Ronaldo wants to play in MLS

Cristiano RonaldoA few years ago, a headline involving Ronaldo wanting to play in Major League Soccer would’ve only been something that you’d find at The Onion. However, things have changed greatly for both Ronaldo and MLS in recent years.

The report comes via Sports Illustrated, which claims “multiple sources” believe Ronaldo wants to come to MLS on a transfer fee in 2018, the year that his contract with Real Madrid ends.

That seems like a long time off and Ronaldo is already 30 years old. Furthermore, he would be 33 at the time of the transfer, which is a year older than David Beckham (32) when he came to the Los Angeles Galaxy. But then again, Ronaldo would still be younger than Manchester City’s Frank Lampard (37) and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard (35), both of whom are set to land in America this summer.

When/if Ronaldo comes across the pond, his preferred destinations are the major-market cities: Los Angeles, New York and Miami. The L.A. Galaxy would be a very interesting destination seeing as how Beckham owns part of the team.

At the moment, the three-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner still has plenty of good years left in La Liga play. Ronaldo has supplied 30 goals and 11 assists in 24 matches, helping Real Madrid to a 21-1-5 record (64 points) so far – just one point behind Barcelona for first place.

ronaldo-real-madrid-trade-1Even still, there have been rumors swirling around the Real Madrid office regarding the star Portuguese striker. The biggest rumor suggests that president Florentino Perez is considering cashing in on Ronaldo while he’s still performing at a high level. This was back in mid-February, when Perez and the rest of the organization weren’t happy about Ronaldo celebrating his 30th birthday after a 4-0 loss to rival Atletico Madrid.

But assuming these remain just rumors and Ronaldo gets to move on to MLS in three years, then he won’t be alone regarding other stars playing there. Once considered a league where old timers watch their careers fizzle out, Major League Soccer seems to be attracting more and more international talent each year. Italy’s Sebastian Giovinco, Spain’s David Villa and Brazil’s Kaka are some of the biggest names that have come to the United States recently.

Kaka, who plays for the expansion team Orlando City, sees big things for MLS in the future. “A lot of players are looking for this league now,” he said. “[In] five, 10 years it will be one of the biggest in the world.”

As the L.A. Times reported, a big reason why these international players look to America is because they’re tired of battling for playing time on crowded European rosters. Here’s one excerpt from the article:

Two decades ago Italy’s Serie A was the top league in the world. But its teams were so deep with talented, veteran players that stars such as Ruud Gullit, Gianfranco Zola and Gianluca Vialli jumped to England in search of playing time, starting a foreign invasion that eventually aided in making the English Premier League the world’s most popular and lucrative soccer league.

“It seems like it’s taking the same form,” Bradley Wright-Phillips, who played mainly for lower-division clubs in England before joining the New York Red Bulls in 2013, said of MLS. “A lot of legends — people’s favorite players — go to a league … and they end up staying. I think we might be on to something.”

Of course, this isn’t to say that MLS will soon dethrone La Liga or the Premier League as the world’s top soccer league. However, when aging stars keep coming to MLS, and somebody like Ronaldo wants to play his final years in America, then that’s definitely saying something.

MLS has Crazy Gap between Top-Paid Players and Minimum Salary

clint-dempsey-seattleDespite not being mentioned in the same breath as the Premier League and Bundesliga, Major League Soccer certainly pays its stars well, with some making millions of dollars. However, many of the non-stars might be better off financially working in a factory or as a convenience-store manager.

The minimum MLS salary is just $36,500, which might be understandable if the top salaries weren’t so high. However, the disparities are so noticeable that one can’t help but be a little shocked.

A good example of this can be seen when looking at Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey, who makes $6.7 million per year. Contrast this to Zach Scott, who’s also a good player since he’s started 67 games in six season. However, you’d never know it from his salary of $52,500 per year, which is very comparable to his old jobs of being an accountant and a teacher.

