[AMERICANS ABROAD]The French season begins Saturday with two American internationals new to Ligue 1. While Rennes is counting up Carlos Bocanegra to help on its backline, Freddy Adu is sure to be welcomed at Monaco when he returns from the Olympics in China.
Rennes opens Saturday against Marseille, one of the perennial favorites, riding a five-game winning streak in friendly games. Bocanegra started and played 90 minutes in last Friday's 1-0 win over Brittany neighbor Nantes after being left out of the team for its Intertoto Cup final against Ukraine's SC Tavriya Simferopol a week before that.
Veteran coach Guy Lacombe is cautious about Rennes' chances for the 2008-09 season -- which also include a berth in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Cup against Norway's Stabaek thanks to its Intertoto success.
In recent days, Lacombe has signed Congolese-born French U-21 Lucien Aubey, a defender, and Senegalese midfielder Kader Manganeto provide more cover on defense. His major offensive signing was Ghana international Asamoah Gyan, who joins a frontline that features highly rated youngster Jimmy Briand and veteran Sylvain Wiltord.
Optimism isn't as high at Monaco, which the French press has taken to task for its lack of activity on the summer transfer market. American Jerome de Bontin has been brought in to turn things around on the Rocher, and that begins with a house cleaning of the front office and sizable player roster.
Monaco's only other major signing besides that of Adu was Argentine midfielder Alejandro Alonso from Bordeaux. De Bontin has said that veterans not assured of starting jobs are free to seek moves elsewhere. Monaco fans will be delighting if de Bontin keeps 21-year-old star Jeremy Menez, coveted by Roma.
Monaco also opens on Saturday -- against Paris St. Germain -- without Adu, who is expected to replace Frederic Piquionne, sold to Lyon last week. With Adu, Menez, Camel Meriem and Brazilian Nene, Monaco has the potential of lining one of the most exciting attacks in the defensive-minded Ligue 1.