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U.S. World Cup vets headed to MLS?
by Ridge Mahoney, June 26th, 2008 7AM

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[MLS] After Brian McBride, the list of American national team players who might leave Europe for MLS this summer is a rather short one but includes a pair of his fellow World Cup vets.


According to a source at one of the MLS teams, defenders Robbie Russell and Cory Gibbs are being shopped around. Russell, who turns 29 next month, has played in Iceland, Norway and Denmark since leaving Duke University after the 2000 season and has been with Viborg FF in the Danish league for the past two seasons.

Since he's never been capped by the national team, though he's attended several training camps, Russell wouldn't be subject to the allocation process. He was drafted by the Galaxy after completing his college career, and elected not to sign with the league within two years after being drafted, so he would be subject to a special lottery.

Gibbs earned his first U.S. call-up in two years for a match with Poland in March but didn't play. He played only five games for Charlton's reserves this season while battling knee and foot injuries and will be officially released by the club next Monday.

Cartilage problems in his right knee have kept him out of the Charlton first team lineup after knocking him off the U.S. 2006 World Cup squad. He's also suffered broken metatarsal bones during his stay at Charlton, which he joined on a free transfer following two seasons at Feyenoord.

Two-time U.S. World Cup player Eddie Lewis is willing to come back to MLS but at age 34, despite his recent showings with the national team, teams may not be willing to use an allocation slot on him, which as per league rules would be the only mechanism to acquire him unless every team declines to claim him.

Lewis is under contract to Derby County, which finished dead last in the English Premier League last month and will play League Championship ball next season.

U.S. forward Josh Wolff, who has played the last two seasons in Germany with 1860 Munich since leaving MLS, is out of contract. He is only 31, and like Gibbs and Lewis, would require use of an allocation unless all 14 MLS teams elected to pass. As of yet, he's not publicly expressed a preference to come back to MLS. Wolff, like Lewis, played for the USA at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.

Houston has inquired about bringing back forward Nate Jaqua, who left MLS last winter to play in Austria. He signed a short-term deal, which has since expired, but he enjoyed some success - five goals in 10 games -- and unless an MLS team is ready to spend some serious money, he'll likely return to SCR Altach or find another club.

The biggest fish is McBride, who is willing to take a big pay cut from the approximately $1.5 million he earned at Fulham if he can play in Chicago and work with the team and/or MLS in some capacity when he retires.

Given his incredible popularity wherever he's played, that shouldn't be a problem. But the Fire will need to either acquire a second DP slot or scare up a big chunk of allocation money as well as salary-cap relief to fit him under the cap.

 



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