ICYMI | MLS: Movsisyan closer to return

Only five MLS games are scheduled for this weekend, yet there's no shortage of news. Yura Movsisyan, a star on Real Salt Lake's 2009 championship team, might be on his way back to MLS. Chicago keeper Sean Johnson is anxious to regain his starter status. Portland is monitoring the status of playmaker Diego Valeri.

1. Movsisyan inches toward RSL return.

Rumors that former Kansas City Wizards and Real Salt Lake striker Yura Movsisyan could return to MLS began quite a while ago, but lately they have taken on more of a “when” feel than “if.”

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A posting on the Armenian soccer federation Web site stated Movsisyan, 27, has been allowed to leave the squad to take a medical exam in the United States. Movsisyan, who was born in Azerbaijan to Armenian parents and grew up in Southern California, was in training for an upcoming 2016 European Championship qualifier against Portugal. He has played 27 times for Armenia.

Since leaving RSL after the 2009 season, he has played for Randers in Denmark and Krasnodar and Spartak Moscow in Russia. Because RSL offered him a contract renewal he did not accept, it retains his MLS rights. With two years remaining on his Spartak contract, a transaction would normally entail a transfer fee.

Randers tried to acquire him during the 2009 season, but then-RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey declined an offer of reportedly $250,000. Movsisyan stayed with RSL and scored eight goals in the regular season to give hi 20 goals in 81 MLS games. In four playoff games, he recorded one assist.

2. MLS players Larin and Teibert score for Canada.

The long road for Canada to qualify for its first World Cup since 1986 began Thursday with a 2-0 victory over the Caribbean nation of Dominica in its capital, Roseau.

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Orlando City rookie Cyle Larin and Vancouver veteran Russell Teibert scored for Canada. Larin scored in the fifth minute and Teibert added a second goal in the second half to give the Canadians a healthy edge heading into the second leg Tuesday at BMO Field.

Five MLS players represented Canada in the match. FC Dallas attacker Tesho Akindele, the 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year who had been eligible to apply to FIFA represent the USA, started the match and by doing so tied himself to Canada permanently. He was called into U.S. training camps earlier this year for games against Chile and Panama but at the time had not petitioned to join the FIFA and thus was ineligible.

3. Johnson eager to reclaim Fire starting spot.

The past few months have been rough for Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Arm, eye and hand problems – plus the good form of veteran teammate Jon Busch – have limited him to seven starts.

His struggles mirror those of the Fire, which is 4-7-2 and in eight of those 13 games has allowed at least two goals. He hasn’t started a game in nearly a month and head coach Frank Yallop is keeping the decision as to who starts against New England Saturday private.

“It’s always going to be frustrating when you’re not on the field, but I think it’s all about how you handle it, your mentality,” Johnson  told MLSsoccer.com. “When you start the year off with injuries, having nagging things, it’s very difficult to get your rhythm, especially coming off an injury in preseason [arm infection]. It’s been a bad run of luck for me, but you have your ups and downs in your career and it’s just a matter of getting yourself healthy and back to it and training hard, which I have been doing.”

Johnson has played 120 games the past four seasons. Busch joined the Fire during the offseason after playing 150 games for the Quakes the last five years. “Both guys have done fine,” said Yallop. “And when you don’t win games and you concede goals, obviously everyone looks at the goalkeeper, but I always say it’s team defending.

“It’s on all of us if it goes in the net, not just on one player or even the back four, it’s not that. It’s the whole team that gets hurt, and we’ve got to do a better job all over the field at defending.”

4. McNamara repays faith shown by Kreis.

Watching Chivas USA in its final season inflicted several differing types of pain, but those who endured realized first-hand that Thomas McNamara, in his rookie season, deserved better.

One of those who took note, Jason Kreis, ensured McNamara’s MLS career would continue by claiming him in the Expansion Draft after McNamara had been plucked previously by D.C. United in the Dispersal Draft.

A superb equalizer in New York City’s 2-1 defeat of Philadelphia confirmed the belief instilled by Kreis, who secured his second victory in charge after a bleak run of 11 games winless. And to his credit, Kreis acknowledges that he’s not quite sure precisely what he sees in McNamara. The coach just knows it seems to work.

“He does things a little differently. He’s just a little bit different in his game,” Kreis told MLSsoccer.com. “When you look at it at first you’re not sure what to make of it, but at the end of it all you see training session after training session, he’s scoring goals and making assists and then he steps into the game and makes that wonderful goal that gets us going in the right direction. It’s the end product you have to like with guys like that.”

McNamara equalized in the 53rd minute with a curling shot into the top corner for his second goal of the season. It was among the nominees for Goal of the Week. “It was good,” McNamara said. “It’s always nice when you score, but what feels even better and what’s more important is that we got the three points and broke that [winless[ streak.”

Selection in the Expansion Draft brought the native of West Nyack, N.Y. very close to home. He played at Brown and Clemson prior to selection in the SuperDraft by Chivas USA. Six games into his rookie season, he pulled the ball back at midfield and went down without being touched by the nearest Timber, Gaston Fernandez. The diagnosis was a torn ACL and medial meniscus in his right knee.

“That was my first major injury, first surgery,” McNamara said. “It can happen. I worked with some great people along the way, especially the last step with the training staff here. I feel good now. Everything is back to normal.

”It’s pretty special to represent your home state, your home city,” McNamara said. “I’m just really enjoying it at the moment, and I’m just trying to be a good ambassador for the club.”

5. Timbers awaiting word on Valeri.

Fresh off a victory that gave the Timbers their first three-game winning streak since joining MLS, they are hopeful that playmaker Diego Valeri can return to action next week.

A sprained ankle May 23 against Toronto FC knocked him out of the lineup after he’d played just four games this season; he missed the first eight matches recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in the last game of 2014. He’s scored one goal and registered one assist in his limited time on the field.

Valeri could return Tuesday in a U.S. Open Cup match at Seattle or a week from Saturday against Houston at Providence Park. Portland is one of 10 MLS teams that doesn’t play this weekend.

In the 2-0 defeat of New England last Saturday that was Portland’s third straight win, winger Dairon Asprilla suffered an ankle sprain that will sideline him for two to four weeks.

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