What players will star in Desert Cup? Wait a few weeks
Plus: No U.S. Open Cup this year for FC Tucson
Desert Diamond Cup organizers aren't making lists of what big name players will make their way to Tucson in February. This is because we are entering a silly season rife with speculation from reporters, bloggers and fans.
For example, this week is young and already soccer fans have been treated to a rumor about Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham — a rumor that was debunked hours later. That was followed by a story being teased about a possible move for New York Red Bulls player Thierry Henry.
This time of year combines the Major League Soccer off-season with the "transfer window" in many European leagues. With MLS players wanting to go overseas combined with European-based players threatening a jump to the U.S., soccer watchers are treated to a mind-numbing swirl of dubious speculation.
"80-90 percent is bogus," said Chris Keeney, an FC Tucson ownership partner who has worked in soccer for years.
It's not hard to conclude that. Monday morning, a French magazine reported that Beckham was in Paris making the final negotiations over his impending transfer to Paris Saint-Germain FC. Later, after some checking it turned out that Beckham and his family were in England. Cue the speculation that the delay in an announcement means Beckham will stay in LA after all.
Some of these stories are stoked up by people close to the teams themselves. The Times of London reported that Henry may be making a temporary return to his old team, Arsenal FC. It remains to be seen given the grumbling from Gunners fans if this is for real or if it is the team dangling out the possibility of a popular legend returning to the squad to keep the otherwise disgruntled comfortably gruntled.
Keeney and FC Tucson are watching to see how the speculation about big names shakes out, but aren't especially worried.
"There may be players that they sign that we don't know about yet," he noted.
In all the speculation, there has also been word that Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba or Ronaldinho may come to Major League Soccer. Still, such names are not a consideration for FC Tucson.
"We're interested in the club, not the player," said Keeney.
"Whatever players they bring are worth every penny to see."
Team vs. player
Because the Desert Diamond Cup is not a one-off exhibition game, FC Tucson did not make demands with the teams about who would be making an appearance on the field. Instead, Keeney says, that they emphasized this as an opportunity to prepare the teams for the next season.
"We don't want to force them into something that they can't deliver on," he said.
It will be the last chance for teams to put their likely starting squads on the field before the season starts, so there will be an incentive for teams to put some of their big names out in at least one of the four scheduled games.
An announcement came down last week that the Los Angeles Galaxy's Landon Donovan will be on an eight-week loan to Everton FC. Donovan had a similar loan agreement before with the Toffees (Everton's nickname) before the last MLS season, and scored two goals for the team. He would be joining fellow Americans Tim Howard and Marcus Hahnemann, both goalkeepers, on the Liverpool-based club.
The loan deal would take Donovan out of contention for the first two games of the Desert Diamond Cup.
No Open Cup for FC Tucson this year
Those hoping that FC Tucson would make a miracle run for the next U.S. Open Cup final will have to put that off for at least a year.
The Cup is the second-oldest knock-out competition of it's kind in the world, and every organized adult men's team in the country is eligible: from that weekend team your nephew plays on all the way up to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
In the past, teams in the Premier Development League, in which FC Tucson will be debuting next year, played their first few games of the season as qualifiers. This is, according to a report on the website TheCup.us, not going to be the case this year.
The format of the tournament is changing to allow for 64 teams in the competition, according to the site. U.S. Soccer, which organizes the Open Cup, has not announced the changes yet. But PDL, which is holding off on an official announcement, is reportedly going to use last year's standings as qualification for the tournament because of the proposed changes in the tournament schedule.
Kansas City shuffle
Sporting Kansas City is not slated to be one of the Desert Diamond Cup teams this year, but the boys formerly known as the Wizards could still make an Old Pueblo appearance for pre-season training.
Should they come, one name that brought many fans to last year's Cup won't make it: Omar Bravo. The former Mexican national team star announced last week that he will be moving on to play for former Mexican champion CD Cruz Azul.
Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen is still planning on being with SKC. The team released a video of him singing a Christmas carol in his native Danish.
The San Jose Earthquakes announced their pre-season plans Tuesday afternoon, and they include a six-day stay in Tucson starting in late January. Check back Wednesday for more on the Quakes.