'Spring training' soccer teams 5 & 6 still up in air
Plus: Player moves and Real Salt Lake's local ties
One thing that FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup organizers were mum about in their press conference last week was the identity of the two other teams who will be calling Tucson home during the Major League Soccer preseason.
The Desert Diamond Cup takes place during the last two weeks of preseason training, which will last for six weeks starting in late January. Organizers have talked about two other teams coming, but have been reluctant to name them because arrangements are still being made.
Few MLS teams have released their preseason plans, other than participation in tournaments like Desert Diamond Cup.
One that has is the New England Revolution, who noted that they will be spending time in Casa Grande in their announcement of their Desert Diamond Cup participation. You can scratch Philadelphia Union too: they have announced plans for a preseason camp in Florida.
That leaves quite a few teams, including last year's Desert Cup champion Sporting Kansas City. Add to the mix teams from cold-weather cities like the Columbus Crew, Montréal Impact and Seattle Sounders FC, and you get quite a list of possibilities. Also, throw in the San Jose Earthquakes or any other team with a shaky practice facility situation.
In other words, those two teams could be, well, just about any of them.
A new New England
Fans who watch the New England take on the Los Angeles Galaxy in the opening match of the Desert Diamond Cup on Feb. 23 may not recognize much of the team.
Last week, newly minted coach Jay Heaps staged a bit of a house cleaning, no, decimation. The team declined their option on (that's league-speak for "cut") Ryan Cochrane, Milton Caraglio, Pat Phalen, Kheli Dube and Rajko Lekić.
Some of this was about performance, some of it was also about money. For example, the team announced this weekend that Lekić would be brought back after all, but at a reduced salary.
There will still be some familiar faces. Shalrie Joseph, whose distribution at midfield has been critical to the team, will be on the roster next year as a "designated player."
The designated player rule, also at times called the Beckham rule, was instituted by the league to allow teams to not count the salaries of high-profile players towards the salary cap. It has enabled teams to bring in foreign players like David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Rafael Márquez. It is unusual for teams to use it to up the salary of a player they already have, but it keeps Joseph from entertaining offers from Europe while making sure the Revs have enough cap space to rebuild their team.
It shouldn't have been too much of a surprise that Real Salt Lake was announced as one of the Desert Diamond Cup squads; they have some strong connections to Tucson.
One of the partners in FC Tucson, Chris Keeney, worked for several years managing ticket sales for RSL.
The team features forward Donny Toia, who grew up in Tucson and played at Pima Community College as well as for the Tucson Soccer Academy.
FC Tucson assistant coach Jonathan Pearlman coached the U-18 RSL Arizona team for a number of years before the team reorganized its youth program. By the way, Pearlman—along with legendary Salpointe High School coach Wolfgang Weber—coached Toia in his time with TSA.