Daily news roundups

Reports & reaction to M’Bolhi signing, midweek match recaps, more

Photo: Rais M’Bolhi’s Facebook page

Philadelphia Union

As expected, the Union unveiled Algeria national team goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi on Wednesday (click here for video and a transcript of the press conference with M’Bolhi, Nick Sakiewicz, and Jim Curtin).

Interim head coach Jim Curtin said M’Bolhi will be the Union starting goalkeeper as soon as he’s recovered from a series of trans-Atlantic flights and Algeria’s recent World Cup run. “We’ll have dialogue behind the scenes, myself and Rais, and, when he’s ready to go, he’s our starter.”

With Curtin acknowledging that M’Bolhi will not travel with the team for Friday’s game in Kansas City, in which Zac MacMath will remain the starter and Andre Blake the backup, one can probably safely presume that M’Bolhi’s first start will come when the Union host Montreal on Saturday, Aug. 9.

Some highlights from the press conference:

  • M’Bolhi said he’s been in communication with the Union for some time: “it’s been six or seven months that I’ve been calling the Union.”
  • M’Bolhi said the quality of the Union’s facilities helped him to make his decision to sign with he team. “I was really impressed because even in Bulgaria, it’s not like this. They don’t have these kinds of stadiums, these kinds of facilities. I think a lot of clubs in Europe don’t have these kinds of facilities. That’s why I chose the Union.”
  • M’Bolhi said of his well-traveled resume, “I’ve been traveling all around but I didn’t really have the chance to stay in a club and prove what I can do because in all these countries I didn’t feel that good, you know? It’s a package, you have to feel good on the field, off the field, and if off the field you’re not well, you’re not going to be good.
  • M’Bolhi also said of how he made his decision, “Once I had the chance to talk to Nick, he showed me what he was trying to build and the spirit of the club. I was looking for this – stability, a really good project.”

Sakiewicz said, “we have three of the best goalkeepers in Major League Soccer,” with Curtin adding that M’Bolhi’s arrival puts the Union “puts us right in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference and we’re going to make a run in these last 13 games.”

Which of course begs the question, what will the Union now do with MacMath and Blake?

While Curtin said the both MacMath and Blake will gain in learning from the experience that M’Bolhi brings, he also acknowledged that young goalkeepers need games in order to grow and gain experience of their own. To that end, Curtin said “there’s a million possibilities that will help them develop as players,” including loans to USL-PRO partner Harrisburg City Islanders or a NASL club, as well as an in-league loan to another MLS club.

While Curtin described MacMath and Blake as valuable assets — Sakiewicz said, “We’re in the business of collecting very good players” — what was understandably skirted around was any direct mention of the possibility of either MacMath or Blake being traded.

One issue to consider that likely means MacMath will not be traded during the current season relates to national team call-ups for both M’Bolhi and Blake. Algeria has the following Africa Cup of Nations dates coming up in Group B play in the continental tournament:

Sept. 5 or 6 at Ethiopia
Sept. 10 vs. Mali
Oct. 10 or 11 at Benin or Malawi
Oct. 15 vs. Benin or Malawi

That means M’Bolhi is likely to be unavailable for the Union when they host Toronto on Sept. 3, as well as when they travel to Toronto on Sept. 6, and is also likely to be unavailable when the Union hosts New York on Sept. 13. Likewise, M’Bolhi is likely to be unavailable when the Union host Columbus on Oct. 11, and Kansas City on Oct. 18.

Similarly, if Blake is called up by Jamaica for the friendly against Canada on Sept. 9 in Toronto, he likely will also be unavailable for the Union game in Toronto on Sept. 6. Whether Jamaica will announce any friendlies during the FIFA international break between Oct. 6-14 remains to be seen but, if they do, Blake could also be unavailable when the Union host Columbus on Oct. 11.

Should the Union make it into the post season, Algeria also hosts Ethiopia on Nov. 14 or 15, and is hosted by Mali on Nov. 19, while Jamaica begins play in the final round of the Caribbean Cup, which it is hosting, between Nov. 10-18.

