New Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc is no wallflower. Personable, charismatic, and fearless in asking anyone for an interview, she is currently with the Canadian Women's National Team in China at the Yongchuan Cup.
Frustrated by her Canadian and now Thorns FC teammate Christine Sinclair coming in last amongst Asian voters in the recent Ballon d'Or voting, LeBlanc went to the streets of Yongchuan with her famous KK Cam to help spread the good word of the merits of Ms. Sinclair.
I have a feeling we'll be seeing some more of KK Cam in the Portland Thorns FC future.
After today's NWSL allocation of national team players, much of the early chatter has been about the incredible forward pairing of Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair. And with good reason. Combined, the pair scored 51 goals over 53 matches for the United States and Canada in 2012.
But perhaps the steal of the day was in acquiring midfielder Tobin Heath. Long considered one of the best up-and-coming midfielders on the USWNT, Heath won three NCAA national championships with the University of North Carolina. Her final one, in 2009, had current Thorns FC head coach Cindy Parlow Cone as an assistant on the team.
But it is also known in soccer circles that Heath is a master of the trick shot and ball skills. A while back, while on the road with the USWNT, Heath went on a simple walkabout. But this is hardly the simple walkabout you and I might make. WATCH:
Tip of the hat to soccer writer Charles Boehm.
While Brent Richards, Darlington Nagbe and more were busy during the offseason, centerback Hanyer Mosquera has been keeping busy as well. Spending his offseason in his hometown of Istima, Colombia, Mosquera and his family helped organize a local soccer tournament for high school aged kids and outfitted two teams: Amigos de Hanyer Los Verdes and Amigos de Hanyer Los Rojos.
Naturally, the kits should have a familiar look to Timbers fans.
Done in conjunction with the local mayor, Mosquera says that he helps put together the tournament--now in it's fourth year--so kids can see that "it's possible to be a professional player."
"We hope that every year, we make it a little bit better," Mosquera added. "It's a short tournament that people enjoy but also brings me a lot of happiness. We're just helping bring my hometown a game that they love."
After a 2012 season that saw Bright Dike score 16 goals across all competitions--5 in the regular season, 5 in the MLS Reserve League, and 6 in the USL Pro while on loan to the LA Blues--the Timbers forward added one more tally to his growing goalscoring exploits as he scored the equalizer for Nigeria in a friendly against Catalonia on Wednesday.
Dike started the match in Barcelona as Nigeria faced the unique autonomous region of northeastern Spain known as Catalonia. Though not recognized by FIFA or UEFA, Catalonia has fielded a national team since the early 20th century often with numerous stars from FC Barcelona in their starting XI. Wednesday's match was no different as the Johan Cruyff-coached side featured Barca legends Carles Puyol, Xavi, and Gerard Pique.
For Dike, it didn't matter. After battling all game--including a nasty elbow to Puyol in the first half that left the centerback temporarily bloodied--Dike broke through in the 55th minute with a nifty cutback and lashed a shot with his left foot into the upper left corner of the net. Notice the trademark cartwheel backflip celebration.
Congratulations to Dike. Here's to getting 2013 started off on the (left) foot and to making your case for inclusion in Nigeria's squad for this January's Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.
Thad Bell of the Kansas City Soccer Examiner has been doing some good reporting on some of the details around the new NWSL. In a recent article, he talks about national team player allocations and how Mexico is upping their player commitment, salary cap figures, sponsor information and more.
Newest Timbers player Mobi Fehr has a unique and global perspective on the game. Born in New York City to a Swiss graphic designer father and Japanese teacher mother, Fehr moved to Tokyo when he was six. After starring in the youth teams of J League Division 2 side Tokyo Verdy 1969, Fehr eventually came on the radar of the U.S. Soccer Federation. He went on to become a key member of the U.S. national team U-17s, U-18s, and U-20s and was part of the US team at the 2011 U-17 World Cup.
Also of note on a heavy day of player movement across the league was MLS releasing the list of players eligible for Friday's Stage 1 Re-Entry Draft.
While the rules around the Re-Entry Draft can get arcane, let's try to break it down.
