We’re approaching the height of the activity, both rumored and real, when players move from club to club, and war chests are plundered in the pursuit of stars, whether present, past or future.
Five years ago, this was the window which saw a Seattle-bound Manchester United sell off David Beckham to Real Madrid. To begin filling the void, the Red Devils used proceeds of that sale to sign 18-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo to wear Beckham’s ‘7’ shirt.
At the time, it didn’t seem fair, giving up the world’s most recognized player to begin a rebuilding process at Old Trafford. In hindsight, it looks like larceny on United’s part.
Ronaldo’s the apparent world player of the year, the trophy room at Man U has grown crowded with silver from two EPL titles and a European championship.
Being a Man United fan from afar since early in the Ferguson era, it would be sad to see Ronaldo go, just as it was in bidding Beckham adieu. If nothing else, those guys make for greater theater on match days and nights.
However, I’m beginning to see these transfers from a different perspective, the one by which most of us have sustained these years of awaiting top-flight professional soccer’s return. We watch it on TV.
So, right now, I’m thinking the transfer market has been good for my TV, which is hooked up to Fox Soccer Channel and the ESPN English-language network.
See, we just added Ronaldinho (AC Milan) and might acquire Robinho (to Chelsea), too. English and Italian league games are regular staples of FSC. Previously, both had been confined to the hard-to-get Spanish league on GolTV.
Are you following this? So, Hleb is lost (Arsenal to Barcelona), but maybe we gain Arshavin (possibly Chelsea-bound). Better than a fair trade. And if Pele can talk some sense into Ronaldo, we may get to keep him on our screens as well. Pending a fitness test, of course.
Sure, it seems like a skewed view of things, but if nothing else you’re getting more bang for your cable/satellite buck. And these days, everyone’s looking for the best deal.
All Aboard to Toronto
Of the 14 clubs currently playing in Major League Soccer, none has more buzz than Toronto FC, and next weeks the Reds roll-out the welcome mat for the many all-star activities.
A contingent of nine Sounders FC owners and management staff will travel to Ontario.
“It’s a great opportunity for the people in our organization to spend time with executives in other MLS organizations,” says owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer. “There’s a good social component, a couple parties, where people can talk outside of business hours or meetings.
“We’re still not in the crosshairs of everyone,” he says, “but we’re going to have more and more meetings with executives and GMs as we prepare to begin working with one another.”
Hanauer and majority owner Joe Roth will attend the board of governors meeting. However, they cannot vote. Seattle does not become a full member until Jan. 1, 2009.
“The competition committee is close to finalizing the rules of our entry into the league,” Hanauer says. “It’s highly likely that those details will be finalized at this meeting.”
Another board of governors meeting occurs during MLS Cup festivities in Los Angeles in November, just prior to the expansion draft.
Beyond meetings, the Sounders FC folks will have a chance to see firsthand the fan phenomena in Toronto which has translated to sellouts and nerve-tingling atmosphere at BMO Field since the team first took the field in 2007. Representatives hope to meet with everyone from ticket officials, supporters group leaders and gameday operations staff.
Someday, hopefully soon, Seattle will have an opportunity to return the favor.
Preparing for the Freeze
While the international game has its transfer period extending through the end of August, the USL Division 1 roster freeze occurs July 31.
That’s significant in that the USL Sounders will be feeding players to Sounders FC next season. So, whoever arrives at Starfire in the next couple weeks could well be on their way to Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field in spring of 2009.
“We’re trying to add strength to our roster and we’re in conversations with a number of people, both those who’ve been with us on trials and others,” says Hanauer. Michael Rodriguez, a Costa Rican defender, was the most recent addition last month.
“It’s a normal process for us this time of year, yet it’s different because we have one eye on MLS, and the people we bring on must have at least a decent shot of making the MLS club,” Hanauer adds.
Currently fourth in the standings, the Sounders host Rochester on Friday night at 8.
Turn On, Tune In
The biggest match coming to your screens in the near future is the Pepsi MLS All-Star Game. The MLS XI hosts West Ham United next Thursday (July 24) at 4 p.m. on ESPN.
Big names like Beckham, Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Landon Donovan and Juan Pablo Angel will be in uniform for the MLS selects, who are seeking their fourth win in a row over a British club.
The Hammers featured the most Englishmen (an average of 6.6) of any EPL club lineups last season. West Ham’s American defender, Jonathan Spector, is out after hip surgery.
If Designated Players and big salaries are your thing, try the L.A.-New York game on FSC (3:30) Saturday. Besides Beckham and Angel, Donovan and the Galaxy’s Carlos Ruiz also draw DP-sized paychecks. Over 50,000 are expected at Giants Stadium, with the Red Bull nation wishing for a repeat of last year’s 5-4 crowd-pleaser.
And if absolutely starved for something abroad, Setanta is showing Intertoto Cup action. Saturday at 11 a.m., Denmark’s Odense BK faces Aston Villa.
Although the Sounders FC marching band has been rehearsing weekly, the group will be unable to perform in the Seafair Torchlight Parade. The 54-piece band, which was formed in June, remains active in procuring instruments and uniforms. Band leadership now plans a debut this fall at a public event to be determined…The Sounders women close-out the regular season Friday at 5. To clinch a berth in the W-League playoffs, they need a win over Real Colorado followed by a Vancouver victory over Real on Sunday…Kathryn Bennett of Bellevue High School and Crossfire is in Trinidad with the U.S. U17 women’s national team. CONCACAF qualifying for the FIFA championships runs through July 28.