Chivas USA continued in a rebuilding mode Monday, selecting midfielder Arturo Alvarez in the stage 1 draft of Major League Soccer's 2011 re-entry process.
Under MLS rules, selecting teams must honor the existing contracts of stage 1 players or, if the player is unsigned, offer them a 5% raise. Alvarez made $202,000 last season, which would appear to make him expensive for a franchise not known for its free spending. Alvarez was one of five Real Salt Lake players whose contracts or contract options were declined, which left them exposed to the re-entry draft.
Alvarez, a 26-year-old Houston native of Salvadoran heritage, played 16 games last season. He's played 179 games in his nine-year MLS career.
Jose Reyes is moving to Miami. Hanley Ramirez presumably is moving to third base. And the Marlins simply are making big-time moves this off-season.
After already adding high-profile Manager Ozzie Guillen and All-Star closer Heath Bell, the newly renamed Miami Marlins will have two All-Star shortstops on their roster when they move to their new $515-million, retractable-roof ballpark.
Reyes, the National League batting champion and a four-time All Star with the New York Mets, has agreed to a $106-million, six-year contract with the Marlins, according to multiple sources.
The move means Ramirez, a three-time All Star, will probably be switched to third base. Ramirez said last week he would love to have Reyes, his close friend and fellow Dominican, on the team. But he didn't sound too happy about the prospect of changing positions.
"I'm a shortstop right now, so I don't know. I consider myself a shortstop," Ramirez said at a Marlins charity event last Thursday, repeating the line several times.
Still, it sounded like Ramirez ultimately was willing to be a team player. "Definitely it's good when you see the front office doing the best they can to put a good team on the field because they want to win, we want to win. We're all on the same page," he said.
Marlins front office members repeatedly have said the position change won't be an issue for Ramirez, and Guillen repeated the sentiment to Fox Sports during the general managers meetings in Milwaukee.
"We let him know about it," Guillen said of Ramirez. "So far, he sounds good. You're not going to move your biggest piece to show how tough you are. We've got to talk to him, make him understand why the team will be better."
He added: "I don't think it will be a problem. I've talked to him a lot .... You've got to show him some love. You've got to be straight-up with him, honest with him, let him know he's a Marlin."
It has become commonplace for the president to place a congratulatory phone call to professional and college teams when they win a national championship. But apparently it took the first soccer dad in chief a little while longer to get around to calling the Galaxy after the team's 1-0 win over Houston in Major League Soccer's final Nov. 20.
But better later than never.
President Barack Obama spoke Tuesday with Coach Bruce Arena, whose team is on an Asia-Pacific tour, congratulating him on his third MLS title and inviting the team to the White House, according to the president's press secretary. Obama, who played soccer as a boy in Indonesia, also told Arena that the Galaxy's success inspired many young soccer players, including the president's own daughters, Sasha and Malia, who play the sport.
A broken forearm cost Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts several starts this season. And now it has cost him his job, as the Galaxy sent him to the expansion Montreal Impact on Monday in exchange for allocation money.
Major League Soccer’s keeper of the year in 2010 and a two-time MLS All-Star, Ricketts, 34, was limited to 15 games last season, missing two months after breaking his arm against San Jose in late June. Josh Saunders stepped in and played well enough to make Ricketts expendable, notching eight shutouts in 18 starts and posting a goals-against average of 0.93.
Only Ricketts, with a GAA of 0.92 in 15 starts, had a better mark among MLS keepers.
Allocation money can be used to sign players or allocate against their contracts to keep teams under the league-mandated salary cap, which was $2.675 million in 2011.
The Galaxy, Major League Soccer's newly crowned champion, escaped Wednesday's expansion draft unscathed but Chivas USA wasn't so lucky, losing defender Zarek Valentin to the Montreal Impact.
Valentin was the second player selected behind Houston Dynamo forward and team captain Brian Ching.
Ten players were selected in the draft from a pool of 272 players. Each team was allowed to protect 11 players from its 2011 roster.
Later in the day Chivas replaced Valentin by sending forward Justin Braun and defensive midfielder Gerson Mayen to Montreal for former Seattle defender James Riley, the Impact's ninth selection in the draft. Mayen, who played high school soccer at Manuel Arts, was on loan to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers last season and hasn't played in MLS since 2010. He has also played for the Salvadoran national team.
The Impact, the 19th MLS club, will begin play next spring.
It was Sunday evening and the Galaxy has just won their third Major League Soccer championship.
Amid celebration and proclamations of vindication by David Beckham at a news conference in a crowded and sweaty room at Home Depot Center, the topic of conversation kept returning to the same subject: What will become of the world's most popular soccer star?
Beckham's five-year contract with the Galaxy expires next month. He may return to the team, he may leave to play for another -- either in MLS or elsewhere -- or he may retire.
"I need to sit back and relax and enjoy this moment and then decide what I'm going to do," Beckham said.
Reporters tried in vain to get inside Beckham's head.
Are the reports hinting that you will leave the Galaxy wrong? Has your experience with MLS been what you had hoped it would be?
Beckham would not bend.
"I might talk in past tense every now and again, but it doesn't mean I'm not coming back," he said. "At the end of the day I need to decide what's best for me and what's best for the team and my family."
We all know what would be best for the team.
Since Beckham's arrival in Los Angeles in 2007, the Galaxy's annual revenue has tripled and the MLS has become a fixture on soccer's map.
Beckham started in 29 MLS games this season and finished second in the league in assists. On Sunday he played a major role in the team's winning goal. He headed the ball to Robbie Keane, who passed the ball to Landon Donovan, who guided the ball through the net in the Galaxy's 1-0 victory over Houston.
Regardless of what Beckham's future holds, he's certainly earned the respect of Los Angeles, his team and his coach, Bruce Arena.
