10 rumors from the All-Star game
DENVER -- Even if MLS partially upstaged its own big party, overshadowing the annual All-Star festivities with the L.A.-based David Beckham hysteria, there was plenty of interesting chatter in and around Denver.
You couldn't swing a bag of soccer balls at the Grand Hyatt Denver without smacking an MLS player, coach or suit. Here's the best stuff that was being knocked around:
1. Adu leaving MLS?
There is ample speculation that Freddy Adu may have already played his final game at Real Salt Lake. Soccer uber-agent Richard Motzkin called Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis to request a couple of extra days off for Adu following the U.S. elimination from the under-20 Championships, and everyone assumes it was to hash out European offers.
One well-placed team official said Benfica is the club most interested in securing Adu, who sandwiched a couple of impressive performances in Canada around a couple of pretty ordinary ones.
The Portuguese club makes sense for Adu, since he won't face the work permit issues he would in England, where there is also some tepid interest, according to one MLS manager.
Benfica was the club that once offered $4 million for Eddie Johnson's services.
2. Eddie Johnson on the move too?
Speaking of Eddie Johnson, he has offers on the table from England's Derby County and Porto in Portugal. It's up to MLS to determine if the offer sheet is sufficient -- and it appears unlikely that $4 million will once again be put on the table.
Johnson said he loves Kansas City, and says he's committed. On the other hand, he knows about seizing opportunity when it comes along. He mentioned the desire to secure the future for his little girl, who is just over a year old now and was sitting in the stands Thursday. Johnson sounds like a man with a big decision to make.
3. Agoos to coach?
Jeff Agoos says he's still settling into his role as Red Bull New York's technical director, constantly learning new things. It's a position that has really yet to be defined in MLS, since so few teams still have such a post.
Does Agoos hope to remain in a technical director's chair, or would he prefer to move back into coaching. The new owners in San Jose, where he won two MLS titles in four seasons as a player, will soon be looking for a manager, after all.
While Agoos confesses that he does miss interacting more often with players and being around the field, he's not sure he's ready to tackle the transient lifestyle attached to coaching. Managers, as they say, are hired to be fired, and Agoos knows that.
"I had my share of that as a player," he said of the nomadic life.
Besides, he said, San Jose is likely to be interested in Dominic Kinnear, whose wife is from the area.
4. Kinnear makes an appearance
Kinnear was around Denver, but just hanging out with some longtime pals. He says he was there "on vacation," not participating in anything official.
Trusted assistant John Spencer, meanwhile, helped Steve Nicol coach the MLS All-Stars. Spencer, kicking around in some cool, old-school adidas gear, said he really didn't know Nicol well before getting the call to assist in Denver.
Nicol was with the Scottish national team when Spencer was playing for Scotland's under-20s. But they never ran in the same circles, Spencer said.
Spencer and Kinnear were both able to visit Denver because they gave the players three days following a hectic run of matches over the last two weeks.
5. FC Dallas close to new signing
FC Dallas appears close to announcing its newest signing -- but hasn't quite determined who it will be. Negotiations are in advanced stages for both Chilean striker Sebastian Gonzalez, who is begging to leave Mexico's Veracruz, and Brazilian winger Denilson.
Denilson is the sexier name and appears to be the primary target. He was a member of Brazil's 2002 World Cup winners. His latest club address was in Saudi Arabia. But Denilson has other offers to consider, including one in Argentina, and may be getting others still as the process drags on.
6. Capello rumor is just that
The consensus among pretty much everybody here was that Fabio Capello's alleged "coaching offer" from the United States is pretty much as made-up as the Easter Bunny.
Since even before the Beckham Rule came into effect, players in Europe began dangling the nebulous "offer from America" as leverage in fluid contract negotiations. In Europe, it's easy for ranking officials to determine the veracity of alleged offers. For instance, if a player or his agent is pursuing a contact with Barcelona, he may publicly hint at an offer from Chelsea. At which point, a suit from Barcelona will pick up the phone and dial a suit from Chelsea and quickly determine that it's media-baiting nonsense.
But dangle the blurry "offer from America," … and do you think anybody across the Atlantic would know who to call from, say, the Kansas City Wizards to vet the claim's veracity?
So, apparently Capello has determined that the market is right to use MLS as leverage in maximizing coaching dollars. U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, also in Denver, said Capello's "offer" didn't come from his organization. (Some speculation had centered on Capello as some sort of U.S. Soccer technical development overseer.)
7. The Beckerman trade
Fernando Clavijo said he hated trading away Kyle Beckerman, who just went to Real Salt Lake. But he thought Beckerman had reached his potential in Colorado, and wondered if the young American midfielder might push his game higher still in Utah. Plus, as Clavijo noted, his team obviously needs some offensive help. He'll play newcomer Mehdi Ballouchy in right in the center of the park.
8. Colombian gathering
Who would think that the lobby of a Denver hotel would become the temporary power center for Colombian soccer? Well, not really. But something like that.
Red Bull striker Juan Pablo Angel, dynamic FC Dallas midfielder Juan Toja, Dallas assistant Oscar Pareja and MLS official Wilmer Cabrera huddled for a long, friendly chat on All-Star eve. Cabrera is the former Colombian national team player who recently launched Major League Soccer's Hispanic player initiative.
9. New power broker
Simon Fuller is suddenly one of the unlikely power figures in MLS. Fuller is the driving force behind 19 Entertainment, the creators of American Idol. Who knows who is truly making the calls where Beckham is concerned? This much is certain: Fuller's name comes up a lot in Becks-related discussions these days.
10. Franchise fees
Word is that Andell Holdings will pay $36 million for the Chicago Fire. One member of the MLS ownership wondered how the stadium debt would be structured within the deal. If significant money from Toyota Park is factored into the deal, then the real-money sell price could be well over $50 million. MLS directors will probably know more by the time the sale goes through, which should be within 30-45 days, according to commissioner Don Garber.
Meanwhile, the Oakland Athletics ownership group happily plunked down a $20 million expansion fee for the Earthquakes. It wasn't so long ago that a deal between AEG and the San Jose Sharks to purchase the club for a modest $5 million fell through. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, eh?
Steve Davis is a Dallas-based freelance writer who covers MLS for ESPNsoccernet. He can be reached at BigTexSoccer@yahoo.com.