Grant Wahl has insight on the futures of MLS standouts Sebastian Giovinco and Matt Miazga and answers your mailbag questions on USMNT, Messi and more.
Sebastian Giovinco has had an MVP-caliber season in Toronto, and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke tells me he thinks there will be substantial offers from European teams to try to bring Giovinco back to Europe. But Leiweke says Giovinco, who is 28, is going to stay with Toronto “for years, not months,” for a couple reasons: He says Giovinco is happy in Canada, and TFC has no need to make money by selling the player.
Giovinco has already set an MLS record this season with 35 combined goals (20) and assists (15), and he was called into Italy's national team during the September international window before withdrawing due to injury.
Here are a few more insider notes from the soccer world, along with this week's mailbag questions:
Miazga could be heading abroad
One of the U.S.’s top prospects is Matt Miazga, the 20-year-old center back who has had a promising season for the New York Red Bulls. Miazga may be looking to move to Europe sooner rather than later with his recent switch of agents to a group that includes Ryan Nelsen, the former Toronto FC coach who has extensive contacts in Europe.
Miazga has one year left on his MLS contract, and New York has made Miazga what I'm told is a lucrative long-term offer, but Miazga’s agent switch indicates that might not be enough. Miazga also has a Polish passport, which makes moving to Europe (especially England) a lot easier. He has just joined the U.S. Under-23 team in Kansas City for the Olympic qualifying tournament and drew rave reviews from U-23 manager Andi Herzog on a media conference call Wednesday.
Volkswagen scandal and its soccer impact
With the recent scandal at Volkswagen, lots of people are asking if it will have a big impact on the company’s soccer investments, which include nearly $100 million a year for Wolfsburg and an ownership stake in Bayern Munich by Audi, a VW subsidiary.
It’s true that ousted Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn was a big soccer proponent and sits on the Bayern board. But when I asked University of Michigan professor Stefan Szymanski, the co-author of Soccernomics, about it, he said he didn’t think the Volkswagen news would have a major impact on those teams. He said VW’s losses will be a drop in the bucket in its annual revenue, and he thinks other sponsors would step in if VW decreases its soccer investments in Wolfsburg, Bayern and other teams.
U.S. Soccer will replace Rodriguez
With Nelson Rodriguez leaving his position in U.S. Soccer as managing director of national team advisory services this month to take over as the new general manager of the Chicago Fire, a U.S. Soccer source tells me the federation plans to continue having the position and hire someone else to replace Rodriguez. The role was created last year to provide prospects with advisory services when it comes to career choices.
On to this week’s Mailbag questions:
How many players from the USMNT Olympic qualifying team have a realistic shot at the 2018 WC team?
Well, I went back and checked the U.S. rosters for every World Cup going back to 1990 and saw how many players were also on the previous Olympic team roster—or, in the cases of 2011 and ’04, the Olympic qualifying tournament rosters for U.S. teams that didn’t qualify for those subsequent Olympics. I ruled out over-age players on the Olympic rosters. Here’s the breakdown:
2011 (1): Mix Diskerud.
2008 (6): Brad Guzan, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, Jozy Altidore.
2004 (4): DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey, Landon Donovan, Eddie Johnson.
2000 (3): John O’Brien, Landon Donovan, Josh Wolff.
1996 (4): Eddie Pope, Claudio Reyna, Frankie Hejduk, Brian Maissoneuve.
1992 (7): Brad Friedel, Alexi Lalas, Mike Burns, Claudio Reyna, Joe-Max Moore, Mike Lapper, Cobi Jones.
1988 (14): Steve Trittschuh, John Doyle, Mike Windischmann, Dave Vanole, Peter Vermes, Eric Eichmann, Paul Krumpe, John Harkes, John Stollmeyer, Tab Ramos, Bruce Murray, Desmond Armstrong, Brian Bliss, Paul Caligiuri.
Why do all these Champions League games start at the same time? I'd watch three in a row if they were spread out.
I’ve asked this question too. UEFA has been trending in the direction of changing up its kickoff times in other areas for TV purposes, most notably in the Euro 2016 qualifiers, which now take place not just on Fridays and Tuesdays but every day during that stretch.
We do have some Champions League games—in Russia and, in Wednesday’s case, Kazakhstan—that start at noon ET, and UEFA did change up the round-of-16 schedule in recent years so that we can see more of the individual games in a staggered schedule. But as of now the vast majority of UCL games still kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I’d love to see a regular double-header but haven’t heard news of that yet.
Copa America 2016 update?
Not much to report. I’m hearing there are plans for another meeting soon, and this one could actually involve people from U.S. Soccer.
Who starts in the back for USMNT on October 10?
John Brooks hasn’t played at all since suffering a thigh injury against Peru, so it’s looking tough for him to be available on the back line. Jurgen Klinsmann has already said he wants Fabian Johnson (right) and DaMarcus Beasley (left) as his fullbacks. If I were in charge, I’d lean toward Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler in the center.
How does his injury impact Lionel Messi's Ballon d'Or bid?
I still think it’s bizarre that the Ballon d’Or is a calendar-year award instead of a matching up with the European club season. Usually, what you do in the club season from August onward has very little to do with who wins the award, so I still think Messi will win it this year based on leading Barcelona to the Champions League and La Liga titles.
Can we kidnap Miguel Herrera to make this #herreratothefire
Hopefully he won’t need to be kidnapped and will come voluntarily! I’m fully on the bandwagon for Chicago to hire Herrera, the flamboyant and successful coach who turned Mexico around for the World Cup and led El Tri to the Gold Cup title this year before being fired for an altercation with a Mexian media member.
Not only do I think Herrera would be good for Chicago, which needs a jolt to get relevant, but he’d be extremely helpful in landing a big-name Mexican star (or stars). His players on the Mexican national team loved him, and with Carlos Vela making noises about receiving interest from MLS and perhaps moving in the January window, a Herrera-Vela arrival would definitely make Chicago relevant again.