Rave Report: Another U.S. star returns to MLS

Rave Report: Another U.S. star returns to MLS

Michael Bradley signs with Toronto FC, Michael Parkhurst goes to Columbus, Oscar Pareja heads FC Dallas, Fulham falls and LA goes north of the border to add size at forward.

Toronto FC touted their Monday press conference as a “Bloody Big Deal.” As it turns out, it was two big deals, as the Canadian club unveiled its two latest signings, England National Team striker Jermain Defoe and U.S. National Team midfielder Michael Bradley.

After Sounders FC signed Clint Dempsey in the summer, the door swung wide open for American stars to return to Major League Soccer and Bradley didn’t waste much time in following suit. The 26-year-old rejoined MLS 10 years after he was originally drafted by the MetroStars in 2004 and now joins an up-and-coming Toronto FC team that has now signed three Designated Players, with Defoe and Bradley joining Brazilian forward Gilberto, who was inked in December.

While Gilberto and Defoe alone would have made Toronto very formidable and would loudly become a topic of conversation, the addition of Bradley to the group sent reverberations throughout the league much like Seattle’s signing of Dempsey in August.

“It’s awesome. It’s been a talking point just like Clint’s return was for us,” said Sounders FC midfielder Brad Evans, who is with the U.S. National Team’s January camp that departed Sunday for Brazil for two weeks of training.

Like Dempsey, Bradley left for Europe at a young age and looked poised to be the U.S. National Team’s biggest star abroad. He left MLS in 2004 to join Dutch side Heerenveen and has since bounced around to Borussia Monchengladbach in Germany, Aston Villa in England and Chievo and Roma in Italy.

The decision to come back to MLS while preparing for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil speaks volumes for the league’s growth in recent years.

“Michael is a 24/7 soccer kind of guy. He knows strategic moves and he knows what he’s doing. He knows that he’s not taking a step down, in his opinion and he’s ready to jumpstart Toronto’s run next year,” Evans said. “It’s going to be a very good team.”

Sounders FC takes particular interest in the signings because Toronto FC opens the 2014 MLS season at CenturyLink Field on March 15 in Seattle’s second match of the season after facing defending MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City on March 8, putting Seattle against two Eastern Conference giants to start the season.

“The fact that they’re opening up against us at home – we’re going to have two very tough games, and big games, right at the start of the season,” Evans said. “It’s going to be really exciting and I’m excited for him too.”

Bradley has 11 goals in 82 career appearances with the U.S. National Team.

PARKHURST RETURNS, TOO

Bradley wasn’t the only former MLS and U.S. National Team star to mark his return to the league on Monday. The 2007 MLS Defender of the Year Michael Parkhurst also came back after spending five years in Denmark with FC Nordsjalland. He played briefly with Augsburg in the German Bundesliga before making his return with the Columbus Crew.

In exchange for the 29-year-old defender, Columbus sent the fourth overall pick in Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft and allocation money to the New England Revolution, who held Parkhurst’s rights.

Parkhurst has 23 caps with the U.S. National Team, including titles in the 2007 and 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournaments.

PAREJA NAMED FC DALLAS COACH

After leading the Colorado Rapids to the playoffs in 2013, Head Coach Oscar Pareja was a sought-after figure. On Friday, FC Dallas announced that he was returning to the club where he spent 14 years of his professional career as a player and assistant coach from 1998-2011.

The 45-year-old Colombian had a 25-30-13 record in two seasons at the helm with the Rapids, including a 14-11-9 record in 2013 and berth in the playoffs. He takes over for Schellas Hyndman after the popular former SMU coach retired following the end of the 2013 season, however, it didn’t come without a price to FC Dallas. The Rapids received a first round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, allocation money and a contract buyout from FC Dallas in exchange for the coach and now begin a coaching search of their own.

FULHAM LOSES 4-1

Dempsey started his first Premier League match of his loan spell with Fulham on Saturday, but it wasn’t quite the homecoming he was hoping for. The Cottagers fell 4-1 to Sunderland, with Adam Johnson netting a hat trick for Sunderland.

Fulham will host Norwich City on Tuesday in a replay of their third round FA Cup match at Craven Cottage and then will face Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

LA ADDS ANOTHER FORWARD

The LA Galaxy announced another forward signing on Monday, bringing in Canadian international Rob Friend to add more size and experience to the front line. Friend, a 6-foot-5 target forward, has played in Norway, Holland and Germany in his 11 professional seasons. At 32 years old, he also has 32 caps for the Canadian National Team.

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