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Monday Kickoff: On MLS labor talks, Landon’s Everton arrival and more

Happy New Year to all of you who are effectively beginning your 2010 today as you head back to work after the long weekend. There should be non-stop soccer to discuss from now until next winter so get ready for a great ride.

Today's first topic is the MLS labor talks, which sources tell me aren't going so well. According to two veteran members of the MLS players union, Major League Soccer is playing hardball with the union and hasn't come close to considering some of the demands being made by the players. Guaranteed contracts, allowing teams to negotiate contacts rather than the league office, and free agency are issues the players union appear ready to fight for, but are three issues MLS is apparently not ready to budge on.

What should we expect? Don't be surprised if MLS locks out its players if the union doesn't budge, and by the sound of things, it doesn't appear the union is ready to back down any time soon.

We haven't touched on the labor situation much this off-season, but will be ramping up our coverage of the issue in the coming days and weeks so stay tuned.


In slightly more positive news, Landon Donovan arrived in Liverpool on Saturday and met his new teammates at Everton after taking in the club's FA Cup victory against Carlisle United. He was expected to begin training today and is expected to be available for the Toffees next league match, against Arsenal.

Those wondering about Donovan's chances for playing time may have missed the development late last week involving Brazilian striker Jo, who left England to visit his native Brazil without the team's permission. Manager David Moyes has all but said that Jo is done at Everton, meaning one less player Donovan will be fighting for minutes.


Freddy Adu's club future remains in limbo after an interesting weekend on the web. Reports linked Adu to potential moves to Greek club Aris as well as Hull, two clubs Adu mentioned on his Twitter feed as being options he needed to consider. Whether Adu was being serious about the potential destinations remains to be seen, but there appears to be evidence to suggest he was having a laugh over the reports. Our money is on a loan move to Aris FC.


Speaking of winter transfer moves, Eddie Johnson's loan move to Aris FC could wind up being a good one for the struggling striker. Especially after Aris sold leading scorer Sebastian Abreu to Brazilian club Botafogo.


While the New York Red Bulls stand poised to hire a foreign head coach, that coach won't be Walter Zenga. Sources tell SBI that Zenga wasn't even interviewed for the position after expressing interest in the job recently. That's disappointing news for Zenga, who has been trying to return to MLS for some time now. He also put himself up for the Toronto FC job when John Carver left the club last summer, but TFC passed on him.


With January here, it's time for players to start coming and going to and from MLS. The league saw two players depart over the weekend, with Kansas City's Herculez Gomez leaving for Mexican club Puebla and New York Red Bulls midfielder Jorge Rojas departing for Venezuelan side Deportivo Tachira.

Gomez was out of contract and didn't figure into the Wizards' plans. He joins a Puebla squad that includes Carlos Ruiz and former Mexican national teamer Jared Borgetti. As for Rojas, the disappointing winger was also a free agent and a flop the Red Bulls were happy to see leave.


In case you were busy enjoying the holidays late last week, our coverage of the upcoming 2010 MLS Draft continued with an updated MLS Draft Big Board and version 2.0 of the SBI MLS Mock Draft.


Lastly, the U.S. men's national team kicks off its January camp today, with 30 players looking to impress head coach Bob Bradley at the start of a World Cup year. The team faces Honduras at Home Depot Center on Jan. 23.

In case you forgot who was on the squad, here is the roster:

GOALKEEPERS (4): Kevin Hartman (Kansas City), Troy Perkins (Valerenga), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Zach Thornton (Chivas USA)

DEFENDERS (9): Kevin Alston (New England Revolution), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Brandon McDonald (San Jose Earthquakes), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)

MIDFIELDERS (12): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Jeff Larentowicz (New England Revolution), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Chris Pontius (D.C. United), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)

FORWARDS (5): Justin Braun (Chivas USA), Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Jeff Cunningham (FC Dallas), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Marcus Tracy (Aalborg)


What do you think of these developments? Disappointed to hear that the MLS labor talks aren't going well? Excited to see Donovan in action with Everton? Looking forward to seeing how new faces such as Marcus Tracy and Alejandro Bedoya do in their first camp?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Yeah but if you/I get fired you/I can go to the next company (even one that does the exact same thing as your previous employer) and try to get hired, but in the MLS the MLS owns players contract rights. A player can get released from one team but if another team wants to pick up the released player they have to compensate the team that released the player. This also applies to expired contracts.

    When my 5 year contract is done in 2011 I can go to anyone willing to employ me, but if I was a professional soccer player in the MLS finishing a contract with DCU and I wanted to go to NYRB, NYRB would have to compensate DCU before I could sign NYRB.

    This severely hampers both a players development and the ability for teams to tryout dropped (expired contract) players.

    Players (especially young ones) May fail to succeeded in one system but might thrive in another.

