[MLS 2013 COUNTDOWN]As the January window in Europe was set to close, there was a flurry of action on the MLS front. Popular Kei Kamara moved on loan from Sporting Kansas City to England's Norwich City, 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year Andy Najar became the first homegrown player to be transferred abroad when he went from D.C. United to Belgian champion Anderlecht, and all signs pointed to Brek Shea leaving FC Dallas for Stoke City in England.
The moves again raised questions about the wisdom of MLS clubs letting some of their best young talent leave.
Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman went so far as to write an open letter to the club's fans, acknowledging how frustrating it is players aspire to play in leagues like the EPL and will leave MLS.
But he said his organization could not begrudge players for wanting to move and insisted Sporting KC was committed toward its goal of winning MLS Cup 2013. (It won the last two Eastern Conference regular-season titles but fell short in the playoffs.)
Heineman added that the loan proceeds will allow Sporting KC to reinvest in its existing core of players and an eventual transfer fee -- the loan goes through May 6 with an option to purchase -- will give the club even that much more allocation money. As a business proposition, Sporting KC did not want to repeat what happened to Roger Espinoza, who left for Wigan Athletic at the end of the year as a “free” player.
Still, Heineman admitted the move hurt on a personal level ...
D.C. UNITED.Najar's permanent transfer to Anderlecht after a month's loan was also a tough call, but General Manager Dave Kasper told the Washington Post it became possible when the Belgian champion increased its offer for the 19-year-old Honduran international.
“We said all along the deal had to be in the best interests of both Andy and D.C. United,” Kasper said. “Anderlecht stepped up to the plate in the final 48 hours.”
The transfer fee was believed to be in the range of $3 million, and D.C. will collect 75 percent and MLS will take 25 percent because Najar, who attended high school in Northern Virginia and played in the D.C. academy program, was a homegrown player. The agreement also calls for a sell-on fee when Najar is transferred in the future. D.C. United should also get the FIFA-mandated training compensation fee on all future transfers.
Najar is the second MLS player Anderlecht has signed after Sacha Kljestan.
"Najar's signing is a long-term proposition," said Anderlecht general manager Herman Van Holsbeeck. "Andy Najar has lots of room to grow and his style of pay is similar to what we play. The technical staff evaluated him closely during his month-long tryout and they submitted a positive report on him."
Najar's move is the first confirmed permanent transfer of an MLS player during the January window. Other players have moved on loan, like Kamara, or as free agents, like Espinoza.
Roger Espinoza (Sporting KC to Wigan Athletic, England-free transfer)
Alvaro Fernandez (Chicago to Al Rayyan, Qatar-loan)
Andre Hainault (Houston to Ross County, Scotland-free transfer)
Fredy Montero(Seattle to Millonarios, Colombia-loan)
Andy Najar(D.C. United to Anderlecht, Belgium-transfer)
Kei Kamara (Sporting KC to Norwich City, England-loan)
Zach Pfeffer (Philadelphia to Hoffenheim, Germany-loan)
Dane Richards (Vancouver to Burnley, England-free transfer)
Carlos Valdes(Philadelphia to Inde. Santa Fe, Colombia-loan)
Note:Other players have moved abroad following their release by their MLS clubs.
NEW YORK.The New York Red Bulls confirmed the hiring of former Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser as its assistant coach under newly hired head coach Mike Petke. Fraser was the head coach for Chivas USA for two seasons and was one of the most highly regarded assistant coaches in MLS, serving under Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis.
“Robin Fraser is a class act. I think he’ll be an outstanding addition to our management team,” said Red Bulls Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh in a statement. “First, he has the experience of MLS as a player and then as a winning assistant coach. He also had the opportunity on the front line as a head coach. He will bring an enormous amount of enthusiasm, knowledge and coaching acumen to our club.”
REAL SALT LAKE.Real Salt Lake acquired 20-year-old Ecuadoran Joao Plata from Toronto FC for a second-round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. Toronto FC drafted Plata after he took part in the 2011 MLS Player Combine. He scored 10 goals and added nine assists in 52 appearances in all competitions for Toronto FC before returning to Ecuador on a six-month loan for the second half of the 2012 season.
"We are happy to add a fast, young forward with MLS experience," said RSL GM Garth Lagerwey in a statement. "We believe that Joao can become an impactful member of our team as we continue to work to restock our forward group."
Wednesday, Jan. 30
Chivas USA 4 (Bolanos 2, Correa, Rivera) FC Santa Clarita Storm 1(Ibarra).
Columbus 2 (Higuain, Finlay) Chicago 1 (Atouba).
Thursday, Jan. 31
*Houston vs. Colorado (The Desert Friendlies) at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Ariz.
Friday, Feb. 1
Columbus vs. New York at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
D.C. United vs. Malmö FF at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Los Angeles vs. U.S. U-17 national team at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
*Sporting KC vs. Portland (The Desert Friendlies) at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Ariz.
*Streamed on mlssoccer.com