By Kyle McCarthy
At a time when most MLS clubs seek refuge in warmer climes, the continuing torrent of snow pelting the nation's capital captured the most attention this week.
Record snowfall over the past week and a half plunged Washington into a gridlock worse than any filibuster seen on the Senate floor. The federal government spent most of the week on hiatus, schools suffered through a February vacation one week earlier than intended and most residents worked from home rather than risking a voyage on the impassable roads.
Snowpocalypse claimed its victims in the soccer world as well. D.C. United endured a circuitous journey to Bradenton, Fla. on Tuesday that included three scheduled departures, two canceled flights, two vans and a whole gaggle of personnel spending a whole lot of time driving from Washington to Atlanta to catch a connecting flight to Florida, according to The Washington Post. And that wasn't even the most significant of the snow-related issues involving MLS personnel.
The Friday Five examines the snow-related fallout and reviews a few other particularly interesting snippets from the precipitation-filled week:
1. Snowy weather forces another CBA deadline extension. MLS and the Players Union announced they would extend the negotiating deadline to reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement after planned negotiations in Washington – the Union's offices are located in suburban Bethesda, Md. – this week were impacted by inclement weather. The two sides agreed to continue talking until Feb. 25, a two-week reprieve that should probably represent the end of the extension gambit if the two sides can't reach a final agreement within the elongated time frame.
2. CBA news remains at a premium. The biggest apparent leak from the recent talks came from Canadian blog The 24th Minute on Thursday morning. The blog reported the two sides had agreed to resolutions on some form of contractual guarantees for veteran players and a meager increase in the salary budget as part of a new three-year agreement.
The report drew the expected rebukes from representatives on both sides. MLS spokesperson Dan Courtemanche said the league hadn't been in contact with anyone from the site and couldn't comment on specifics regarding negotiations. In a rather notable departure from the litany of no comments issued on both sides over the past several weeks, Union spokesperson Neil Hare said the report was “not accurate as no agreement has been reached with the league on those issues.”
3. Foreign players dominate the transaction wire. With training camps humming along, teams are trying to stock their rosters ahead of the new campaign and foreign players are en vogue. San Jose confirmed former FC Basel striker Eduardo's arrival to lead the line, while reports out of Denmark – and some Stateside quotes – revealed Danish goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen inked a one-year deal in Kansas City to replace the out-of-contract Kevin Hartman. Colorado signed former Aston Villa and Ireland youth international midfielder Danny Earls from Rochester and plumped for Colombian defender Oscar Murillo.
Possible signings also popped onto the radar screen. New England entered into talks with Senegalese midfielder Niouky Desire, while Revs boss Steve Nicol ran the rule over former Chilean international Reinaldo Navia during a three-day trial this week. Whether Navia joins this group remains an open question after Revolution vice president of player personnel Michael Burns said the Revs “were still discussing the possibility” of signing the former Club America striker. Houston handed a trial to two French midfielders – Khadim Diouf and former Crystal Palace and Southampton man Leandre Griffit – and waited for Nigerian midfielder Blessing Kaku to join them.
Oh, and there was something in Marca about a fellow named Raul joining New York in the summer, too.
4. One local player makes a case for a roster spot. Artur Aghasyan has made a habit of scoring in MLS training camps. During a brief stint with Real Salt Lake's California preseason excursion last year, Aghasyan potted a goal against Chinese side Shandong Luneng Taishen. Aghasyan, 21, spent 2009 scoring eight goals in 15 appearances for Ventura County Fusion (PDL), paving the way for a trial with Chivas USA this winter. Four goals in three games against weak competition isn't necessarily an indicator of whether Aghasyan can cut it at MLS level, but the ample goal return and the positive reports about his pace and his intelligent runs suggest he'll make the decision a difficult one for new Chivas USA coach Martin Vasquez.
5. One coach ponders a formation change. Could new Chicago coach Carlos de los Cobos deviate from the Fire's generally preferred 4-4-2 formation in 2010? If the words of Chicago defender Krzysztof Krol indicate a sea change, the Fire may opt for a 3-5-2 in 2010 instead of the four-man backline that has made Chicago one of the league's better defensive units over the past couple of campaigns. Krol, a left back signed from Polish side Jagiellonia Bialystok in January, told ESPNChicago de los Cobos had deployed him most consistently as a left midfielder in a five-man midfield. While it's still far too early to say whether de los Cobos wants to evaluate his tactical options or prefers to move the Fire to a different deployment in 2010, Krol's comments should raise at least one pertinent question: if the shift continues, how will the Fire construct a back line with personnel – aside from the versatile Wilman Conde – best suited to play with four defenders in front of veteran goalkeeper Jon Busch?
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSnet.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
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