Major League Soccer inches closer and closer to putting shovels in the ground in Flushing Meadows. As part of the 2012 State Of The League teleconference, Commissioner Don Garber happily talked up their work to move the stadium plan forward, claiming the league was "at the finish line" when it came to finalizing the agreement with the city.
The league's current plan is to have a 10- to 13-acre site (up from what was initially described originally as eight), and that a team would potentially begin playing at the site in 2016. The league remains tight-lipped about potential ownership groups who would be willing to pay the $100 million franchise fee, but those who follow European soccer will not be surprised to learn that the Middle East is apparently interested. Telegraph Sport reported late in November that both Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (who owns Manchester City) and Qatar (who own Paris Saint-Germain) have begun exploring the purchase of the franchise rights.
The league's push for acceptance of the plan isn't only with politicians but also with the community. Under a campaign dubbed "MLS To Queens", the league is pressing hard to win over local residents who might be less enthusiastic about the plans. The work is all culminating into the first public unveiling of the plans at Queens Theatre tomorrow night. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.
As the project rolls along, New York Red Bulls fans are already starting to feel the sting of excitement in the project and not for their team of choice. If it's not newspaper editorials stating "A professional soccer team is one of the things New York has been missing", then it's the league's site helpfully showing a number of MLS stadiums and labeling Red Bull Arena as being in "New Jersey".
Speaking of which...
Photograph of a young Red Bulls fan by Pablo Maurer/DCist
The Red Bulls didn't wait long after their collapse against DC United to start tearing apart the roster. Just before Thanksgiving, the team announced they had declined options for ten players. The cuts hit newcomers who hadn't gotten minutes (Jose Angulo, Jeremy Vuolo), key bench players throughout the year (Tyler Ruthven, Bill Gaudette), and even some fan favorites like Stephen Keel and Jan Gunnar Solli. Global Football Director Gerard Houllier reportedly told some of the cut players that if they hadn't played during the two-match playoff failure, “I’ve never seen you play” and were thus cut.
With spots opening up, big players would have to come in to fill the gaps. The league trade window opened this morning, and there are already rumors of a blockbuster coming up. Ives Galarcep broke the story that RBNY were ready to acquire Fabian Espindola and Jamison Olave from Real Salt Lake, and the move was made official early this evening. RBNY also confirmed this afternoon that they acquired Japanese defender Kosuke Kimura and a draft pick from the Portland Timbers.
While new pieces are coming in, many are wondering what this all means for Kenny Cooper. Cooper lead the team with 18 goals this year, but Thierry Henry's frustration with his play was no secret in the locker room. That, coupled with his relatively expensive salary against the cap, could cause the team to unload him after an incredible 2012.
No movement has been made on the front to fill the open head coach position, but one name has popped up that is quite familiar to the NY soccer scene: Tony Meola.
RETURN OF THE COSMOS DELAYED
If you were getting ready to pull your Cosmos gear out of storage for the coming NASL kickoff, you may need to wait just a bit longer. During a supporters event on Saturday, the team announced they would not join the NASL until the fall of 2013. (This might seem strange given that the league runs in parallel with the MLS season, but due to the new split NASL format, this actually isn't a problem.)
While they still haven't assembled a roster for the field, the team has been busy filling the office. Former RBNY Managing Director Eric Stover was named Cosmos COO, and Metrostars legend Giovanni Savarese was named head coach after a stint as the Academy Director.
Stover spoke about the delay in their return at the fan event:
"We've said from the beginning that when we returned to the field, we would do it in the right way. This allows us the time we need to build our staff and operational capabilities in a professional manner. But most importantly, especially for our loyal fans, it gives us the necessary time to put a club on the field they can be proud of."