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Mailbag: De Gea transfer debacle, USMNT, MLS vs. NASL, Klopas, more

Grant Wahl opens the mailbag, answering your questions on the transfer deadline, U.S. men's national team, Frank Klopas's firing, MLS and much more.

The ‘Bag is back, folks. It’s a good time for it with all the things going on around Planet Fútbol (USA perspective): the Manchester United-Real Madrid fiasco, transfer deadline day, the U.S. men's national team, MLS and enough off-the-field topics to fill a conversation.

So let’s dive in:

How does something like the David de Gea aborted transfer happen in the 21st century?

Randy Smith, Atlanta

Great question! Long story short: Two of the biggest teams in world sports, Manchester United and Real Madrid, agreed on a deal that would send Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea to Madrid and Costa Rican keeper Keylor Navas—plus £29 million ($44.5 million)—to United. But the deal collapsed when the paperwork just missed the midnight deadline in Spain and the Navas information couldn’t be entered into FIFA’s Transfer Matching System.

Who’s to blame? Well, Real Madrid issued a blistering statement blaming Man United for not entering the Navas details until two minutes after the deadline. United says it was on time. And we’re left marveling at two billion-dollar clubs that can’t do basic paperwork right. At base level, it’s brinkmanship gone awry: Madrid has been making offers on De Gea, United wanted more and a deadline (as it does with so many of us) finally got things moving on Monday. Until they cut it too close and missed the deadline.

Real Madrid pushes limit in David de Gea transfer fiasco; What now for GK?

What are the implications for the two clubs? De Gea, 24, the top young keeper in the world along with Thibaut Courtois (23), now figures to play out the final season of his contract and move to Real Madrid on a free transfer next summer.

And Navas, who was fantastic at the 2014 World Cup, figures to get a lot more playing time at Real Madrid this season with the departure of Iker Casillas.

Man United doesn’t get its $44.5 million and now has a keeper who may well be unhappy and suffering from a negative relationship with manager Louis van Gaal. United needs de Gea, though, especially after seeing Sergio Romero struggle in a loss at Swansea City on Sunday. Meanwhile, Real Madrid has to wait a year for the keeper it really wants.

Deadline day superlatives: Winners, losers in summer's transfer window

In the big picture, though, it’s United and executive vice chairman Ed Woodward who emerge from this window facing the biggest questions. Loaning Adnan Januzaj to Dortmund is a complete head-scratcher, and they’re putting a ton of pressure on 19-year-old forward Anthony Martial, bought from Monaco for (depending on whom you listen to) anywhere from £36 million to €80 million ($55.2 million to $90 million).

I still don’t see anyone who can join a faltering Wayne Rooney up top and be a legitimate elite scoring threat.

Who would you say is the best CB pairing for the USMNT?


For me this is the most important question for the U.S. heading into the showdown against Mexico on Oct. 10.

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I certainly don’t think it’s John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado, who struggled in the Gold Cup, but it’s encouraging to see that Jurgen Klinsmann has brought in Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Tim Ream and Michael Orozco for this week’s friendlies, along with Brooks and Alvarado. Cameron seems like an obvious choice, since he has been playing well as a center back for Stoke City, and I’d pair him with Gonzalez for now, with Besler not far behind.

Another name for the Impact? LOL


What to make of Montreal owner Joey Saputo making yet another coaching change, firing Frank Klopas just months after the Impact had reached the CONCACAF Champions League final?

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If you’re counting, Montreal will soon hire its fourth non-interim coach during its MLS era (which is now in its fourth season). Yes, Klopas got them to the CCL final, and yes, Montreal is still on track to make the MLS playoffs with four games in hand on Orlando, which is just one point ahead of the Impact for the final playoff spot. But truth be told, Klopas was a strange hire in the first place, considering he’d just been fired by the lowly Chicago Fire.

The questions that stand out for me are: Who would want to coach a team like Montreal knowing how little job security there is? Is Didier Drogba wondering what he got himself into? And isn’t it about time that I wrote a magazine-style piece on Joey Saputo? It’s hard not to love his passion, and I’d love to find out more about what makes him tick. In some ways he’s an anomaly in MLS: A trigger-happy owner in a league where too many owners are too cheap to fire coaches who should have been axed long ago. But is he too trigger-happy?

Something to think about, though: The best MLS coach Montreal has had, Jesse Marsch, is having a terrific first season with the New York Red Bulls, and he wasn’t bad at all in his one season with the Impact. When I spoke to Marsch the other day he talked about having a five- to 10-year plan for the Red Bulls. Is that something he ever could have talked about when he was with Montreal?

Will Tim Howard reclaim his U.S. starting GK role?


For the first time in years we may finally have a real goalkeeper controversy with the U.S. men’s national team. And that’s not a bad thing. Competition is good.

Brad Guzan bets on himself, seizes long-awaited chance as USMNT No. 1

Tim Howard is back in the U.S. camp for the first time in a year, and Klinsmann has said for now Howard is the No. 2 trying to beat out Brad Guzan, who has performed well overall over the past year.

Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel had a legendary years-long competition for the No. 1 spot, and you get a sense there will be slightly less tension between Guzan and Howard, but you never know.

