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MLS offseason brings back stories as well as news items
by Paul Kennedy, December 28th, 2012 3:47PM

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By Ridge Mahoney

As 2012 winds down, there’s all manner of speculation and twittering and regurgitated nothing circulating about 2013, and it’s all getting tiresome.

A flurry of trades and signings in the immediate aftermath of MLS Cup 2012 has quieted down and to fill the dead days between now and the New Year, recycled gossip has run amuck.

Where will David Beckham wind up? We don’t know. Will Thierry Henry go on loan to Arsenal? Maybe. Is Landon Donovan coming back to the Galaxy, and the U.S. national team? Probably, but he’s said nothing definitive. Day after day, the status quo stays the same, yet the cyber-churn of insignificance continues.

Eddie Johnson tweets that he’s been invited to the January national team training camp – the second time he’s breached protocol so brazenly – and the chat boards light up. Yawn. Sorry, but only if he wasn’t called up would this be the revelation so many have made it out to be. Yet an audience starved of real news will devour any tidbit and so EJ should be thanked for tossing the fans a crumb, even if the execs at U.S. Soccer are probably throwing hissy fits about his insolence.

There are probably two dozen names to go, so let’s hope U.S. Soccer gets the list out before the tweeters do. We’ll also have to wait a bit to see if Portland and/or Seattle are picked for the Hexagonal home games, as some seem to regard as obligatory, where there’s perfectly good grass fields and fanatical fan bases in Rio Tinto Stadium, PPL Park, BBVA Compass Stadium, Home Depot Center, Columbus Crew Stadium, Livestrong Sporting Park and Red Bull Arena at the ready.

Now, when a fresh bit of maybe-news pops up, like Impact striker Marco di Vaio possibly being lured back to Italy by Pescara, that’s worth noting. As is Joey Saputo’s tweeted insistence Di Vaio will be back in Montreal next season. None of this means anything, of course, until the transfer window in Europe opens next week and Pescara either makes a bid or doesn’t.

In the days leading up to Christmas came word that Portland’s move up the allocation order was designed to snag U.S. international Mix Diskerud, whose short-term contract with Norwegian club Rosenborg is about to expire. While such a move wouldn’t seem to make much sense for the European ambitions of Diskerud, who was born in Oslo but is eligible to play for the U.S. through his American mother, it would reunite him with former U.S. U-23 coach Caleb Porter and certainly jazz up the Timbers Army.

Since then there’s been no news. That doesn’t mean a deal or the story is dead, but it does ratchet up that anxiety without which the Internet world cannot survive. The Diskerud Watch also shrouds the importance of other developments that have far-reaching effects as well as news value.

A wave of Homegrown Player signings by MLS teams got major play, and while the track record of past signings isn’t stellar as far as contributions to the first team are concerned, the moves certainly helped fill that post-MLS Cup information vacuum with a few names in the news.

Yet the critical element in the story of signee Gyasi Zardes, who grew up a Galaxy fan and played for its academy team, is not the human-interest angle, but rather the fact he comes to MLS with some collegiate experience, as do many Generation adidas players.

That combination of experiences didn’t spur Ben Speas, who signed a Homegrown deal with Columbus a year ago after helping Akron and North Carolina win back-to-back NCAA titles, into regular first-team play with the Crew. He missed about two months with a sports hernia and played just 64 minutes of league play. But he’ll be only 22 next season so there’s plenty of time.

Cal State Bakersfield, for which Zardes scored 36 goals in three seasons, isn’t anything close to a Division I powerhouse. Yet perhaps the stories of Speas and Zardes and other players point to a future in which some MLS academy players go straight to the first team, and others pass through the college portals en route to the pro game.

Those stories will bear close watching in 2013, after the final few days of 2012 play out their own course.



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