC's favor just as commissioner Don Garber began his opening address. 

“I would say 10 minutes before the first pick, we thought we had no chance of getting (Jack Harrison) to be honest," Reyna told reporters after the madness of the first round ended. "It was as close as that as far as us knowing we had an opportunity as the other trades played out between Philadelphia and Colorado, and conversations I had with Philadelphia and Chicago. It was actually when Don (Garber) started speaking when we were trying to confirm the trade with Chicago." 

NYCFC and the Chicago Fire had to wait almost an hour for the deal to become official. While both sides waited for the specifics to be ironed out, No. 1 overall pick Jack Harrison stood in the waiting area next to the stage with a Chicago Fire scarf draped around his neck. 

As the deal was being finalized, Philadelphia made moves of its own by acquiring the second-overall pick from Colorado and selecting Georgetown defender Joshua Yaro. Minutes later, the Union picked right-back Keegan Rosenberry. While the Georgetown and Philadelphia teammates were celebrating, Harrison waited for the call. 

"Me and my mom were just standing there like what’s going on. It’s a whirlwind but I’m looking forward to making that next step now," Harrison said. "There’s not much you can do really, its kind of just sitting around, waiting, and I’m glad this opportunity came up." 

NYCFC attempted to bring Harrison in as a homegrown player before the draft, but the argument the club made did not satisfy Major League Soccer's homegrown standards, per Fox Soccer's Kyle McCarthy.

"It wasn’t really important [the connection between Manhattan PSG and NYCFC]," Harrison said. "I would’ve been happy going anywhere. Like I said, I’m just so happy to be here, so grateful for this opportunity. The fact that it’ll be in New York City is something special, but it would’ve been nice going anywhere really." 

The unsuccessful attempt to secure Harrison's signature before Thursday's selection process led to the pursuit of the Wake Forest product in the days leading up to the draft. 

When Harrison and the NYCFC brass entered the room on Thursday, neither side was aware they would be partnered by the end of the day. But now that Harrison will be wearing sky blue in MLS in 2016, his fight for playing time is about to begin. 

Harrison is an attack-minded player, but he is not sure what his exact position will be at the professional level. 

"Well I think that’s something I’ll have to find out," Harrison said. "I’ll have to get the coach’s perspective on that. I’m an attacking player, I like going at defenders one-on-one. I like to assist just as much as score goals. I get just as much satisfaction out of that as well. Hopefully I’ll be able to do that and earn my spot at New York City." 

"I played four years of center attacking mid at Berkshire School, and obviously I played wide at Wake Forest, so its whatever the team needs really," the new NYCFC player continued. "I’m happy to serve them and hopefully I can do it well." 

Although his specific position isn't set yet, Reyna believes Harrison is in the right environment to thrive at the next level. 

“We think it’s the perfect environment for him," Reyna said. "He wanted to come to us and we’re excited that he wants to pay us back for what we’ve done to get him. Of course being around those guys (like Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and David Villa) is going to be incredible for him."

"He’s a great kid who wants to learn more," Reyna said. "He knows he has so much to learn and he’s also got this confidence that you need to be able to help us right away. We can’t wait to improve him, build him and develop him." 

If all goes right for the player and club that wanted to form a relationship on Thursday, the collaboration between the two parties may produce a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2016. 

 

Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

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2016 MLS SuperDraft: Winners and Losers from Baltimore Event
MLS News
Thursday, 14 January 2016 17:01

The latest batch of Major League Soccer players were selected on Thursday during the first two rounds of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. 

The Chicago Fire chose Wake Forest's Jack Harrison with the first-overall selection, but the Englishman was later traded to New York City FC in one of the many trades that took place on the floor of the Baltimore Convention Center. 

When all the dust settled, eight of the first 15 selections were acquired through a trade, including Harrison and No. 2 pick Joshua Yaro. 

Forty-one players were selected in total on Thursday, and an additional 40 will be selected on January 19 during the third and fourth rounds. An entire list of Thursday's selections can be found here via MLSSoccer.com.

Here's a look at our winners and losers from Thursday's MLS SuperDraft.

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MLS SuperDraft 2016: Complete Round-by-Round Results and Twitter Reaction
MLS News
Thursday, 14 January 2016 16:40

The first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft kicked off on Thursday afternoon, highlighted by a flurry of trades and shock moves from the various clubs across the league. 

Here are the full results of the opening rounds:   

It didn't take long for things to get crazy at the SuperDraft. Before the draft even began, the Philadelphia Union announced they'd acquired the second overall pick from the Colorado Rapids in exchange for general allocation money.

Things only got busier from there. The Chicago Fire selected Wake Forest midfielder Jack Harrison with the top overall pick but quickly shifted him to New York City FC for the No. 4 overall pick and allocation money.

It was certainly a whirlwind period of time for Harrison, and Leander Schaerlaeckens of Yahoo Sports sympathized with the young man:

That set up the dream scenario for the Philadelphia Union, which desperately needed to upgrade their defense and were able to do so at No. 2 with the player many people felt was the top talent in the draft, Joshua Yaro, who was excited after the pick:

Kevin Kinkead of CBS Philly envisions him pairing nicely with Richie Marquez:

That move would also allow Maurice Edu to slide back into a defensive midfielder role, his more natural position. Yaro was a no-brainer selection for the Union and a major, major win for the club.

