L.A. at the White House, Orlando's buzz, Oyongo's contract issues?
The latest week in the painfully slow march to the first match of 2015 pushed the calendar past the one-month threshold in the countdown to the new season. With camps in full swing and coaches now putting their players through their paces in preparation for the resumption of competitive soccer, fans are starting to ramp up their own excitement. A low hum of anticipation emanates across the land from places like Orlando, where thousands of purple-clad supporters anxiously wait for their team's first-ever MLS game.
For the time being, an open training session and preseason exhibitions will have to do. Those events, along with a host of other news items both encouraging and depressing, marked the week that was in the long, dark winter of the MLS offseason.
The Galaxy go to Washington
The president is a busy man, but nevertheless the leader of the free world made some time last week to welcome the MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy (and the NHL champions Los Angeles Kings) to the White House at the annual recognition of league winners.
By all accounts, the Galaxy had a good time and made the most of their visit. The star of the show, however, was Galaxy full-back Robbie Rogers, singled out by President Obama as an inspirational figure for his decision to come out. The spotlight moment continued a memorable year for Rogers, one that included a championship, the release of a book and the beginning of work on a TV show based on his life.
Rogers deserves the accolades -- not only because of his personal example, but because of his incredible transformation into one of the league's best full-backs.
The 'buzz' is temporary?
Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo outlined the lack of buzz in the Quebec city for his club's 2015 season. A team that just a few years ago entered MLS on the back of massive interest in the city is now wondering where that loving feeling has gone. It doesn't help that the Impact were the East's worst team last season; they also haven't yet managed to sort out fundamental organizational issues that hamstring the club's ability to compete. What Saputo identified in his comments on Wednesday is of his own making.
Meanwhile, there couldn't be more buzz around the MLS launch of Orlando City. At an open training session at the Citrus Bowl on Saturday night, 7,000 people turned up to watch head coach Adrian Heath run Kaka & Co. through a set of drills. Kaka then stuck around for 90 minutes to sign autographs and meet the fans of his new team.
Orlando is targeting a Citrus Bowl sellout of 65,000 for their home opener on March 8 against fellow expansion side NYCFC. They might make it. That excitement speaks to the good work done by the club, in addition to the size of the soccer-mad public in Central Florida, but OCSC should take note of Montreal's struggle for interest: a few poor seasons and that could be them. It could be anyone.
Adding to the Impact's concerns at the ticket window is the developing disagreement over the status of Cameroonian full-back Ambroise Oyongo. The Cameroon Football Association says the 23-year-old is a free agent because he was an amateur when loaned to the New York Red Bulls, from whom Montreal acquired him in a trade.
The club says that's not true. The whole affair seems to stem from some upset -- perhaps on the part of people who have Oyongo's ear -- with the way the MLS trade system works. Nowhere else in the world would a player be shipped from New York to Montreal without any say in the deal. It's especially odd in light of the work the Red Bulls did to secure his contract last year.
Someone (maybe even Oyongo) is angry. The Impact are presenting a confident facade, maintaining that Oyongo is their player even as they've suspended his pay pending his arrival in camp after the Africa Cup of Nations. Nothing is clear, save for the fact that this story could drag on for some time.
Strike chatter hasn't gone away
Until a new deal is signed, no offseason recap is complete without a note about the ongoing CBA negotiations.
With a month to go, there's no progress to report. The players want free agency, the league does not. It's an impasse that might take the full month to sort out, and there's even talk that the two sides are on the verge of inviting a federal mediator into the proceedings.
Or there might be a strike that would push back the start of the season. Though no news leaked from the negotiating room over the last week, a noticeable uptick in the strike rhetoric from the players filtered through media outlets and social media. The players' message is consistent and now includes a statement of togetherness on the possible need to sit out matches if they don't get what they want.
It's not time to sweat yet, but to paraphrase Yogi Berra, it's starting to get late very early.
Forget Jurgen Klinsmann, MLS has Miguel Herrera.
The Mexico national team head coach is the latest surprise advocate for the American and Canadian league, thanks to his comments made to Mexican radio last week. While discussing the situation of Real Madrid striker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Herrera indicated that he believe MLS is a growing league that makes sense as a destination for some players.
It's just a little bit of contrast to Klinsmann's controversial 2014 statements that MLS is no place for the top American talent to be plying their trade. Though it's worth noting that Herrera's team will never be dependent on MLS for talent, making the stakes much lower for his statements, he does have up-and-coming striker Cubo Torres set to return to the league this summer.
Valdes, gone again
The Union finalized a loan sending Colombian center-back Carlos Valdes to Nacional of Uruguay on Friday. The move gives the team some room to bring in other players, as claimed by technical director Chris Albright, though it's worth wondering how sending a quality defender away in order to bring in a cheaper, perhaps more ineffective option, is efficient for the Union.
Ultimately, Valdes didn't want to be in Philly, and the Union didn't want a player around who wasn't buying in to the program.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.