  2. I can’t believe the USSF will allow a lockout/strike to occur with the push for a WC hosting bid.

    Both sides are smart enough to know that any failure of the season to start on time would be devastating.

    That said, the PU needs to pick a few battles to fight. Guaranteed contracts shouldn’t be one of them. Minimum salaries, IMHO, should be. There are more players than you think earning < $20K/year.

  3. I have a series of questions on the current labor talks, but let me first say a strike /or lockout helps no one. Where would the players go to earn a living if a strike /or lockout occured and they were free agents? Europe, how many players do the European teams want? Restrictions on foreign players by some national federations means less options. How many MLS teams made a profit in 2009? Would today’s current players become owners or investors in the MLS with the returns the teams are now making? Both sides have to put themselves in the other guys shoes which probally says the salary cap has to increase but the players have to be willing to put their money where their mouth is if they think a strike is the answer. If some of these owners didn’t have the love of the game as a major part of there make up most of todays players would not be playing soccer for a living but doing something else. That is still an option that they have and maybe they should take.

  4. Kevin Alston is the answer at full back! Don’t be greedy, who needs a full back who can cross it in? It is borderline UnAmerican!

    Joking about everything other than Alston being a player.

  5. So your point is? becuase its an international labor market the MLS must do what works in other countries? Well if that was the case then we would all have to work 35 hour work weeks and not have the ability to get a second job just like our counterparts in France.

    His opinion is valid and to discredit it because you don’t like it is a poor understanding of Labor laws in THIS country, which is where these players are employed. If you got fired today, you wouldn’t have a salary, end of story. The same should be for these players, they are not an exception to the rule, if a guy is failing in performance why would you keep him on?

    I’ll even give you an example Juan Peitravallho, absolutely garbage and we all know it and saw it but NYRB had to keep him, why? He had a guaranteed contract of 200K+ and no one in there right mind would touch that. So what did the red bulls have to do, they had to eat the majority of his salary and leave him on the bench so he would become so discontent that he asked for a release, This is exactly what happens the world over with guaranteed contracts. If A guy doesn’t want to come becuase his contract isn’t guaranteed then you have to question his motives, there is risk in any job you take, this is one of them.

  6. Or the teams just negotiate the salary, this would keep a lot of guys in the league and the HQ would still hold the rights of the player. People don’t understand the whole rights held by the league but this is solely for if or in the case that a team becomes insolvent the players aren’t just out in the cold, they are allocated to other parts of the company, its a creative saftey vaulve to have especially seeing how we can only guess how teams are doing financially, I think this is a sticking point that they will not do without. And one the players should give up on.

  7. I second that Jesse, I mean what other profession on this planet can you get fired for bad performance and still keep your salary? Its an absolute joke and bad business period. The only thing I’d give the players is free agency, they still sign with the league except now they can maybe find teams that will pay the salary demands of the player, instead of team to team. Second all the other demands are ridiculous, I mean would either of you go to the CEO and demand that he restructure the company to benefit you? I so doubt it.

  8. Garber is an NFL guy, this may well be part of the compromise position. I could see limited free agency and frankly I’m not sure I completely understand the league’s position on insisting on negotiating player contracts. It seems to me they can still take the position of establishing ground rules and ok ing deals, but that the clubs should be able to negotiate their own player contracts.

    I believe a compromise will be reached though perhaps at the 11th hour, MLS can’t afford a lockout.

  9. Rolfe is with Aalborg, they are in winter break till March so I doubt they need him there, he just isn’t in the US needs, the midfield options really are just in the left wing, as far as right wings we have Dempsey, Holden and then Feihaber and Torres as well as Donovan and Beasley could all play there.

    Defensive Mid is proabably our deepest position aside from Keeper, we have Edu, Bradley, Clark, Torres, Feilhaber and even Jermaine Jones when he decides to play and stay healhty and returns to his old form.

    Even Beckerman is at the end of that list.

    Brad Davis is in the mix because like Alejandro Bedoya they bring something the US is missing, left footed players with pace and abilities to attack and get back on defense!

  10. Charles, Landon can help Everton get back in the Europa League places, remember they were flirting with the top 5 last season, lets face it there are 6 major clubs in England today; Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City, Liverpool. Then you have clubs like Aston Villa, Fulham, and Birmingham are most likely going to end up in top 10.

    Sunderland will get passed by Everton as soon as the Moyes’ side gets to play the game they have in hand.

    Everton are a quality side, as good as it gets before you get to the rich clubs! It’s a good club for Landon to go to EPL wise.

    I think Spain’s La Liga is the true best fit.

    But for EPL status I think Everton is good, only other team I can think of is Aston Villa.

  11. Well for sure not true about Mexico vs USA in February considering they are playing New Zealand in March, there was talk about a game in February at Houston’s Reliant Stadium but I don’t see how they can manage this when that place has to get ready for the Rodeo in March and the Final Four in late March/early April.