The Union surprised some folks with their third pick, however, passing up left-back Brandon Vincent to instead select right-back Keegan Rosenberry. Ives Galarcep of SBISoccer.com explained the pick:

The Fire then took Vincent, and Real Salt Lake took Omar Holness. That left the Union to improve their ranks at forward with Fabian Herbers, who fits questionably into the 4-3-3 system the team runs and may be better off playing a traditional forward, as he likes to run between the channels and get behind defenders.

He'll bring some sizzle to the club, however. Creighton Soccer passed along his highlight reel:

Things got interesting later in the first round, as the Fire remained busy, acquiring the Nos. 12 and 22 picks from the Colorado Rapids in exchange for the Nos. 15 and 33 picks and the rights to the No. 1 allocation ranking position. The Fire moved to the second allocation ranking with the move.

With the move, the Rapids put themselves in position to nab Alejandro Bedoya, according to Taylor Twellman of ESPN:

That move punctuated what was a crazy, exciting and unexpected flurry of moves early in the draft. The Philadelphia Union looked like the early winners in the draft, nabbing three players who could make an immediate impact for the club. Meanwhile, NYCFC got its man, and the Fire bolstered their defense with their wheeling and dealing.

The third and fourth rounds of the draft will be completed via conference call on Jan. 19.

 

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MLS: Top 10 Games to Watch During the 2016 Season
MLS News
Wednesday, 13 January 2016 12:04

The 2016 MLS schedule has been revealed, and while most of the games are worth watching, the best 10 will be highlighted here. 

These games will mainly be graded on the rivalry between the two teams. In addition, if previous matches were entertaining, or the two teams have a history like the Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy, then that fixture will be bumped up higher.

The defending champion Portland Timbers and Supporters' Shield-winning New York Red Bulls are featured prominently. However, 10 other teams are also included.

Here are the 10 matches to watch during the 2016 MLS season.

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10 Bold Predictions for 2016 MLS SuperDraft
MLS News
Tuesday, 12 January 2016 02:56

The 20 clubs in Major League Soccer will convene in Baltimore on Thursday for the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. 

Last season's draft produced one of the league's top scorers in Orlando City's Cyle Larin as well as instant contributors Matt Polster, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Tim Parker and Axel Sjoberg. 

The 2016 edition of the SuperDraft has plenty of top talent as well, with Georgetown's Joshua Yaro atop most draft boards across the league. 

As we all know, plenty of things can change in regard to the draft order before teams begin to select players on Thursday, but based on the current draft order and specific team needs, we tried to make 10 bold predictions for the happenings at the Baltimore Convention Center. 

Among the predictions are a surprise signing, a defender with a rising stock and trade speculation about a spot in the top 10.

Continue reading to see what our 10 bold predictions are for the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.

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2016 MLS Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions and Full Selection Order
MLS News
Friday, 08 January 2016 07:00

With the MLS Draft Combine underway and the top players in the country being put under the microscope, the league's franchises are hoping to identify the players who will lead them to success for years to come.

That means it's time to break down this year's draft order and a first-round mock draft while taking a closer look at some of the top prospects available to teams this year.

 

Draft Order

 

Mock Draft

 

Top Players

Joshua Yaro, RB/CB, Georgetown

Joshua Yaro is an interesting case. He's an incredibly talented, bright and ambitious young man and was the rock of Georgetown's defense this year. He also handled the announcement that he would be going pro with his usual class:

But he's also considered a 'tweener by many scouts, who aren't sure where his natural position might be at the next level.

Steven Goff of the Washington Post broke down the player most believe will be the top overall pick:

Yaro is a center back with vision and speed uncommon at the college level. With him marshaling the backline, the Hoyas posted six consecutive shutouts during a 14-game winning streak and rose to No. 2 in the coaches’ poll before losing to Boston College on penalty kicks in the NCAA tournament’s round of 16.

Because of Yaro’s smallish size (5 feet 11 and 163 pounds), a pro team might end up converting him to outside back.

Such is Yaro's ability that a team might even consider transitioning him into a central defensive midfielder. It probably doesn't matter where Yaro is played—he has all the makings of a difference-maker at the next level.

Thus, it would be pretty surprising if the Chicago Fire passed on him with the top overall pick.

 

Jack Harrison, MF, Wake Forest

Jack Harrison is the unquestioned top midfielder in this draft and is arguably the top talent, period; though, Yaro supporters would have a few things to say about that. He had a sterling freshman season for the Demon Deacons and is a pure playmaker, able to both set up his teammates with incisive passes and let rip from distance with his powerful left foot.

In a draft not stacked atop the board with talented attackers or creative midfielders, Harrison stands out in this class.

 

Jonathan Campbell, CB, North Carolina

Yaro has gotten most of the attention among the defenders, but Jonathan Campbell is no slouch. He has excellent athleticism for his position and is very versatile as well, as he played in both a back three and back four during his time at North Carolina.

He's also very experienced, as he played four years with the Tar Heels and won't be a wide-eyed kid as he embarks on his MLS career. What separates Campbell from many of the other players in the draft is that he doesn't have a discernible weakness. He may not quite flash like some of the other top prospects, but he also doesn't present many areas of concern.

That combination of athleticism, versatility, experience and steadiness makes him an excellent prospect and a likely top-five pick.

 

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