Major League Soccer's yearly guessing game is nearly upon us, and Matt Thacker talks with one of the biggest question marks, Mikey Lopez. Elsewhere, a pair of Robbies near an MLS return.
January 17, 2013
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UNC’s Lopez Ready to Take Next Step
The MLS Combine finished Tuesday but plenty of questions remain ahead of Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft (noon ET). One of the more intriguing storylines is the landing spot of University of North Carolina sophomore Mikey Lopez. The 19-year-old defensive midfielder made headlines this week when he admitted Chivas USA was his first choice. Goats new head coach José Luis Sánchez Solá, however, had other ideas, telling FutbolMLS.net that he plans to use the second overall spot to select University of Connecticut attacking midfielder Carlos Alvarez.
As a regular for the U.S. Under-20 national team, Lopez is one of the top young prospects in the draft. In his freshman season at the University of North Carolina, he was named ACC Freshman of the Year and won a national championship. Last season, North Carolina fell in the quarterfinals to eventual champions, Indiana. Lopez was left with the difficult decision of whether to return to school or begin his professional career. After many discussions with his parents, he was convinced it was time.
“My parents said I looked ready on the field,” Lopez told American Soccer Now prior to the Combine. “It felt like a good time for me to start my pro career. At a young age, I’ll be able to have a longer career and be able to move out of the States a lot sooner than if I were to stay longer in school.”
Lopez, who describes himself as a hard-working “box-to-box” midfielder, is not shy about discussing his career objectives. He eventually wants to play the English Premier League or La Liga in Spain.
For now, he knows exactly what type of MLS team he wants. “I’d rather be in a team that makes more passes and tries to play more out of the back instead of skipping the midfield and playing more direct,” he said.
Lopez said prior to the Combine that Toronto FC and Chivas USA had expressed interest through his agent. Toronto holds the first and third overall pick in the draft.
Rogers the Next American to Return to MLS?
Two U.S. internationals, Robbie Rogers and Robbie Findley, have had their contracts terminated this week by teams in England’s Championship.
Findley, 27, left Nottingham Forest on Monday, and he's headed to Real Salt Lake.
The fate of Rogers, 25, is less certain, but there is plenty of speculation that he could also return to Major League Soccer. Leeds United terminated his contract on Tuesday after he returned from loan with Stevenage.
Much like Findley, Rogers has fallen off the national team radar due to a lack of playing time in England, and he may view a return to MLS as an opportunity to get his career back on track. If so, the Columbus Crew would have the first right of refusal since Rogers was extended a qualifying offer prior to his departure after the 2011 season. The Crew, who are trying to rid themselves of Dilly Duka, could decide whether to sign Rogers or try to trade his rights. The latter option is more likely as he had a difficult departure from the club.
Rogers posted a breakthrough season with the Crew in 2008 when he recorded seven goals and three assists and was named to the MLS Best XI, but he has been unable to repeat that success in recent years.
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.