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MLS Report

Long MLS Break Creates Rumors, Opportunities

Graham Zusi and Juan Agudelo to West Ham? Omar Gonzalez to QPR? And what's this we hear about C.J. Sapong catching the eye of a certain London-based Premier League club? Yes, it's Silly Season in America.

BY Matt Thacker Posted
January 10, 2013
6:27 AM
Major League Soccer’s long winter break has its critics, but one advantage has been the opportunity for young players to head abroad for training at some of the best clubs in Europe.

Each year, it seems more players are able to take advantage of the opportunity to invaluable gain experience. More than 20 MLS players have been training this off-season in England, Germany, Scotland, Spain, and Turkey.

Of course, gaining experience is only part of the story. The players are also being observed as potential transfer candidates for now or in the future. Several Americans have been linked to permanent moves.

Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi and Chivas USA’s Juan Agudelo are both training at West Ham with reports in the UK claiming Zusi is on trial and looking to earn a spot on the club.

With several years remaining on his contract, Sporting KC would likely demand a hefty transfer fee for Zusi. In November, Agudelo trained with Celtic and gushed about the club, but Chivas USA moved quickly to deny the 20-year-old forward is for sale.

Omar Gonzalez, who was injured last year while training with 1. FC Nuremberg, could be next in line to head overseas. According to ESPN’s Adrian Healey, QPR manager Harry Redknapp told then-Toronto FC coach Paul Mariner that he might need a new defender soon and asked him about Gonzalez.

Of course, the great irony was that Mariner was fired this week and replaced by QPR defender Ryan Nelsen. At this point, it’s unclear when Nelsen will be able to leave QPR. If he exits prior to the start of the MLS season, could Gonzalez be Nelsen’s replacement?

One of the more unexpected rumors of the season involved Sporting Kansas City forward C.J. Sapong. The Football Magazine claimed Arsenal was considering a move for the 24-year-old former Rookie of the Year. The publication even claimed the sides had agreed to a fee of nearly $5 million.

The report was met with disbelief, and there is the issue of a work permit since Sapong only has two national team caps. However, Arsenal heavily scouts North America and could swoop in for the right player.

Is Robbie Findley headed back to Real Salt Lake?
On Wednesday, RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey told ESPN 700 in Utah that there is a “real good chance” Findley will be added to the team. However, there are still plenty of obstacles that must be overcome. The Portland Timbers selected Findley in the expansion draft in 2011 and still hold his rights. Lagerwey denied reports that they reached an agreement with the Timbers.

From 2007 through 2010, Findley scored 29 goals in 96 matches for RSL. However, the 27-year-old striker has struggled since leaving MLS. Shortly after joining Nottingham Forest of the English Championship, he suffered a thigh injury and missed the rest of the season. Since then, he has struggled to get playing time and has only scored three goals in 32 matches.

Findley will hope to restart his career and maybe even get back into the national team picture. He scored a career-best 12 goals for RSL in 2009. That and his blinding speed earned him a spot on the World Cup squad the next summer. He even played three matches at the 2010 World Cup—though not with any distinction.

What do you think of these rumors and rumblings? Think any of them will come to pass? Share your thoughts below.

Matt Thacker (@MattTalksSoccer) is ASN's MLS Correspondent. He runs SoccerPerspectives.com.

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