If you’re keeping score, that means M’Bolhi is likely to be unavailable for five of the Union’s final nine games of the season, and Blake for at least one game. (Apologies to anyone following PSP on Twitter on Wednesday, I sent out some erroneous tweets about the number of games Blake could miss when I looked at the Caribbean Football Union’s calendar of events and didn’t take into account that, as host, Jamaica would not be playing in the tournament’s group games in September and October. It was a crazy day.)

Long story short, when your starting goalkeeper is benched not because of performance reasons but because of a new player coming into the squad, and that new goalkeeper is likely to miss more than half of the games in the final two months of the season, don’t you want to retain the formerly starting goalkeeper, especially when the coach has said the team is treating the remaining games of the season as if they are playoff games in the effort to reach the postseason?

At Brotherly Game, a look at multiple possible outcomes for MacMath and Blake.

Reports on the signing from PSP, Philadelphia Union, Inquirer, Daily News, Delco Times, 6abc (video), CBS Philly, CSN Philly, Philly Soccer News, Brotherly Game, Zolo Talk, MLSsoccer.com, Soccerly, ESPN, ESPN (video), SI, ProSoccerTalk, Soccer America, Goal.com, Stoppage Time SoccerThe BBC, Soccer Yanks, Barstool Sports, Reuters, and The Sports Network. Also, at the Union website, six things you may not have known about M’Bolhi.

At SB Nation, Ryan Rosenblatt mocks the Union’s signing of M’Bolhi.

MLSsoccer.com wonders if signing foreign goalkeepers is becoming a trend in the league.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Nick Sakiewicz said, “This is the beginning of our activity in the transfer window.” As Matthew De George noted, a curious statement considering the transfer window closes next Wednesday, Aug. 6. So,what was discussed about possible other activity during the transfer window

  • Curtin said, “this club does not need a forward right now.”
  • Of course, Curtin said, “When the right forward comes around, of course we’re going to listen. We’re doing a ton of work, Chris is out searching the world for top strikers.”
  • Curtin added, “We know we need speed. We know we’d like to add some speed in the attacking positions on the field because speed stretches the field and opens space for Maidana and Nogueira underneath. So that’s an option we’re looking at. But we’re happy with the goals we’re scoring.”
  • Curtin also said, “we’ve put an emphasis on the back, up the middle. Not conceding goals has been my mantra to you guys since I’ve taken over the team.”
  • To that end, Curtin said, “Will we add another piece in the back? Possibly, that could happen.”
  • Asked about an update on the Carlos Valdes situation, Sakiewicz said, “I’m not sure, that’s a Chris Albright question. I get an update every five minutes and I think the last one is the same as the previous five minutes, so, the saga continues.” (Matthew De George reported, “Albright confirmed that there are no new developments in the Carlos Valdes saga, the club still trying to negotiate a return for a player they own the rights to after his loan move in South American fell apart.”)
  • Sakiewicz also said, “Chris has been fantastic working with Jim and the rest of the technical staff identifying what we need and laying out a really, really good plan to build this team and make a serious run not just in the short term for the playoffs, but really build a core group of players that we can count on for many, many years to come.”

Power rankings? SBI has the Union at No. 12.

Local

Harrisburg City Islanders move into a four-way tie for place with Wednesday night’s 3-1 win over the visiting LA Galaxy II. Jamiel Hardware, Union man Jimmy McLaughlin, and and former Union draft pick Robbie Derschang each scored. Match reports from Harrisburg City Islanders, Penn Live, LA Galaxy II, and USL PRO.

Former City Islanders defender Andrew Ribeiro has signed with Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

MLS

In Wednesday night’s games, second in the Eastern Conference DC (37 points) defeated now fourth place Toronto (26 points), 3-0, and are now one point behind first place Kansas City. New England (26 points) ended an eight-game losing streak and move into third place with a 3-0 win over visiting Colorado. Sixth place New York (25 points) drew 1-1 on the road with Real Salt Lake. Eighth place Chicago (21 points) drew 0-0 with visiting Vancouver. The Union (23 points) are in seventh place ahead of Friday’s game against Kansas City.

Toronto have loaned forward Jordan Hamilton to Portuguese second division side Clube Desportivo Trofense.

