Major League Soccer is the goal in Central Florida, and Phil Rawlins and Orlando City SC continue making progress in their bid to become the league's latest expansion franchise.
On Sunday night, the Orlando Sentinel revealed the new face in Orlando City's ownership group, the man who will eventually become the principal owner as the club continues its march toward a compelling expansion bid.
That man is Brazilian entrepreneur Flávio Augusto da Silva, and he can’t wait to help Orlando join the US soccer elite.
“Orlando is a very special city, because it is very close to the South American market and close to the European market, two regions that really love soccer," Augusto da Silva said. "We were researching a franchise in another place, but we believe Orlando is a really good city to invest."
That investment would be become substantial should Orlando's MLS dreams come to fruition. In recent weeks, local and state government have also come out in support of the club, and the article outlined the preliminary funding plan for a soccer specific stadium.
Exciting times indeed in Florida.
Same goes for Southern California, as the LA Galaxy announced on Sunday that Landon Donovan will return to training at the end of March, after taking a break away from the game.
Bruce Arena spoke of Donovan’s plans for this season.
“We have agreed to allow Landon to remain on an extended leave of absence and return to training with the team during the final week of March,” Arena said. “We understand this arrangement is not ideal but we are confident it will allow Landon the time he needs to be both mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming season.”
The only real surprise is that Donovan will make his return just after the USMNT’s crucial World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica (March 22) and Mexico (March 26). Leaving Klinsmann's side without their all-time leading scorer.
So could this season by Donovan’s last in MLS? Our very own Simon Borg takes up that story and reflects on the US forward's huge influence on MLS so far.
While over at Fox Soccer, they believe Donovan’s return throws up more questions than answers.
Meanwhile his teammates saw the field in preseason action, as the Galaxy tied 0-0 with South Korean side Gangwon FC. See the highlights here. (VIDEO)
Leading scorer Robbie Keane is still missing for the Galaxy after a family bereavement.
The Galaxy have no reason to leave their comfortable confines in Los Angeles, but in Kissimmee, Fla., the Disney Pro Soccer Classic was in full swing all weekend as MLS teams continued their preseason preparations.
The Columbus Crew and Montreal Impact will square off in the final next Saturday, see how all four MLS teams got on down in the Floridian sun.
While Columbus’ attack fired in their 3-2 win over Orlando City, defensively, the Crew might have some issues after captain Chad Marshall limped off with an injury.
The Crew taught Philly a lesson last week in a 4-0 drubbing, but the Union responded by dishing out a similar clinic to Toronto FC. John Hackworth’s men ran out 3-0 winners on Saturday as TFC struggled without head coach Ryan Nelsen at the helm, with the new boss back in England scouting potential new additions for the Reds.
TFC lined up a friendly against Rollins College on Sunday. See how they got on: a clue … they didn’t win.
While just up the Atlantic coast, TFC’s Canadian counterparts are having a fine preseason so far. Eighteen-year old Gambian forward Kekuta Manneh is making a name for himself, with two more goals for the ‘Caps in a win at the Carolina Challenge Cup. Check out the highlights and reaction here. VIDEO
Vancouver are also rumored to be close to a deal for ex-EPL midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker, watch this space. In other 'Caps news, captain Jay DeMerit could miss the season opener – find out why.
In the other game in South Carolina, Chicago defeated Houston in a real humdinger in Charleston, as the Fire ran out 3-2 winners.
A quick break from MLS preseason tourneys to remind you the US Under-20s are in action this evening against Haiti at the Estadio Olímpico in the kickoff of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship (6:30 pm ET on Fox Soccer). Head coach Tab Ramos believes the US can “do some damage” in U-20 World Cup qualifying.
With all that U-20 action, one MLSer who just signed a Homegrown deal with the Houston Dynamo has a big decision to make. Bryan Salazar, whose supreme skill is punctuated marvelously by his outlandish hairstyle, can choose to represent Honduras or the US. His mother would prefer the former. No pressure, Bryan.
While another youngster who could’ve been pivotal in the US’ U-20 campaign is Marc Pelosi. The Liverpool youngster – who was not selected to Ramos' side – suffered a broken leg in action for the Reds U-19 team on Sunday, according to Soccer By Ives.