With MLS team values rising along with stadium attendance – the Sounders play in front of over 60,000 fans – it’s little surprise that some players had striking on their minds before a new collective bargaining agreement was signed.

”As a player if you love to do it, you find other ways to make ends meet, or your spouse works a lot. You’re definitely not supporting your family as a professional soccer player in the U.S. making minimum salary,” Scott explained. ”Yes, it’s frustrating, but you love to do it and you hope you are around long enough that something like this next (collective bargaining) comes along and that minimum gets raised.”

kaka-orlando-cityThere are currently 572 players in the MLS, and over 52 percent of them earned less than $100,000 per year. Breaking this down further, half of these players made less than $50,000. This doesn’t differ much from the average American, but it’s a little different for the players when they’re alongside teammates who are getting upper 6 figures and even 7 figures. Now, with the collective bargaining arrangement, the league minimum figures to shoot up to $60,000.

”That’s what we’ve been talking about all last year and obviously the beginning of this year. We’ve had a lot of meetings and stuff and just had everyone on the same page,” said Luis Gil, a midfielder for Real Salt Lake. ”We’re trying to find a way to benefit for everybody. Obviously some guys make more than others. But we’ve got to stay strong with this.”

In the past, aging stars have moved from Europe to the MLS is search of giant salaries. For example, Brazilian footballer Kaka moved from Milan to the expansion Orlando City for the staggering sum of $7.2 million. Michael Bradley, who also came over from Italy, inked a deal with Toronto for $6.5 million. And they’re just two of the 15 players who earned over $1 million last season.

So are these guys just sitting back and counting their money while teammates struggle? Not exactly according to Scott, who says that Dempsey was one of the most-vocal about raising salaries. ‘Clint is one of the first guys to speak up and say, ‘I played in some of the biggest leagues in the world and this is the way it should be and we should be going after,”’ Scott said. ”He’s 100 percent. Even if he’s OK financially he’s still absolutely looking out for everybody else.”

Thanks to the vocal support from Dempsey and others, it looks like Scott can look forward to a little better pay. Furthermore, more pay equality might in turn attract better overall talent to the MLS.

Would Real Madrid really trade Ronaldo?

Cristiano RonaldoAlong with Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo always enters into conversations involving who the world’s best footballer is. But does that make him indispensable in the eyes of Real Madrid? Maybe not, as a recent report suggests.

Despite currently leading the La Liga standings with 57 points, Real Madrid is starting to get a little disgruntled with their star player. First off, team management and fans were annoyed when Ronaldo threw himself a big 30th birthday party following an embarrassing 4-0 loss to rival Atletico Madrid. This prompted fans to show up to the team’s next practice with chants of “more balls, less parties.”

Real Madrid also isn’t happy about the lack of production that Ronaldo has given after coming off a two-game suspension for a red card.

Now, Sport-English.com claims that Florentino Perez, Real Madrid’s president, could be looking to cash in on Ronaldo while he’s still at an elite level. This seems quite strange when you consider the Portuguese star’s overall talent along with the fact that, as recently as December, Perez called Ronaldo the “world’s best player.”

However, it should also be pointed out that Perez had had no trouble selling off other team stars like Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Xabi Alonso – all of whom seemed like they were totally safe due to their contributions.

But while these three players were great for Real Madrid, Ronaldo still remains on a different level. Even this year, after struggling in the 2014 World Cup due to a bad knee injury, the 30-year-old has defied logic with some of his incredible plays. So on some level, it still seems like this report can be cast off as mere gossip.

ronaldo-real-madrid-trade-1

Then again, if Perez wants to recoup a good portion of the $123 million transfer fee that he paid for Ronaldo in 2009, now is the time. This is especially the case when one considers that Manchester United, the team that originally sold Ronaldo for this then-record amount, might be willing to buy him back.

A deal of this magnitude could also work because Real Madrid would love to have United goalkeeper David De Gea back in Spain. It’s no secret that they’d like to find a successor to goalie Iker Casillas, and De Gea could be exactly that.