    I doubt they’ll play Mexico, what’s the use? If anything they should play a team like Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana etc or a team like Serbia, Russia or what not!

    Playing Mexico is an injury waiting to happen and I don’t think we can afford any injuries, look at Holland without Van Persie?

  12. I want a protracted MLS lockout/strike so as to give Landon a better chance to make a bigger impression at Everton. This, ideally, would lead Everton to make a big play to get Landon to Liverpool permanently….get it now?

  13. Murphy, the minimum while not ideal is not about 35K if I’m not mistaken, it may be 25K, but I’m sure it’s 35K, there might be 2 or 3 guys that are making less but it’s most likely guys who don’t play full seasons or have developmental contracts!

    If they raise the minimum of the MLS to 45-50K it should buy them some time, that is pretty livable if you ask me!

  14. should Adu really be joking about clubs that are linked to be interested in him?? Should he really!?!? I wonder whats the unofficial record for most consecutive failed loan stints.

  15. Yeah NHL has more revenue but for how long and where? Other than the northeast and Canada do the teams really make money? here in LA for example the Galaxy gets 20K fans a game, if it had 19 games to play in most likely you’ll see 19 games of 20-27K fans a game! NHL plays a lot more game but that is the only reason why it has more fans, the NHL hardly has any revenue from ABC, NBC, FOX and ESPN.

    The regional Fox Sports and Comcast networks are the only major networks left bringing in TV revenue. NHL is not even close to what it was as far as fan loyalty and while it may be in much better financial state, they are not sure to stick around if they don’t get their numbers back to par! Plus with the economy going to a MLS game is still less than every other league in the US!

  16. I do not think that a lockout is the best situation for the MLS/Soccer in America, or its fans, in a World Cup year.

    I was more on the side that the MLS should be expecting an increase in viewer numbers and interest leading up to South Africa.
    ESPN would not be very happy having to promote it’s SA coverage during every other sport but the sport itself.

    AND signs for FC Dallas look positive this season 🙂

  17. MLS needs to produce more quality strikers…there’s a lot of good midfielders coming in for the camp from MLS. It will be interesting to see who shines. Glad Brad Davis is in the mix…he’s always making things happen for the Dynamo. Only guy I really would have liked to see called in was Chris Rolfe, but he might have been busy with his new club situation.

  18. @ Matt

    could have been answered in all the reponses…perhaps his visa wasn’t valid to enter england until jan 1…english customs is quite strict…

  19. “As for Freddy’s “joke” the reports came out before he twittered. Don’t think he was kidding.”

    That’s probably why Freddy thought it would be funny to have a little fun with the reports….

  20. The NHL is fine and better off for having the lockout and implementing a financial system that works for all teams.

    Having said that, the MLS isn’t even the NHL in terms of revenue and stature, so it’s not a good comparison.

  21. MLS temporarily shutting down would be awful.

    One, many of us are looking forward to the season starting.

    Two, US soccer has to have a successful run with MLS, if it doesn’t work this time around, when ? It took 10 years for MLS after NASL folded, so figure 2020, then in 2030 the league will be an established league that can make the USMNT good again. That is IF you can find the money…There will be around 10 less owners who aren’t going to gamble their money next time around.

    “In slightly more positive news, Landon Donovan arrived in Liverpool on Saturday ”

    Why is this more positive news ? He is risking everything for a team in the bottom 10 of their league.

  22. Not if they’re under contract. However, anyone who is a free agent could of course.

    I was thinking about the NASL and how it has a chance to snag a lot of players to help it’s introduction if MLS was to lockout the players. The cynical side of me has to wonder if that plays into (NE Revs executive and) USSF’s Gulati’s decision not to ratify the fledgling league.

    If players are locked out, surely they are able to get another paying job?

  23. I hope labor strife shuts MLS down for 3-4 months. This will allow Landon to get more entrenched at Everton and hopefully lead to a big transfer fee.

  24. Rojas should have been given a chance to play in his natural position and not as a #10 which he was clearly never equipped to do.

    I know NYRB needed an overhaul, but there’s not going to be much left at this point. Only 6 discovery players per season can be signed, that leaves a LOT of ground to make up and spots to fill.

  25. What on earth does either side, MLS or the Players Union, gain from a lock-out? NHL and baseball both took significant hits to their fan base with their labor disputes. I would argue the NHL hasn’t recovered. I am sure some of this is posturing but if the owners are in-fact willing to lock-out players come February, it will be a huge black eye to a league struggling for credibility in a crowed American sports market. I hope cooler heads prevail.

  26. short answer: Adu doesn’t have enough National Team Caps to qualify for work permit.

    I believe (someone please clarify if I am mistaken) that you need to have caps in 75% of the games played while you were qualified for team selection. there are ways to get around it and it includes a hearing before the committee, etc for extenuating circumstances but I don’t see how Adu could use those ancillary means to get a work permit in England.


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