By AVI CREDITOR
'Tis the season of stadium news.
On the heels of the Kansas City Wizards getting approval for a new stadium, the Red Bulls opening their arena against Santos FC and Baltimore looking into the possibility of building a new stadium comes word that the Portland Timbers are close to city approval for completing renovations to PGE Park.
The Oregonian reports that owner Merritt Paulson's proposal to renovate the downtown-Portland facility has enough political support to pass through the city council during next week's vote. Paulson has also guaranteed to cover the costs of renovation.
The Timbers currently play at PGE Park, but with the franchise moving from USL to MLS it became necessary to convert the stadium to more soccer-friendly specifications.
PGE Park is also home to the Portland Beavers, a Triple-A minor league baseball team, and the Portland State University football team. The Beavers will be moving elsewhere prior to the 2011 MLS season, but the football team will maintain its use of the park for home games.
In other soccer news this Friday:
SAN JOSE SIGNS GJERTSEN
The San Jose Earthquakes bolstered its midfield by acquiring USL veteran Joey Gjertsen, the San Jose Mercury News reported. A former standout for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact, Gjertsen will compete to replace Shea Salinas, who was taken by the Philadelphia Union in the expansion draft.
FERDINAND RETURNS FOR MAN. U
The revolving door in the Manchester United defense keeps turning.
A day after John O'Shea was shut down for the season with blood clots in his leg, the team announced that Rio Ferdinand will return from a back injury that caused a three-month absence to play Saturday against Hull City.
Nemanja Vidic is reportedly two weeks away from making his return.
CHELSEA'S ESSIEN OUT
Chelsea and Ghana-international midfielder Michael Essien will be out 4-6 weeks after tearing a meniscus at the African Cup of Nations. Essien, who had just overcome a hamstring injury, will miss Chelsea's crucial Premier League tilt with Arsenal (Feb. 7) and is likely to miss the first leg of the Blues' Champions League knockout stage bout with Inter Milan (Feb. 24).
VAN NISTELROOY WATCH CONTINUES
It's becoming more clear that Ruud Van Nistelrooy will be moving from Real Madrid this month, but the destination is still up in the air.
Harry Redknapp declared that the Dutch striker's weekly wages likely prohibit Tottenham from making a move for him. Hamburg, West Ham and Stoke City have expressed interest in the 33-year-old as well. Stay tuned.
Excited for Portland? Can Gjertsen help the Earthquakes? Will Rio's return lift Manchester United back to the top? Can Chelsea withstand the Essien loss? Where would Ruud fit in?
Share your thoughts below.