D.C. United wins a preseason trophy plus America's new star soccer couple
The countdown continues, with the planned start of the MLS season, March 6, creeping closer with every minute. As team preparations kick into high gear, coaches are fleshing out their best lineups in preseason matches from Arizona to Manchester.
Although preseason doesn't have any bearing on the upcoming season, there are hints of what's to come in each match, even it isn't always obvious at first sight.
With this period still being the offseason, the focus remains split between the on-the-field preparation and the off-the-field storylines like potential incoming players and the ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement talks. Maybe the combination of both will be enough to hold us over until the first kickoff of the season.
Hey Look, A Trophy
The trophies that actually matter won't be handed out for another 10 months or so, but the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup trophy don't have anything on the striking prize handed out at the ATX Pro Challenge in Austin. By virtue of their 1-0 win over FC Dallas on Sunday, D.C. United took possession of a gaudy golden armadillo sporting six shooters in hip holsters.
You couldn't design something more "Texas" if you tried. Only in the preseason, for a tournament played in small venues in front of small crowds, does a trophy as fantastic as that get handed out.
Maybe the tournament title bodes well for United's season, or maybe the armadillo will be nothing more than a paperweight on Ben Olsen's desk back at RFK Stadium. Either way, it's a meaningful moment that an MLS has a trophy, even a ridiculous, slightly disturbing one, to its name.
American Soccer's New Power Couple
Dom Dwyer might be English, but the Sporting Kansas City striker is living a spectacular version of the American dream. He parlayed a move to the U.S. to play junior college soccer into a career as one of Major League Soccer's top strikers.
As if that weren't enough, Dwyer is now part of American soccer's first goal-scoring power couple.
After only revealing his relationship with USWNT star Sydney Leroux in December, Dwyer and his paramour chose Valentine's Day to announce to the world that they are now married. Whatever surprise there was on the part of soccer fans gave way to the understanding that the coupling just makes so much sense. Incredibly athletic people who share a profession finding each other and choosing to make a life together? Who's going to argue with that?
Will all due respect to Servando Carrasco and Alex Morgan, Dwyer and Leroux are now top of the power rankings of American soccer power couples. If there's even such a thing as a record for goals scored by a husband and wife, Dom and Sydney will break it.
Leaving Las Vegas (Behind)
It's not clear MLS was ever really interested in Las Vegas as an expansion candidate, especially with David Beckham trying so hard in Miami, Sacramento working up so much enthusiasm, and Minnesota producing multiple bids. Nevertheless, Don Garber did the right thing when you break someone's heart by giving Sin City closure. It must hurt for Nevada's soccer fans to know it's not going to happen, but that's much better than not knowing at all.
Garber's succinct letter put an end to the notion that Vegas could be in the mix for an MLS expansion franchise during this round of growth. One day, one of America's major sports leagues will take a chance on the gambling capital of the country, regardless of the easy assumptions that the city's biggest industry might impact the integrity of the game. And it still very well might be MLS that gets there first, mostly because the soccer league is the only one of the five that is still in an expansionary period.
Slow on the rumor front
The rumor mill turns more slowly in the last few weeks of the offseason, but it still turns. Verified signings made by teams in the last week tended to be of a lower level than at the beginning of the year, though a few clubs did do well by bringing in players that could strengthen their rosters heading into the new season.
The big names are left to the float about on the winds of hearsay. Lazio man Cristian Ledesma was briefly connected to the Red Bulls before the club squashed the idea. A move for Daniele De Rossi remains a whispered about, and likely dubious, possibility. Now Cristian Zaccardo of AC Milan is reportedly in the sights of the club, though the veracity of that chase is as questionable as any other.
Then there's Diego Forlan, a player linked to MLS so many times over the past few seasons that mentioning the rumor seems more like force of habit than the relating of actual news. The Rapids have admitted that they had internal conversations about the Uruguayan, because he was "offered" to them, before ultimately deciding to pass. There might be some wisdom in that. Forlan is 35 and would command DP money despite the likelihood of his finding success in America an open question.
Get Well Eddie
Eddie Johnson can be a polarizing figure in MLS circles, but there's no arguing that he's one of the most naturally gifted American forwards ever produced by the league. D.C. United will need his contributions at some point this season if they're going to match their success from 2014.
Johnson is currently dealing with a serious health issue that is preventing him from playing soccer. Details are murky, but whatever it is that is keeping a mercurial and entertaining player off the field, best wishes to Eddie in his recovery.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.