But if any potential deal is on the horizon, one definitely won’t hear about it from Ronaldo himself. The striker has been pretty quiet about the whole matter heading into this week. We also can’t expect any info out of Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti, who’s only had good things to say about his star.

“Among the squad, he’s a leader, he talks to all the members of the squad, especially the younger players, he’s an important part of the squad as are Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Casillas and Marcelo,” Ancelotti said. “If he keeps faithful with the passion he has, his career can continue for some time due to his optimum physical condition.”

Unfortunately for Ancelotti, he doesn’t have the final say on roster moves, as Perez has shown plenty of times in the past. Getting rid of Ozil (to make way for Gareth Bale) and dumping Di Maria (for James Rodriguez) are perfect examples of this.

Analysis of US Men’s Soccer 2-0 Win over Panama

michael-bradley-vs-panamaThe US Men’s soccer team concluded their offseason friendly schedule with a 2-0 win over Panama. Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley provided the two goals, with the latter bending a beautiful corner kick straight into the net. The results were definitely great for the USMNT, as they snapped a five-match winless streak. Furthermore, Jurgen Klinsmann got just his second victory since the 2014 World Cup. So what are the implications from this win moving forward?

The Team is Finally back on the Winning Track

Klinsmann continues tinkering with his lineup, this time going with a 4-2-3-1 formation and Jozy Altidore as the lone striker. Dempsey played behind Altidore in his natural position and did really well while adding another career international goal. Bradley added some insurance to boost the Americans to their first win in a while. Sure, the victory doesn’t count for anything because it’s merely a friendly. However, the win should propel US Men’s soccer as they head towards more-serious 2018 World Cup qualification matches.

The Stars are playing Well

clint-dempsey-vs-panamaComing into this match, some were beginning to question where Bradley fits into the USMNT’s plans moving forward. Well, he’s still one of the biggest names on the US team and he definitely played like it against Panama. If nothing else, Bradley will be taking all future corner kicks for the American squad….but he’s likely to have a much larger role. And Dempsey certainly looks comfortable playing behind Altidore, which could lead to more experimentation with the 4-2-3-1 formation. Klinsmann hopes to develop more stars within the next three and a half years, but for now, Bradley and Dempsey will continue carrying the banner.

The Defense could improve

The downside of the much-discussed 4-2-3-1 is that it led to some defensive questions. DeAndre Yedlin and Matt Besler were the only true defenders on the back line, while Jermaine Jones played center back and Brek Shea started at left back. Yedlin looked pretty mediocre on the right side before leaving in the 72nd minute following a rough challenge. Shea has good attacking skills, however, his defense could be exploited by better teams. Luckily, Panama didn’t give the Americans too many challenges to worry about in this contest.

Moving Forward

CONCACAF qualifying starts on March 25th, with the US Men’s soccer team traveling to Denmark to face a competent Danish team. From there, it’s on to Switzerland on March 31st, and back to San Antonio, Texas on April 15th for a match against Mexico. All of these games will challenge the Americans and show what the team is really made of. But despite the step up in competition, you can bet that Klinsmann will continue trying different formations in an attempt to find his team’s sweet spot. With the 2018 World Cup quite a ways off, the German-born head coach still had plenty of time to get this team’s confidence and performance up.

US Men’s Soccer Betting: Chile tops USA 3-2

usa-vs-chileThe US Men’s Soccer team looked like they were going to start 2015 with a bang as they took a 2-1 lead into the second half of an international match against Chile. However, they crumbled down the stretch and suffered a 3-2 defeat in this high-profile matchup.

Mark Gonzalez was the hero here as he scored two goals in the second half. Roberto Gutierrez also scored for Chile as they staved off the Americans. On the US side, Jozy Altidore and Brek Shea netted goals at the Estadio El Teniente.

The game plan here was for head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to give some younger players a chance. Klinsmann followed through by penciling Steve Birnbaum and forward Bobby Wood into his opening lineup. He also subbed youngsters Shane O’Neill, Wil Trapp, Perry Kitchen and Miguel Ibarra into the match.

