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Friday 3 June 2011

Gold Cup & International Action Shines on MLS Rosters

    With the Gold Cup kicking off on Sunday night, and a day of Euro 2012 qualifiers and friendlies having just past, it seemed a good time to analyze the effect on MLS action these absences will have on this weekend’s action. 

    As discussed this loss of talent, is no big deal; it is unfortunate, but the depth of squad is what makes a champion.

    Unsurprisingly the USA (7) and Canada (6) are two of the top three nations whose representatives are pulled from MLS rosters; neither tops that list as Jamaica (9) takes the honour of calling-up the most MLS players for their Gold Cup roster. Interestingly New Zealand (3), a country without its own professional league is the fourth most populous in terms of call-ups.

    It seemed peculiar that there are not more Mexican, Central American or Caribbean representatives in MLS. Rafa Márquez is the lone Mexican national on the list, though the strength of the Mexican league could explain that peculiarity.

     In Central America, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala have two players each, Costa Rica a lone national, while Nicaragua and Panama have none. 

     Aside from the aforementioned Jamaica, there are only three other islanders – Grenada (2) and Guadeloupe (1) – called-up from MLS; one of which came via England (Craig Rocastle).

     That is not to say that there is not MLS-level talent in the region. As with the case of Mexico, it is probable that the Spanish-speakers of the region have gravitated towards the Mexican League or further south to South American Football, while the English (T&T, Bermuda) & French (Haiti, Guadeloupe) speaking islands have maintained strong sporting ties with their former colonial relations.  

     In terms of which MLS club will be most affected by their loss of players, four clubs stand out: New York (6), Kansas City (5), Salt Lake (4) and Los Angeles (2).

     New York has been decimated; the loss of attackers (De Rosario, Agudelo and Richards), defenders (Márquez and Ream), and goalkeeper (Coundoul) has pillaged their line-up, leaving Coach Hans Backe a test of his squad. Sporting KC lose two-thirds of their central midfield (Rocastle and Auvray), a pair of defenders (Thomas and Espinoza) and a striker (Kamara) leaving a stretched and road-weary squad undermanned. RSL will miss much of their attacking impetus (Saborio, Alvarez and Johnson). Though the Galaxy will only lose two players (Donovan and Ricketts) they are key cogs of both their offense and defense.

     Every team is touched by call-ups, though Dallas, DC, Chicago, Philadelphia, Columbus and Seattle will only lose a single player; in many cases, however, those players are a key part of their line-ups.

     New England, was initially to be without two of their most effective midfielders (Joseph and Feilhaber), but recent events have spared them such a loss. Joseph has declined his call-up to the Grenadian National Team, to focus on leading his club team, while Feilhaber, initially part of the US squad suffered an ankle injury in their last match, meaning he will not be a part of the Gold Cup, as he recovers from injury.

     Salt Lake was spared the loss of the goalkeeper (Rimando) as he will serve as the third-choice keeper for the US and remain with his club until his services are required. Toronto FC dodged a bullet as Joao Plata their diminutive, dynamic attacker was only part of the Ecuadorean squad for the match in Toronto.

     FC Dallas’ only call-up was George John, who will report for a Greek training camp, should he recover from a groin strain. Marvin Chávez, their Honduran wide attacker, turned down the chance to represent his country in order to focus on his club team as injuries and the marriage of defender Jackson in Brazil have left Dallas shorthanded.

     Some surprise non-call-ups in the form of KC’s Teal Bunbury (USA) and DC’s Andy Najar (Honduras) who were omitted from their respective national teams. The two young stars, who caused such controversy in deciding which nation to represent – Bunbury (USA or Canada); Najar (Honduras or USA) - were puzzlingly left off the rosters, though perhaps KC’s reluctance to lose another star as they near the opening of their new stadium and Najar’s inability to attend a pre-tournament friendly, as his club refused to release him, led to their omissions.

     All told the collected loss of so many skillful players will have an effect on the MLS schedule. But the additional roster depth afforded clubs in recent years, as well as the rising influence of academies on producing replacement players should allow the league to not miss a beat. 

Update 11 6 04 - Colorado Rapids have been spared the loss of their two Jamaican players. Tyrone Marshall has declined the call-up, while Omar Cummings ankle injury has resulted in him not joining up with national team.

Canada (6)
Julian de Guzman - Toronto FC
Dwayne De Rosario - New York Red Bulls
Terry Dunfield - Vancouver Whitecaps
Andre Hainault - Houston Dynamo
Dejan Jakovic - D.C. United *
Will Johnson - Real Salt Lake

Costa Rica
Álvaro Saborío - Real Salt Lake

El Salvador (2)
Arturo Alvarez - Real Salt Lake
Steve Purdy - Portland Timbers

Grenada (2)
Shalrie Joseph - New England Revolution**
Craig Rocastle - Sporting Kansas City

Stéphane Auvray - Sporting Kansas City

Guatemala (2)
Marco Pappa - Chicago Fire
Carlos Ruiz - Philadelphia Union

Honduras (2)
Roger Espinoza - Sporting Kansas City
Marvin Chávez – FC Dallas**

Jamaica (9)
Omar Cummings - Colorado Rapids*
Ryan Johnson - San Jose Earthquakes
Tyrone Marshall - Colorado Rapids**
Dane Richards - New York Red Bulls
Donovan Ricketts - LA Galaxy
Jermaine Taylor - Houston Dynamo
Shavar Thomas - Sporting Kansas City
Je-Vaughn Watson - Houston Dynamo
Dicoy Williams - Toronto FC

Rafa Márquez - New York Red Bulls

USA (7)
Juan Agudelo - New York Red Bulls
Landon Donovan - LA Galaxy
Benny Feilhaber - New England Revolution*
Tim Ream - New York Red Bulls
Nick Rimando - Real Salt Lake
Robbie Rogers - Columbus Crew
Chris Wondolowski - San Jose Earthquakes

Non-Gold Cup call-ups:

Joao Plata - Toronto FC

Gambia (2)
Mamadou "Futty" Danso - Portland Timbers
Sanna Nyassi – Colorado

Álvaro Fernández - Seattle Sounders

Alejandro Moreno - Chivas USA

George John – FC Dallas

Bouna Coundoul – New York

New Zealand (3)
Simon Elliott – Chivas USA
Andrew Boyens – Chivas USA
Michael Boxall – Vancouver

Nizar Khalfan – Vancouver Whitecaps

Sierra Leone
Kei Kamara – Sporting Kansas City


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