That key injury will heap more pressure on Ramos’ youngsters with expectations levels already high, according to The New York Times.
But back into MLS preseason action we go because, boy, there was plenty of it this weekend. Just as there were plenty of fans out in Portland, too, as 14,229 turned up to see newly acquired striker Ryan Johnson grab a hat-trick in a 3-3 tie with reigning Supporters’ Shield winners San Jose, in Caleb Porter’s first game at JELD-WEN Field.
Johnson is promising goals galore in Portland after wowing Timbers fans on his home debut: “We are going to score a lot of goals this year and I expect to score a lot this year." (VIDEO)
New head coach Porter was impressed and felt his side gave San Jose the runaround. “We want teams to have to deal with us, and San Jose had to deal with us,” Porter said. “Our front four guys were a handful and we scored three tremendous goals.”
While down in Arizona, the Desert Diamond Cup saw four MLS sides squaring off. The Seattle Sounders beat RSL 2-1, as Mario Martinez came back to haunt Salt Lake again. And the New York Red Bulls saw a promising start fizzle out after Juninho gave them a 1-0 lead against New England. But the Revs rallied to win 3-1. See all the reaction and highlights here (VIDEO)
Speaking of Seattle, Osvaldo Alonso spoke to the Miami Herald about the moment five and half years ago when he defected from Cuba to the US, in a Walmart store in Houston.
Back out in Tucson, RBNY head coach Mike Petke hasn’t been in the job long but he’s already putting his foot down. Petke spoke openly to Big Apple Soccer after the teams disappointing display against New England.
“Some people need to step up, need to stand up, claim things for their own, do things the right away and learn," Petke said. "Learn little things, things we learn in practice. I'm not talking about reinventing the wheel. Little things here and there. Maybe that's too much to ask."
Staying in LA, and ex-Chivas USA defender James Riley spoke out about his move from the Goats to D.C. this weekend. Riley claims new boss José Luis "El Chelís" Sánchez Solá agreed to keep him on board with Chivas USA just hours before being traded to the nations capital.
“I had a meeting with him and he said he wanted to keep me, how I was in his starting XI, a core member of the team as obviously I’d played a lot of games in this league, “ Riley said. “We shook hands on it … then it changed in 48 hours.”
That’s soccer. And Sporting KC’s newest defender Josh Gardner knows that only too well. SKC have given the former Montreal Impact player a second chance, after Peter Vermes passed up on Gardner when he was a trialist with Sporting. Gardner told the Kansas City Star he’s grateful Vermes realized his mistake.
“It’s good to hear that, but there’s no hard feelings there obviously,” Gardner said. “It’s good to know they value me as a player. It gives me a lot of confidence and obviously makes me want to perform for the club, the coaches and the guys around me.”
The big news reverberating around US soccer circles this weekend was Robbie Rogers’ decision to come out on Friday. The former Columbus Crew and USMNT winger seems to have retired for now but his ex-teammates hope he returns and becomes a trailblazer.
Rogers is still over in the UK after his time playing for Leeds United and Stevenage and plenty of other American Exports supported Rogers’ announcement. #Respect was the word of the day on Friday.
Elsewhere in Europe, Jozy Altidore continues his wonderful season for AZ, while plenty of other exports were in action across the pond.
Down in Mexico, two USMNT hopefuls continue to knock on Jurgen Klinsmann’s door, after another great weekend for DaMarcus Beasley and Jose Torres.
There is live soccer on the tube this afternoon, with Manchester United taking on Reading in the fifth round of the FA Cup (3 pm ET, Fox Soccer). And yesterday, reports of Napoli captain Marek Hamsik being robbed outside the stadium at gunpoint, after his sides 0-0 tie with Sampdoria, shocked the Italian game once again.
And finally, have you heard of the Harlem Shake craze taking over the world? Of course you have. Well now it’s taking over MLS, as these videos prove. Take a bow the Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps and Houston Dynamo … or do that crazy dance instead. Whatever. Who performs it best? You decide. VIDEO
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