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The MLS offseason really isn't
November 29th, 2007 7AM

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Ridge Mahoney explains how MLS players are keeping busy.

If the MLS 2007 campaign ended a week and a half ago with Houston winning its second straight title, why are so many players still playing?

Some are on tour with the Galaxy in Australia and New Zealand, of course, but that's just a glamorous offshoot of MLS signing David Beckham.

The job of player development never ends and to that end, the league and U.S. Soccer have kick-started programs.

Add to that players going on trial, and the Shaka Hislop Cup in which FC Dallas and its Brazilian partner Atletico Paranaense is participating this week, and players and teams taking off in planes, not taking time off, define this offseason.

Fresh off scoring a goal in the championship game. Houston attacker Joseph Ngwenya headed off to Germany to audition for Alemania Aachen. The latter case reflects the stance of Coach Dominic Kinnear, who could have blocked the tryout for Ngwenya, whose contract is about to expire. Not every MLS coach is so accommodating.

A team of Generation adidas players is touring Spain. They defeated the Rayo Vallecano reserve team, 1-0, Monday on a goal by Real Salt Lake's Nathan Sturgis, attended the Sevilla-Arsenal Champions' League match Tuesday, and are scheduled to meet the Real Madrid reserve team Wednesday.

Eighteen MLS players, including a few of the Generation adidas barnstormers, are included in the U.S. under-23 squad of 22 players that begins preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games this Saturday at Home Depot Center.

FC Dallas midfielder Arturo Alvarez trained with French club Bordeaux, and is expected to return in time to train at HDC before the under-23s head off to China Dec. 8 to play a pair of matches. The 2008 Olympic Games will be held in the Chinese capital of Beijing next August.

"As we have seen in the past," said Olympic coach Peter Nowak, "the possibility of getting to travel and play in the host country before a tournament is especially valuable, so we are going to take full advantage of it."

The CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, consisting of eight countries, will be played in March in California, Florida and Tennessee, with two representatives advancing to the finals.

According to a source, officials are considering placing Mexico and the United States, the heavy favorites to advance, in the same first-round group to avoid their possible meeting in the semifinals, which occurred in 2004 when Mexico hosted the qualifying competition.

Mexico eliminated the U.S. in their 2004 semifinal, but the decision to facilitate their passage to the 2008 finals possibly at the expense of other countries may not be well-received.

Some of the U-23 players will be invited to a January training camp that leads up to the full national team's Jan. 18 match against Sweden at HDC. Those players will be called into camp Jan. 3 or 4.



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