As the Germany coach at World Cup 2006, Klinsmann famously chose the (slightly younger) Jens Lehmann over Oliver Kahn, all while convincing Kahn to support the greater cause. So it’s not like Klinsmann is new to tough goalkeeper choices. I expect Guzan to get the starts through at least next month’s USA-Mexico game, but it’s anyone’s guess after that.

Can Chicharito play this season in Champions League for Bayer Leverkusen? He already played for Man United vs. Brugge.


Yes, Javier Hernández is allowed to play for Leverkusen in the UCL group stage according to article 42:07 of the UEFA Champions League Regulations, which reads: “a player who has been fielded in the first, second or third qualifying round or the play-offs of the UEFA Champions League … is entitled to play in the UEFA Champions League … for another club from the group stage.”

I think this is a good move for Chicharito, who should get more playing time for a team that’s in the Champions League and should be near the top of the Bundesliga. It’s a bummer, though, for MLS, which has been pursuing him for years and thought it had a real chance of landing him this year, whether the destination was Orlando or perhaps Chicago. Remember, this is an outright transfer to Leverkusen, where Chicharito has signed a new three-year contract.

Crystal Dunn is going to be on the U.S. Olympic team, right?


So this is my own question on Twitter, but it’s an important one. The U.S. Olympic roster only has 18 spots instead of the 23 for Women’s World Cup, but how can you deny Dunn, the almost-certain MVP of the NWSL with 15 goals this season for Washington?

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Dunn, 23, was one of the last cuts from the World Cup team, but if the future really is important to coach Jill Ellis, Dunn would have to make the squad for Rio 2016. So far, three U.S. World Cup players have announced their international retirements, so you can cross Lauren Holiday, Lori Chalupny and Shannon Boxx off the Olympic list, but Ellis will have to consider what to do with players like Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone and even Sydney Leroux, who’s coming off surgery, among others.

Can someone explain whether/why MLS fans should care about NASL or USL in the long term?


There’s some good soccer being played at times in the NASL, and the USL (which as a relationship with MLS) has some young players who may make a big impact down the road in American club soccer. The major story this week is that big-time sports lawyer Jeffrey Kessler—who’s currently representing Tom Brady and had one of his few losses in the landmark Fraser v. MLS single-entity case—is representing the NASL as he trains his sights on MLS again. Kessler is demanding that U.S. Soccer reconsider proposed changes to its Division I standards, calling them “anticompetitive.”

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According to multiple reports this week, Kessler is objecting to a couple proposed changes in D-1 requirements: that 16 teams must play in the league, up from 12 (14 by year three); and that 75% of the teams must be based in cities with more than 2 million people, up from more than 1 million.

“Doubling the population criteria now is an anticompetitive bait and switch,” Kessler wrote in a letter to U.S. Soccer this summer, “with the purpose of entrenching MLS’s monopoly position at the very time when the NASL is threatening to become a serious competitor.”

There are a couple ways of looking at this. Yes, U.S. Soccer is in bed with MLS: They share a TV rights deal, and U.S. Soccer has a lucrative contract with Soccer United Marketing, which is owned by the MLS owners. But arguing that the NASL is threatening to become a serious MLS competitor is wildly overblown at the moment, and the timing of the NASL trying to apply for Division I status is odd, considering the paltry attendance figures for most NASL teams and the significant involvement of Traffic (which had a major recent role running the NASL) in the ongoing FIFA scandal.

What should MLS’s 2016 marketing slogan be?


Haha, John Strong, you are the man. This came up during our Fox Sports broadcast preparation last week with Alexi Lalas. My idea is MLS: Where Crazy S--- Happens. Think about it: How often do you see something like the trick corner kick that resulted in a goal for the Red Bulls last Wednesday? This stuff seems to happen more in MLS than in other leagues, so why not embrace it?

Here’s my latest idea for MLS: Where Crazy S--- Happens—that Seattle and NYCFC trade their coaches. Jason Kreis would get to work again with Seattle GM Garth Lagerwey, his old partner from their Salt Lake days, and Sigi Schmid would come to NYCFC and get it going the way he did when Seattle joined MLS in 2009. Let’s make this happen.

Does Darlington Nagbe still deserve a U.S. callup, even with his current form?


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​Nagbe, the 25-year-old Portland midfielder, is set to gain his U.S. citizenship next month. And while Nagbe has been underperforming stat-wise the last two seasons in MLS, I’d still like to see him brought into the U.S. camp to see how he fits in. I’d suggest waiting until after next month’s U.S.-Mexico game. If the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying goes as easily as it should, considering the competition, there should be some time for experimenting.

What’s wrong with Chelsea? Is age just catching up with them?


I don’t think it’s age, necessarily, but rather that a number of players are in a poor run of form, including Nemanja Matic, Branislav Ivanovic, Cesc Fabregas, John Terry and even Eden Hazard.

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Something isn’t totally right in that locker room right now. But it’s still early in the season, and José Mourinho is a smart guy who can be ruthless in his decision-making, especially when results give him the reason to be so.

Chelsea is already eight points behind Man City in the league, though, and it can’t afford to go into a double-digit deficit once we get back from the international window.