In the MLS Rule book, eligibility is determined by the following:
--Players who are at least 23 years old and have a minimum of three years experience in MLS whose options were not exercised by their clubs (available at option salary for 2013).
--Players who are at least 25 years old with a minimum of four years of MLS experience who are out of contract and whose club does not wish to re-sign them at their previous salary (available for at least their 2012 salary).
--Players who are at least 30 years old with a minimum of eight years of MLS experience who are out of contract and whose club does not wish to re-sign them (available for at least 105% of their 2012 salary).
--Players who are not selected in Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft will be made available in Stage 2. Clubs selecting players in Stage 2 will negotiate a new salary with the player.
--Players who remain unselected after Stage 2 will be available to any MLS club on a first come, first serve basis.
Once selected in the Re-Entry Draft, clubs must exercise the option for, or extend a Bona Fide Offer to, all players selected in Stage 1. Players that were out of contract may either accept or reject the Bona Fide Offer. Should a player reject the offer, the drafting club will hold the right of first refusal for that player in MLS. Players with option years left on their contract will automatically be added to the drafting club’s roster.
One key element to remember is that though the eligible player list was released today, teams are still able to negotiate with players up until a temporary roster freeze at 5pm ET on Dec. 6. As such, there is a good chance that there will be some alterations to the list between now and Friday.
Draft order is determined by reverse order of finish at the end of the 2012 season which means Portland will have the #3 overall pick. Once a team elects to pass on their draft slot, they are finished for the rest of the draft. The draft ends once all teams have passed. For more info on the specifics of Friday, click here.
On a day of lots of comings and goings with the Portland Timbers, new midfielder Will Johnson was pretty excited about his new home:
Thank you to the Portland Timbers for allowing me to come to the team of my choice. I will repay your investment handsomely and can't wait!!
— William Johnson (@WillJohnson08) December 3, 2012
The first time I played in Portland I dreamed of playing there. My dream is now reality and my family and I are extremely grateful! #excited
— William Johnson (@WillJohnson08) December 3, 2012
As Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson put it in today's announcement, "his attitude is infectious."
While the US Women's National team was busy last night at JELD-WEN Field tallying up 5 goals in their win over the Republic of Ireland, the US U-17's have been busy this week at the Nike International Friendlies in Florida.
Yesterday, the Yanks played to a thrilling 4-4 draw against Brazil and Timbers U-16 midfielder Rubio Rubin--who's been training at the US U-17 Residency Program--was particularly busy with two goals and two assists.
Backheels, throughballs and more. Rubio was busy.
The opening matches of the 2012 NCAA College Cup tournament got underway today--Michigan State beat Cleveland State 2-1 while Virginia downed Lafayette 1-0--and there are numerous teams in the full field of 48 that are the beloved alma maters of Portland Timbers players:
Eric Alexander - Indiana University with the No. 16 seed
Freddie Braun - Louisville with the No. 10 seed
Bright Dike - Notre Dame with the No. 1 seed
David Horst - Old Dominion
Andrew Jean-Baptiste - UConn with the No. 4 seed
Jack Jewsbury - Saint Louis University with the No. 8 seed
Kosuke Kimura - Western Illinois
Darlington Nagbe - Univ. of Akron with the No. 5 seed (more on that in a bit)
Brent Richards - Univ. of Washington
Chris Taylor - Univ. of Tulsa with the No. 11 seed
Rodney Wallace - Univ. of Maryland with the No. 2 seed
Clearly, the college game is still churning out talent.
But in that mix of seeds, the placement of Akron at No. 5 did leave some scratching their heads. Future Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter's Zips finished ranked No. 1 on numerous national polls and yet still missed out on a Top 4 seed. While they will host their first match and possibly second, to get to the final four, they'll have to go on the road--most likely against UConn. Their seeding has drawn some questions--most noticably from the Akron Beacon Journal.
While Porter was a bit "ticked off," he's focused on winning the whole thing,“Once that wears off though, it is back to business. For me it comes down to we have to win five games to win the national championship. It just so happens the road could be a little tougher.”
(The initial post listed 10 mistakenly omitting Eric Alexander's Indiana. Thanks to @IUMensSoccer for the correction.)