What You May Have Missed in North American Soccer

It’s only a month into 2016 and US soccer (MLS, US men & women) are looking to a busy year
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, February 03, 2016

US Soccer Federation (USSF)

Major League Soccer teams are now in preseason, the US men’s national team has its January camp done and dusted (save for an International Friendly/rivalry match against Canada), while the US women are gearing up for Olympic Qualifying – and it’s only early February.

With MLS preseason underway, not only does that mean players are a little more active on social media through sharing pictures of training and group bonding, but it also means that squads are being groomed for the upcoming 2016 season. Player transfers and acquisitions have been of piqued interest for many as some signings are quite polarizing.

One such figure that recently signed for the LA Galaxy was Ashley Cole from AS Roma. Though Cole hasn’t seen much playing time in the past year and a half in Italy, the Galaxy will look to the England international to be a left back showcase. Additionally, whereas Cole – and former Porto defender Nuno Coelho who will join Sporting Kansas City – come into Major League Soccer, one of the bigger not-a-shock-but-still-tough-to-take transactions this preseason was transfer of Sporting KC forward Krisztian Nemeth to Al-Gharafa in Qatar. Although Nemeth, who had a breakout year in KC in 2015 and was one of the top forwards in the league, is leaving, there is one more player that many are thrilled is joining an MLS side.

After training in Germany, Jordan Morris decided he will join with his USMNT teammates Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans with the Seattle Sounders. And though Morris has yet to play on the pitch at the same time as Evans and Dempsey for Seattle, he’s been part of the call-ups for the USMNT as has Evans.

Morris, who has taken quite the spotlight for soccer in America these days (especially with his recent training stint at Werder Bremen), has been impressive with the Yanks, and looks to continue that trend. What’s worth noting is that during the friendly the US had against Iceland – although Morris showed well, there were a handful of other prospects who aren’t US mainstays (yet) that haven’t had much playing time who were equally as impactful.

Not only did Steve Birnbaum of DC United make his second-only cap, he scored on it as well. What’s more, FC Dallas defender Kellyn Acosta, Columbus Crew SC’s midfielders Ethan Finlay and Tony Tchani, and Stuttgart forward Jerome Kiesewetter all notched their first cap.

While there were quite a few firsts to be had, it was also Darlington Nagbe’s third cap and the second national team appearance for goalkeeper Luis Robles. Although the US men’s team is playing friendlies leading up to the Copa America Centenario games, it’s still great to see the tenacity and drive with the players on the national team, whether on a first, second, or third cap, or a 110th like Michael Bradley.

Similar to the men’s side, the US women’s team is gearing up for Olympic Qualifying – and also has some younger players looking to breakout. Most recently, Mallory Pugh, the teenage phenom who is forgoing entering the NWSL – at least for this coming season – and going to college instead, had her first cap and her first goal during a match against Ireland.

Like Kiesewetter and Morris for the men, the women – with many players retiring or near retirement age – are looking to the new crop of players like Pugh, Emily Sonnett, Lindsey Horan, Sam Mewis, and Stephanie McCaffrey to continue the winning ways of the women.

There are so many storylines in the soccer ‘offseason’ in the US that it’s hard to keep track of but these days, realize that we live in a great time for football in America. With Major League Soccer starting up again with preseason games and training camps, and each year the league growing in attendance, money, and interest, this year is no exception to not take notice.

Additionally, because of players like Morris joining in with the Sounders, he’ll be a familiar name with the US men’s team. And though, unlike the men’s team, Pugh on the women’s team will be going to college rather than joining the Portland Thorns in the NWSL, she’ll be a more and more recognizable face as she takes on Olympic Qualifiying with the World Cup champs.

Remember, it’s only early February and there’s a lot of soccer to take in during the next few months. Take a breath and enjoy.

Katherine RUPP

Drake University
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Unabashed Minnesotan by birth. Tried reliving the glory days of collegiate intramural soccer championships but an ACL tear dashed future hopes of adult recreational greatness. Covering a city’s team that’s too big for one state: SKC.