Early kicks (cont.)
Posted: Friday February 15, 2008 12:17PM; Updated: Tuesday February 19, 2008 4:17PM
Osorio, hero of New York? Speaking of Big Bob, I had a nice chat with Juan Carlos Osorio, who is the new Red Bulls coach after a messy divorce with the Chicago Fire. I have to say, I'm very impressed with the Colombian. He's clearly a scouting and video freak who agonizes over every last detail. He also thinks hard before answering every question and is one of the more cerebral coaches I've met. Almost like ... (wait for it) ... Bradley. It's bizarre how similar they are.
That said, I honestly believe Osorio is going to bring success to the Red Bulls, a club that has notoriously never won a major trophy or title. His results spoke for themselves last season in Chicago, where he turned the middling Fire into a near-MLS Cup finalist almost immediately (uh, with a little help from a certain Cuauhtémoc Blanco).
But Osorio is perhaps the ideal MLS coach moving forward into this new big-media era: He has experience in this league (two seasons as an assistant with New York), the big leagues of Europe (five seasons as an assistant at Manchester City) and in suddenly more-relevant Latin America (two years in his native Colombia at Millonarios). That's loads of perspective and know-how in places where the nuances of the game are vastly different.
"I don't kid anybody," Osorio told me about his current gig. "I know what I came to: a very difficult market, a very difficult team to coach. There have been not just good, but great coaches in the past here and it has been difficult for them."
Even so, my money's on Osorio to finally bring this club some hardware -- if he honors his two-year contract.
Say goodbye to Jozy. Conspicuously absent from Red Bulls camp was Jozy Altidore. Osorio allowed the teenage sensation to go straight home to Florida to spend time with his family after his first starting spot and first goal with the national team against Mexico last week.
Now 18, Altidore is eligible to be purchased by a big European team, which is what many expect will happen when the transfer window re-opens this summer. (Real Madrid, Newcastle United and Reading all reportedly scouted the striker this past winter.) If Jozy does head overseas, that would leave the Red Bulls without one of their biggest stars after midseason. But how about this endorsement from his new coach?
"I've worked in the past with players like Jozy," Osorio said of his Man. City days. "Shaun Wright-Phillips, Micah Richards, Steve Ireland -- I think I can manage those situations. Hopefully he'll see we are doing something good here, and he'll want to stay for at least one season."
That's some pretty decent company Osorio puts Altidore in.
The deepest team in MLS, +1? Chivas USA is my early frontrunner for team to beat in '08. They've got almost all of the talent of last year's semifinalist squad and some solid reinforcements in attackers Alecko Eskandarian and Atiba Harris, and defenders Jim Curtin and Swiss World Cup veteran Raphaël Wicky.
The biggest concern for Chivas USA, however, might be depth, since its participation in three tournaments -- the U.S. Open Cup, SuperLiga and the new CONCACAF Champions League -- will more or less double its league schedule. For that reason, more additions are on their way, Preki says.
Two names connected to L.A.'s "other" (that's code for "better") team might be familiar ones as well. As Soccer America's Mike Woitalla reported earlier this week, Orange County native and U.S. national-teamer Benny Feilhaber may be loaned back to MLS from his current club, Derby County of the English Premier League, where he's languishing on the reserves.
Recent reports have Feilhaber heading to the two-time champion Houston Dynamo, but a source tells me there's an outside chance he could join Chivas USA. That would reunite him with Bornstein, his close friend and ex-teammate on three stops in their respective careers: with the Irvine Strikers youth club, in college at UCLA and now, with the U.S. national team.
Another name that has resurfaced recently is immensely popular former Chivas de Guadalajara icon and Mexican national-teamer Adolfo "Bofo" Bautista. With his bleach-blonde hair and white headwrap, Bofo may look like an escaped mental patient, but he'd be a solid addition to any team's front line. There were similar murmurs last season of bringing him in before Guadalajara shipped off him to Mexican club Jaguares de Chiapas.
That's it for now. Check back next week, when I'll have some notes from the Houston Dynamo vs. San Jose Earthquakes exhibition (old Quakes vs. new Quakes!) in San Francisco on Saturday.
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