Team USA also experimented with a new formation, lining up in a 3-5-2 formation that puts extra defensive responsibilities on midfield wingers DeAndre Yedlin and Shea. The strategy seemed to be working quite well early on, as Shea received a perfect pass from Matt Bessler and put it past Chile goalkeeper Johnny Herrera.

Chile US SoccerHowever, the Chileans came roaring back just six minutes later after Gonzalez sent a magnificent cross into the penalty area, allowing Gutierrez to head it past US goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

Just beyond the half-hour mark, the Americans took the lead again when Mix Diskerud found Altidore, who fired a shot in for his 26th career international goal. The US would take their 2-1 lead into the locker room at halftime, despite playing on the road in a passionate soccer country.

But this homefield advantage would prove to be crucial in the second half, as Chile started to look like the superior team. In the 66th minute, Gonzalez made some sensational moves to find the bottom right corner of the goal. He capitalized 15 minutes later on a rebound attempt on the left side of the box to give Chile the lead for good.

This was obviously a tough loss for the Americans since they played so well in the first half. However, it can’t be understated how this match didn’t quite feature both teams’ best lineups. As mentioned before, Klinsmann is looking to use the upcoming international schedule to get new players some experience. The goal is to try and upgrade the talent on this US squad, which showed plenty of heart in Brazil, despite not having the guns to hang with more-traditional soccer nations.

Klinsmann’s team will get another chance to gain some experience as they face Panama on February 8th. So if you’re looking to do some USA vs. Panama betting before then, you’ve got plenty of time to research the matchup and place a wise wager. Just keep in mind that, once again, there’ll be quite a few young players on the field for Team USA.

New York Red Bulls Betting: Thierry Henry done in NY

thierry-henry-leaves-red-bullsThierry Henry was one of the original international superstars to play in Major League Soccer, lending his talents to the New York Red Bulls from 2010-14. Sadly, though, it appears that Henry’s time with the Red Bulls has come to a close.

New York tied the New England Revolution 2-2 on Saturday, meaning they lost 4-3 on aggregate in the Eastern Conference Championship. This marks the end of the season, and now the end of Henry’s career with the Red Bulls.

“The decision has always been that I would leave after the duration of my contract,” he said. “I’ll take the next few weeks to decide on the next chapter of my career.”

It’s unclear what this next chapter will be, given that the Frenchman has done just about everything a player could do. Henry won the World Cup title with France in 1998, captured two Premier League titles with Arsenal and earned a Champions League victory with Barcelona in 2009. He did hint at a possible return to the Gunners, telling French newspaper L’Equipe the following:

“One thing is certain: I will stay in football, as a coach, a consultant or executive. We will see. The second certainty is that I would love to see Arsenal win the Champions League. Whether that is from near or far does not depend on me, but it is sure I’d like to help. This is my club and, as a player, I was not able to give them the Champions League.”

thierry-henry-leaves-red-bulls-1Even at age 37, Henry showed that he has something left in the tank, scoring 10 goals in 30 matches for New York this season. Overall, he scored 51 goals in 122 appearances in his Red Bulls career. It’s disappointing to see him fall one goal short of the MLS Cup, something that Thierry failed to achieve in his four and a half years with the club.

Nevertheless, the World Cup champion definitely left a positive mark on the MLS, a league that’s never mentioned in the same breath as La Liga or Premier League. Despite the lack of prestige, though, Henry never acted like he was miles above Major League Soccer, nor did he encourage over-inflated storylines about his involvement – something that can’t also be said of David Beckham, whom many don’t quite think measures up to Henry as a player.

Assuming Saturday’s match against New England was indeed the last for Henry, he will no doubt land a coaching gig or other soccer-related job somewhere. He’s an intelligent guy who obviously knows the game through and through. This being said, the Red Bulls and everybody in the MLS, save for a few rivals, will definitely miss his presence.