"Whatever he decides to do, I support it 100%," Arena said. "If he decides to get on his horse and ride into the sunset and go elsewhere, retire -- I'm all for it. He's earned it."
He came, he saw and finally on Sunday, David Beckham conquered U.S. soccer, teaming with Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane to give the Galaxy a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo in Major League Soccer’s Cup final before a soggy sell-out crowd of 30,281 at Home Depot Center in Carson.
The championship, which came on Donovan’s goal in the 72nd minute, was the third for the Galaxy and their first since 2005. And it gave Coach Bruce Arena a league-record three titles.
But it may have been most important for Beckham, who needed a title to add an exclamation point to his controversial and transformative five years in MLS –- years in which the former captain of the English national team brought the Galaxy unprecedented levels of credibility and cash yet couldn’t bring them a title.
Now, however, he’s a triple-crown winner, with his MLS championship joining those won with Manchester United and Real Madrid.
And it was Beckham who set up the game’s only goal, teaming with the oldest members of the team.
The play started with Beckham heading the ball ahead to Keane in the penalty box. Donovan, one of just three players remaining from the Galaxy’s last championship team, was trailing the play and took a touch pass from Keane to the left of the goal, then managed to curl a right-footed chip shot just inside the post to the far side.
The Galaxy entered the MLS Cup final having won more games –- in both the regular season and the playoffs -- over the last three seasons than any team. Until Sunday they had never won their final one.
And it was fitting that the drought ended on the Galaxy’s rain-soaked home pitch, where the team hasn’t lost since last year’s Western Conference final.
The road the Galaxy took to redemption was not an easy one, rutted by a season-long series of injuries that sidelined every starter for at least one match. And they remained a team in transition until mid August, when they added forward Keane, giving them the scoring threat they lacked up front.
Tellingly the Galaxy hasn’t lost a match Keane has played in.
The rain that pelted Southern California all day stopped shortly before kickoff but returned briefly midway through the first half.
By then the Galaxy had squandered three good scoring opportunities with the slick turf possibly costing them a goal on the final one.
Major League Soccer's Board of Governors this weekend approved a new competition format for 2012, expanding the conference finals to a two-game, home-and-away series determined by aggregate goals and awarding home-field advantage in the MLS Cup to the finalist that finishes with the best regular-season record.
“The MLS Cup playoff format in 2012 gives increased reward to clubs that fare well in the regular season and removes the possibility of clubs winning the opposite conference championship,” MLS Executiuve Vice President Nelson Rodriguez said. “Having a competitively determined site for MLS Cup is one of the most exciting improvements our Board of Governors has adopted. We believe this provides every club a tremendous incentive during our regular season and ensures a festive and boisterous setting for our championship game.”
In its first 16 seasons, MLS awarded the site of its Cup final ahead of the season, similar to how the NFL determines the site for the Super Bowl. Just three times in that span -- including this season -- has a Cup finalist wound up playing the game at home. Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena, whose team has finished with the best regular-season record each of the last two seasons, was among those who criticized the old MLS playoff format for failing to sufficiently reward teams that play well during the regular season.
Five teams from each conference will advance to the playoffs with fourth- and fifth-place finishers meeting in a one-game playoff to determine which will advance to the two-game conference semifinals. That series will be determined by aggregate goals. And in a break from previous years, the 2012 conference finals will also be a two-game, aggregate-goal series.
With the addition of the expansion Montreal Impact next season, MLS will field 19 teams in 2012, 10 in the Eastern Conference and the same nine that competed this season in the West. Each team will play 34 games, an equal number against conference foes and one game each against teams from outside their conference.
Photo: Galaxy forward Robbie Keane celebrates his goal against Real Salt Lake with midfielder David Beckham (23) and defender Todd Dunivant in the second half of the MLS Western Conference championship game at Home Depot Center two weeks ago. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Reuters
The Major League Soccer Cup final on Sunday could be David Beckham's last game in a Galaxy uniform at the Home Depot Center and he doesn't plan on missing it.
So after training Saturday for the first time in three days, Beckham pronounced himself ready despite lingering issues with his back and hamstring.
"I'm feeling good. It was good to be back out there with the guys," said Beckham, who has assisted on goals in each of the Galaxy's three postseason wins. "We're ready as a team.
"My body feels great so it shouldn't be a problem, shouldn't be an issue. Obviously I've had issues with my back all season. But I was able to train today and came through it with no problem. So it's all good."
Beckham, who has been receiving treatment from the team's medical staff, seemed to move easily through a light hourlong practice on the Home Depot field Saturday.
"He's doing fine. He has no problem," Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said of Beckham. "We're looking forward to playing."
Galaxy midfielder David Beckham missed training for a second consecutive day Friday in preparation for Sunday's Major League Soccer Cup final against the Houston Dynamo at the Home Depot Center.
The team continues to explain Beckham's absence by saying the league's comeback player of the year has a minor cold, but sources close to the Beckham camp say he's dealing with a slight hamstring issue.
Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said Beckham is expected to train Saturday.
When midfielder David Beckham was a no-show at the Galaxy's training session Thursday, it piqued the interest of more than one journalist. And Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena had a ready -- if typically acerbic -- answer for the question.
"He’s downtown today," Arena said "I think he’s protesting the banking system in this country."
That would be unlikely given that Beckham, the highest-paid player in MLS, was estimated by Forbes to have made $40 million last year, making him the wealthiest soccer player in the world.
Actually, Arena finally confessed, Beckham was given the morning off with a cold although members of the team said he is resting a hamstring problem.
Asked by a British journalist whether Beckham would play in Sunday's MLS Cup final, Arena said: "I’d even let you answer that question. He played last year in the playoffs with an Achilles that was freshly operated on. David will be on the field Sunday."