Sacha Kljestan to LA? Jermaine Jones to Chicago? Why not?

No Robinho or Ronaldinho to Orlando.

At ASN, Brooke Tunstall on what MLS can do to attract and develop better US players.

Montreal have relieved Nick De Santis from his position as sporting director. In related news, an announcement on the Montreal website says, “Head coach Frank Klopas will fully assume his director of player personnel duties.” More on the news here.

Mixed reviews for the pitch at Yankee Stadium, site of an International Champions Cup game on Wednesday evening. Liverpool defeated Manchester City 3-1 on penalty kicks after the score was level at 2-2 following regulation time.

NWSL

A 4-1 road win over eighth place Houston (18 points), along with a 2-1 road loss by second place Kansas City (37 points) to third place Washington (31 points), means Seattle (49 points) has clinched the regular season title with four games remaining.

Seventh place Sky Blue (19 points) hosts sixth place Western New York (24 points) tonight at 7 pm (YouTube).

US

Sources tell My San Antonio that the USMNT will play Colombia at the Alamodome on Sept. 9.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) says Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup “should be reconsidered” but does not believe there should be a boycott if Russia does host the tournament.

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) said, “If in the face of a downed airliner, in the face of crippling sanctions from the European Union, Putin thumbs his nose at the international community and continues to send in arms and personnel into eastern Ukraine, then I’m not sure how you reward this guy and his government with a major, international competition.”

Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge says Premier League clubs have made offers to take Julian Green on loan. A technical problem with a US visa processing system in Munich meant that Rummenigge and six Bayern youth players and three members of a TV crew were unable to board a flight to the US.

At 8 by 8, an interesting look at Liverpool’s 1946 tour of the US.

Elsewhere

At Medium.com, an interesting look into Qatar’s investment of  “$4.6 million to two Israeli Palestinian soccer clubs, Bnei Sakhnin, a team based in Galilee that historically stands for Israeli-Palestinian co-existence, and Maccabi Ahi Nazareth FC, a squad that historically was part of the centrist wing of the Zionist movement.”

Stuff.co.nz reports, “Thailand football bosses have made more than 100 referees swear an oath of honesty at a famous Bangkok temple as they try to stamp out the country’s match-fixing problems.”

It seems there’s a bit of a trademark dispute going on here in the US over the use of the “CR7” moniker that is globally associated with Cristiano Ronaldo.

Vanishing spray in the Premier League, hurray!

10 Comments

  1. Does this mean if we keep Macmath for the rest of the season, do we protect him in the expansion draft at the end of the year? Or do we risk no one dealing with us in hopes of getting him for free.

    • I don’t really think that there is such a big market demand for GK’s in MLS. Evidence of this is how many years that you could have picked up Busch, Knighton, Clark, Irwin, Frei, etc for essentially nothing. Going back even further, you could throw Cannon & Hartman onto that list as well.

      The last trade that involved a starting GK that I can remember was when MTL and Portland swapped Ricketts and Perkins. That was essentially soccer’s version of a wife swap as both teams thought the trade was an upgrade for them.

      While it’s true that the Union upgraded this position yesterday, it was an incremental upgrade when they could have chosen a more impactful upgrade like a real left back, another creative midfielder/winger or striker.

      Poorly executed deal by the FO, in my opinion.

  2. we’re better than bulgaria!!! “I was really impressed because even in Bulgaria, it’s not like this.”

  3. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Have the rules for this year’s expansion draft been publicized yet, as far as civilians are concerned?

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Expect it to be the same as previous years. It hasn’t changed much from year to year since the Union joined. It will probably function the same as the last time the league had two new teams.

  4. Did anybody ask M’Bolhi how late his kids like to eat dinner?

  5. On the comment about the striker situation, I think we absolutely need a Di Vaio type striker who can put the ball in the back of the net almost every game and has his type of caliber in skill. Could Brown be that striker? Only time will tell but if anything else the FO should be scouting for a Di Vaio type striker who is a serious goal scorer.

  6. Hey Ed, you get us so much correct and nicely formatted information on the daily! Thank you many times over.

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